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Back to Unedited Philosophy Quotes and Ramblings about Intequinism.

Book title: The God Who May Be: A Hermeneutics of Religion.

Author: Richard Kearney.

Publisher: Indiana University Press.

Place: Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Year: 2001.

Edition: Paperback.

Reader: Mr. M.D. Pienaar.



KEARNEY; R.  2001.  The God Who May Be: A Hermeneutics of Religion”. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.





“God neither is nor is not but may be. That is my thesis in this volume. What I mean by this is that God, who is traditionally thought of as act or actuality, might better be rethought as possibility. To this end I am proposing here a new hermeneutics of religion which explores and evaluates two rival ways of interpreting the divine—the eschatological and the onto-theological. The former, which I endorse privileges a God who possibilizes our world from out of the future, from the hoped-for eschaton which several religious traditions have promised will one day come.

Taking four biblical texts—the burning bush, the transfiguration on Mount Thabor, the Shulamite’s Song, and God’s pledge in Matthew 10 to make the impossible possible—I will endeavour to retrieve their latent eschatological meaning”. (Kearney, 2001:1)

By not being willing to form a kingdom by force [but rather by trying to necessitate a “promised kingdom” out of caused chaos – author’s reading between the lines, based on Matthew 10], the “God-who-may-be” shows how, the “transfiguring power of transcendence” could function to bring about a new order (Kearney, 2001:2).

“Each human person carries within him/herself the capacity to be transfigured in this way and to transfigure God in turn—by making divine possibility ever more incarnate and alive. This capacity in each of us to receive and respond to the divine invitation I call persona. In this sense, one might even say that it is, paradoxically, by first recognizing our own powerlessness—vulnerability, fragility, brokenness—that we find ourselves empowered to respond to God’s own primordial powerlessness and to make the potential Word flesh.” (Kearney, 2001: 2)

“The God of the possible—which I call posse in a liberal borrowing from Nicholas of Cusa—is one who is passionately involved in human affairs and history. And my basic wager is that this God is much closer than the old deity of metaphysics and scholasticism to the God of desire and promise who, in diverse scriptural narratives, calls out from burning bushes, makes pledges and covenants, burns with longing in the song of songs, cries in the wilderness, whispers in caves, comforts those oppressed in darkness, and prefers orphans, widows and strangers to the mighty and the proud. This is a God who promises to bring life and to bring it more abundantly. A God who even promises to raise the dead on the last day, emptying deity of its purported power-presence—understood metaphysically as ousia, hyperousia, esse, substantia, causa sui—so that God may be the promised kingdom” (Kearney, 2001: 2)

“.. God is not a dead letter but a vibrant concern for our time.” (Kearney, 2001: 3)

“.. in favour of a more eschatological notion of God as possibility to come: the posse which calls us beyond the present toward a promised future?” (Kearney, 2001: 3)

Kearney prefers his “God” as “the one who-will-be” rather than “I-am-who-am” of Exodus 3:14. He prefers neither apophatic nor cataphatic descriptions of “God”. His “God” is a possibility, not yet realised, “the deity yet to come.” “God depends on us to be. Without us no Word can be made flesh.” (Kearney, 2001:2-3)

Kearney’s God ordains not everything and therefore his God is not recognized via “theodicy”. Theodicies are banal and unjust due to its implied trust in “esse” rather than “posse”. Kearney describes his possible kingdom as “the kingdom of justice and love.” For Kearney’s God, he quoted Hans Jonas’s conception of ‘ “self-forfeiture of divine integrity for the sake of unprejudiced becoming, no other foreknowledge can be admitted than that of possibilities.”[1] ‘ Kearney however qualifies Jonas’s conception, which includes metaphysical consequentialist properties, Kearney himself, appreciates not. Does Kearney imply functioning injustice, at a side he espouses not, might cause a possessed living icon to become the living “God”; not a dead idol? If so, he could be contradicting his statement about “theodicy”. (Kearney, 2001:4-5,113)

“Philosophically, I would say that I am speaking from a phenomenological perspective, endeavoring as far as possible to offer a descriptive account of such phenomena as persona, transfiguration and desire, before crossing over to hermeneutic readings. In this domain my primary intellectual mentors are Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas, Ricoeur and Derrida.” (Kearney, 2001:5)

Kearney seeks “love and justice” and in that sense he believes “all genuine spiritual movements” include “a liberating posse”. (Kearney, 2001:6)

Kearney chooses a midway he calls “mi-lieu”, which is a synthesis between apophatic theology and cataphatic acknowledgement of plutocratic icons. Apophatic theology can be regarded as “idolatry”, which he is closer to. Cataphatic identifications use words like ‘ “monstrous” (Campbell, Zizek), “sublime” (Lyotard), “abject” (Kristeva), or “an-khorite” (Caputo).’ At both extremes, really, divine existence is not described, but Kearney thinks hermeneutics can function for a mediating role. With regard to this mediating role, Ricoeur influenced Kearney to seek the divine from, not only, Christian writings. (Kearney, 2001:6-7). Kearney could thus be classified as a philosophical realist whose “posse” he found in everything he hermeneutically and phenomenologically investigated. Here Kearney places the apophatic (“negative theology”) idol in opposition to cataphatic (“onto-theology”) icons. He proffers an allegorical understanding, which includes not only plutocratic immanence but also transcendence from logos to humanity. He calls this midway, “onto-eschatology”, “where divine and human desires overlap.” (Kearney, 2001:7-8)

Toward a Phenomenology of the Persona

Kearney writes his God desires and transfigures. “Each person embodies a persona.” Persona Kearney identifies relates to “alterity” and “spirit” and “is beyond consciousness tout court.” (Kearney, 2001:9-10)

“I never encounter others without at the same time configuring them in some way. To configure the other as a persona [own bold] is to grasp him/her as present in absence, as both incarnate in flesh and transcendent in time. To accept this paradox of configuration is to allow the other to appear as his/her unique persona. To refuse this paradox, opting instead to regard someone as pure presence (thing), or pure absence (nothing), is to disfigure the other.

To be sure, this is not an easy matter. The other always appears to us as if s/he were actually present. And it is all too tempting to ignore this as if proviso and presume to have others literally before us, to appropriate them to our scheme of things, reading them off against our familiar grids of understanding and identification… For if it is true to say that we do somehow “see” the persona [own bold] in the face of the person, we never get it. It always exceeds the limits of our capturing gaze. It transcends us.” (Kearney, 2001:10-11)

 Therefore he primarily refers to “the persona” with “narrations” and “metaphors” (Kearney, 2001:9-10). His distinction between “a persona” and “the persona” relates to the difference between singularity and plurality, immanent and transcendent, one and others, here and there, now and then, self and God, nominalism and realism, etc.

“The eschaton, as persona [own bold], is precisely the other’s future possibilities which are impossible for me (to realize, possess, grasp).” (Kearney, 2001:12).

There is thus a progression, from literally, the characteristics of “a persona”, which can include Kearney’s own persona, to “the persona” to figuratively, “persona”, which “is beyond consciousness tout court.” (Kearney, 2001:9-12). Might-be (‘“may-be”’) of persona tout court, relates to the future and others’ possibilities and what we cannot know. ‘“Can-be”’ of “a persona” relates to now and self. (Kearney, 2001:12) We, each, realize our own weakness of singularity and we can generalize about that weakness of singularity, by saying weakness-of-singularity is universal to self and others; Caiaphas syndrome could take hold of us. Kearney however seems to say that Persona’s presence, could nullify the weakness of singularity if they allow, singularity to prosper.

Persona relates to weakness as explained in 1 Corinthians 1:28, (Kearney, 2001:13) and thus relates to singularity as opposed to plurality, or what some others refer to as the numbers game. “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).

“The torturer”, [who suffers from Caiaphas syndrome], suffers a loss when tortured persons die, because, “he” is left only with the corpses. “The tortured persona always escapes the torturer.” (Kearney, 2001:13)

The persona is something incarnate that signifies the uniqueness of a person. It is therefore the fingerprint of individuality. (Kearney, 2001:14)

“The One ‘is simultaneously the loved one and love; He is love of himself; for He is beautiful only by and in Himself’ (Enneads VI, 8, 15). … In short, what we forfeit in the game of self-regarding love is the alterity of the other person. … To this fusionary sameness of the One I would oppose the eschatological universality of the Other. This latter notion of the universal is more ethical to the extent that it is conceived in terms of a possible co-existence of unique personas, whose transcendence is in each case vouchsafed.” (Kearney, 2001:15)

Why doesn’t Kearney write about Others-than-only-selves, rather than “the Other” he opposes to “the One” he criticizes? The “Other” and the “One” are both in singular form.

Persona of the eschaton transfigures Kearney and gives him power to transfigure others. The eschatological persona defies any power, without weapons due to mime, which convince each and every one to choose individuality, weakness and trust in the law, whilst rejecting group power and weapons. (Kearney, 2001:16)

“And because there is no other to this finite other, bound to but irreducible to the embodied person, we refer to this persona as the sign of God. Not the other person as divine, mind you—that would be idolatry—but the divine in and through that person. The divine as trace, icon, visage, passage.” (Kearney, 2001:18)

Dying good should be prioritized over living bad if a choice must be made between the two options, due to procreation. (Kearney, 2001:19) “If the tradition of onto-theology granted priority to being over the good, this counter-tradition of eschatology challenges that priority. … Natality transfigures mortality.” (Kearney, 2001:19)

I Am Who May Be

In the Bible Exodus 3:14 uses two translations for ““ ‘ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh.”” They are ““I AM WHO I AM”” and “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE”.

Kearney translates the words as “I am who may be”. (Kearney, 2001:22)

The Greeks, Latins, Augustine and Aquinas translated the verse with words portraying infinite being; absolute being, that “does not change and cannot change” and is therefore incorporeal. “For Being says more of God than either the Good or the One.” (Kearney, 2001:23)

This incorporeal view of God, was since after Heidegger represented by ‘“onto-theology”: a tendency to reify God by reducing Him to a being (Seiende)—albeit the highest, first, and most indeterminate of all beings.’ (Kearney, 2001:24)

According to the Greeks “Being” is the name for “God”. (Kearney, 2001:24)

The eschatological translations of Exodus 3:14 translates the words to portray a “God”, that includes anthropomorphic roles and the “ethical and dynamic character of God.” (Kearney, 2001:24)

It seems Kearney opines that the eschatological (Jewish/Protestant) interpretations are more anthropomorphic than the onto-theological (Greek/Latin/Catholic) interpretations. According to my current understanding, as opined in “Intequisms: Accounting of ideas” the little difference between the two interpretations makes not a difference because Incorporeality alone with the One is as indeterminate and weak as singularity of the functionalist posse. The consequence of both interpretations is sublime evil rulings. The solution is thus the plurality of Good, which can be achieved via the law. It was the intention of Moses with God’s laws and it was the intention of Solon with God’s laws, unless i am mistaken. It seems the crux is in the analysis of the types of laws the two traditions inspired and the applications thereof.

The burning bush that was connected with “God’s” appearance to Moses changed the ontological (“I am what I am”) nature of God to a more functional futuristic narrative (“I will be what I will be”) sense, if the Hebrew meaning is incorporated in translations. “God” was referred to with “He” and feminine references to “God” entered not the discourse yet. The problem of weakness that relates to the apophatic “God” was still relevant but the futuristic eschatological promissory nature became more emphasised. Also “God” wanted not to be referred to with idolatrous names similar to those secretive names of “gods” of the area. The Hebrew futuristic way of referring to “God” implied a critique of the sacrificial rites of religious practices, inherited from Abraham. (Kearney, 2001:26-27)

Another change that took place is that “God” became a “God” of liberation. Previously “God” was oppressive. (Kearney, 2001:28) “God” was now more dependent on human actions to liberate self, without being idolatrous. “God” is seen as “I-Self for us” and “becoming” of the Godhead replaces Being. “He” becomes with his subjects and is dependent on people and “mortals” are dependent on “Him” (Kearney, 2001:29-30) This was however supported by the law, which implied more creativities, due to support of individualism. The law protects not only groups, but also individuals.

The “God” of Exodus 3:14 is not a “God” of “logocentric immanence”. Kearney regards Greek ontology in opposition with morals of his “God”. Kearney reads idolatry in close relation to onto-theology and the phrase “God is One”. (Kearney, 2001:31) In this view of Kearney and the translation of a promissory nature, that states “God” will be what “He” will be, the infinite (always truth) nature of God, which, prohibit mortals from immoral acts, which requires deceits, could be infringed upon. Zizek and other postmodern prophets, for example, describe this problem by identifying Jewish religion with the monstrous and sublime Leviathan postmodern “God”. Kearney opines, however that the Jewish “God” need not be acknowledged, either in a sense of “being nor non-being” but rather in a sense of “eschatological may be”, which is not an apocalyptic threatening. (Kearney, 2001:33-34) Kearney’s views, which place Greek philosophy against Jewish religion, is not real, because, each group can be divided between the honest and deceivers. If “God” is partly, deceivers, then the creating side of “God” is not true, because creativities are dependent on truths.

“In sum, the danger of God without being is that of an alterity so “other” that it becomes impossible to distinguish it from monstrosity—mystical or sublime.” (Kearney, 2001:34)

Kearney also regards onto-theology and negative (apophatic) theology on opposing sides and he seeks a middle way, he named “onto-eschatology”. His middle way is where “a seismic shift occurs—with God putting being into question just as being gives flesh to God.” (Kearney, 2001:34)

God has carnal desire and Stanislas Breton referred to the “God” who “are”. (Kearney, 2001:34) “There’s more to God than being. Granted. But to pass beyond being you have to pass through it. Without the flesh of the world, there is no birth.” (Kearney, 2001:36) “God as Nicholas of Cusa puts it, is best considered neither as esse, nor as nihil, but as possest (absolute possibility which includes all that is actual).”  According to Cusanus and Heidegger “existence (esse)” presupposes possibility, therefore “God as May-Be” is prior to the ontological Being of God. This view can also be found with Derrida’s “messianic Perhaps”. Kearney’s view was formed by “onto-eschatological hermeneutics” or in other words a “poetics of the possible.” Does it mean that the Word is a conditional for God? No, because “God’s” love is infinite. “As a gift, God is unconditional giving. Divinity is constantly waiting.” God’s existence is identified in the existence of possibility. God’s words in Exodus 3:14 seems to mean: “I am who may be if you continue to keep my word and struggle for the coming of justice.” (Kearney, 2001:37) Kearney’s “God” might be a future “kingdom of justice and love.” (Kearney, 2001:38) Here his “God” can be compared to a fair and just State.

Transfiguring God

On “Mount Thabor”, “the person of Jesus is metamorphosed before the eyes of his disciples into the persona of Christ.” Jesus transfigured by “a change of “figure””, whilst staying “flesh-and-blood embodiedness” and he converses with Moses and Elijah. (Kearney, 2001:39). A voice from the cloud said: ““This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him” (Luke 9:35).” (Kearney, 2001:41) Luke 9:35 in the Bible reads: ““This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”” A similarity between this incident and Moses’s and Elijah’s meeting with God, with regard to the cloud and possibly not eating or drinking for 40 days and 40 nights. Elijah also fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, before he met God (1 Kings 19:7). The link between keeping the law during difficult times, by not stealing food is central to the matter.

Kearney acknowledges plural parts of God with the words “all humans becoming “sons of God”—that is, by being transfigured into their own unique personas.” Kearney also refers to Jesus, Moses and Elijah being icons (“eikon”, “iconoclastic”). Jesus requested his disciples to not make a “cultic” “idol” of him. (Kearney, 2001:43) The reference to “eikon” is used by Kearney to refer to eschatological likenesses to Jesus’s persona. The purpose of Jesus as “eikon” is for all humans to be transfigured to his image on Mount Thabor. The choice of “eikon” (“icon”) over eidolon relates to innovation and truths. “The eschatological promise requires not only grace but ethical action on our part. The advent of the eschaton of Creation is inseperable from human innovation.” (Kearney, 2001:45) The word “idol” (“drekgod”) relates directly to the word “idea” and it is implied that it is wrong to equate ideas in singular form with idols. Everyone should be allowed to create and to form new ideas.

“The transfiguration reminds us that when it comes to the persona of God—marking the uniqueness thisness (haecitas) of each person—it is a question of the old enigma: now you have him, now you don’t.” (Kearney, 2001:42)

Kearney’s view of his “persona”, which is unique, for each person, via the love of God, means to me that he is too close to postmodern sublime. It could imply each person is divine in his own uniqueness. The extreme singularity of Jesus, Moses and Elijah on the other hand is too perfect. This perfection removes God from amongst us. The “persona” should have a universal character, according to me. That characteristic is truth, which causes creativities.

“The persona is “eternal” in its very unicity to the extent that it remains irreducible to the laws of a purely causal temporality. Its eschaton does not operate according to the objective laws of cause-effect or potency-act (though it does recognize that this [messianic time] is the chronological time in which human persons exist)” Kearney’s functional view of the “transfiguring Messiah” in relation to his “God” is explained in relation to Walter Benjamin’s opinion of an uncertain event; “if he comes, it will be a surprise.” (Kearney, 2001:45-46)

Kearney refers to “banality” in relation to New Age books, which portray Jesus of Nazareth in genealogical context after immigrating to France. (Kearney, 2001:48)

In relation to “Paschal Testimonies” Kearney explains his view of “God” who feeds the poor. His explanation narrates Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified, who feeds people after his resurrection. This narration of Jesus of Nazareth is conjoined with people who help poor and destitute others. His portrayal however of who “God” is, is there not very clear. (Kearney, 2001: 49-52)

Desiring God

“Another way of speaking of the transfiguration of God is to speak of the desire of God. It is through such desire that the God-who-may-be finds voice, and does so in many different personas.” (Kearney, 2001:53)

It is not clear here what Kearney means with “desire of God”. He asks: Is it God’s desire for us? Or is it our desire for God? Or both? He says the “desire” relates to secular passion and eros: “persona becomes passion—the passion of burning love and of endless waiting.” (Kearney, 2001:53)

With reference to Song of Songs 3:1-4, Kearney identifies a women (“her”) who seeks her “God” (“Him”). He then writes: “God it seems, is the other who seeks me out before I seek him, a desire beyond my desire, bordering at times, in excess of its fervor, on political incorrectness! It seems Kearney means that “God’s” desire for ones is a passionate affair. Those who then submit by desiring God back have “excess, gift and grace.” (Kearney, 2001:54).

“God” is opined to be the other in a love relationship, with reference to Solomon’s Song of Songs: ‘—“My dove, my perfect one”—’. The Shulamite dark woman is referred to with “dove”. The eschaton Kearney foresees relates to peace. The other’s body is compared to nature, which was called neter (God) in ancient Egyptian. The human form as part of God is acknowledged. (Kearney, 2001:55-56,135) The Song of Songs is acknowledged by Kearney as culturally subversive. His “God’s” kingdom could therefore be radically new. Eros and desire are “glorified” and cultural uses like planned marriages are “derided”. (Kearney, 2001:57)

The implications for racism from Kearney’s eschatological reading about the kingdom to come, taken partly from the Song of Songs, means that his view of “God” excludes racism. (Kearney, 2001:57) Kearney identifies a progression from the ontological translation for “I am what I am” in Exodus to free love in Song of Songs to a claim in 1 John that “God is love”. (Kearney, 2001: 58,138) Kearney’s view of eschatological “God” has direct relation with erotic love. Solomon is king and is compared with “Jahweh”. The sexual desire portrayed in the Song of Songs is equated with the love of “God”. Being weary of desire and respecting matrimonial procreation is synthesised (Kearney, 2001:58-59)

This interpretation of Kearney could be in opposition to Jesus’s definition of love (agape) being compliance to laws and living the prophecies, or it combines erotic love with complying with the laws of enemies (Greeks and Romans in Biblical Israel).

Kearney identifies two ways of “desiring God”. The “onto-theological paradigm construes desire as lack—that is, as a striving for fulfilment in a plenitude of presence. Here desire expresses itself as a drive to be and to know absolutely. … What Genesis, and later the Talmud, referred to as the “evil drive” (yezer hara) to be God by refashioning Yahweh in our own image.” It is further recognized when people prefer ‘“power to weakness”’. Does Kearney mean here power to “their God” or to themself. (Kearney, 2001:60-61)

Caiaphaci use Kearney’s critique of onto-theology. I have experienced Caiaphas syndrome and i prefer a powerful God to a weak God, because of Caiaphas syndrome. A strong God would have protected Jesus as individual. His life until old age on Earth would have been more of a blessing to us. Our current lives would have been better if he had more opportunity to change the world.

The eschatological paradigm emphasises eros and spirituality in the sense of Augustine’s words: ‘“You shed your fragrance about me; I drew breath and now I gasp for your sweet odour. I tasted you and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me and I am inflamed with love …” (Confessions, bk. 6)’ Kearney opines that Augustine’s desire for “God”, the “Creator” is a result of “God’s” “first shed fragrance” and touching of Augustine. (Kearney, 2001:62)

Levinas, “a believing Jew” wrote about “phenomenology of eros”, which is in contrast to Hegel’s “phenomenology of consciousness.” (Kearney, 2001:62)

According to Kearney, Levinas distinguished between ‘“totality”’ as “ontology” (“history, reason, representation, horizon, and power”) and “eschatology” related to “desire”. Totality relates to objectivity, which was part of philosophies regarding “(a) the archeological obsession with First Causes (a retrospective account of desire running from Neoplatonic metaphysics right through to Freudian psychoanalysis)” and (b) the teleological drive toward a Final End (a prospective account of desire proffered by the Hegelian model of history). By contrast, Levinas defines eschatology as a relationship of desire which breaches totality, opening up what he terms “infinity.”” (Kearney, 2001:62) Levinas pronounces that a “phenomenology of desire” holds the key to infinity. And, according to Levinas the bases (‘a “trace”’) for extrapolations to the infinite is within totality. This trace should be followed due to “desire of the other” and “responsibility for the other.” Levinas opines that at the eschaton wars shall end, and the way to the eschaton is via desiring the other (meaning his God), which is outside of totality. (Kearney, 2001:63) Levinas’s God is “the good.” The good cannot be imagined and the good transcends in towards totality. Kearney then continues with an opinion of Levinas, which contradicts his views about transcendence from infinity into totality because he writes that the experience of the “Most-High” is found “in the midst of my relation to the concrete living other.” (Kearney, 2001:64) Sexual desire relates, for Levinas, directly to his God/dess. “Can one desire the infinite—including infinite justice—without first loving the finite beings in front of us? Can one desire the alterity of goodness without loving human others? Can an eschatology of eros ever be wholly disengaged from an intersubjective relation of one-with-another?” (Kearney, 2001:65). It is not clear how Levinas brings his views about sexual desire in connection with Jesus and the Messiah with relation to eschatology.

Levinas mixed sexual desire for a living woman with his eschatological eros. (Kearney, 2001:66) It seems Kearney opines that Levinas opined that a father’s desire for the good, outside of totality, is transposed onto his children, after he conceived children. His children then, are involved, in his thoughts, with the eschaton. (Kearney, 2001:67)

I think what happens then with some people is that Caiaphas syndrome takes hold of them. They believe they are acting in order to stop the eschaton, by sacrificing creators. It means that first an eschatological philosophy places it’s “God” (good) outside totality before parenthood. After parenthood parents, who follow eschatological religions, start to sacrifice creators, because they believe there is an end to the world, which could stop their “fecundity”.

Caputo opined that Levinas’s philosophy was about the sublime and impossible. (Kearney, 2001:69) That means to me that Levinas’s view of his Messiah was a view of the Leviathan of Hobbes.

Derrida also commented on Levinas’s writings that it could point to the sublime. In connection with this Derrida foresaw “a-theism” as ‘“messianicity”’. It meant for Derrida an acceptance of an Other not described by Jewish, Christian and Muslim religion. Messianicity is something different from ‘“messianism”’ (“positive revelation”). (Kearney, 2001:71)

According to Derrida, “desiring God” is a realization that the ‘“anthropotheomorphic form of desire”’ is false. This is close to what Levinas called “eschatological desire”, which implies that the search for the first cause of onto-theology, is discarded, in order to live a more nominalist type of life. This archeological urge, for first causes, relates to mania and confusion, which Derrida opposed. “For deconstructionists, Levinas is still too metaphysical.” (Kearney, 2001:72).

The words we use are problematic because in Philosophy of religion the ontological proof was opposed to the cosmological proof for God. In this book of Kearney he uses the word ‘ontology’ in relation to theology in the sense of cosmological type thinking similar to the Aristotelian search for a first cause. The rejection of the search for a first cause is a rejection of Aristotle, but Kearney also brought that in conjunction with Neo-Platonism. It seems thus that Aristotle could have influenced Neo-Platonists, according to Kearney. It could also mean that Levinas’s and Derrida’s philosophies relate to Platonism. But Levinas blamed Heidegger (Wikipedia), therefore Popper’s views that Hitler (Who Heidegger supported) and Plato is related makes not sense.

Derrida’s messianicity is a desire for “a God still to be invented.” Derrida’s faith was not Judeo-Christian, it was a “leap into radical atheism.” In On the Name Derrida wrote: ‘“The other, that is, God or no matter who, precisely, any singularity whatsoever, as soon as every other is wholly other.”’ (Kearney, 2001:73) Caputo explained this view of Derrida by writing that the singularity of God is, according to Derrida extreme irrationality so-that the idea is completely rejected as totally other. Kearney asks if this view of Derrida does not imply that the anthropomorphic “God” of love gets rejected. (Kearney, 2001:74) Kearney did not consider the rejection of the idea of a singular god of love for gods and goddesses for more love. Kearney mentioned “very definite names, shapes, and actions at specific points in time, the God of caritas and kenosis who heals specific cripples and tells specific parables, who comes to life here and now and bring it more abundantly” (Kearney, 2001:74). Kearney contradicts himself when he opines that “God’s sentinels” violated the beloved in the Song of Songs, after she wandered into the streets in search of her lover. He equated God with power there. (Kearney, 2001:75) Kearney thus could have a psychological block due to indoctrination about non-existent extreme ulterior singularity of good. Although he accepts a “God” of history in plural (“names, shapes and actions”) form, he is stuck on a “God” of the future in singular form. He therefore does not realize that Derrida had plurality of good in mind. On the other hand, Kearney’s philosophy can be interpreted to transpose this historical view into the future, but with a living of “God” in tact. A beneficial characteristic is more beneficial if multiplied in human beings simultaneously and more beneficial when identified in a single living human being, instead of a narration. It could imply thus that Derrida’s atheism, was a rejection of the singular nature of “God”. Alterity to Derrida could have meant that, which should be rejected as false. It further implies that Derrida’s God could be plurality of a desired good (justice) universal characteristic. Plurality meant here in the sense, of a characteristic, to be found in more than “One”, in order to restore God’s power.

Kearney opines that his “God” cannot be seen because the One cannot be trusted. The One could deceive him and therefore God is impossible. One cannot be alive and has to be read about hermeneutically. Kearney’s God is a contradiction who is the possible impossible. Kearney asks if deconstruction, which makes the other, totally other, can distinguish between “messiahs and monsters”, because if something is totally other, how can it be identified. (Kearney, 2001:75-76) Here Kearney refers in the plural to “messiahs” but he shares not Derrida’s realization that singularity and weakness cannot be God. The idea of singular “God”, is totally other for Derrida. It is utterly unfathomable, after realizing the fallaciousness of the functional belief, indoctrinated into many people since childhood. Derrida’s experience, similar to Nietzsche’s, makes a person subject of Caiaphas syndrome. Caiaphaci have not realized truly that the singularity of “God” is a functional deceit. They therefore reject people who have realized the fallaciousness, partly because they have not the experience to reject Abrahamic religions, like Nietzsche and Derrida did. Their financial security causes inabilities to realize the weakness of their own singularity.

Possibilizing God

“God neither is nor is not but may be.” (Kearney, 2001:80) This statement by Kearney indicates a position he is thinking from. When he writes “may be” he writes from a position of authority, who could allow God to exist. If he used the words “might be” the meaning would have been more general and not from a position of authority. His definitions would then have been more acceptable and based more on correspondence. The “may” could indicate that he observes not sufficiently from an independent position to have a more independent opinion.

Gen 1:27 reads: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This verse is an argument in favour of the plurality of God in forms of male and female.

Mark 10:18 reads: ‘“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.’ This verse points to Caiaphas syndrome because it proves that Jesus said he was not God.

“This marks the transition from tribal to cosmopolitan affiliation, so celebrated by Paul, the opening up of a kingdom which includes each human being as son or daughter of the returning God. No longer mere offspring of archaic gods and ancestors, we are now invited to become descendants of a future still to come, strangers reborn as neighbors in the World, adopted children of the deus adventurus—the God of the Possible.” (Kearney, 2001:81)

“The possibility opened up by the eschatological I-am-who-may-be promise a new natality in a new time: rebirth into an advent so infinite it is never final. That is why we are called by the posse not only to struggle for justice so that the kingdom may come, but also to give thanks that the kingdom has already come and continues to come. From where? From out of the future into every moment, from beyond time, against time, into time—the Word becoming flesh forever, sans fin, without end. That is why, as in Blanchot’s story, if ever we meet the Messiah we will ask him, “When will you come?”” (Kearney, 2001:82) Kearney rejects here the idea of the “Messiah”, but he nevertheless keeps on hammering on it, without saying outright that singularity of God is false. He also did not understand what Derrida meant by writing that the singularity of God is totally other in an atheistic sense. It implies that he has not acknowledged the concept of the singularity of God, for what it really is. That is a functional deceit, which limits creativities. Maybe he knows that but he does not write it. The “kingdom of God” won’t be with us before that knowledge is common knowledge.

Kearney quotes Aquinas to support his argument against Aquinas, that possibility should be prioritized when God is thought of. Aquinas wrote: ‘“God is pure act without any potentiality whatsoever” (.. Summa Theologiae 1.3-4).’ (Kearney, 2001:83)

Kearney disputes the Western tradition that God is rather esse than posse. He argues that possibility precedes, existence, therefore possibility should be regarded as “God”; posse should be regarded more important than esse. His “God” implies thus a continuous renewal of the ‘kingdom of God’, which has already come and is coming continuously as justness increases. (Kearney, 2001:84)

“Both our theoretical and ethical consciousness, Husserl insists, are structured according to the teleological possibility of an Idea which is unconditioned and therefore surpasses any determined intuitive fullness (or presence) we may presume to have.” (Kearney, 2001:85)

Husserl confirms Kant’s view that “the highest goal of all human endeavour is the ultimate Good”. Kant wrote about a ‘“possible kingdom of ends”’. (Kearney, 2001:85) The kingdom never arrives with finality it keeps on getting better. (Kearney, 2001:86) Just as the “kingdom of God”, gets better as time goes on, so do our views of God get closer to reality. When Jesus said in Mark 10:18 that he should not be called “good” because only God can be “good”, he implied that more than one just person is better than one just person. Jesus also implied that singularity of God is nonsense. We are thus progressing to a new high, similar to the high explained in Gen. 1:26, where God was referred to with “us”. Kearney promotes the idea that we were made in God’s image and although we were not made exactly like God we do have the possibility of improving ourselves to become like God. That is a group of people who live together in peace and harmony with sufficient wealth to allow a good living to all humans.

Sartre, in Being and Nothingness (1943) described “the human desire to be God as our ultimate teleological possibility”, whilst claiming it is “absurd, and so utterly meaningless.” (Kearney, 2001:86). Did Sartre refer to singularity? I looked quickly at the Conclusion of Being and Nothingness, Kearney referred to in note 23 on page 86, but did not see any references to singularity. “In-itself”, “For-itself” and “being” was used a lot by Sartre there. It is a difficult book and Sartre’s meaning, with regard to singularity and plurality of a possible God cannot be identified in reasonable time for this project.

Kearney refers to Ernst Bloch’s, a new-Marxist dialectical thinker, “dialectical notion of the possible”, who argues for improvement towards a utopia (kingdom of ‘God’). Kearney also quotes Marx where Marx wrote that there is ‘no real “rupture between past and future but rather a realization of the projects of the past” (Marx in a letter to Ruge, 1843).’ (Kearney, 2001:88) “In contrast to Kant, Bloch sees possibility not as an a priori condition of formal knowledge but as a precondition of historical transformation. Utopian possibility is less a power-to-know than a power-to-become-other than what is at present the case.” (Kearney, 2001:90)

Bloch motivated the concepts of ‘“being-according-to-the-possible”’ and ‘“being-in-the-possible”’ as the existents that change our world for the better. (Kearney, 2001:89) Is this divine possibility, that Kearney sketches? To be identified as partly good theories, which describe not reality, but the potentialities, that change reality into the ‘kingdom of ends’? According to Popper’s philosophy the distinctions between theories and theorizers are very relevant as well as Kuhn’s sacrifices of theorizers and the effect on competitiveness.

Kearney writes that a “hermeneutics of utopia” can help to distinguish between good and bad possibilities (theories, etc.). (Kearney, 2001:89)

In relation to Heidegger’s “ontological notion of the possible” Kearney refers to Heidegger’s statement in the introduction of Being and Time, that for phenomenology ‘“possibility stands higher than actuality”’. Heidegger also claims that the ‘“quiet power of the possible”’ reveals itself as “Gift” from “Being .. temporal-historical beings.” (Kearney, 2001:91)

Heidegger identified “Being” directly related to loving possibility, which raises a question regarding “God’s” relation to possibility. (Kearney, 2001:91-92)

Heidegger regards the possibility of a time when all of philosophy is gathered into a new beginning for thought. “The loving possible is for Heidegger something that surpasses the understanding of both metaphysics and logic. It is nothing less than the giving of Being itself.” (Kearney, 2001:93)

According to Derrida’s “deconstructive notion of the possible” we should not regard possibility as a consequentialist pragmatist issue. We should regard the ‘“perhaps”’ inclusive of the impossible to show our reverence to God by acknowledging each, our own human inability to predict the future with certainty. (Kearney, 2001:94)

For Derrida: “For and event to be possible it must be both possible (of course) but also impossible (in the sense of an interruption by something singular and exceptional into the regime of pre-existing possibles-powers-potencies). The event happens not just because it is possible, qua ontological acting-out of some inherent dunamis or potential, but also because something impossible—hitherto unanticipated and unplanned—comes to pass.” Basically Derrida means that we can use the word “possible” with certainty but the word “impossible” is not always true because we can never fathom all that is possible, in order to realize all “impossibilities” of thought. (Kearney, 2001:96)

According to Kearney, Derrida regarded “impossible” as “im-possible”. It is realizations about our own impossibilities that bring forth more rational possibilities. The posse or “possible God” grows out of realizations about own impossibilities. Derrida writes the “in-of the im-possible relates to “filiality” and the “origin of faith”. (Kearney, 2001:96-97)

Derrida was “a self-confessed atheist”. (Kearney, 2001:98)

Kearney’s eschatological belief in the possibility of a singular human “God” was confirmed to me by his statement: “Derrida, in short, is more concerned with the everyday (every moment) incoming of events than in the truth or otherwise of some divine advent. The other that leaps toward us from this incoming moment may be a “monster slouching towards Bethlehem to be born” or a lamb who lays down its life for love of mankind. There is no way of knowing.” (Kearney, 2001:13) A related view to Kearney’s based on plurality of God and onto-theology might use the words God-who-might-be, to build on Kearney’s work.

Kearney’s “eschatological notion of the possible” doubts Husserl’s elusive notion of “God”’ because Husserl’s Idea could “slip back into some kind of rationalist or idealist theodicy where the possible is predetermined from the outset.” (Kearney, 2001:99)

The onto-theological identification, which prioritizes actuality of God over possibility of “God”, should be reconsidered in order to rather prioritize possibility over actuality. (Kearney, 2001:100) This view of Kearney could open new views to new definitions for God.

Poetics of the Possible God

“How do we describe the infinite May-be? What metaphors or figures, what images or intimations from our religious or philosophical heritages might we deploy to speak of this unspeakable enigma?” Kearney is looking for these words “in light of the paradigm of God-play.” Aristotle’s “dunamis” has mostly been interpreted to be “subordinate” to actuality and Aristotle’s philosophy influenced onto-theology much. (Kearney, 2001:101)

“Creatures need a Creator and a Creator needs creatures.

Certain Christian and Arab commentators, in particular Averroës, went so far as to suggest that the human mind can, through ongoing contemplation of truth, enter a sort of intimate mystical communion with the divine nous poetikos. So doing, we may eventually approximate to a condition of beatific and blissful transfiguration, becoming more and more like the divine Maker in whose image we are made. So fearful was Thomas Aquinas of the powerful influence such teaching was having on the Christian West that he made a point of vehemently denouncing Averroës as a “depravor of philsophy””. (Kearney, 2001:102)

Kearney speculates about how nous poetikos (God’s intellect) should be understood. Is it possible that Averroës referred to a “creative-productive power of the nous poetikos as a goal rather than a cause”? (Kearney, 2001:103)

According to Cusanus, similar to Hegel and Leibniz, theodicies are necessary. “God” is “Him”, the “Creator”, the “possest” who makes good and evil work together. This is a “lapse into mystical pantheism”. (Kearney, 2001:104). We should co-create according to Kearney. We should realize our weakness of singularity, in order to know God, “possibilizing” our good lives. (Kearney, 2001:108) This means to me we should realize our weakness in order to realize our dependence on own creativities. Creativities through which powers are produced, greater than our own individual powers, should be made our own, by overcoming theodical beliefs.

The kingdom of God is a metaphor only. There is no real king or emperor ever again and each of us should be a king in his own home, living in the small weak kingdoms of close proximity. By working together the weak kingdoms can however create products to consume. (Kearney, 2001:108-109) And weapons of defence that will cause the fear of true revenging theodicy and the eschaton of the others, who deserves to meet their eschaton. The others will however join the kingdoms of close proximity, to form the Kingdom, because they will realize that is all they can do. There will be peace, once again. (Kearney, 2001:110)


‘—if we help God to become God. How? By opening ourselves to the “loving possible,” by acting each moment to make the impossible that bit more possible.’ (Kearney, 2001:111)






BIBLE. The holy bible, new international version. (Cape Town: International Bible Society, 3rd South African edition, 1985.)

[1] “Jonas; H. 1996. The Concept of God after Auschwitz: A Jewish Voice. In: Mortality and Morality: A Search for the Good after Auschwitz, p.134, edited by Lawrence Vogel. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.” (Kearney, 2001: 113,165)