comments from the emergent philosophical conversation
Wednesday April 18th 2007, 6:53 am
Filed under: faith, church, thinking..., emerging church, emergent

each year, emergent (or, emergent village) hosts a theological conversation. these are intimate events with 100-ish attendees and a guest theologian. they’ve had them with volf and bruggeman and a couple others. this year, they did something only slightly differernt, in that it was a philosophical conversation. there were two guests: jack caputo and richard kearney. jack is one of the leading american philosophers, and a specialist in continental phenominalogical derridian philosophy (and, after the last 24 hours, i actually know what that means!). in short, jack is a specialist in deconstruction and jacque derrida (and was close to “big jack”). caputo is much more than an interpreter of derrida, though he is that also. he is developing a rep for picking up where derrida left off, particularly in the area of religion. jack is a catholic believer, and has a book coming out this fall called “what would jesus deconstruct?” he was one of three speakers on a panel at our second emergent convention (along with phyllis tickle and bob webber), and i found him to be a wonderfully engaging and normal guy, for someone so obviously brilliant. here’s his online bio.

richard kearney i’d not heard of before this event. he’s another leading philosopher. he’s irish (as in, from ireland, cute accent and all), but has been in the states for about 3 years, teaching at boston college. here’s his online bio.

i stayed for the first 24 hours of the event (they’re going through wednesday, but i needed to get home). here are a handful of the juicy quotes i had to capture for myself to noodle on a bit more. they’re CLOSE to word-for-word, but likely not exact, as i was typing them into the keyboard on my phone when i heard them. (these are random comments from various parts of the day — not a conversation like it looks like here.)

kearney: reading derrida doesn’t make you a deconstructionist; it CAN make you a better christian, though.

caputo: deconstruction, in a very real sense, is more interested in the real than realism is. realism just states that what is is what it is. deconstruction is, ultimately, the destruction of idols in the pursuit of the real, the truth, that is always just beyond our grasp.

kearney: the first thing jesus would deconstruct is jesus. not himself, really, but the image of him we have created. throughout the gospels, we see jesus deconstructing people’s images of him.

kearney: deconstruction must roam through economics, politics, culture, religion. why? to result in relativism and nihilism? no! to protect and pursue what is real.

caputo: derrida said that many things were said in his name that were simply not what he believed, said or wrote.

kearney: i get angry when people say that deconstruction is on the side of the “no”. it’s on the side of the “yes”.

one more, from emerging church leader and author russell rathbun, during a panel he was on: when I prepare to preach, i try to identify the good news in a passage. then i work to cover it up. i want people to discover it. i want to be somewhat unclear, because clarity can be so quickly and easily commodified.

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Wow, OK, seriously thinking people . . . knowing the Truth isn’t just beyond our grasp as caputo comments, to know the truth isn’t the same as grasping the idea . . . Jesus was a person, the image he “deconstructed” for others wasn’t who He was, it was the idea that people had of a messiah . . . He was the person who was prophecied, it is all there - with hindsight we see the truth of who Jesus is, at the time we may have missed Him ourselves. Is Russell identifying the good news in a passage with his intellect or with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (who leads us into all truth) and if the Holy Spirit has shown him the truth that he might teach and preach to others, should he cover it up - we aren’t on the same mission as Jesus.

Comment by Ali Campbell 04.18.07 @ 9:40 am

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