o be sure, when Jean-Luc Marion is being a theologian, he is one of the most brilliant theologians of our time. He is a thinker of the first order. Radical insight, rigor, and originality define his thinking. However, a disturbing thread runs throughout his writing—and it is this thread that needs to be highlighted and criticized, for it risks unraveling Marion’s good work. This thread may be described as a severe or excessive dogmatism—a faith seeking certainty. I utilize predicates like "severe" and "excessive" to differentiate this kind of confidence from the possibility of a more moderate or modest conviction—a faith that recognizes itself as such. In other words, severe dogmatism severs itself from faith and reifies into certainty, thereby erasing the mark of humility required by theology today. After all, philosophical theology today should be self-conscious about its subject-matter, remembering that it is dealing with risk and possibility. Marion’s work suffers from a lack of the undecidability which should characterize theology as theology: as a highly poetical and speculative discursive practice. I focus on two texts in which this excessive dogmatism is apparent: Marion’s Preface to the English translation of God Without Being and the essay "In the Name" (which appears in the book God, the Gift, and Postmodernism).
Far from being the inalterable fate of theology, or mystical theology, Marion contends, the ‘metaphysics of presence’ is actually a heresy. True theology is always a ‘theology of absence,’ not a metaphysics of presence. When the Arians claimed that God is knowable and revealed by the names God is given, they were condemned. Of course, Derrida would be just as much worried over this inclination to exclude or ‘condemn.’ Does not this condemnation of presence itself imply a desire for presence, for the self-presence of an authoritative and self-gathering ekklesia? Does it not imply a politics of presence, an onto-theo-politics, a policing operation from which theology does not sufficiently distance itself? In one of its voices, Derrida says, mystical theology tries to be a little too authoritative about the secret, to say that nothing or no one can oppose this because mystical theology speaks from the heart of the secret as from the heart of truth and of hyper-fulfillment ("Sauf le nom" 66-7). It is always the other voice, the one that Derrida calls that of "hypercritique," where nothing is assured, neither philosophy nor theology, that interests Derrida more. See Jean-Luc Marion (God Without Being 153) where Marion sides with the power of the bishop to enforce the law if a theologian breaks with the consensus. "Apostles of the Impossible" 218-219, note 9; cf. Prayers and Tears 47 including note 41.
Caputo, John D. The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion Without Religion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
_____. "Apostles of the Impossible: On God and the Gift in Derrida and Marion." God, the Gift, and Postmodernism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. pp. 185-222.
Caputo, John D., and Michael J. Scanlon, eds. God, the Gift, and Postmodernism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.
Derrida, Jacques. "Sauf le nom." Trans. John P. Leavey, Jr. On the Name. Ed. Thomas Dutoit. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995. pp. 33-85.
_____. Cinders, trans. Ned Lukacher. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.
Derrida, Jacques, and Jean-Luc Marion. "On the Gift." God, the Gift, and Postmodernism. Moderated by Richard Kearney. Ed. John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. pp. 54-78.
Gregory of Nyssa, De Trinitate, III, 16 [Patrologia Graeca 39, 873]). Cited by Jean-Luc Marion in "In the Name: How To Avoid Speaking of ‘Negative Theology.’" No other editorial details given.
Hart, Kevin. The Trespass of the Sign: Deconstruction, Theology and Philosophy. Includes "Introduction to the 2000 Edition." 2nd ed. New York: Fordham University Press, 2000.
Horner, Robyn. Rethinking God as Gift: Marion, Derrida, and the Limits of Phenomenology. New York: Fordham University Press, 2001.
Marion, Jean-Luc. "In the Name: How To Avoid Speaking of ‘Negative Theology.’" Includes a Response by Jacques Derrida. God, the Gift, and Postmodernism. Ed. John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. pp. 20-53.
_____. God Without Being. Trans. Thomas A. Carlson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
_____. The Idol and Distance: Five Studies, trans. with an introduction by Thomas A. Carlson. New York: Fordham University Press, 2001.
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