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Overcoming Onto-Theology: Toward a Postmodern Christian Faith [Hardcover]

Merold Westphal

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Book Description

Sept. 15 2001 082322130X 978-0823221301 Fourth Edition
Overcoming Onto-theology is a stunning collection of essays by Merold Westphal, one of America's leading continental philosophers of religion, in which Westphal carefully explores the nature and the structure of a postmodern Christian philosophy. Written with characteristic clarity and charm, Westphal offers masterful studies of Heidegger's early lectures on Paul and Augustine, the idea of hermeneutics, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Derrida, and Nietzsche, all in the service of building his argument that postmodern thinking offers an indispensable tool for rethinking Christian faith. A must read for every student and professor of continental philosophy and the philosophy of religion, Overcoming Onto-theology is an invaluable collection that brings together in one place fourteen provocative and lucid essays by one of the most important thinkers working in American philosophy today.

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Review

.,."A welcome addition to Christian philosophy and to the interpretation of religious themes in contemporary Continental thought."

About the Author

Merold Westphal is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University and author of Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism.

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable source for appropriating postmodernism April 13 2006
By Christopher J. King - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Merold Westphal here brings together 14 essays that address the general problem of reconciling postmodern philosophy with the Christian faith. The essays are individually conclusive, yet they complement each other in such a way that when read together, they provide a wealth of angles from which to build a Christian-postmodern perspective.

Westphal's task is essentially to argue "for the possibility of a Christian (or, more broadly, theistic) appropriation of certain postmodern themes." His central point is that the central themes in postmodern philosophy, such as the hermeneutics of finitude and suspicion, can be separated from the atheism of the most well-known proponents of postmodernism (think Derrida, Foucault, Rorty, as well as Nietzsche and Heidegger). Even more, these themes can greatly contribute to the Christian view of humanity and our knowledge.

Although I cannot agree with every element of appropriation that Westphal strives for, I believe that his is a necessary work, both challenging and rewarding. I think that he probes with wisdom and insight, something which should be appreciated by all readers.

A side note: Unfortunately, Westphal uses a number of philosophical terms in German without giving a translation or meaning. Unless you are already familiar with these terms, several passages will be a bit difficult to wade through, despite Westphal's wonderful writing style.

"It will be argued in more general terms that it is always dangerous to go to the Philistines to sharpen one's tools (1 Sam. 13:19-21). After all, to mix biblical metaphors, the gold taken when Israel spoiled the Egyptians ended up in the golden calf. No doubt some of it did. Appropriation is inherently dangerous. But some of that gold ended up in the tabernacle as well, and it is that possibility I hope to keep open. (p. 175)"
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kudos Oct. 9 2007
By Denise J. Mcpherson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Merold Westphal is a first rate philosopher. Whether digesting his work on Hegel and Kierkegaard, or following him in his phenomenological forays into religion and transcendence, one feels the force of his patient scholarship rather than any unconscious compulsion to stuff his topic into a prefabricated Christian world-view. Irrespective of one's religious tastes, one can learn from Westphal in his resolute attendance and respect for the matter he treats. When he does move in a more `confessional' vein, he informs his reader at the outset, and executes his project with eminent clarity and good will.

Beyond being a good philosopher in his own right, Westphal is one of the most creatively prudent Christian intellectuals in North America. This book, taken with his `Suspicion and Faith' (and many other relevant articles), has become launching points for the Christian entry into continental philosophy in the English-speaking world; mark my words: history will recognize the influence.

In this book, Westphal advocates for and executes a critical `appropriation' of so-called postmodern philosophy. Interacting with the likes of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Lyotard, etc., Westphal demonstrates for us (as he has so many times before) that patient dialogue yields more productive and critical insight than trite repetitions of reductive caricatures. He actually reads and justly interprets those thinkers he wants to both learn from and criticize. His defense of anti-realism, his rigorous distinction between mega- and meta-narratives, his insight into faith as an openness toward others, and the humility this requires, are but a few of many gems swimming throughout these pages.

This book is a must read for any Christian intellectual wishing to do rigorous, reflexive, creative, and relevant work in theology and philosophy of religion.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Tour of Continental Thought April 18 2008
By andrew - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For someone relatively unfamiliar with Continental thinkers in the postmodern tradition, this book proves to be an enormously helpful introduction. Merold Westphal refuses to water down the philosophies of difficult thinkers like Heidegger and Derrida, and yet he makes them accessible for those of us who are convinced that this tradition of philosophy is profoundly useful for followers of Jesus.

Highly, highly recommended!

(For a counterpart introduction to and appropriation of Anglo-American postmodern thought, Nancey Murphy's book "Anglo-American Postmodernity" is a perfect complement to Westphal's "Overcoming Onto-Theology.")
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith and Philosophy Sept. 13 2009
By Ezra Brooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Overcoming Onto-Theology" is an extraordinary collection of essays on the relationship between religious faith and postmodern philosophy. Westphal is as comfortable with Hegel, Nietzsche and Derrida as he is with Augustine, Aquinas and Pascal. His observations range from hermeneutics to deconstruction to contemporary theology, and I find his arguments to be quite thought provoking, even when I don't agree with his conclusions. It's a pleasure to read contemporary English language philosophy written so clearly and passionately.

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