Theology, Philosophy, God and the Between

Christopher Ben Simpson

Abstract


How are we to regard William Desmond's work—especially now after the completion of his systematic trilogy with God and the Between? How are we to “locate” Desmond—himself a master “locator”? Is he a philosopher or a theologian? Should we be uneasy about an answer that says he is in some sense both?
Thinking of the bond (desmos in Greek) between theology and philosophy, between Jerusalem and Athens, I suggest seeing Desmond as not merely a philosopher who has religious insights, who has philosophical ways of thinking about God, but as a part of the great tradition of Christian philosophical theologians drawing on the philosophical font of Neo-Platonism—the (overtly religious) pinnacle of classical philosophy—a theological tradition extending from Pseudo-Dionysius and Augustine to Bonaventure and beyond.
Desmond, as with these earlier figures, thinks that philosophy and theology can relate to each other intimately, constructively - complementing and completing each other - that indeed theology and philosophy are better off for their interrelation. Could we not see Desmond as taking up this tradition (in spirit if not in the letter) that went into recess with the rise of the modernity? To this end, I will examine the tradition/trajectory of Christian Neo-Platonic philosophical theology—with its robust, if indeed perilous, community between Neo-Platonic philosophy and Christian theology—while taking account of the heterodox tendencies within this tradition. I will then going on to examine the possibility of locating Desmond’s work, specifically what we have in God and the Between, against this background.

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