John D. Caputo. What Would Jesus Deconstruct?

John D. Caputo. What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church. Baker Academic, 2007.

Though I have long been sympathetic to what I have understood to be some of the main concerns of the philosophical movement known as “deconstruction,” I never put in the energy to read much of the literature. Partly, writings on deconstruction had the reputation of being inaccessible; partly, they had the reputation of being quite unfriendly to religious sensibilities. I wasn’t sure if either generalization was fully accurate, but somehow those assumptions were enough to deter me.

This past summer I presented at a conference where the featured speaker was John Caputo. I figured I better give his writing a shot before finding myself face to face with him. On the cross-country flight, I read What Would Jesus Deconstruct? and was delighted to find it both totally accessible and quite friendly to Christian faith (at least to the kind of Christian faith I affirm). As fate would have it, I found myself in a car traveling from the airport to the conference site with Jack Caputo and his wife Kathy. We had a nice visit and I was happy to be able to compliment him on this book.

What Would Jesus Deconstruct? is aimed at an evangelical audience (Caputo himself is a very liberal Catholic), intending to present the ideas especially of Jacques Derrida (and Caputo himself) as relevant to faith concerns, as useful for the task of applying Christianity to our contemporary world, and, especially, as having significant resonance with the life and teaching of Jesus.

I think Caputo succeeds admirably. Even if one is not as sympathetic to Derrida’s and Caputo’s views as I am, one still would greatly benefit from encountering the admirable way those views are presented here. They are an important part of our current philosophical and theological landscape. Too many have taken my own path of least resistance and avoided direct engagement with deconstruction. Caputo here leaves us without excuse–like his suggestions or not, we will all benefit from an encounter with them.

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