Saturday, February 03, 2007

Great Cupitt

Just to mention this extraordinary article. Don Cupitt is a great man. I disagree with crucial points in this argument. But what is impressive is the clarity with which he compresses such urgent and complex issues into such a small space. For example, this point about Richard Dawkins has been made by others but seldom so succinctly and with such austere power.
'He has abandoned popular belief in God ... but clings to what Derrida calls "general theology", a belief in one ready-made truth of things out there, waiting to be copied into our language. Unfortunately, Dawkins' god is now dead too.'
Anyway, I just thought you should read it too.


  1. Excellent. A 'post-Derrida world'. I shall be using that phrase when I get myself onto Newsnight Review.

  2. And why does he throw in Derrida? I heard the man lecture when he was still alive (bore a remarkable resemblance to Colombo, by the way, right down to the raincoat) and he was an obscurantist of the first order (either that or speaking a language beyond my ken, and I don't mean French). I went with folk (now tenured profs), however, who swore they saw the emperor's new clothes (looked like Joseph's technicolored dream raincoat to them). Was Cupitt's point in referencing Derrida that most of the Deconstructionists are now deconstructing themselves? Or that post-postmodernism, we go back to some traditional state? I don't get it.

    As for the Archbishop of Canterbury, he is on my mind: Just saw the trailer for "Beckett," being rereleased to show audiences who've gone to see "Venus" that Peter O'Toole was, in fact, quite the stud muffin in his youth. (Those of you reading Bryan's new book, you might want to avoid seeing this movie: It's a heartbreaking portrait of an old man with a young man's heart -- he even gets the joy of incontinence post-prostate surgery!)

    Blood on the cathedral floor. Ratzinger without his mitre. Or as Derrida would say, None of it means anything, so all of it means nothing, and who cares? Cathedral, pissoir, they're all the same; ditto my license plate and "Murder in the Cathedral."

    What thinkest Mr. Cupitt -- or you fans of Mr. Appleyard? I know you little applets don't far fall from the tree.....

  3. No idea what post-Derrida means. Watched a documentary about him recently and was convinced never to go near his books. Or should I say, I watched about half of it. I lost interest what he started talking complete twaddle about hands. Hands!! I had to laugh. Obscurantist? The word could have been coined for him. Look Bryan, why don't you lay off Dawkins. He's an easy target. At least there's a pretty good chance of his god making a comeback.

  4. I agree with Cupitt's analysis that moderate, donnish, Rowan Williams-style Christian theology is caught in an uncomfortable squeeze between fundamentalism and anything-goes truth-relativism.

    That is, it's hard to argue against Bible literalists without conceding so much intellectual ground that you end up sanctioning any definition of Christianity or God that a nutter can think of.

    I heard that Humphries interview with Rowan Williams, and the latter ended up defining 'God' in such an elusive, esoteric, hyper-intellectual manner ('the potential absence of nothing' or some such) that it was barely there. At least fundamentalism offers something to get your teeth into.

    On the other hand, while I dislike Dawkins's debating methods (as South Park put it: it's not enough just to be right - you also have to be a dick to everyone who disagrees with you), I don’t believe Cupitt’s assertion that Derrida has killed Dawkins’s "God" - ie. that everything is so deconstructed that the possibility of objective truth about how the universe works has been destroyed. I get the impression that that whole academic deconstructionist nonsense has peaked, and that objective scientific truth is back in again.

  5. Don Cupitt is not a great man, sorry - even if he does have felicitous turns of phrase. He mischaracterises Rowan and the present state of theology, not least because he has never properly engaged with the mystical tradition (reading it all through sub-Platonic lenses). For those of us who _have_ engaged with that tradition - and that includes Rowan as one of the most substantial exemplars - Cupitt's arguments are simply 1960's theology dressed up in new language. Theology is much more interesting now than it has been for many centuries.

  6. Rev Sam, if it's not an impertinent question (or even if it is), I'd love to know why.

  7. These related essays provide a unique understanding of Reality, Truth & Real God---plus Christianity.


  8. Bruschetta - in brief, because it is throwing off the enlightenment, the embrace of which was a theological death wish. It's ironic that Cupitt references Derrida, when Derrida at the end of his life was deeply engaged with traditional Christianity.

    There's a story now being told of how secularity and atheism are the results of medieval theological mistakes, and that many of the contemporary issues that most distress us actually have theological solutions.

  9. Haven't heard that story. It sounds a bit far-fatched. Maybe Aquinas should have stayed away from Aristotle. Perhaps that was a mistake from a theological perspective. Well, you made your bed...

  10. As a starting point - and please don't think I subscribe to their agenda in toto - you might like to explore the 'radical orthodox' - good wiki overview here.

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