Graven Ideologies: Nietzsche, Derrida  Marion on Modern Idolatry, By Bruce Ellis Benson

Graven Ideologies

Nietzsche, Derrida Marion on Modern Idolatry

by Bruce Ellis Benson

Graven Ideologies
  • Length: 243 pages
  • Published: July 23, 2002
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 2679
  • ISBN: 9780830826797

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What do the philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Luc Marion have in common with Christianity?

Surprisingly, they are all concerned about idolatry, about the tendency we have to create God in our own image and about what we can do about it. Can we faithfully speak of God at all without interposing ourselves? If so, how?

Bruce Ellis Benson explores this common concern by clearly laying out the thought of each of these postmodern thinkers against the background of modern philosophers such as Descartes, Locke and Hume and in light of the rise of phenomenology as developed by Husserl and Heidegger. All these thinkers he brings into conversation with a full range of biblical teaching.

The result is an illuminating survey of some key postmodern thinkers and profound insight into the nature of conceptual idolatry. Benson also exposes some of the limitations inherent in postmodern attempts to provide a purely philosophical solution to the problem of ideological idolatry. Ultimately, he argues, there is a need for something greater than human philosophy, religion or theology--namely, the biblical revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

"Graven Ideologies meets a long-standing demand for a presentation of the theological significance of the work of Nietzsche, Derrida, Levinas and Marion in American English, that is, in a language we can all understand. It raises the level of discussion of these provocative continental thinkers by showing the positive import of their critique of metaphysics--which is mistakenly assumed to be something destructive--as a critique of idolatry that is an essential ingredient in any biblical view. By doing all this in a lively and readable prose, in illuminating comparisons and contrasts, Benson has made a significant contribution to the growing American discussion of theology from a continental perspective."

John D. Caputo, David R. Cook Professor of Philosophy, Villanova University

"This succinct little book gives us an excellent critique of recent discussions of idolatry. Benson is both fair to Levinas and Marion and astutely perceptive concerning the questions which they fail to raise."

John Milbank, Frances Myers Ball Professor of Philosophical Theology, University of Virginia

"Graven Ideologies is a clear and coherent exposition of the importance of the figures of Nietzsche, Marion and Derrida to Christian consciousness. It will go a long way not only toward correcting the reductive misreadings of these works by many theologians but toward the strengthening of Christian intellectual life in its ongoing dialogue with philosophy."

Cleo Kearns, Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University

"Rooted in a deep biblical faith that is as reflective as it is committed, informed by a thorough study of the authors discussed, and written with an inviting and accessible lucidity, this volume gives us a splendid guide to the thought of three major postmodern thinkers."

Merold Westphal, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University

"The difficult but very important thought material dealt with by Bruce Benson in this book has had and will continue to have a profound effect upon the understanding and reception of the gospel of Christ today. Intellectual life is strongly influenced by it--and that includes the thought life of Christians as well as non-Christians. I especially encourage those in positions of Christian leadership to study it carefully, and above all those who expect to be helpful to young people now entering higher education or the professions. You are not likely to find a better guide than Benson."

Dallas Willard, Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern California




Introduction: A History of Idolatry
Graven Ideologies
The Danger of Vain Philosophy
Phenomenology and Idolatry
The Idolatry of Adaequatio
The Hammer of the Postmoderns
Jesus the Deconstructor

Freiedrich Nietzsche
1. The Idol of Philosophy
Lying About "Truth"
The Idols of Simplicity, Systemism and the True World
Philosophy's logos and Christ the Logos
2. "God Had to Die"
Who Died?
God's Death and the Possibility of Life
Heidegger on Nietzschean Idolatry
3. Jesus and "Morality"
Nietzsche and Jesus
Faith as Anti-agon

Jacques Derrida
4. Levinas and Derrida
A New Derrida?
The Other as Radical Transcendence
The Ultimate Other
Does Levinas Escape Violence?
5. Deconstruction and Justice
Deconstruction, Undecidability, Différance
Foundations as Antimorality
Being Just
6. Faith and Dogma
Saying God's Name
Faith and Its Reasons
Dogma Against Idolatry

Jean-Luc Marion
7. Husserl and Hiedegger on Otherness
The Problem of the Transcendental Ego in Husserl
Hiedegger and the Logos of Phenomenology
8. The Objectifying Idol and the Transcending Icon
Icons Versus Idols
How Should We Speak of God?
9. Logos Versus logos
Getting "Outside of the Text"
The Call and the Horizon
Is There Truly a "Thrid Way"?

The Aporia of Knowing God
Should Faith Overcome Philosophy?
Bearing Witness



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Bruce Ellis Benson

Bruce Ellis Benson is professor of philosophy and department chair at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.