The Metamorphosis of Finitude: An Essay on Birth and Resurrection

The Metamorphosis of Finitude: An Essay on Birth and Resurrection

Translated by George Hughes
John D. Caputo series editor
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 214
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  • Book Info
    The Metamorphosis of Finitude: An Essay on Birth and Resurrection
    Book Description:

    This book starts off from a philosophical premise: nobody can be in the world unless they are born into the world. It examines this premise in the light of the theological belief that birth serves, or ought to serve, as a model for understanding what resurrection could signify for us today. After all, the modern Christian needs to find some way of understanding resurrection, and the dogma of the resurrection of the body is vacuous unless we can relate it philosophically to our own world of experience. Nicodemus first posed the question "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" This book reads that problem in the context of contemporary philosophy (particularly the thought of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Deleuze). A phenomenology of the body born "from below" is seen as a paradigm for a theology of spiritual rebirth, and for rebirth of the body from "on high." The Resurrection changes everything in Christianity--but it is also our own bodies that must be transformed in resurrection, as Christ is transfigured. And the way in which I hope to be resurrected bodily in God, in the future, depends upon the way in which I live bodily today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4650-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the English Edition
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Emmanuel Falque
  4. Preface: The Beaune Altarpiece, or “The Germination of the Resurrected”
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: To Be Transformed
    (pp. 1-10)

    “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Cor 15:51–52). To die or to be transformed, or rather foreveryone to be transformedwhether already dead or not, since only the last trumpet sounds here, is the universalmetamorphosisproposed by St. Paul as a definition, no less, of the resurrection. And the resurrection is immediately of the Word made living body, and subsequently it is quite simply of human beings, at the Last Judgement....

  6. Part I: Précis of Finitude
    • [Part I: Introduction]
      (pp. 11-14)

      To propose a “précis of finitude” is not to serve up a new summary in the guise of a compendium of philosophy, as though one were furnishing the results for theology and insisting that it renew itself on that basis. It is rather to propose that the contemporary theologian, like the philosopher, needs to take finitude as the first given. Finitude doesn’t summarize a doctrine, but simply sums up the most ordinary existence of all human beings, including that of the Son of God, who was exactly “made man” (et homo factus est).¹ One couldn’t in fact hypothesize any further...

    • 1 Impassable Immanence
      (pp. 15-20)

      We have no other experience of God but human experience. When I experience God, what sustains me is, at least first of all, God made human. No access opens toward the nonhuman—God, angel, beast, or demon—other than precisely through the human that I am. “We cannot go to other beings without passing through our own being, and we can understand ourselves only by understanding others in ourselves” (Blondel). One might think that all this is well established, in theology at the very least. Some theologians indeed agree today to recognize the “method of immanence” of Maurice Blondel as...

    • 2 From Time to Time
      (pp. 21-29)

      Finitude, as I have tried to show (§5), “is not an accident of the ‘immortal’ essence of man, but the foundation of man’s existence.”¹ We need to admit, moreover, and to welcome the notion, that a “précis of finitude” would go so far as to give up taking some kind of eternity for granted. And this is precisely where the shoe pinches—at least from the perspective of certain believers. Of course one could happily acknowledge (a) that we have “no other experience of God apart from that of mankind,” which would be only from the standpoint of this world...

    • 3 Is There a Drama of Atheist Humanism?
      (pp. 30-40)

      Atheist humanism in its time was famously stigmatized as a “drama” by one of the great theologians of the twentieth century (Henri de Lubac). This was not simply a conservative reaction—to suggest that would be to misunderstand both the man and his writings—but first of all it was done out of a concern for understanding: “I have tried here to bring into the open the double character [of the rejection of God and the crushing of the human individual], considering that simply to offer an account of it would be the most efficacious of refutations.” And so, although...

  7. Part II: Toward a Metamorphosis
    • [Part II: Introduction]
      (pp. 41-46)

      Ourprécis of finitude, seen not so much as the condensation of a doctrine but as of existence itself, has enabled us to arrive at three objectives. (1) Immanence remains impassable for all, including Christians. These latter, requiring first from all methods (of immanence) that they are taken to their limit (§4), and then rejecting any preemption of the infinite over the finite, insist finally that we accede to the imperatives of a phenomenology, or a theology “from below” (§6). (2) Taking this route, which is that of the ordinariness of the flesh as opposed to a phenomenology of the...

    • 4 Resurrection and the Over-resurrection of the Body
      (pp. 47-61)

      An appeal to metamorphosis—or to the transformation of the self—is by no means restricted solely to Christianity. In fact it is in the work of the sworn enemy of Christianity, Friedrich Nietzsche, that the dispute over metamorphosis offers the most food for thought, at least in relation to the setting up of arguments on both sides of the debate. If we want to unravel the theme of the resurrection, then, the debate with Nietzsche on the topic that is summoned up here is not just optional: It is probably more arduous and more basic than the debate over...

    • 5 The Resurrection Changes Everything
      (pp. 62-80)

      The Incarnation changes everything”: The phrase comes not from a theologian but from a philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty.¹ Having made, along with Husserl, philosophical incarnation the center and the heart of his thought (“es wird Leib”)² and after having himself challenged the above-mentioned “drama of atheist humanism” (§11), Merleau-Ponty here calls on theologians:

      And it is a little too much to forget that Christianity is, among other things, the recognition of a mystery in the relations of man and God, which stems precisely from the fact that the Christian Godwants nothing to do with a vertical relation of subordination. He...

    • 6 The Incorporation of the Human Being
      (pp. 81-90)

      What happens in God, or rather what happened in the act of resurrection—the ordeal of the Father, the apperceptive transposition of the Son and the Holy Spirit as the “meta-morphosis” of the Son by the Father—must also concernus, must even metamorphose us. The resurrection, in fact, has no point for me unless it “puts me in the picture,” and does not “cut me out of the performance,” or “throw me off stage.” It isn’t significant that “God raised the Lord,” unless he will also “raise us by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).¹ What occursin God(immanent...

  8. Part III: Phenomenology of the Resurrection
    • [Part III: Introduction]
      (pp. 91-94)

      Cur Deus resurrexit? Why is God resurrected? Or better, why does the Father transfigure our finitude in his Son, who carries it within him? We have already sketched a reply to this question, as far as is possible: (a) The Sonsuffersthe burden of death “quite simply,” and forwards it to the Father without ever breaking his filial relation, even when his feeling of being abandoned is at its strongest (seeLe Passeur de Gethsémani). (b) The Father receives from the Son this ordeal of our finitude as the closure of the world and of time (chapters 1–2)....

    • 7 The World Become Other
      (pp. 95-111)

      The fiction of the other world, or of what Nietzsche thought of as an imaginary backworld (arrière-monde), is one of the by-products of Christianity and sometimes even of theology (in via/in patria).¹ It is a fiction from which it is still difficult today to extricate ourselves. The problem is more obvious in that it was not always like this at the start, not even among those who are often accused of the “Platonization” of Christianity—St. Augustine foremost among them.² The division into two cities (earthly and heavenly) does not in fact derive from such a dichotomy between these worlds....

    • 8 From Time to Eternity
      (pp. 112-126)

      It has been said, and has been widely believed, that we cannot but go “from time to time”—Heidegger (see chapter 2). What is true of “birth down here below” remains true always but is, however, only relatively true of “rebirth from on high”—passed through the crux of metamorphosis of God (chapter 5) and of mankind in him (chapter 6). Moreover, Thomas Aquinas himself, too respectful of things down here below todrawthem directly from on high, understood this: “As we attain to the knowledge ofsimplethings by way ofcompoundthings, so must we reach to...

    • 9 A Flesh for Rebirth
      (pp. 127-148)

      The “knowing [con-naissance] of God,” rather than the eternal (John 17:3), leads us, then, to ask about our own births—ourspiritualbirth, of course, but also ourbodilybirth. I myself can relate to my own birth today (a) through my consciousness (given my difficulty in being born), and (b) through my body (given the impossibility of my not having been born).

      (a) First of all, in my consciousness, and in what language tends to speak of as an absence. In a certain way I was not there, or at least I have the impression of not having been...

  9. Conclusion: Waiting for Bodies to Arise
    (pp. 149-154)

    “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). Nicodemus’s question has been called foolish or “derisory” (derisibilis), because “Christ was speaking ofspiritual regeneration, and he [Nicodemus] is objecting in terms of carnal regeneration” (Thomas Aquinas).¹ But, on the contrary, I believe it serves as a guide to all rebirths—spiritual (baptism) and bodily (the final resurrection). When all is said and done, we do not have any other experience of the body than that of our own flesh, and it is through that...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 155-190)
  11. Index of Names
    (pp. 191-194)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 195-200)