If you are looking for a book that explains in clear and simple prose what postmodernity is all about, and how it intersects between theology and philosophy, I’ve got the book for you: John Caputo’s Philosophy and Theology caught me off guard. Tim West, at Abingdon, sent me this book with a note that he thought I’d enjoy it. Enjoy? Hardly. I loved this little book.
Know this: it is a history of the relationship of philosophy and theology and it is — no kidding — funny and pleasurable. On top of this, it is short. A mere 74 pages. Readable as an E.B. White essay and as delightful as a Joseph Epstein essay and, at the end, as serious as Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
In the last year I’ve been asked a dozen times or more what I recommend as an introduction to postmodernity, and I have invariably recommended Lesslie Newbigin’s A Proper Confidence. No longer is his book the sole recommendation for I can recommend either. Newbigin’s book is a little more missional while Caputo’s more philosophical; there are lots of similarities.
I’ll just give one major summary point: he sees the postmodern turn to be the impact of the hermeneutical turn (Heidegger), the linguistic turn (Descartes), and the revolutionary/paradigmatic turn (Kuhn). There you have it. More significantly for many of us, he sees the postmodern turn to be one that permits faith, and hence theology, back in the room for a presence.
The ringer in this book is that he carries on an imaginary conversation in the second to last chapter between St. Augustine and Jacques Derrida. Enlightening, provocative, and suggestive. It is Caputo’s dilemma to determine if Derrida was a man of faith and prayer and an atheist or not. What distinguishes the two? Augustine and Derrida.
The book is funny and light-hearted, and yet once he gets postmodernity on the stage, the book turns more serious and exploratory of Caputo’s own faith and heart.
If you buy this book and read it, you’ll rise up and call me Blessed!