The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event (Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion) by Caputo John D

The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event (Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion) by Caputo John D

Author:Caputo, John D. [Caputo, John D.]
Language: eng
Format: azw3
ISBN: 9780253013514
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Published: 2006-04-27T04:00:00+00:00


We do well to remember that for all of his love of the good and of forgiveness, Damian has a very sharp tongue, and he would make even the most conservative churchmen of today look tolerant. In the Book of Gomorrah (Liber Gomorrhianus), written in 1049, sixteen years before the letter on divine omnipotence, Damian launched an uncompromising attack on clerical homosexuality (there is nothing new under the sun).11 The Book of Gomorrah, while it does not make for pleasant reading, is interesting to the present study because of its extraordinarily unforgiving treatment of homosexuality and sin. In it Damian declares the loss of virginity “irrecuperabilis,” and beyond that, he verges on formulations that leave us with the impression that sodomy—he coined the word sodomia—is an unpardonable sin that represents a kind of spiritual death. This contrasts sharply with the argument about virginity in De divina omnipotentia, with the ideal of teshuvah and sorrow for sin that characterizes the biblical tradition generally, and most certainly with the teachings of Jesus on forgiveness that Damian can be seen to be radicalizing in the later work on divine omnipotence. Indeed, the way his later views undermine his earlier views on this point is particularly worth watching.12

The Liber Gomorrhianus breathes the air of unpardonable vice and irremediable ruin. Whether Damian mellowed a bit in later years I leave to his biographers to decide. But the argument and the climate of the De divina omnipotentia are strikingly different, even if Damian still retains his polemical manner and still enjoys a good story about eternal damnation. In the letter on omnipotence he is addressing the evangelical council of chastity, whose model is Mary Immaculate, not the extermination of what he regards as filth and infestation, which he never mentions in the letter. If the Book of Gomorrah is a book of death, of inexpungible evil, everything in this letter is oriented around the death of death, around undoing evil deeds, restoring fallen sinners, extending the work of creation by giving a new being to those who wallow in the non-being of evil. His emphasis falls not on punishing the sinner but on the annihilation of the sin, not eternal torment but the contingency and insubstantial character of the moment in the past when sin was committed. Where in the Book of Gomorrah he was horrified by unnatural penetration, the letter on divine omnipotence celebrates the penetrability of preternaturally permeable substances. Where he was insistent on natural necessity in the Book of Gomorrah, he is a virtual nominalist here, arguing that the only necessity is found in God.

His purpose is to champion the glory and power of God and to defend the honor of the faith against those whom he takes to be its detractors, once again in a “letter” (like medieval cartes postales, which by the conventions of the day became public documents). His opponents—“dialecticians,” “philosophers,” “heretics” (terms used fairly interchangeably)—are treated with abuse. Two issues are thematically analyzed in the letter. The first and guiding problem is whether God can restore virginity after it has been lost.


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