An Interdisciplinary Conference On The Dialectic Of Divine Presence And Absence

When:  October 6-7, 2017

Where:  University of Denver, Denver, Colorado

Sponsors:  Department of Religious Studies, Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory



Since the philosopher Nietzsche announced the “death of God” over a century ago, the specter of divine absence has hovered over Western civilization.

The importance of this theme has not been limited to atheists.  Since at least the 1960s, the “death of God” movement has captivated the imagination of theologians and philosophers alike, and as a result has been an ongoing – and contentious – issue for the public as a whole.  The  box office success in recent years of such Christian films as “God’s Not Dead” and “God’s Not Dead 2”), which to date have grossed around $80 million, attest to a profound, popular interest in Nietzsche’s famous saying, even if it has become a focus of the culture wars.

Whether God is dead or absent, however, the question of whether the divine continues to manifest in some way – as a “still small voice” or as felt presence – is a question that preoccupies religious believers and philosophers and theorists of religion alike.  Theologian John D. Caputo contends, for example, that God may not exist, but still “insists” in certain mysterious ways. A long spiritual tradition running back to the early Middle Ages known as “negative theology” holds that even if the divine itself is beyond human reach, one can still ”speak” of God – paradoxically – by “not-speaking.”  Likewise, God can also “speak” in the same way.

The conference will address a number of questions from an interdisciplinary perspective concerning the relationship between the presence/absence and the voice/silence of God.  For instance: What does it imply (theologically, linguistically, existentially, psychologically, etc.) to invoke the expression “God speaks”?  If God is dead, does God still “speak from the dead” in some extended sense of the word, and what does that in itself say about God?  What does it mean to talk about divine “presence” and “absence”, or about God “speaking” or “remaining silent”?  Are we simply utilizing metaphors when we talk about the “voice of God”, or does such a locution have more palpable as well as empirical ramifications?

The conference is designed not just exclusively for academics, but also extends an invitation to religious professionals.  A specific conference program will be available after August 20.


Faculty, independent scholars, clergy, and professionals.  Before Sept. 15, $110.  After Sept. 15, $130.

Students.  Before Sept. 15, $60.  After Sept. 15, $80.

University of Denver faculty and students, including alumni, receive a 50% discount.  This discount does NOT include presenters.

Lodging during conference.   Conference attendees are eligible for special rates at select hotels.  To obtain your discount indicate that you are a University of Denver conference guest when making your reservation.  For a list of discounted hotels, go the following URL on the University of Denver website:  The only hotel that is within walking distance of the university is the La Quinta Inn Cherry Creek: The La Quinta Inn, however, is not discounted.


Friday, October 6 

10:15 am


Sturm Hall 251 (Sturm Hall is located at the intersection of Asbury and Race Sts. There is a paid, public parking lot across the street).

11:00 am


Spanky’s Urban Roadhouse (1800 E. Evans Ave., Denver CO 80210)*

Welcome and Introduction

Carl Raschke, University of Denver

1:00 pm

Session 1.  What Do We Mean When We Say “God Speaks (Or Not Speaks)”?  :

Sturm Hall 251

Convener:  Emerson Sistare, University of Denver.

“The Scandal of Divine Presence.”  Jerry Martin, University of Colorado, Boulder.

“The Voice of God After the Death (Camps) of God:  Richard Rubenstein and the Speech of Suffering”.  Josiah Solis, Claremont Graduate School.

“Speaking of God in Ekklesia: On Telling the Political Truth”.  Alan Richard, Realistic Living.

3:15 pm


3:30 pm

Concurrent Sessions

 Session 2A.  Biblical Approaches

Sturm Hall 251

Convener:  Trevor Wolff, University of Denver.

“Protest and Enlightenment in the Book of Job.”  Wes Morriston, University of Colorado, Boulder.

“Pauline Mysticism: Divine Presence Experienced”.  William Elkins, University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

“If the Qur’an is God’s Speech, How Does God Speak? Divine Speaking In Contemporary Muslim Discourse.”  Andrea Stanton, University of Denver.

Session 2B.  God and Race

Sturm Hall 253

Convener: Benjamin Steele-Fisher, University of Denver

“Mediating the Death of God: Religion, Science, Race, and the Printing Press.”  Armond Towns, University of Denver.

“Fetishism and the Erasure of Indigeneity.”  Roger Green, Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“’The Jew’ as Kenotic Subject, ‘The Jew’ as Pausal Subject: Racialized Alterity as Non-Christian Subjectivity in Rosenzweig and Levinas.”  Sarah Pessin, University of Denver.

5:00 pm


5:15 pm

 Session 3.  Keynote Address.

Sturm Hall 253

Convener:  Carl Raschke, University of Denver.

“Absolute Knowing of the Absent God in Hegel´s Phenomenology of the Spirit.”  Kurt Appel, University of Vienna.

Kurt Appel is Professor of Fundamental Theology and Philosophy at the University of Vienna.  He is the author of Time and God: Myth and Logos in Hegel and Schelling and The Concept of Revelation in the Political Theology of the Young Hegel.




6:30 pm

Sturm Hall 286

Wine and Cheese Reception 

Saturday, October 7

9:30 am

Concurrent Sessions

Session 4A.  The Dialectic of Divine Presence and Absence I.

Sturm Hall 251

Convener:  Jeff Appel, University of Denver-Iliff School of Theology.

“God’s Absence as Textual Presence: The Radical (literary) Theology of Northrop Frye”.  Daniel Fishley, Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto.

“God’s Dramatic Absence After Hegel: Von Balthaser on Nietzsche as Negative Theologian”.  Grand Poettcker, Briercrest College and Seminary.

“Speaking of God’s Presence and Absence As Non-Contrastive Transcendent Distinction”.  Joyce Anne Konigsburg, Notre Dame of Maryland University.

“Divine Absence As Divine Presence.”  Joshua Giardino, Independent Scholar.

Session 4B.  The Dialectic of Divine Presence and Absence II.

Sturm Hall 254

Convener:  Michael Laminack, University of Denver-Iliff School of Theology.

“Kenosis and Sublimation within the Dialectic of Divine Presence and Absence”.  Robert M. McDonald, Claremont School of Theology.

“On the Analogical Operations in Blutgewalt: How We Moderns Became Better Christians.”  Tal-Hi Bitton, George Washington University.

“Speaking of God in Ekklesia: On Telling the Political Truth”.  Alan Richard, Realistic Living.

“Nietzsche and the Death of God.”  Richard Culbreth, George Washington University.

11:30 am

Lunch (on your own) 

1:15 pm

Session 5.  How Does God Speak?

Sturm Hall 251

Convener:  Kevin Buskager, University of Denver.

“God and the Care for One’s Story”.  Abigail Rosenthal, Brooklyn College.

“Relation vs. Possession: Responding to the Divine.”  Roger Green, Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“Prophets of the West:  The Voice Of God in American Media.”  Rebekah Gordon, University of Denver.

“If God Were To Speak Today, What Would He Say?”  Jerry Martin, University of Colorado Boulder.

 3:30 pm 

Wrap-up and Conclusion

Sturm Hall 251

*Lunch included with regular conference registration.