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Can We Handle the Truth?

A few weeks ago I announced a Summer Reading Group though the re-church network, a collective of emerging, missional Adventist leaders that I co-founded back in 2000. The book I chose is What Would Jesus Deconstruct? The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church, by John D. Caputo. Caputo is Thomas J. Watson Professor of Humanities at Syracuse University and is known for his work on Derrida and deconstruction (a quick look at his faculty page at the Syracuse website makes we want to drop everything and enroll to study with him).

What Would Jesus Deconstruct? is the winner of the ForeWord Magazine Best Philosophy Book of 2007 award.

The book discussion is taking place at the re-church blog and starts today with a post by me on the first chapter. The schedule of posts on this short book is as follows:

July 13 – chapter 1 – Ryan Bell

July 20 – chapter 2 – Samir Selmanovic

July 27 – chapter 3 – Zane Yi

August 3 – chapter 4 – Zane Yi

August 10 – chapter 5 – Ryan Bell

August 17 – chapter 6 – Samir Selmanovic

Here are excerpt from my initial post. You can find the whole thing here. It’s not too late to buy the book, read along and join in the conversation.

The title of the book, which we will be discussing here on the re-church blog, is a play on the title of the classic Christian novel, In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon. I distinctly remember reading this book when I was in college, over 100 years after it was originally published. It had a profound impact on me at the time. It helped me to see an important connection that I had mostly missed up that point in my life. Namely that my profession of faith in Jesus needed to have very tangible results in how I lived my life. Coming from a very conservative place at that time in my life, I was intimately familiar with the idea that my faith should make my life different. But that difference was always in the realm of personal piety and cultural taboos – “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” (Col 2:21). But what Sheldon was suggesting is that my faith in Jesus had everything to do with how I treated others and even the systems of oppression that keep people broken.


Adventism even more than Christianity in general, has put a great deal of emphasis on knowing “the truth.” We even use the word “Truth” as a kind of shorthand for Adventism as a denomination or movement. In this chapter, Caputo claims that deconstruction is an act of truth – “a hermeneutics of truth,” as he puts it. It seems to me that these two uses of the word truth are almost completely opposed to one another. The one standing for those who have carefully packaged “the truth” and the other for the “event” of the truth that is uncontainable, undeconstructable. The truth that Caputo is talking about is a truth that subverts the institutions that attempt to contain and control the truth and use it as a tool, or even as a weapon, to manipulate and control others.

How are we doing as being followers of Jesus who overturned the money changers’ tables in the Temple, daring to suggest that the truth could not be contained in the Temple?

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