[It has come to my attention that someone has dug up this post in light of the recent controversy surrounding Harman’s remarks about Caputo. The tone of this post was ill-considered and regrettable, and its critiques are exaggerated. I can no longer stand behind my remarks here.]
I am a third of the way through the book, and I must ask: Where’s the argument? What is Caputo actually trying to do with this book? If he wants us to indulge him as he shares his more or less unsubstantiated opinions on theology, then that’s fine, though it is perhaps the kind of thing that is better done over wine than in a 300-page book with 50 pages of footnotes.
He might gain some credibility were he to, for example, actually risk taking a position about whether “there is” a God such as he describes, however one wants to qualify it — yes, yes, God is necessarily beyond being, etc., but seriously, answer the damn question! Enough with your hand-waving! (“Oh, who am I to pass judgment on this?” Well, who are you to be writing a book on theology at all?). As it stands, the whole affair is difficult to take seriously. We have the same prose style as The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, here reduced to a kind of “Caputo does Caputo” — foreign words dropped in here and there, but without the elegant instructional quality one found in Prayers and Tears (where the juxtapositions were sometimes quite illuminating), paragraphs made up of nothing but questions (“What if we thought of God as being weak rather than strong? What if we thought of creation as a risk rather than a sovereign act?” Yes, truly — what then?!), completely useless name-dropping (most egregious in the case of Zizek, where the references have a negative tone without making it clear either what is supposed to be wrong with Zizek’s position or even what Caputo takes that position to be), and, to top it off, a wonderfully “clever” recurring image of “rouged theology” (the kind of theology that is a “whore” for power — nothing says “liberation” like misogynistic imagery!). The chapter on Genesis is admittedly somewhat interesting, but that is probably because the whole thing is cribbed from Catherine Keller. He keeps making references to being “anarcho”-whatever, but it’s painfully obvious that Caputo isn’t an anarchist in any serious way. Yet another empty gesture in a book built around them.
This book risks retrospectively discrediting Prayers and Tears, of which I have become increasingly skeptical over the years. If theology really doesn’t have anything to teach us other than to be “good liberals,” then I say let’s be done with it–and the same goes for deconstruction.