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Syracuse religion, philosophy professor wins book-of-the-year award

June 17, 2008

Rob Enslin
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Rob Enslin

John D. Caputo, the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Humanities and professor of philosophy at Syracuse University, is the recipient of a prestigious ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award. Caputo's book, "What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church" (Baker Academic, 2007), uses the postmodern theme of deconstruction to suggest a constructive and provocative way forward for the Christian church. The book earned a gold award in the contest's philosophy category.

In this lively and provocative analysis, Caputo describes why today's church is in need of deconstruction. Caputo also deconstructs what he sees as some of the church's idols and points toward implications for the life and ministry of the church. "Deconstruction is not 'destruction,' but rather a breaking down of the object in question, so as to open it up to its own future and to make it more loyal to itself," says Caputo. "In his own way, Jesus was a deconstructionist. Applying deconstruction to the church can be a positive move toward renewal." Caputo is one of today's premier philosophers of religion and a leading voice on religion and postmodernism.

Since its publication last fall, "What Would Jesus Deconstruct?" has garnered rave reviews from critics and scholars alike. Richard Kearney, the Charles Seelig Professor in Philosophy at Boston College, calls it "compulsory reading for anyone concerned about the future of Christianity," while Bruce Ellis Benson of Christianity Today magazine praises Caputo's boldness for pushing deconstructive reading to the extent he has. Adds John R. Franke, professor of theology at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pa.: "This is a marvelous little book. It enables readers to understand deconstruction as the hermeneutics of the kingdom of God and provides a glimpse of what this concept might look like in the hands of Jesus, as applied to the church."

Caputo joined the faculty of SU's College of Arts and Sciences in 2004, after teaching at Villanova University for 36 years. He is the author of numerous books, including "The Weakness of God" (Indiana University Press, 2006), winner of the American Academy of Religion's 2007 Award for Excellence in Constructive-Reflective Study of Religion; "On Religion" (Routledge, 2001); "The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida" (Indiana University Press, 1997); and "Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation With Jacques Derrida" (Fordham University Press, 1996). In addition to teaching courses on continental philosophy and contemporary religious theory, Caputo codirects a series of biennial conferences at SU with Linda Alcoff, professor of philosophy, women's studies and political science, as well as director of women's studies. The next conference is "The Politics of Love," April 16-18, 2009.

"What Would Jesus Deconstruct?" is part of Baker Academic's "Church and Postmodern Culture" series, in which high-profile theorists in continental philosophy and contemporary theology write for a broad, non-specialist audience. Baker Academic is a division of Baker Publishing Group.

ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Awards were established to bring increased attention to librarians and booksellers of the literary and graphic achievements of independent publishers and their authors. Each year, ForeWord chooses titles from hundreds of submissions that "expand a world, introduce a voice society needs to hear, offer practical knowledge where none existed before, or simply entertain so compellingly that all distractions fall away as the reader turns the next page." It is the only review trade journal devoted exclusively to books from independent houses.

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