The Gift of the Other: Levinas, Derrida, and a Theology of Hospitality (Princeton Theological Monograph)
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We live in an age of global capitalism and terror. In a climate of consumption and fear the unknown Other is regarded as a threat to our safety, a client to assist, or a competitor to be overcome in the struggle for scarce resources. And yet, the Christian Scriptures explicitly summon us to welcome strangers, to care for the widow and the orphan, and to build relationships with those distant from us. But how, in this world of hostility and commodification, do we practice hospitality? In The Gift of the Other, Andrew Shepherd engages deeply with the influential thought of French thinkers Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, and argues that a true vision of hospitality is ultimately found not in postmodern philosophies but in the Christian narrative. The book offers a compelling Trinitarian account of the God of hospitality--a God of communion who ''makes room'' for otherness, who overcomes the hostility of the world though Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, and who through the work of the Spirit is forming a new community: the Church--a people of welcome.
interests of consistency, Levinas’ methodology of emphasis, this linguistic-constructionist approach, is applied to his concept of the Other. If the world we encounter is the world that we have posited in language, is this not also true of the Other? Is the Other that we encounter simply a linguistic construction that we have posited into existence? The problem arises not only in that Levinas’ methodology of emphasis is grounded upon the presupposition that our positing will always be positive82
the two with as much grace and ambiance and hospitality as possible.49 One way of envisaging what Derrida is trying to express here is to think of the structure of a bicycle wheel. Conditional hospitality—that is, the norms, laws and procedures which shape the operation and practice of hospitality in the real world—are the spokes which provide the structural strength to the wheel, while the rim of the wheel is the realm of unconditional hospitality. Without the rim, there is no recognizable
suggest, that we get something like Derrida’s philosophical anthropology.”21 And what is the nature of this anthropology and the understanding of inter-subjective relationships offered to us by Levinas and Derrida? Derrida’s understanding of the essential adversarial nature of inter-subjective relationships is encapsulated well in an interview with Richard Kearney where Derrida states: “the rapport of self-identity is itself always a rapport of violence with the other; so that the notions of
am man holding up the universe ‘full of all things,’”68 the claim of Christian faith is that it is Christ, the one in whom “the fullness of God dwells,” who holds up—that is, sustains and redeems—the universe. That is, it is Jesus—the creator of all things, the Messiah who has come—whose death and subsequent resurrection overcomes the hostility of the world, thus reconciling all things. It is not our actions, but God’s actions in Christ which reinstates an ontology of peace, reestablishing an
on the actual practice of the baptism ritual during the apostolic period—that of stripping off old clothes and being baptized in the nude, before putting on new garments—Paul again stresses the transformation that occurs as one enters, through faith, into union with Christ, and the ensuing ethical behavior that flows from this new ontological reality. Thus, in Galatians, Paul states that, to be “baptized into Christ is to have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:27). The language employed here