Intimate Distance: Rethinking the Unthought God in Christianity

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The work of the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy shares with the thinkers of the ‘theological turn in phenomenology’ the programmatic desire to place the ‘theological’, in the broad sense of rethinking the religious traditions in our secular time, back on the agenda of critical thought. Like those advocating a theological turn in phenomenology, Nancy’s deconstructive approach to philosophical analysis aims to develop a new sensibility for the other, for transcendence, conceptualized as the non-apparent in the realm of appearing phenomena. This is why Nancy launches a project looking for the ‘unthought’ and unexpected within the Christian traditions, called deconstruction of Christianity. However, the deconstructive approach to the non-apparent differs fundamentally from that of the thinkers of the turn (1) in its being non-apologetic and non-restorative with regard to religion, because it starts from a problematization of the—typically modern, that is romantic—desire to defend and protect what would be ‘lost’ and possibly to restore this, (2) in its focus on the complex difference-at-work (différance) between religion and secularism, a difference that can be termed entanglement and complicity between these two, (3) in its hypothesis that this entanglement is essentially one between (the meaning and experience of, the rituality around) presence and absence in modern culture, (4) in its conviction that the philosophy and history of culture must join, support, complete and maybe even turn around phenomenology when dealing with the difficult task of determining what exactly would be ‘left’ of the ‘theological’ in our time. In this article, both positions are compared and confronted further, leading to an account of Nancy’s re-readings of the Christian legacy (its theology, doctrine, art, rituals etc.), and ending in a more detailed, exemplary inquiry into the tension between distance and proximity, characteristic of the Christian God.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages17
VolumeVol 47-3
Issue numberNov. 2008
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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