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What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church

(The Church and Postmodern Culture)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  348 ratings  ·  37 reviews
This provocative addition to The Church and Postmodern Culture series offers a lively rereading of Charles Sheldon's In His Steps as a constructive way forward. John D. Caputo introduces the notion of why the church needs deconstruction, positively defines deconstruction's role in renewal, deconstructs idols of the church, and imagines the future of the church in ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Baker Academic
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 ·  348 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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May 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
The author gives you just enough theory of deconstruction for you to deconstruct the latter half of his book with a massive eye roll.
Mar 23, 2011 rated it liked it
I appreciated this quote near the conclusion of Caputo's book:

Idolatry comes in many forms. Literalizing the truth of the Scriptures is idolatrous in a way that parallels the idolatry of the church in Catholicism...Orthodoxy is idolatry if it means holding the "correct opinions about God"--"fundamentalism" is the most extreme and salient example of such idolatry--but not if it means holding faith in the right way, that is, not holding it at all but being held by God, in love and service.
Apr 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: philosophy, theology
(Adapted from a longer review submitted for class)
The question of how postmodernism will impact the church is one that has troubled theologians and laymen alike for several decades. Although many have rejected then ideas of postmodernism outright, some people, such as Dr. John Caputo, have begged the church to embrace this controversial rejection of modernism. In his work, Dr. Caputo not only advocates that Christians should conform to postmodern philosophy, but also that even Jesus embraced
Seth Pierce
Apr 02, 2017 rated it liked it
In all honesty it's a 3.5 for me, only because I felt like his critique of specific political administrations felt a little too biased, and almost like a commercial at times, though I don't necessarily disagree with him.
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Great and thought provoking book about postmodern theology and philosophy. Caputo's book is much easy to read, considering him being a continental philosopher, he wears his philosophical "cap" lightly, its a book I would recommend to many people interested in postmodern conversation about God(Jesus) and culture. Thank you John!!
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Awesome little book. Caputo is brilliant, and funny, as he sets out to deconstruct some sacred cows of evangelical faith. For any who think that postmodern or deconstruction are enemies of the church, give Caputo a read. Some of his examples are already a bit dated, but for the most part the ideas in this book are helpful in any ministry context today.
Cyvil B.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It will challenge your faith to rethink how you live like Jesus ... or not.
Dwight Davis
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a really helpful introduction to the theory of deconstruction and how it can be helpful for the Church. Although I disagree with some of what Caputo says re: feminism, homosexuality, universalism etc. I really enjoyed the work. His critique of the religious right is spot on and I thought his section on abortion was brilliant. A must-read for those interested in deconstruction, postmodernism, or politics.
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it
This little volume sums up some things I think about post-modernism and the church, but the arguments are a little inconsistent, as if the author had written the book in pieces and then stitched them together. Definitely worth reading and thought-provoking, but Caputo should concentrate on making one coherent argument.
Wilson Garrett
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic look at deconstruction and it's place in Christian theology.
May 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
I sensed a lot of bitterness in this book.
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Wow, this book is so good. Reading it feels like sitting in university lecture in which the professor examines several texts through a new theoretical lens. It's riveting; the tone is academic but still accessible (although I did have refer to the dictionary more than once). Growing up in a conservative evangelical subculture, I was taught that Postmodernism is the enemy and doubt is from the devil. I don't believe that anymore; reading this book helped me frame the thoughts I've been having for ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
I tried to give this book a fair shake, but it's just abysmal. I read the first 40 pages or so and came across some helpful bits, like his definition of deconstruction as "uncontainable truth" that bursts forth under its own power. That makes more sense than some of what I was told in grad school.

I noticed things starting to get squirrely when Caputo said that Jesus had nothing to do with the founding of the church. If Jesus were around today, Caputo says (as though Jesus were absent), He would
James R
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If one knows this book exists, and considers reading it, it suggests that person has some awareness of or interest in post-modern philosophical thought. No casual reader browsing book titles is likely to give it a second glance. So assuming the reader of this reaction falls into that category let me say I applaud this contribution to making extremely dense philosophical arguments approachable for the interested “average” reader. For me Caputo’s successes in this endeavor exceed the necessary ...more
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Deconstruction is masterfully shown here to be an un/discipline, and like all un/disciplines, it can lead nowhere but where we had already decided we were going to end up.
This volume offers little in the way of fresh insight. There are a few really lovely bits toward the beginning: affirmations of scripture's delight in paradox and aphoria--none of which are any different than classic, creedal Christianity, which has always found life precisely in those paradoxes, but they are lovely
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I wish this book would have been more Derridaian. The beginning is a thoughtful introduction to deconstruction and the major flow of Jacque’s thought; however, the latter half of the book seemed more of a political appeal for progressive politics, with which I found compelling at times, that then took a polemic shape of deconstruction. It is nonetheless a challenging book, asking difficult questions about presuppositions, but I think that there are better texts to go to for a Christian ...more
Terri Milstead
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: school-books
Hard read to begin with but there were a couple of chapters at the end that I found myself vigorously nodding along with to be sure. I wonder what Caputo would write today. He was scathing about a former administration. What would he think of the state of the country now?
Matt Johnston
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Applying Derrida's tradition of deconstruction to the Bible and the Christian church, Caputo casts a vision for creating a modern day personal and political ethic from the theo-poetics of Jesus.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: postmodernism
I just finished reading John Caputo’s What Would Jesus Deconstruct?. Below is the posted book review that I put up on my Facebook account. My opening comments are referring to this review:

"Caputo’s other books have been light in a dark place, and this series of books looks promising. But this particular volume strikes me as poorly written and poorly reasoned, surprising for Caputo. He rails against an undefined “religious Right” in a way that Brian McLaren, in the preface, describes as “
Luis Alexandre Ribeiro Branco
Aug 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: lidos-em-2014
I will attempt to make it short and clear not going into the particulars of the book, but given an overall overview of it. The book from the very beginning starts with a conjectural statement of what would Jesus do in different situations. There isn't a single preposition acceptable in that regard of what Jesus would act based on his character, testimony and view of the Scripture, rather, the book induces the reader to assume that by chance or forced by culture Jesus would act according to their ...more
Andy Stager
Oct 07, 2015 rated it liked it
As one reviewer said, a little bit more cynically than I might put it, the author gives you just enough of the theory of deconstruction in the first half of the book in order to deconstruct the second half of the book with an eye roll.

I quite liked the first half of this book. And indeed there were parts of the second half of the book that I resonated with. But it was not this book, but rather the first book in this wonderful series by the series editor himself, that convinced me that
Feb 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
I am by no means this book's target audience, and for that reason, I found much of the writing a bit unpalatable to me. The message of the book though is important and I was quite surprised and saddened to see some of the more vehemently negative or suspicious reviews of this book here on Goodreads. Caputo's project is both ancient and forgotten and is one that needs to be heard once again. for this reason I am glad that he has approached the writing of his book with a vast and diverse audience ...more
Joe Davis
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
In What Would Jesus Deconstruct?, John Caputo swings his postmodern wrecking ball – deconstruction – against all the cherished forms of religious thought and practice that masquerade as definitive and absolute. Not only is he willing and able to question all representations of statuesque, codified faith, he does so in the name of Christ and claims that his is good news. Caputo presents deconstruction as a loving tool that frees the Church for authentic metanoia – “a fundamental change of heart” ...more
Jan 08, 2008 added it
Shelves: faith
Bought this when we visited Cedar Ridge Community Church last week. Of course, the title made the book irresistable. I'm finding it very engaging and interesting. I am reading the first chapter right now, which is about the guy who originally coined the phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" He was an evangelist in late 19th c. Kansas, who was a proponent of the Social Gospel, as well as Prohibition and Sabbatarianism. Fascinating.

...again, marked as "read" because I read a chapter and found it
May 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
Caputo does a decent job of explaining some of Derrida's main philosophical ideas, including some clear definitions of deconstruction. But there is a disconnect between his exposition of Derrida's deconstruction (and other ideas) and relating it to "What Would Jesus Deconstruct." The later chapters are just opportunities for Caputo to expound on his liberal politics without much defense, biblical or philosophical, and make a whipping boy out of his undefined "Religious Right," "Christian Right," ...more
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I devoured this book. A very compelling and accessible -- sometimes prophetic -- reflection on contemporary Christianity. Caputo is a well-known philosopher of the post-modern bent, but unlike many of them, he writes in crystal-clear English. His brief summaries of Derrida's thought are especially helpful for this reader, who has struggled hard to understand Derrida and failed. I'm on to more of Caputo's books, for sure!
Jan 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: someone in church
Recommended to Norah by: my book group
Bought for my deconstructionist, postmodern 'emerging church' bookgroup. A scholarly book with a new angle on Christianity, saying Jesus was himself a deconstructionist. It starts with a discussion of the actual book 'In His Steps' written by Charles Sheldon in 1896, and subtitled 'What would Jesus do?'!, a phrase which swept America and indeed the Christian world in recent years. But did they take it as it was intended???
Mar 28, 2009 added it
I really enjoyed this book. He makes some important criticisms of the church, in particular the more traditional and conservative parts of it. He is not concerned so much (or very much at all) with "correct" belief or doctrine - but rather in how we should live in response to faith/god, even though we cannot actually grasp what faith/god might be! Also very funny!
Carolyn Schofield
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not for everyone,especially if you have not studied postmodernism. But postmodernism is notoriously inaccessible, and the author makes a big effort to keep this within the range of the non-academic. I found it very stimulating, and parts threw new lights on familiar concepts. His analysis of the gift was particularly helpful.
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I appreciated Caputo's treatment of Derrida and many of the deconstructive themes in the New Testament. I am afraid, though, that the blending of religious and deconstructive language may be a bit confusing, and I do not think that all of the deconstructive political stances taken at the end are necessary or fair. Overall, Caputo is a great guide to the overlapping of Rome and Paris.
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John D. Caputo is an American philosopher who is the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion Emeritus at Syracuse University and the David R. Cook Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Villanova University. Caputo is a major figure associated with Postmodern Christianity, Continental Philosophy of Religion, as well as the founder of the theological movement known as weak theology. Much of Caputo's ...more

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“The Right thinks that the breakdown of the family is the source of crime and poverty, and this they very insightfully blame on the homosexuals, which would be amusing were it not so tragic. Families and 'family values' are crushed by grinding poverty, which also makes violent crime and drugs attractive alternatives to desperate young men and sends young women into prostitution. Family values are no less corrupted by the corrosive effects of individualism, consumerism, and the accumulation of wealth. Instead of shouting this from the mountain tops, the get-me-to-heaven-and-the-rest-be-damned Christianity the Christian Right preaches is itself a version of selfish spiritual capitalism aimed at netting major and eternal dividends, and it fits hand in glove with American materialism and greed.” 51 likes
“Orthodoxy is idolatry if it means holding the 'correct opinions about God' - 'fundamentalism' is the most extreme and salient example of such idolatry - but not if it means holding faith in the right way, that is, not holding it at all but being held by God, in love and service. Theology is idolatry if it means what we say about God instead of letting ourselves be addressed by what God has to say to us. Faith is idolatrous if it is rigidly self-certain but not if it is softened in the waters of 'doubt.” 18 likes
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