23 January 2002

This week I've taken a look at The Postmodern God: A Theological Reader edited by Graham Ward (Blackwell, 1997). I've only looked at a few articles, but I am enjoying it very much.

Ward provides a very helpful introduction that situates the essays in the context of postmodern discourse, explaining what postmodernism is (in contrast with the "modern"), giving particular attention to the developments made by Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Saussure.

The book is divided into two parts: the first a collection of important essays by major figures in postmodernism (Levinas, Girard, Foucault, de Certeau, Derrida, Irigaray, etc.) and the second a collection of newer essays by rising figures (Lacoste, Milbank, Marion, Pickstock, etc.).

The essays in the first half are each preceded by an introduction from a current thinker that situates and explans the essay in a manner that, so far, is rather clear and useful.

Of the essays in the second half, I have only so far read two. The first is John Milbank's "Postmodern Critical Augustinianism: A Short Summa in Forty-two Responses to Unasked Questions." It is a remarkable essay if one is interested in the thought of Milbank. It provides what is essentially a very brief and surprisingly lucid set of assertions that outline some of the major points of his magisterial Theology and Social Theory. What's more, it goes on to address some further issues that he picks up in far greater detail in his The Word Made Strange. So, if you would like a nice precis of Milbank's perspective, this essay is a good place to start.

The second essay I've read is Jean-Luc Marion's "Metaphysics and Phenomenology: A Summary for Theologians." Marion is probably most well-known among English-speakers for his book God Without Being and the essay, in many respects, summarizes many of the most salient features of that book. The primary burden of Marion's thought is to attempt to re-think theology through the methods of phenomenology and thereby to set aside metaphysical and ontological approaches to God in this age when metaphysics has met its supposed death. This phenomenological re-thinking is necessary, Marion believes, in order to counter the common view that with the end of metaphysics so also comes the end of theology.

I will try to update you as I work my way through some of the other essays in The Postmodern God.