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Postmodern theology

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K069-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

The term ‘postmodernism’ is loosely used to designate a wide variety of cultural phenomena from architecture through literature and literary theory to philosophy. The immediate background of philosophical postmodernism is the French structuralism of Saussure, Lévi-Strauss, Lacan and Barthes. But like existentialism, it has roots that go back to the critique by Kierkegaard and Nietzsche of certain strong knowledge claims in the work of Plato, Descartes and Hegel. If the quest for absolute knowledge is the quest for meanings that are completely clear and for truths that are completely certain, and philosophy takes this quest as its essential goal, then postmodernism replaces Nietzsche’s announcement of the death of God with an announcement of the end of philosophy.

This need not be construed as the death of God in a different vocabulary. The question of postmodern theology is the question of the nature of a discourse about deity that would not be tied to the metaphysical assumptions postmodern philosophy finds untenable. One candidate is the negative theology tradition of Pseudo-Dionysius and Meister Eckhart. It combines a vigorous denial of absolute knowledge with a theological import that goes beyond the critical negations of postmodern philosophy. A second possibility, the a/theology of Mark C. Taylor, seeks to find religious meaning beyond the simple opposition of theism and atheism, but without taking the mystical turn. Finally, Jean-Luc Marion seeks to free theological discourse from the horizon of all philosophical theories of being, including Heidegger’s own postmodern analysis of being.

Citing this article:
Westphal, Merold. Postmodern theology, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K069-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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