UNCONDITIONALITY, THE COMING GOD AND
DERRIDA’S DEMOCRACY TO COME
But if something unconditional happens, without sovereignty and without being,
without force and without power, would it have the wherewithal to transform
us, to turn us around, to make us new? Would it, could it, be something truly
revolutionary, or would it lie lame and lifeless and ineffective? Could something
be revolutionary without having revolutionary power? Could something that is
at best a “weak force” (force faible) be strong enough to save us?
Why go here? Why even bring this up? Is it necessary?
While I do think that the rhetorical question has it's place, and an important one, those question I asked in the first paragraph are not such questions. The thing is, I do have a reason, a thought or two, perhaps even a warning. Whether this man Caputo and his ilk will succeed directly, or through intermediaries who couch such ideas in more slight-of-hand terms, such ideas as his are out there and seem to be having influence.
What are these ideas?
We are inching closer to the democracy to come, and inching closer to the
For now, I will not say much about whatever they are calling the "democracy to come", except that it seems to involve the lose of all national and political sovereignties to a great degree, and to make thing secular. For now, my main concern is Caputo's "the coming God".
Still, if it is irresistible, then is it not an irresistible force? Shall
we then say that “democracy” is a word of sovereign force and power, nay, even
a word of divine authority? That would be to fall down before the old god, the
one that belongs to the order of being and power, whereas Derrida is venturing
out onto more uncharted seas, trying to think god otherwise, trying to tell a
whole new story about God (V, 215-16), about some sort of vulnerable, nonsovereign,
suffering God, some sort of “force without force” or some “power of
powerlessness,” for which we have no concept.
A trace of what Derrida means is found in Levinas’s famous
example of the impossibility of murder. “Thou shalt not kill” is the first word,
that is, it is a command inscribed on the face of the other, and in that sense comes
from “on high,” but it comes not with the majesty of worldly height or power, or
with the authority of a divine command or of a command of pure reason, but
with the penury of the most helpless and vulnerable one. It is inscribed on the
face of anyone, but most palpably on the face of the helpless victim. Thus, the
impossibility of murder is a law in the order of the call, but not alas of being
where it is an all too banal and common fact.
This reasoning is 'off' for at least one serious reason. I find it ironic (perhaps even mocking) that he uses the words of some translations of the Bible, "Thou shalt not kill", to try to tell us that this command does not come "with the authority of a divine command". When God Himself comes down and writing the command in stone, then what else does the command have but the "authority of a divine command"?
And if it did not have that authority, then what? What if someone violates it? If the command "Thou shalt not kill" does not have the authority of divine command, then of what use it it?
What, for example, of the murderer who is never caught, and never pays in this life for that crime? Where is justice in that case? What about the murderer who is caught, but not found guilty? What even about those who did not commit murder, but where judged guilt of a crime and paid the penalty for it?
If such commands have no authority of divine command, more to the point if there is no God who is sovereign and is not the force behind His commands, then such commands become more like suggestions. And if there are no consequences to not keeping the commands, then why keep them?
It's hard to see what Caputo (and/or Derrida) is appealing to when he tries to talk about powerless. Is he assuming that peopel will feel sorry for victims and the helpless? If so, what is he thinking? What has history taught us, except that that is NOT how people operate?
What is called for is to imagine God otherwise, to turn our thinking about God
around, almost upside down or inside out:
In speaking of an onto-theology of sovereignty, I refer, under the name of God,
of One God, to the determination of a sovereign and hence indivisible
omnipotence. But when the name of God would give us something else to think,
for example a vulnerable non-sovereignty, suffering and divisible, mortal even,
capable of contradicting himself, of regret (a thought which is neither impossible
nor without example), that would be a wholly other story and perhaps that of a
god who would be deconstructed even in his ipseity. (V, 215-216)
What calls, what is calling, what is called for is the God to come, the coming of a
God to save us, a God who has no seat of power, no sovereign authority, no
ontological prestige, vulnerable and mortal, who has not the wherewithal to lay
down his head, whose only power is the power of a powerless but unconditional
A God without sovereignty, and without a seat of power? Gee, who does that sound like?
12. How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, song of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
13. For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;
14. I will ascend above the heights fo the clouds, I will be like the Most High.
Yeah, who would really want to knock God off of his throne? Who would want to rob God of his power? Who would want to say that God isn't really in charge?
But what does the Bible say about God's sovereignty?
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.
His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
4. I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Any attempt to try to make God "weak", to take away his power, to make him not the king and sovereign of all creation, must be view as suspect. Especially when the Bible itself makes such plain statements about the soveriegn nature of God.