No Miracle for You or, Perhaps John D. Caputo Gives Faith a Chance

Jesus concludes the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus by noting a miracle will not help. Hardly the sort of encouragement from him who turned water to wine, who walked on water, and who bid Peter to get out of the boat. The modern imagery conjured by the prospect of Dives’ brothers, where Dives is a fictitious Latin name added later, being warned by Lazarus returned from the dead would be the stuff for many a Judgment House. The problem is Jesus says, “No, it won’t work.”

The Law calls a material structure possible to cultivate a culture of neighborly well being, if practiced. Before John preached, urging as it were, the Kingdom of God, the Law insisted God. Actions and behaviors commensurate with the Law called for human beings to create a community that did not cohere with normal human desires. The call to radical humanity insists God. And, as such connotes that the mission of God requires such a community of radical human beings.

Ignoring the sort of material structures that leave people begging for crumbs at the tables of the wealthy haunts us all. Confessional-ly we point up human dignity and worth. We claim exclusive right to talk about the Kingdom of God, to build the Kingdom of God, to live in the Kingdom of God. Pragmatically we engage in a play of words that leaves us, like the Pharisees, exposed. Our desires find structural safety in the very way we, that is a good many Christians, seek to comfort the sorrowful with thoughts of what is to come as much better than what is. Yet, we do little to challenge the structures and systems that continue to produce pain and sorrow. And, we insist God exists.

Imagine as it were the Pharisees consoling beggarly Lazarus that if he just holds on, he will find it better in the life to come. All the while the Pharisees claim the very resources intended to help care for their aging parents cannot be used as they have been dedicated to God – Corban. The Pharisees know that once their parents pass from this life those same resources would then be free of obligation, as God surely would want them to have a new house with the very wealth they had dedicated to God. And, the Pharisees insist God exists.

insistenceI thought I would try my hand at something of an acknowledged abridgment of the first chapter of John D. Caputo’s recently released, The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps. It certainly contains interpretive moves.

My friend Tripp Fuller organized a Blog Tour around Jack’s book, as some know him. Surprise might be too soft a word to describe that one of the lead off participants in the Blog event serves as a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma. There is little doubt I may receive an email, or more, like the one I did after having referenced Walter Brueggemann years ago that included, “What is a Southern Baptist doing reading Brueggemann?” Only I suspect emails that may follow this piece might begin, “How could you?!”

Perhaps, for Caputo, becomes the cut between traditional binaries giving space for the event of God’s insistence. Strong theology is the place where certainty lurks and is an affront to faith. Weak theology is not an indecisive, inept project but one where real possibility exists and God insists. Caputo argues that talk of possibility is problematic where strong powers dominate the discourse. Real possibility must include the possibility things might not turn out as we hope. This is truly unsettling, decentering. But, we who often quote Philippians 4:13 cannot but be drawn in by the thought of an omni-potentializing, omni-possiblizing God. (p.14)

In order to raise the specter of something needed in Confessional Theology, Caputo calls for a Derridian “hauntology” of Confessional Theology.(p.5) And, perhaps is just the word to unsettle the powers of a Strong Theology. Caputo argues, as he has elsewhere, for a Weak Theology. Such a theology is haunted by the “may be” God of perhaps. For Jack, Strong Theology minimizes human responsibility. Weak Theology maximizes human responsibility.

The first chapter introduces the insistence of God. If it is not de-stabilizing enough to consider the need for a haunting of Confessional Theology, perhaps, one may be scandalized as Caputo invites readers to consider the insistence of God above the existence of God. The theme, and title of the book, will unfold throughout as he explicates the three pills that Confessional Theology must swallow to get over its fear of perhaps – The Insistence of God, Theopoetics, Cosmopoetics.

Perhaps I look for Caputo’s newest book to give faith a chance where faith no longer arises from the certainty of Strong Theology that in its discourse looks very little like faith. Perhaps I wonder if Caputo will take his own omni-possiblizing, omni-potentializing of the Event of God to the place where a metaphysics, even if a weak metaphysics, is possible. Perhaps I wonder how a Confessional Theology that places great emphasis upon human responsibility will respond to a Theology of Perhaps that creates a hyper-human responsibility.

Perhaps you will get a copy and risk reading for yourself.

I received this book for free from Indiana University Press for this review.

And, it has been on my Wish List since it was announced to be published.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.