The Rebellious No: Variations on a Secular Theology of Language

The Rebellious No: Variations on a Secular Theology of Language

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    The Rebellious No: Variations on a Secular Theology of Language
    Book Description:

    This book aims to renew theological thinking by extending and radicalizing an iconoclastic and existentialist mode of thought. It proposes a theology whose point of departure assumes and accepts the critiques of religion launched by Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, and Feuerbach but nevertheless takes theological desire seriously as a rebellious force working within, but against, an anthropomorphic, phallogocentric worldview. As a theology of language, it does not claim any privileged access to some transcendent divine essence or ground of Being. On the contrary, for Noelle Vahanian theology is a strictly secular discourse, like any other discourse, but aware of its limitations and wary of great promises--its own included. Its faith is that this secular theological desire can be a force against the constitutive indifference of thought, and it is a meditative act of rebellion. Aphoristic instead of argumentative, this book offers an original and constructive engagement with such seminal issues as indifference, belief, madness, and love.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5696-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    This work will undoubtedly attract criticism for its failure to abide by the common standards of academic scholarship. Likely, the reader will find no new ideas in it. Possibly, also, she will have no idea what she read about. But, to anyone who ventures to read beyond these words, I extend an invitation to travel a meandering path with stubborn, rebellious, generous love; only such has the power to command divine ordinariness. Far from offering a systematic program for a secular theology of language, this work nevertheless proposes a way to encounter the infinity of the finite—that is, this...

  5. 1 Milk of My Tears
    (pp. 6-20)

    It is without having anything to say that I begin.

    The question that I ask is the degree to which, or how it is that words express thoughts. On the one hand, I am talking about both our inability to verbally convey and our preference not to verbally convey all that may be (pressing) on one’s mind. On the other hand, I am also talking about the experience of a certain ignorance that precedes and may also accompany verbalization and that, therefore, precludes any sense of a satisfactory verbalization of one’s thoughts. But what I want to explore and advance...

  6. 2 The Law of the Indifferent Middle
    (pp. 21-45)

    Unwittingly, we are indifferent to the opacity of our eyesight or the deafness of our understanding or the coldness of our hearts as they selectively apprehend the world and as we conveniently, tacitly, and passively accept this process. But a theology of language, a theology for which God is the Word, cannot take this passage to linguistic reality for granted; for this inevitable indifference or forgetfulness or unawareness to that which is not within one’s language and understanding is the root of a certain kind of evil. It is how one becomes one’s own worst enemy, how one becomes a...

  7. 3 Great Explanation
    (pp. 46-63)

    Whereas the previous chapter examined the ethical implications of indifference as the condition of thinking, this chapter’s aim is to provide an exposé and a tentative analysis of this problematic condition of thinkingin itsabsurdity.

    As any analysis of thought will show—whether philosophical, theological, or political—thinking can be callous, thinking can be vicious, while being nevertheless proficient, diligent, and even purely theoretical or contemplative. That is to say, it is easy to point the finger at the kind of thinking that falls short, that disappoints, or that turns against this world, because thinking inevitably does all these...

  8. 4 Madness and Civilization: The Paradox of a False Dichotomy
    (pp. 64-77)

    If in the last chapter I concluded with the suggestion that religious fundamentalism operates like a think tank, or that it is an institutional form of thought lacking in imagination and thereby incapable of thought, then in this chapter I want to make clear that a secular theology of language is in no way a simple remedy to fundamentalism. Put directly, I do not aim to replace faith with reason. On the contrary, in what is hardly an original thought, when the so-called Age of Reason sought Enlightenment by purging itself of faith, this act of self-purging revealed itself as...

  9. 5 Two Ways to Believe
    (pp. 78-86)

    Perhaps the folly of faith is also the least foolish of all the ways into this world so long as faith is properly seen for the madness that it is; so long as one is ready to admit one’s radical uncertainty, and infinite finitude. Perhaps such faith must therefore also be silent and unrecognizable, for any attempt to speak its condition will lead us to believe in some identifiable mark of its authenticity, and, more than that, also to believe in the notion that faith can be severed and guarded from unquestioned belief trumping as knowledge. But, where there is...

  10. 6 Rebellious Desire and the Real within the Limits of the Symbolic Alone
    (pp. 87-105)

    The universe with all its galaxies, its suns, and planets, cold or hot, nearby and light years away evokes at times that oceanic feeling that Romain Rolland mentioned to Freud as the source of religious sentiments. If Freud, by his own admission, couldn’t conjure up that oceanic feeling, I must admit that the feeling for me is rather uncanny. That is, if that feeling might correspond for some to the yoking of the atman with the Brahman, to an “indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world,” and for Freud then, if it must be genetically explained away as...

  11. 7 Counting Weakness, Countering Power: The Theopolitics of Catherine Keller
    (pp. 106-112)

    Even with the Death of God—or because of it—God is the Word who names the passage to linguistic reality. This passage, recalling the beginning of this work, is a muddy beginning—a beginning in the middle of experience. That is, this Word that is the beginning is never original and is without a proper origin. We are not talking about a linguistic creation that would occur out of absolutely nothing or out of nihilistic chaos. Light travels at different speeds depending on the medium that it traverses. Through a prism, it breaks down into its constituent spectral colors...

  12. 8 Counter-Currents: Theology and the Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion
    (pp. 113-123)

    A theology of language is, paradoxically, a theology without a proper language. It is a theology for the unchurched and the academically undisciplined. Therein lies its weakness: the weakness of God, the Word, a lure—not entirely in the mythopoetic sense intended by Keller’s process thought, but as a double-edged sword—the introverted double-edged sword of theWord made flesh of the becoming subject, and a burdensome gift that can’t be “disappeared,” returned, or cashed in. Nohors-textemeans endless dissemination of meanings within the interpretive horizon of the becoming subject. Rebellion is no way out of this economy. It is...

  13. 9 I love you more than a big sheriff
    (pp. 124-134)

    While Keller teaches us that, as a “counter-imperial ecology,” love weaves “its way between justice and uncertainty, at the edge of any chaos,”¹ it is with Plato’sSymposiumthat I want to begin to sketch the politics of love at the heart of a secular theology of language. But, in the spirit of a counterimperial gesture, I am casting aside the Socratic account of love, which is the voice that appears to be more in line with Platonism and the voice of reason, to privilege instead and to take seriously the ludic, playful and nostalgic—if not also tragic—praise...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 135-148)
  15. Index
    (pp. 149-150)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 151-156)