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What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture) Paperback – November 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Many in the church who are wrestling with ministry in a postmodern era view deconstruction as a negative aspect of the postmodern movement. But John Caputo, one of the leading philosophers of religion in America and a leading voice on religion and postmodernism, sees it differently. In this lively and provocative analysis, he argues that in his own way Jesus himself was a deconstructionist and that applying deconstruction to the church can be a positive move toward renewal.

"Caputo brilliantly manages to bring thought to life and life to thought. He wears his learning and scholarship so lightly that one has the impression of returning to a flesh-and-blood world where Jesus deconstructs and reconstructs our lives. Challenging, compassionate, witty, and wise. This book is compulsory reading for anyone concerned about the future of Christianity."
--Richard Kearney, Charles Seelig Professor in Philosophy, Boston College

"Let this book settle the debate once and for all: postmodern philosophy does not preclude true Christian faith. In fact, taken rightly, postmodernism leads not to nihilistic relativism but to a robust faith in the Savior, who himself was bent on deconstruction. Caputo is a sheep in wolf's clothing."
--Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent Village, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

"This is a marvelous little book. It enables readers to understand deconstruction as the hermeneutics of the kingdom of God and provides a glimpse of what this concept might look like in the hands of Jesus as applied to the church. This will be difficult therapy, and many of us will be inclined to resist. However, let us remember that while discipline is painful in the moment, it produces a harvest of peace and righteousness in the long run. May the church learn from the wisdom found in these pages."
--John R. Franke, professor of missional theology, Yellowstone Theological Institute

About the Author

John D. Caputo (Ph.D., Bryn Mawr College) is Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Humanities and professor of philosophy at Syracuse University. He is the author of numerous books, including The Weakness of God (winner of the 2007 A.A.R. Award for Excellence in Constructive Reflective Study of Religion), On Religion, The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, and Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Church and Postmodern Culture
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; 38961st edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801031362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801031366
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John D. Caputo, the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion Emeritus (Syracuse University) and the David R. Cook Professor of Philosophy Emeritus (Villanova University) is a hybrid philosopher/theologian who works in the area of radical theology. His most recent book, "The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps," is a sequel to The Weakness of God, which develops his concept of radical theology and engages in dialogue with Malabou, Zizek and Latour. He has also just published "Truth," a part of the Penguin "Philosophy in Transit" series, aimed a general audience. His interest is centered on a poetics of the "event" harbored in the name of God, a notion that depends upon a reworking of the notions of event in Derrida and Deleuze. His past books have attempted to persuade us that hermeneutics goes all the way down ("Radical Hermeneutics"), that Derrida is a thinker to be reckoned with by theology ("The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida"), and that theology is best served by getting over its love affair with power and authority and embracing what Caputo calls, following St. Paul, "The Weakness of God." His notion of the weakness of God, an expression that needs to be interpreted carefully by following what he means by "event," is reducible neither to an orthodox notion of kenosis nor to a death of God theology (Altizer, Zizek), although it bears comparison to both. He has also addressed wider-than-academic audiences in "On Religion," "Philosophy and Theology," and "What Would Jesus Deconstruct?" and has an interest in interacting with working church groups like Ikon and the Emergent Church. While at Syracuse, Professor Caputo specialized in continental philosophy of religion, which means both working on radical approaches to religion and theology in the light of contemporary phenomenology, hermeneutics and deconstruction, and tracking down the traces of radical religious and theological motifs in contemporary continental philosophy.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I take the publication of this book as an announcement of sorts. It tells us that what could be loosely called post structural Christianity is going public. There have been a number of other books that deal with Derrida's work in the Christian context but What Would Jesus Deconstruct? is the first book I know of that attempts to outline the profound sympathy between Derrida's later work and Christianity in a readable, non-academic way. That alone makes this an important book.

The wonderful thing for me about this text is that Caputo did a great job selecting the ideas and themes from Derrida that can be used as a lens through which to read scripture and address Christian faith. These ideas open up a variety of potentials, and energies that just don't have the same resonance when examined without the tools that post structuralism generally, and Derrida specifically provide us. Some of these themes include the journey, the unavoidable nature of impasses; the idea that the moment when we are faced with the impossible is the exact moment when real potentials are opened. He also addresses Derrida's unique understanding of justice, the economy of the gift and hospitality, to name a few.

What makes Caputo's summary of Derrida useful is that it directs our attention to the structure of how themes such as love, or loving God, or one's neighbor (as only one of many potential examples) are articulated in scripture but also the significant pragmatic and philosophical challenges posed by such themes, their aporias, and the difficulties we face when we are willing to take this kind of challenge seriously. This is important work and frankly it strikes me that Christianity in America today is often dead set against doing this kind of work.
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Format: Paperback
This was a fascinating and enjoyable book. John D Caputo's writing style was always engaging and the book was very easy to read for a philosophy book on a fairly complex subject. He looks at Charles Sheldon's book 'In His Steps', published in 1896, alongside works by Jacques Derrida on deconstruction, weaving these two together to get a handle on how Jesus might deconstruct the church - not demolishing it in a negative way but drawing out peace and righteousness and the kingdom of God from two millennia of post-Jesus church building.

Caputo writes very much from his personal opinion and I enjoyed many of his amusing asides. He talks incisively about many of the failings of the religious Right, although also has things to say about the weakness and ineptness of the Left. I felt that the book was rather weighed down by its series preface/foreword/acknowledgements/introduction before it began, and that the real meat of the content didn't appear until fairly late on in the short book at chapter 5. That chapter was a brilliant read, however, deconstructing the church through the lens of the Sermon on the Mount, and was worth the price of the book alone.

This is an excellent read for those interested in a different angle in the postmodern debate and explains enough that those unfamiliar with deconstruction should understand it.
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Format: Paperback
This book pulls together almost everything Caputo's written on deconstruction related to Christianity. I loved it especially after having ploughed through Caputo's 'Prayers & Tears of Jacques Derrida' and his 'More Radical Hermeneutics', and aching for more clarity.

Caputo writes like his mentor and model, Derrida. Full of -isms, weird sentences, twists and turns, aphorisms, puns, etc. WWJD follows suit but in much less intensive manner. And, yes, even a newbie to postmodernism would enjoy the book, if one gives it a fair presentation.

Caputo puts forth deconstruction at the method/approach of the hermeneutics of the kingdom of God, a tool of God's theo-poetic reign. This is a way of treating the interpretation of Scripture as a fresh/new kind of 'poetry', where language takes on a life of its own and resists our rigid categories, presuppositions and the overall human desire to draw absolute conclusions. Deconstruction is God's way of hermeneutically breaking-in into our world and its prejudices, fossilisation and comfort zones. This shakes the faith, laughs at our certainties and mocks our pride - and in so doing seeks to return faith back to faith.

Caputo then takes nice humourous shots at the Bush administration and many not-so-nice ones at the 'Christian Right' of USA. He then gives his take on abortion, homosexuality, poverty and some other politically hot (American)issues. The central thrust of Caputo's form of deconstruction (which is a much more fun and vibrant kind, much more than, say, the deconstruction of Mark C. Taylor whose works usually stem from the 'death of God') is the event, the advent, of the Other.
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I just finished reading John Caputo's What Would Jesus Deconstruct?. Below is the posted book review that I put up on my Facebook account. My opening comments are referring to this review:

"Caputo's other books have been light in a dark place, and this series of books looks promising. But this particular volume strikes me as poorly written and poorly reasoned, surprising for Caputo. He rails against an undefined "religious Right" in a way that Brian McLaren, in the preface, describes as "hospitable" but which I can only describe as straw-man hostility. He takes Derrida to have something to say about religion, which is fair enough and true, I think. But he never here makes the case for why we should listen to Derrida, or why Deconstruction is a desirable Biblical hermeneutic. In the end, he has very little to offer other than his opinion. I say this as one who usually finds his opinions interesting and his philosophy worth reading. This time, however, I think Caputo writes sloppily. He either does a disservice to the views he espouses, or else exposes them as largely empty of _theological_ content. When he talks about the key themes in Derrida's work, he's lucid; when he talks about what they mean for us, his wordplay seems to mask a lack of argument. This is unfortunate."

The review above is superb and right on target. I read this work because I do believe that deconstruction can be appropriated in useful ways by Christians. When Caputo is explaining what deconstruction is and it's concerns, the work is insightful and helpful. The 2nd half of the work is nearly useless (at least to me).
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