From the Onto-Theologic to the Theo-Poetic

The last couple days at the gym, I’ve listened again the podcast episodes from the 2007 Emergent Theological Philosophical Conversation with Jack Caputo and Richard Kearney, particularly the first session, and I’ve been reminded again at what a wonderful three days that was.  It’s still astounding to listen to Jack and Richard spend an hour or so walking us through two and half millennia of philosophy, philosopher by philosopher.

But listening also reminds what I love so much about the postmodern turn, at least as a theologian.  I titled that opening session, “Who Is This Metaphysical God, and Where Did He Go?”  Of course, I didn’t know exactly where Jack and Richard would go with my questions, but they went just where I hoped.  They talked quite specifically about how the Christian Neoplatonists really wrested the Story of God from its Hebrew orgins and squished it into a Hellenistic schema.

This occured to me because I just wrote my 13th column with Sean McDowell (son of Josh).  He and I co-write a column for the Journal of Student Ministries called “Sparks” in which we debate everything from truth to intelligent design.  Our next column, in the Nov/Dec issue, will be on the topic of apologetics.  As you can imagine, we come out on totally different ends of the spectrum, especially being that he and his dad have both staked their careers on modern apologetics.

But his challenges got me to thinking again about my antipathy for modern apologetics, and why I am enamoured of the postmodern posture toward truth.  And that, in turn, drove me back to the Caputo/Kearney podcasts.

There are some real gems that they both drop over the first couple of hours of conversation, but the overriding theme is this: In the ontological-metaphysical scheme, God is required to fit into the pre-existing conditions of rational, philosophical argument.  In other words, reason and logic precede God.

The postmodern, however, puts God first.  God is not the Cause of himself, as Descartes would have us believe, but instead the Uncaused Causer, as Aquinas argued.  God operates by a different rationality, or at least a superior rationality, than philosophy.  Or maybe even a non-rationality.

In any case, what Caputo and Kearney pushed us toward was theo-poetic language of God.  A God who is and who will be.  A God who is known in The Possible.  It’s a wonderful couple hours, and I highly commend it to you if you’re wondering about what the postmodern turn means for theology.


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