Monday, January 28, 2008

Truth in Weak Theology - part five - adequatio, circumfession, facere veritatem

My presentation of Jack Caputo’s Weak Theology (in parts one [Names and Events], two [Aporia], three [kingdom without kingdom] and four [A/theism]) sets the scene for a discussion of truth in The Weakness of God, where three notions can be identified and linked to differing levels of his work. I treat these concepts of truth, not in the order in which they arise in this book, but in an order which reflects Caputo’s hyper-realist, messianic prayer for the to-come.

In his reduction/magnification of names to events, Caputo emphasises the conditioned nature of language and in so doing exposes that there are contingent reasons why certain names are chosen over others (288), and that no name can function universally for humanity (289). Caputo rejects, therefore, the first concept of truth as correlation. For him, ‘a truth that is not a matter of establishing an adequatio’ (286). Without denying the reality of the world – ‘The “world” is what really exists, whereas the kingdom calls for something else’ (37) – the truth of God is not found in theological realism nor theological anti-realism, which both demand a correspondence theory of truth wherein language corresponds to reality (whether reality is real or an illusion). Rather, the truth of the name of God is found in a hyper-realism, of which is cannot be said that it “is,” but that it is “to-come,” thereby disallowing a theory of truth which demands an adequatio between language and what “is.” The truth of the name of God is not (yet) ‘in being, in re’ (16).

The truth of God is found, therefore, ‘not in a proposition but in a confession’ (286). It is a matter of prayer, not epistemology (6). In this second understanding of truth, which can be referred to as a circumfession, Caputo uses phrases such as ‘a hard truth’ (6), ‘honestly facing the truth’ (6), ‘the cold truth’ (20), ‘if the truth be told’ (288), ‘in all truthfulness’ (287), and ‘to be honest to God’ (287). Here truth has the flavour of honesty – hard and humbling, it is the event of a confession, a cut, a wound, a confession that makes us weep and bleed. It involves the recognition of our condition vis-à-vis language, and therefore truth involves the rejection of truth as an adequatio. Instead, ‘Truth means truthfully to confess the poverty of our philosophy, the weakness of our theology, and the humility of our condition’ (286). Truth is a confession, which itself is a concession (293), an admittance of our situation – rather than truth being something that is sought after it is something which cannot be escaped (284).

‘To confess the truth means to own up to our own limits, to face the music about what we know and do not know… the truth demands an honest concession that we cannot contain the event harbored by the name of God’ (287).

This concept of truth as the event of ‘endless confession and circumfession and confusion’ (115) moves us away from truth as an adequatio on the plane of being, name, and realism/anti-realism, towards truth as ‘a deed, something to do, to translate into the flesh of existence’ (16). Here Caputo repeatedly employs the Augustinian understanding of “making” or “doing the truth,” facere veritatem, so that ‘a “truth claim” is less an exact claim we make than a exacting claim that is made upon us’ to make truth true (286), to actualise the promise, the call, the hyper-real.

Truth ‘wants to become true, to make itself true, to make itself come true, to be transformed into truth, so that its truth is a species of truth facere veritatem (118). The truth is less about descriptive content than about a promise calling to be fulfilled, so that the truth of the name of God is the truth of the event, ‘facere veritatem, doing and making truth happen’ (268).

In this sense, truth as facere veritatem is a hyper-truth beyond the truth of correspondence, a not-yet-true truth, a truth of future-correspondence-peut-être, of correspondence-à-venir, hyper-correspondence.

When Caputo talks about justice preceding truth (253), he refers to a translation of the name of God into an event and the event into a deed, which is a ‘translation into [the] justice which precedes truth [as correspondence with reality], or a translation into truth in the Augustinian sense of facere veritatem’ (272). This is suggestive of two of the concepts of truth which I have observed in Caputo’s work: truth as correspondence now, which in terms of theological truth is rejected as undecidable, and truth as facere veritatem, correspondence-to-come. As Caputo himself writes,

‘The truth of the event releases us from the order of names and transports us to another level, where truth does not mean learning a name but making truth come true, making it happen, facere veritatem, letting the event happen, sans voir, sans savoir, sans avoir, praying and weeping before an unknown god.

Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you to eat?

Is that you, Lord?

The truth of the event is not a name but a deed’ (299)

The first notion of truth identified, and rejected, in Caputo’s work is truth as a full and adequate correspondence between language and reality. Truth is not about correlation, because this theory of truth operates on the plane of being, of names and of the right names, the right correlations. Instead, truth is about the honest but hard recognition of our limitations on the plane of being. This existential truth is the second notion identifiable within The Weakness of God, on the plane of being, but facing the hard truth of our inadequacy. The third notion, facere veritatem, is the prayers and tears for truth to be made true, for the messianic to-come to be made a kingdom without kingdom, here and now, where ‘the truth of the event is not a name but a deed’ (299).

These second two movements which Caputo makes with regards to truth, after a rejection of the first position, mirrors the movements he makes within an experience of the impossible:

‘Having, or rather venturing, an experience [of the impossible] involves a double operation: first we understand full well that it is impossible to go, that we are blocked from moving ahead, that we cannot take another step, that we have reached the limit: then we go. We venture out and take the risk, perilous as it may be. First, immobilization, then movement. The movement is mobilized by the immobilization… The immobilization belongs to the more cognitive domain: we know that this can’t be done; we have been instructed by the understanding about the limits of what is possible. But then we go. Thus the movement is carried out by a shift to the sphere of praxis and the pragmatic order… to a certain non-cognitive leap which overcomes the hesitations of the understanding that is what Augustine calls doing the truth, facere veritatem’ (Caputo 2003:126)

So in relation to truth, Caputo makes two interrelated moves. First, we know we cannot know truth, cannot name it, contain it in language, cannot stop the endless translation and deferral. Then, we go – we act, we pray, we weep for the truth to become true; we translate the event’s truth – not it’s semantic content but what it promises (6) – into a deed; we respond to the call to being to go beyond itself, to be otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Hello Katherine,

I found this interesting definition of the EC in the blogoshere world:

Four Types of Emerging Churches
and their Thinkers

Deconstructionist Model: Probably the most well known group of emerging churches these churches are truly postmodern in just about every sense of the word. These are Christians influenced mainly by deconstruction, a philosophical approach invented on the continent. In their holy readings of philosophical discourse Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault and Caputo would be there. Much of the focus is on adopting postmodernity, and contextualizing the Gospel accordingly. Peter Rollins’ Ikon in Ireland would be a good example of one such group. I think Tony Jones and Brian McLaren would also fall under this category. I would say they are accommodating to postmodern culture, against modernism, and often against the institutional church making them lean towards a sort of non-denominationalism.

Pre-modern/Augustinian Model: This model would be the second most influential within the EC, and can be in (friendly) opposition to the first group. Instead of understanding postmodernism in terms of Nietzschean philosophy as group one would do, this model leans more towards a Renaissance styled post-modernism (similar to what is represented in Toulmin’s Cosmopolis). Whether this group is truly early modern or whether it reaches back further to the pre-modern era I am not quite clear on, but St. Augustine and St. Thomas are key figures for this group. This is the where the Radical Orthodoxy of John Milbank, James K. Smith and others would fall. We see some catholics here, as well as other theologians that tend towards placing a higher emphasis on tradition within the overall framework of the Christian faith, rather than simply contextualization. This group would be see history as having shown us a better way, and if we reach back far enough we may be able to find wisdom that will help us in our quest of faith today. They would be more favorable towards institutional church, and have a pretty clear understanding of what kind of church we ought to become, but would also be seen as nostalgic and trying to uphold an institution that has often oppressed and violated those we are called to help.

Emerging Peace Church Model (Or Open Anabaptism): This model of the emerging church stresses the non-conformist tendencies of Jesus, and thus the church should follow in his footsteps through non-violence, love of enemy and caring for the poor. This one may be closest to a kind of new monasticism that has so often been written about in recent times. While there are people from the various peace churches involved in this type of church, there are also people from a variety of traditions who are seeking to contextualize the Gospel within our culture. This group does not accept any one style of culture as being good, thus their non-conformist attitude is directed at modernity and postmodernity alike. They see Jesus (and his incarnation) as their primary model for engaging culture. They are influenced by Wittgenstein, Barth, Bonhoeffer, John H. Yoder, McClendon and Nancey Murphy to name a few. In this group you will find people like Jarrod McKenna and the Peace Tree, Shane Claiborne, some Mennonites, Rob Bell’s Mars Hill, Submergent, Jesus Radical and convergent Friends, to name a few. This group is counter any kind of Christendom styled church and thus would be sometimes for and sometimes against institutionalization, and would see contextualization as important only up to the point that it remains ultimately an extension of Jesus’ ministry and message.

Foundationalist Model: This model of the emerging church is more conservative in their reading of Scripture and modern approaches to ecclesiology (standard preacher-centered teaching, music for worship, etc) while seeking to be innovative in their approaches to evangelism. This may come in the form of people meeting in pubs, having tatoos, cussing from the pulpit, playing loud rock music for worship and adding a layer of “alternative-ness” to their overall church service. These churches can be found within larger church communities, or can be on their own, sometimes as a large (possibly mega) church. They follow standard Evangelicalism in that they aren’t attach to traditions, and come out politically and theologically conservative, while maintaining a more accomodational stance toward culture in the name of evangelism, they will ultimately look similar to older church communities theologically. This is where I think theologians like Millard J. Erickson or D.A. Carson have a lot of influence. And where practitioners such as Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus and many “emerging services” within mega-church congregations like Willow Creek might be found.

There are parallels in the UK.

do you think your emerging church milieu parameters can accommodate all these different strands?

A big question I know


Katharine Moody said...

The diversity of these different strands (which I also found recently too!) is exactly what an understanding of the emerging church as a milieu is trying to accommodate.

Seeing the emerging church as a milieu (rather than a coherent movement, for example) means that that diversity can be mapped without suggesting that one particular way of being emergent is preferable over any other possibilities.