Divine Enticement: Theological Seductions

Divine Enticement: Theological Seductions

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 320
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    Divine Enticement: Theological Seductions
    Book Description:

    Theology usually appears to us to be dogmatic, judgmental, condescending, maybe therapeutic, or perhaps downright fantastical-but seldom enticing. Divine Enticement takes as its starting point that the meanings of theological concepts are not so much logical, truth-valued propositions-affirmative or negative-as they are provocations and evocations. Thus it argues for the seductiveness of both theology and its subject-for, in fact, infinite seduction and enticement as the very sense of theological query. The divine name is one by which we are drawn toward the limits of thought, language, and flesh. The use of language in such conceptualization calls more than it designates. This is not a flaw or a result of vagueness or imprecision in theological language but rather marks the correspondence of such language to its subject: that which, outside of or at the limit of our thought, draws us as an enticement to desire, not least to intellectual desire. Central to the text is the strange semiotics of divine naming, as a call on that for which there cannot be a standard referent. The entanglement of sign and body, not least in interpretations of the Christian incarnation, both grounds and complicates the theological abstractions. A number of traditional notions in Christian theology are reconceived here as enticements, modes of drawing the desires of both body and mind: faith as "thinking with assent"; sacraments as "visible words" read in community; ethics as responsiveness to beauty; prayer as the language of address; scripture as the story of meaning-making. All of these culminate in a sense of a call to and from the purely possible, the open space into which we can be enticed, within which we can be divinely enticing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4633-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: From the Presence to the Sign
    (pp. 1-32)

    Theology seduced me. I wanted to resist being drawn into its constant uncertainty and intellectual discomfort, but was enticed by its history of gorgeous writing (whether poetically extravagant or mathematically precise) and by the willingness of theological thinkers to take up thought at the limits of thinking, to say at the limits of language, to experience at the limits of the subject. My response has been to try to theorize that seduction—not as a defense, but as a response, as every seduction requires. Theology reaches for our limits, and it opens in our midst, not least in the middle...

  5. 1 Seductive Epistemology: Thinking with Assent
    (pp. 33-70)

    There appears to be a curious incompatibility between seduction and any proper sort of epistemology.Knowledge, with its firm and enduring grasp of true facts and its carefully maintained distance from opinion, seems clearly opposed both to the reserve, mystery, and elusive play of seduction and to theunknowing in the face of the infinite by which even slightly apophatic theology is not inaptly characterized. When we try to think the divine or the sacred, we think that reserve and mystery; perhaps we also think of origin or ground, of joy or ecstasy, or of the world newly revealed as...

  6. 2 Reading Rites: Sacraments and the Community of Signs
    (pp. 71-100)

    If all the world’s a sign, and all things to which signs point become caught in signification again, then our world is full even as it is fleeting, traced with absence even in what stays. With the modern turn away from a sense of saturated signification, the world’s signs are lost not merely, perhaps not even primarily, in their ability to refer indexically; the world at once desacralized and insignificant loses still more its power to seduce.

    Faith may work to re-enchant if it opens the world as a seductive question, asking after traces, after a particular kind of presence...

  7. 3 Because Being Here Is So Much: Ethics as the Artifice of Attention
    (pp. 101-140)

    The very notion of seductive ethics is likely to give us pause, to seem more error than paradox. Ethics is more often than not conceived as the very resistance to seduction, if not in fact to any sort of pleasure (or bliss, which seems to undermine the ethical subject).¹ It is dutiful, we think, a little bit ascetic (provided we don’t overly enjoy our asceticism), rule-bound or abstemiously virtuous. And if seduction is about sustaining the possible, then to prescribe, whether character or behavior, seems contradictory to it. But the prescriptions of ethics are not always a matter of foreclosure;...

  8. 4 Prayer: Addressing the Name
    (pp. 141-168)

    Ethical speaking is a strange, intercut mode of address and listening. As some of the peculiarities of the sign are made vivid in thinking of sacraments as divine signs, so too the strangeness of speaking is especially evident when it calls upon an infinite addressee. In considering the peculiarity of prayer as an address from finite to infinite, I have followed Nancy, for whom “The singular address to a singular God—my god!—is prayer in general.”¹ The singular address links prayer to love, with an echo of Augustine’s “what then do I love when I love my God?”² But...

  9. 5 Take and Read: Scripture and the Enticement of Meaning
    (pp. 169-204)

    In his analysis of scripturally based faith as an opening of questions rather than a settling of answers, Jacques Ellul declares, with not unmerited irritation, “We must vigorously reject that nasty habit of turning to the Bible for an answer to the banal problems of everyday … or, still worse, the custom of opening the Bible at random to find some providential verse.”¹ It is hard for those of us who love books not to approve immediately of this, to find it disrespectful of a text with such historical and literary weight to treat it as if it were a...

  10. In Place of a Conclusion: Thoughts on a Prior Possible
    (pp. 205-218)

    Seduction resists conclusion—“the melancholy of everythingfinished,”¹ as Nietz sche aptly has it. It depends upon recurrence and sustaining, on the continued emergence of a new or re-newed and not quite comprehended possibility, on something we know we want even if we aren’t quite sure what it is (even the desire of it is to be desired as a good). To conclude a work on seduction thus seems a bit misguided, so in place of a conclusion I would like to offer this very brief meditation on the coincidence of two inconclusive possibilities, of new emergence and infinite recurrence...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 219-280)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 281-300)
  13. Index
    (pp. 301-310)