John D. Caputo displacing logos with poetics

I often end up in conversations about deconstruction. Is it wise, they ask to deconstruct doctrinal and creedal statements, bible texts and above all is it wise to deconstruct god?

In the question, I find, there is a fear that deconstruction will somhow damage or break the idea or concept that is being deconstructed. There is an assumption that to deconstruct is to disparage or to criticise. With this, I disagree.

When I was a little boy I would break all my toys. My mom would despair and yell at me, did I not understand that these toys cost money, did I not realise that I could no longer play with these toys if I broke them, did I not realise that these toys could be valuable one day if I kept them in mint condition?

The seven year old me rapt with wonder just wanted to know how the toy worked, what made it tick? Something this cool on the outside must be even cooler on the inside.

It is true that I broke the toys, but had I had the knowledge and the right tools I may not have. Similarly the drive to deconstruct my faith comes from this unabated curiosity, how does it work? What makes it tick? Something this cool on the outside must be even cooler on the inside.

Jesus tells a parable of a man that finds a treasure in a field:

“God's kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field. (Matthew 13:44 MSG)

This is deconstruction, to give up everything to find that precious something hidden within. Caputo talks about the event harboured in (for example the name of god), that deconstruction is graspeing at that event within the concept. It is that which we long for but can never fully reach, the now but not yet, here but not quite. It is our Roadrunner that we like Wiley Coyote just have to keep chasing after. Knowing fully that once it is fully known it is no longer that which we longed for.

So while the word deconstruction derives from the latin term destructo, which means to destroy and is in fact a biblical term from 1 Cor 1:19 (For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” (I Corinthians 1:19 NKJV)), it is not destruction of the idea, concept, doctrine, creed or the destruction of god, it is the destruction of our assumptions and formulated opinions about it. It is a search for that numinous harboured within, the event. So when we deconstruct the name of god we are really searching for the event harboured in the name of god. It is the reverse engineering of language that we do because we know that “when we name a thing, it is no longer that thing”. It is the search for the divine by sifting through all that we say about the divine.

So when I start deconstructing, don't despair, don't yell at me. It is true that even though I now have the knowledge and the tools, I might still break it, but I would be breaking the concept not the event as the event in itself is unbreakable. I may break the name of god but I am unable to break the event harboured in the name of god. I may throw a shadow over the existence of god but I could never even get close to touching the insistance of god, the evocative lure of god, calling us into existence and leading us on.

 

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