Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity

Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity

Bettina Bergo
Gabriel Malenfant
Michael B. Smith
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity
    Book Description:

    This book is a profound and eagerly anticipated investigation into what is left of a monotheistic religious spirit-notably, a minimalist faith that is neither confessional nor credulous. Articulating this faith as works and as an objectless hope, Nancy deconstructs Christianity in search of the historical and reflective conditions that provided its initial energy. Working through Blanchot and Nietzsche, re-reading Heidegger and Derrida, Nancy turns to the Epistle of Saint James rather than those of Saint Paul, discerning in it the primitive essence of Christianity as hope. The religion that provided the exit from religion,as he terms Christianity, consists in the announcement of an end. It is the announcement that counts, however, rather than any finality. In this announcement there is a proximity to others and to what was once called parousia. But parousia is no longer presence; it is no longer the return of the Messiah. Rather, it is what is near us and does not cease to open and to close, a presence deferred yet imminent.In a demystified age where we are left with a vision of a self-enclosed world-in which humans are no longer mortals facing an immortal being, but entities whose lives are accompanied by the time of their own decline-parousia stands as a question. Can we venture the risk of a decentered perspective, such that the meaning of the world can be found both inside and outside, within and without our so-immanent world?The deconstruction of Christianity that Nancy proposes is neither a game nor a strategy. It is an invitation to imagine a strange faith that enacts the inadequation of life to itself. Our lives overflow the self-contained boundaries of their biological and sociological interpretations. Out of this excess, wells up a fragile, overlooked meaning that is beyond both confessionalism and humanism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5876-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. ii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Translators’ Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Michael B. Smith

    The original title of this book wasLa déclosion. That term may be said not to “exist” in the French language, and it is not farfetched to claim that the volume is itself an explication of its meaning. The word recurs frequently in many chapters, particularly the last one. That chapter shares its title with the volume as a whole, explicating the leitmotif ofdéclosionand carrying it to the brink of a further dialectical sublation . Therefore it may be useful at the outset to convey our understanding (without pretending to do any of the hard work Nancy’s texts...

  4. Opening
    (pp. 1-13)

    It is not a question of reviving religion, not even the one that Kant wanted to hold “within the limits of reason alone.” It is, however, a question of opening mere reason up to the limitlessness that constitutes its truth.

    It is not a question of overcoming some deficiency in reason, but of liberating reason without reserve: once everything is accounted for, it is up to us to show what remains beyond these accounts.

    It is also not a question of repainting the skies, or of reconfiguring them: it is a question of opening up the earth—dark, hard, and...

  5. Atheism and Monotheism
    (pp. 14-28)

    Not only is atheism an invention specific to the West, but it must also be considered the element in which the West invented itself as such. What we call “Greece” may well be traversed by, or mixed into, a considerable number of religious attitudes; it nonetheless remains true that, before all else, what distinguishes or even constitutes the “Greek” is a space of living and thinking that divine presence (barring that of the gods of thepolisor those subject to speculation, who are precisely no longerpresences) neither shapes nor marks out [balise]. The Greeks, here, are above all...

  6. A Deconstruction of Monotheism
    (pp. 29-41)

    The West can no longer be called the West on the basis of the movement through which it saw extended to the entire world the form of what might have appeared, up until recently, as its specific profile. This form contains both techno-science and the general determinations of democracy and law, as well as a certain type of discourse and modes of argument, accompanied by a certain type of representation—understood in a broad sense of the term (e.g., that of the cinema and the entirety of post-rock and post-pop music). In this way, the West no longer acknowledges itself...

  7. The Judeo-Christian (on Faith)
    (pp. 42-60)

    “Judeo-Christian” is a fragile designation. The word appears in theLittrédictionary with a historical definition that restricts it to the religion of the first Christian Jews, of those who considered that non-Jewish Christians should first “be associated with, or incorporated into, the nation of Israel.” This signification sets aside the partisans of the measures of the order taken in Jerusalem under James’s authority and reported in Acts 15. It is no longer the same meaning as in Harnack at the end of the century, which indicates only a preferential place for the Jewish people as the distinctive trait of...

  8. A Faith That Is Nothing at All
    (pp. 61-74)

    Among his singular characteristics, Gérard Granel presents a singularity more singular than others: that of being one of the very rare contemporary philosophers, if not the only one, to have affirmed, for a time, his belonging to the Catholic confession and Church—this while practicing a philosophy clearly tied, on the one hand, to Heidegger and, on the other, to Marx. Broadly speaking, we could say that he is one of the few, if not the only one, to have held together without confusion a religious faith and his engagement in philosophy (no “Christian philosophy,” here, to the contrary!). He...

  9. An Experience at Heart
    (pp. 75-80)

    Let us not discuss Nietzsche here, nor even a theme from his thought; instead, let us answer the question “What does Nietzsche tell us today?”

    To respond to this, I would like to take the attitude that Bataille wanted to have toward Nietzsche and that I, in turn, want to adopt toward both Nietzsche and Bataille himself (from whom I will not separate Blanchot: perhaps you will be able to discern why). Nothing other than the attitude of thought toward each thinker: neither citing him, nor studying him, but rather learning him by heart, that is to say, by the...

  10. Verbum caro factum
    (pp. 81-84)

    For the time of a brief note, for the moment, let us analyze this central proposition of Christianity:verbum caro factum est(in Greek and in the Gospel of John:logos sarx egeneto). That is the formula of the “incarnation” by which God makes himself man, and that humanity of God is indeed the decisive trait of Christianity, and through it a determinative trait for the whole of Western culture—including the heart of its “humanism,” which it marks indelibly, or may even be its basis (in return for a “divinization” of man—to stick to a short summary treatment)....

  11. The Name God in Blanchot
    (pp. 85-88)

    This title is not a provocation, no more than it is a cover for an insidious kidnapping attempt. It is not a question of trying to smuggle Blanchot over to the side of the newpolitical correctness(and thus indecency) that takes the form of a “return to religion,” as unsound and insipid as are all “returns.”

    It is merely a question of this. Blanchot’s thought is demanding, vigilant, uneasy, and alert enough not to have thought itself obliged to adhere to the atheisticcorrectnessor requisite expression of antireligious feeling that was de rigueur in his day. Not that...

  12. Blanchot’s Resurrection
    (pp. 89-97)

    The theme of resurrection does not seem, on the face of it, to play a major role in Blanchot. At least it is only rarely encountered in the so-called “theoretical” texts. It may be more frequent in the narratives, but in them it is harder to isolate themes per se. Yet resurrection is indissociable in that work from death and dying, with which we are more used to associating the nameBlanchot. And if the phenomenon of dying is, in turn, not only indissociable from literature or writing but consubstantial with them, that is only to the degree that it...

  13. Consolation, Desolation
    (pp. 98-103)

    In the Preface he wrote for the volume entitledChaque fois unique, la fin du monde(Each Time Unique, the End of the World),¹ a collection of memorial addresses, Jacques Derrida emphasizes how much the “adieu” should salute nothing other than “the necessity of a possible non-return, the end of the world as the end of any resurrection.” In other words, the “adieu” should in no way signify a rendezvous with God but, on the contrary, a definitive leave-taking, an irremissible abandonment—as much an abandonment of the deceased other to his effacement as an abandonment of the survivor to...

  14. On a Divine Wink
    (pp. 104-120)

    In number 44 of a text he titled, with a philosophical wink, “Faith and Knowledge,” a title that is subtitled, with another wink, “The Two Sources of ‘ Religion’ at the Limits of Reason Alone,” a wink that could be considered double or triple if we reflect that “at the limits” constitutes a malicious, in the strong sense, and thus perverting allusion to “within the limits”—in that number 44, Derrida alludes to a wink, or makes a gesture in its direction that is as vague as it is precise (as the oxymoron of all winks must be). It is...

  15. An Exempting from Sense
    (pp. 121-128)

    There is no sense that is not shared [partagé]. But what is sharing, and what sense is revealed in it? Perhaps the two questions overlap: that is, one shares only that which is divided in this sharing, that which separates from itself, and a shareable sense is a sense separated from itself, freed of its completion in a final or central signification. A value of the end or of the center, in a general way, is a value of sense—in the sense that sense is understood as the concentration and crystallization of an absolutevalue. It is only in...

  16. “Prayer Demythified”
    (pp. 129-138)

    Who can require of the present time a prayer, and of us, the godless who live this time as our own? It’s not surprising it should be a poet who dares to do so, or dares at least to ask what such a prayer, if there is such a thing, could be.

    That poet’s name is Michel Deguy, and he writes: Let us quote Adorno, who writes that music, “Prayer demythologized, freed from the magical result, represents the human attempt,however vain, to utter the Name itself instead of communicating meanings.”

    Prayer demythologized? That is a powerful oxymoron, a tidal...

  17. The Deconstruction of Christianity
    (pp. 139-157)

    As a guiding epigraph to this whole endeavor, these words from Nietzsche’sThe Antichrist: “The theologians and everything that has theologian blood in its veins: our whole philosophy.” Add to it these words of Hölderlin, in their ambivalence: “Christ, I hold too fast to you!”

    My question will be very simple, naïve even, as is perhaps fitting at the beginning of a phenomenological procedure: How and to what degree dowe holdto Christianity? How, exactly, are we, in our whole tradition, held by it? I am well aware that this is a question that may appear superfluous, because it...

  18. Dis-Enclosure
    (pp. 158-162)

    Space is not the name of a thing, but of that outside of things thanks to which their distinctness is granted them. Things could not be distinct in nature if they did not also occupy distinct places. If I am taking the tree’s place (and not just “replacing it”), there is neither tree nor human being, but something else: a sylvan divinity, for example. When the distinction of place is hindered or rejected, a crushing, a constriction, and a suffocation is produced. That is what we can see in those geological folds and contractions out of which come igneous fusions,...

  19. Appendix Far from Substance: Whither and to What Point?
    (pp. 163-174)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 175-190)