A John Caputo Advent Reflection
Advent is a time of hope and anticipation of the in-breaking of God in the world in the decisive Event of the Incarnation. As we reflect on this impossible possibility, I suggest that we take the advice of postmodern philosopher-theologian John D. Caputo and consider the Lord’s exhortation to allow praxis to flow from the theopoetics of the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom. The signs of which were proclaimed in the prophecy of Isaiah and echoed in Jesus’s missionary prolegomenon found in Luke’s Gospel:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18)
Caputo takes this notion of the biblical Kingdom of God (Malkuth-Yahweh) proclaimed in the words and deeds of Jesus to be the call for Christian praxis. It is through the lens of deconstruction, most associated with the philosophical insight of the late Jacques Derrida, that Caputo supports his assertion that Christianity is in itself deconstructive and we are called to be Christ-like in our recognition of the deconstructive power of God’s revelation.
For today, the last day of class for my RELG 240 course, I had my students read portions of John Caputo’s What Would Jesus Deconstruct: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church (Baker Academic, 2007). In light of the Christian theological tradition they have studied these past few months, it is their task to critically engage Caputo’s text and present an assessment of the method and content.
I thought that this provides a great reflection worth sharing for us during Advent, to look at Caputo’s engagement with scripture and his notion of the theopoetics of the Kingdom as we prepare for the celebration of the Incarnation. Here is a little snippet of Caputo’s text that illustrates this connection between faith and praxis, drawing on Jesus’s own words and deeds to articulate our collective Christian mission anew.
That is why we require hermeneutics. It is our responsibility to breathe with the spirit of Jesus, to implement, to invent, to convert this poetics into a praxis, which means to make the political order resonate with the radicality of someone whose vision was not precisely political. We need hermeneutics, which means understanding linked to historical context, and deconstruction, which means an interpretive theory that is mad about justice, in order to make this translation…
That is why I have been calling on deconstruction to bring the good news of postmodern critique to the church. I think deconstruction is a congenial specter to the spirit of the kingdom and that is can sensitize the church to the Spirit that it breathes, or should breathe…
Jesus thought that when all the large points and the fine points of the Torah are taken into account, the law and the prophets come down to love of neighbor and of God, and he burned with anger when he thought the spirit of love was being undermined by inflexible rules or by hypocrisy. (95-96)