Is 'good' just relative now?

August 30th, 2022

Beauty is wonderful, but if it is not for good, it may be for nothing. Goodness is beautiful. Good may be defined as what is desired or of benefit. Here we will tend to equate good with what is moral or ethical, and we will contrast it with the popular association of good with what is practical or effective. Goodness used to be treated as a kind of math. Ideas were fixed. Standards were set; good was predetermined and eternal. Preachers could speak with certainty about right and wrong. Whether folks accepted it or not, it was still right. Goodness in one place added up to it in another. People in the pews often did versions of moral math: If they added up enough good deeds, they thought they earned a place in heaven. They often approached God to barter. “I will do this for you, God, if you do this for me.” Or, they considered faith as a kind of life insurance policy, good for investment in case the church is right. At best, however, people understood with this math that no matter how large the debt they had accumulated, just for the sincere asking, it was forgiven.

So much is thrown into question now that ideas of goodness, that were like the steady and regular trains that run through town, have jumped the track. Standards of goodness, the argument now goes, were determined by powerful people with vested interests. They decided where the tracks would be. Who is to determine what is the right side of the tracks and what is the wrong? What is good for some people may not be good for others. Who should decide what is good and for whom? Just because one group says something is good does not make it so. Or if something is good here it does not make it good there.

Preachers confronting these confusing notions may feel lost. If everything is relative, can we speak with confidence about any issue? If Paul was alive he might have changed his words so that they read, “If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but people dismiss me as out of touch, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal” (see 1 Cor 13:1). Or, we might say, if I speak with confidence, will I be given a hearing by today’s listeners or just be dismissed? Perhaps when I talk about good I have to speak only to like-minded folks?

Beyond Relativism

Fortunately, a relativist stance is not the only option. Goodness may need to be reconceived. Good in any age is based on certain harmonies and balances that benefit the people involved. In the modern period, God was seen to have implanted formulas in the universe that, like creation, operated somewhat mechanically and separate from God, much like law courts are separate from legislatures. However, in theopoetic understanding, goodness is not separate from a relationship with God rooted in scripture and the church. In the modern period people tended to prejudge others as good or not on the basis of laws (where they live, how hard [or if] they work, how successful they appear). By contrast in theopoetry, relationships come first. Jesus says, “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged” (Matt 7:1). This is key: The laws are not forgotten, but they do not preclude relationship. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Whatever is good is sought in each moment anew.

Even now, some laws still seem set in the Mount Sinai stone in which they were initially chiseled, like “Thou shalt not kill.” Christians are divided over whether there might be variation in divine law, for instance, to allow notions of a just war. Perhaps God’s laws never do change. Or perhaps the laws are constant and God administers them as a loving parent. Or perhaps, though “neither the smallest letter nor even the smallest stroke of a pen will be erased from the Law until everything there becomes a reality,” the law is affected somehow in being fulfilled by Jesus (Matt 5:18). Or maybe this is one of those places where our limited language and thoughts about law are no match for God’s actuality and mystery.

Poetry is needed. In theopoetic understanding, God continues to give to the articulation of laws in the community of faith whatever stability the laws deserve. Such understanding has the advantage of being dynamic and living, not static and fixed. Some might say this fudges the issues, yet an alternate position is that unwarranted certainty at times can also fudge reality. Augustine said, “Si comprehendis non est deus” (If you understand, it is not God). One scholar interprets him to mean, “knowledge of God is learned ignorance, a profound wisdom.”[1] We cannot fully know God, and some things have no fully adequate logical answer no matter how much we might wish this was not the case.

Goodness in Flux

Popular postmodern notions equate good with what is effective, what works, or what is valued. The Washington Post arranged for the acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell to play his violin incognito as a busker in one of the Washington subway stations at rush hour. They were trying to determine if people perceive excellence, stop to appreciate it, or recognize talent when it is provided in a commonplace environment. In forty-five minutes, he played six complex pieces from Bach in a large space with good acoustics. Thousands of people went by on their way to work. Only six individuals stopped for a while before moving on. Not one person clapped. They left a total of $32. Two days earlier he had played for a sold-out concert in Boston where the average ticket price was $100.[2]

The event helps characterize postmodern thought. Art becomes good when it is perceived as art, when it is marketed as art, and a high price reflects that it is art. Art is a commodity, and even as artists may critique capitalism, they also participate in it and promote it. If art is not art until it is so named, anything might pass as art. In some literary circles, the viewer becomes the artist in responding to a work. It is like street theatre where the audience becomes the artwork, except in this instance the art critic becomes the creator of a new work. Critics of the critics say such claims are self-serving.

The question of good and bad art not only exposes the frail nature of art in today’s world but also speaks to the frail nature of what is valued as good. Good still has common public appeal in today’s culture. Good is what an individual or society determines is right, the best values by which to live. It is associated with what is positive and to be desired, like happiness, love, and justice. In the form of justice, good may be defined as fair, balanced, or reasonable treatment. At the same time, one of the dangers of our current era, when moral standards are in question, is that people equate good with legal, in other words, it is okay to do something if the law allows it. Granted that morality and the law are sometimes identical, like “do not steal.” However, the laws do not cover everything plainly, hence the need for courts, and much that the law technically permits is not necessarily moral.

Every culture has ideas of good and bad but not every culture has the same understandings. Good today is not necessarily good yesterday. Societies evolve. Yesterday, good was the United States of America defending democracy wherever it was threatened around the globe. The focus of the discipline of ethics was to identify “a theory providing universal principles that apply systematically to particular cases.”[3] Ethical standards that varied from the norm were popularly dismissed as products of uneducated minds or inferior cultures. Difference was often threatening.

Today, good foreign policy has changed and leans more toward America taking care of its own. Ideas of good in general seem less governed by abstract universal principles and more by individuals or subgroups in the culture. Good is decided in terms of relationships and community. People may have several identities according to whom they are with or what they are doing. This need not imply lack of integrity or multiple personality disorder. Rather it speaks to different aspects of personality (business, family, play), areas of interest (romantic, economic, sports), ways of engaging (e.g., student, teacher, mother, coach, volunteer), and varying standards in those various areas to determine good. Good is contextual and nowadays often what is practical is determined good.

Much of the Christian faith is based on rules about good and bad, not least the Ten Commandments and the Great Commandment to love God and “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matt 22:36-40). Nonetheless, there are considerable advantages for preachers and congregations in being open to a more relational understanding of good. What might that mean without moral standards all becoming relative?

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The Possibility of Good in a Postmodern World 

Arguably no area of life is more affected by postmodern attitudes in general than ethics and morality. A few decades ago, Paul Ricoeur[4] and liberation theologians spoke of a hermeneutics of suspicion, questioning the ideological biases of writers. This hermeneutical approach has somehow become a broad culture of skepticism and doubt. Harvard educator Howard Gardner is troubled by what he sees as a trend toward individual moral freedoms that could threaten the social fabric. Students are reluctant to judge the behavior of others as either ethical or unethical. He says,

These students may not have read key texts by French and American intellec- tuals, but they have picked up some of their ways of thinking and expression. And so, over and over again, one hears that one person’s truth may not be the same as another’s; that two perspectives can be equally valid or equally right; that one has no right to judge people from another background or culture; that everyone has both good and bad properties.[5]

A survey of thirty thousand students in 2008 indicates that, in Gardner’s words, “Young Americans seem to lack an ethical compass that governs their own behavior.”[6]

David Brooks, political and cultural commentator for The New York Times, has this wonderfully insightful comment on morality in our time:

For the past several centuries, most Westerners would have identified themselves fundamentally as Depraved Sinners. In this construct, sin is something you fight like a recurring cancer—part of a daily battle against evil. But these days, people are more likely to believe in their essential goodness. People who live by the Good Person Construct try to balance their virtuous self-image with their selfish desires. They try to manage the moral plusses and minuses and keep their overall record in positive territory. In this construct, moral life is more like dieting: I give myself permission to have a few cookies because I had salads for lunch and dinner. I give myself permission to cheat a little because, when I look at my overall life, I see that I’m still a good person. The Good Person isn’t shooting for perfection any more than most dieters are following their diet 100 percent. It’s enough to be workably suboptimal, a tolerant, harmless sinner and a generally good guy.[7]

Goodness is not under attack today, in the sense of a public distaste for goodness and a rush to what is evil. The idea of good is appreciated. Rather, there is genuine disagreement over what is good and whether there can be common agreement. Said another way, the notion of good is now fluid and dynamic, needing reassessment in new situations.

The Pebble in the Goodness Shoe

There may be many reasons why traditional notions of goodness are challenged today, but at root there is a pebble in the goodness shoe that makes walking difficult. This pebble is the idea of paired or binary opposites, like good/bad, right/wrong, just/unjust. There is nothing new in pairing such terms. In 1916, Ferdinand de Saussure claimed language is structured using opposites, thus love implies hate, sick implies healthy, and hot implies cold.[8] For language to have meaning, concepts must have complementary partners. However, there is something fresh in thinking that one cannot discuss one of these terms without the other being raised, most often unintentionally. Binary opposites are any set of terms taken to have opposite meanings. That is their nature: They cannot be separated and one raises the other. One affects how the other speaks, often undermining what is said. This pebble has made it necessary for preachers to alter their gait when talking about goodness. Because this pebble is not going away, it is important that we learn how to walk with it. If we do not realize that language has changed, we will persist in using it in ways that may not work effectively anymore. We may be like the person trying to communicate with a foreigner and who merely speaks louder. Something else is needed.

Saussure spoke about language. Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Linda Hutcheon, and other post-structuralists took his idea and applied it to social theory. The conversation spread beyond how words work to how some people use power in society. They used Saussure’s idea of opposites to challenge the status quo. Western cultures tend to view binaries in hierarchical fashion. For instance, male/female is a binary. In culture, male was valued over female to the political advantage of men in power. Derrida argues that the privileging of one term that is “present” implies negating or marginalizing the other term that is “absent.” Any individual speaker is likely to favor one term over another in a binary system, and this hierarchy is embedded within speech, betraying a speaker’s biases and assumptions. These binaries can be identified and attacked in a process that has become widely known as deconstruction. A man might preach about the equality of men and women, yet tell stories only of men. His sermon might therefore be deconstructed as devaluing of women and making them invisible. Language works in that deconstructing way because binary oppositions and the hierarchies they represent are unstable; thus they can be toppled.

Preachers who are unaware how language works can fall into traps of their own making. To help counter the possibility of undermining one’s own argument, one can use what we might call a goodness index. In sermon composition ask, What binaries am I invoking that might speak to sensitive social issues? Female/male may be obvious, but what about rich/poor—do I unintentionally privilege rich people over poor in my stories? Or with well/ sick, do I presume that sickness is only the possession of those who do not appear well, or that people judged by others to be sick might not be more well than others in some ways? Or with disability/ability, do I presume to label some people as disabled and allow that to be the sum of their identity, in spite of many amazing abilities and gifts they possess?

Binary opposites are at the heart of the deconstructive process. By focusing on the marginalized or invisible term(s), one can deconstruct the power of the privileged term(s) and effect social change. In a novel, privileged rich people might be presented as good, but when that novel is examined for what it says about the poor, those same characters might start to appear in a different light.

In addition to binary opposites carrying hidden biases, a second problem with binary opposites is that they can imply only two choices, that a problem or situation is reducible to this or that, when in fact other possibilities exist. Preachers are particularly vulnerable to presenting false alternatives, partly because of the lingering modernist influence, and perhaps also because sermons must communicate a lot in a short time, so preachers take short cuts. We may say things like, “you must do this to be good” or “this is good and that is bad,” as though there are no variables in between. When listeners raise questions about such use of binaries, the preacher’s authority, power, and its legitimation are put in the spotlight. On the other hand, those who have been silenced may begin to find voice. Preachers can try to avoid either/or and instead look for positive ways to empower people, like other possible perspectives, circumstances, or stories that suggest a range of possibilities for faithful living, not just this or that.

We can never get rid of binary opposites. Even if we claim that the other pole is not present, the claim makes it visible. Opposites exist in what Derrida called a “trace” of memory that we might compare to an object’s shadow. This “trace” makes meaning possible because it is always present and says “not this.” As Derrida says, “The trace is in fact the absolute origin of sense in general.”[9] He immediately adds, in his deconstructive manner, “Which amounts to saying once again that there is no absolute origin of sense in general.”[10]

All of this might seem abstract and far removed from preaching, but the basic notions of deconstruction arose out of painful lived experience for Derrida. He grew up in Algeria in the 1930s when there was much local Islamic resistance to French colonists. As the child of French Jews he experienced racism and violence. Bigotry toward foreigners was accepted as “good.” Deconstruction became an essential way for Derrida to survive. He began to subvert the common views. He believed that any single political position could become oppressive and the only escape was to keep meaning destabilized and in play. Closed systems of meaning are “totalizing” or totalitarian in suppressing counter examples. Unity is dangerous.

As a matter of interest, Derrida’s problem with metaphysics and Christianity is that it tries to remove the “trace,” to suppress countering polarities in the name of God.[11] Christianity represents for him a singularity, a totality, a “presence,” a unity, a danger, and as one critic said on his behalf, it is “killing in the name of progress, mutilating on account of knowing the will of God better than others, etc.”[12]

Still, Derrida said of himself that he was in “constant prayer.” On the one hand, he said he was like a child who prays to a God who is like his own father, a strict, stern judge, but fair, and to a God who is also like his mother, always ready to declare him innocent (note the father/mother binary). On the other hand, he also prayed as an adult (note the child/adult binary), a philosopher asking critical questions like, to whom do you pray, for whom, and why?[13] He described both believer and nonbeliever (another binary) in himself as necessary because the person who is only a believer is not a believer. To believe one must also have serious doubts, be an atheist or at least be open to the possibility, otherwise faith is not faith.[14] For Derrida, the most one can do is to be open to the divine, and one does that best by subverting those powers that would reign.

Theopoetry and Goodness

We speak in this piece less about the nature of goodness than about the conditions needed to speak about goodness. Here are some positive suggestions concerning goodness and the pulpit. They are not just guidelines for preachers; they also are guidelines for our people, topics for discussion in sermons.

Be Invitational and Open to Other Meanings and Perspectives

If we say that a Bible text means only this, or that the cross means only one thing, we stop conversation with those for whom the meaning differs or is uncertain. Use phrases like: “from my perspective,” “one way of thinking,” “you may come at this differently.” The same thing is true with controversial issues. Even if it seems like only one position is possible it does not make it so for others. There are always other perspectives. No one can claim a corner on truth. Meaning changes with context. Language is fragile. No matter how nuanced our expression, we cannot cement the meanings even of our own sermon. Misinterpretation is always possible—or perhaps nowadays misinterpretation does not exist, only differing interpretations, since intended meaning is not fully controlled. We cannot remove from our language deconstructive traces that contradict or undermine what we say. Of course preachers have always known that their own meanings are not the only ones that matter; there are meanings that the Holy Spirit intends.

We preach single-meaning address when we preach the faith as a closed system of thought. Listeners experience themselves either in or out, “do you believe it or not?” To avoid this as much as possible, solid teaching is needed that presents more than one way to view things. Still, bold speech or testimony is needed (heard as “this is what I believe”), but not as a means to close discussion (heard as “this is what you must believe”), and not as a continuous form of address in the sermon (heard as “what I say is all that matters”). Proclamation is also needed, first- to second-person address on behalf of God (heard as God saying, “I love you, I empower you, justice is mine”). The sermon can build toward it.[14]

Honor Differences

Related to the problem of single-meaning address is refusal to recognize differences. Even as words differ, opinions differ. Any difference is what Derrida called différance, a deliberately misspelled French word (différence) that employs a double entendre, differ and defer (an example of a word depending for meaning on a hypothetical endless string of other words).[15] In any congregation of believers, individuals differ in how they articulate faith. There is no end to differences. Even in churches where creeds are recited, not all people understand them the same way. Avoid (or be very careful using) generalizations like, “teenagers think,” “women do this,” “men love to . . .”. Expectations of undue sameness can make some listeners feel invisible, unknown.

In spite of differences, realistically a preacher finally has to land somewhere and invite people to act in faithful ways. One cannot continually explore differences and defer meaning to another Sunday. Still, there is a way to speak of good actions so that they do not seem like closure, or finalized meaning. Invite people to act in humility, drawing on faith and the wisdom of the community, even if they cannot have absolute certainty about being right or avoiding sin.

Speak of Goodness in Relation to God

Goodness is not buttoned-down like math. Theopoetry questions, rethinks, and reimagines, allows for and honors other perspectives, traces clear paths of thought and image, and gives permission for listeners to have other perspectives. Preachers need not forfeit what they believe is good and true; they need only forfeit single-meaning address, uncritically repeating established modern formulas of long-established truth.

In speaking of good, use humility and be hospitable to others. The old preaching motto is “preach for something not against something.” We cannot fully know what is good and we discern goodness best in dialogue and relationship to others. God’s law, at least as we know and express it, does not cover all the variables of human experience. Laws offer standards, reliable indicators, and as George Lindbeck argued, grammar for good behavior.[16] Some preachers may insist that goodness is a divinely given system of abstract principles. Still, to invoke them as such has the effect on many people of shutting down conversation and foreclosing on their possible transformation.

Humility is also needed in relation to God. Goodness is best sought within a relationship with God and a community of faith. Goodness is not a system of abstract principles, and God is not static. We experience goodness because God continues to act in love toward all creation. In Genesis, no day was devoted to create goodness presumably because goodness resided first in God. Jesus said, “No one is good except the one God” (Luke 18:19). To know what is good is to know God, and we do this through prayer, scripture, worship, community, action, silence. Many ethicists tend to speak of goodness as though God is not involved, yet that distorts the reality many perceive in faith. When telling stories of someone good in a sermon, do not leave it there. Name God as the one who empowers that goodness. I cannot expect to be as good as a Mother Teresa, but I can expect to be good if I know that the same God who empowered her empowers me for my ministries. The problem with sermon determination of goodness according to law is that the person is portrayed as good or bad, when all people are a mixture of both, at least as I understand things. In determining goodness more on a case-by-case basis than on the basis of law, looking for goodness even in the midst of sin, there may be more opportunity to praise God, and more hope for the everyday person.

Scholars say that goodness and justice are social constructs. No doubt they are, but they may also be divine. Goodness and justice are necessary for societies to function; humans long for them when they are absent.[17] Still, goodness and ethical rules, like justice and the legal system, are not always to be equated. Some preachers might agree with Derrida that justice exists as a kind of trace or shadow of the legal system; we only glimpse it and do not have it in uncorrupted form. Notions of goodness and justice are necessarily deferred; they exist as a kind of promise that cannot be fully known.

Perhaps, as with beauty 1 and beauty 2, we need for our own purposes here to have two levels of goodness, goodness 1 being a world perspective and goodness 2 being goodness in relationship to God. Goodness 2 is not just the old fixed universal ideas of goodness; it is goodness as a loving ideal that we discern in glimpses and is illusive if we try to grasp it too tightly. Good is fluid, poetic, in motion. Goodness is God.

Use Deconstruction as a Source of Questions and New Perspectives

Encourage people to not rush to judgment concerning contemporary attitudes. They represent differing paradigms of thought influenced by the modern. Shyh-Jen Fuh of National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan says of deconstruction that it “is simultaneously ethical and non-ethical, exceeding incessantly the boundary of the ethical.”[18] It treats knowledge of goodness as being always beyond our full grasp. “Thus we cannot say that deconstruction is ethically ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ What it puts in question is precisely this conviction of and desire for a permanent truth.”[19] Truth needs to be negotiated, thought through for the specific context.

The danger is that ethics can become totalizing, or as we might more commonly say, whatever is politically correct takes over everything. The comedy TV series The Office often found much humor in the totalizing methods of Michael, the boss. He would try to establish some new rule to improve office morale, like casual Fridays that others in the office thought he initiated in order to show off his “fun jeans” that he regularly had dry cleaned. Ethics can become “a new transcendental absolute, the ethic now so vehemently demanded testifies to a moralizing tendency that turns doxa into dogma: all discourses are obliged to dogmatically conform to the language of the ethical, that is, of a still-undefined ethics.”[20]

Troy Jollimore in education has a vision of what ethics can be in this new age: “We might one day teach ourselves to stop looking at morality as an abstract and isolated set of requirements and demands—an external authority that stands apart from and sets limits on human existence—and see it instead as a set of commitments, enthusiasms, and passions that are woven into the very fabric of our lives.”[21] Whether or not we agree with such proposals, they offer important alternatives that may ultimately help the church find even better ones in outreach to others.

Use Deconstruction to Assist Creativity

Deconstruction can assist sermon creativity. Every new liberation movement in the last half century has used deconstruction creatively as a way to empower those who have been silenced or marginalized. Deconstruction happens when terms are critically analyzed and found to contain contradictions. John McClure says that preaching insists on “the glory of the Infinite” and necessarily deconstructs reason, preventing it from contributing to human suffering.[22] Postcolonial criticism, third-wave feminism, race and ethnicity theory, gender studies, and so forth all use deconstruction as a means to undermine established authority, maintain discourse, mark differences, and avoid ultimate or fixed decisions. Derrida might not disagree with a play on words with de construction (= of construction) to refer to new meanings deconstruction positively generates. Deconstruction has a creative side in opening up possibilities not formerly seen, and in reducing the power of fixed systems that need change. One scholar says, “Derrida is useful both negatively, to facilitate an internal vigilance within Christian discourse . . . and positively . . . as the theological disrupts the secular, the immanent orders of the self-grounded.”[23]

Avoid Singular Embrace of Deconstruction

At some point the postmodern denial of transcendence (i.e., no meaning comes from outside human language) itself becomes a totalizing claim. Phil Snider has done about as much as anyone might in adapting Derrida to the pulpit in his book, Preaching after God.[24] The danger in such a project is loss of much of the biblical story and language. Preachers who have followed that route have more often than not ended up articulating a faith that seems to negate much biblical witness and has little room for a God who acts, or for Jesus Christ. Just as logic cannot prove faith, reason and deconstruction cannot disprove it.

The modern era believed that God could be made to conform to tight categories of human reason. Derrida argued that that is what Christians have often done, but even he would avoid totalizing claims. He did not say “all Christians” do this or that the church “everywhere” does this “all of the time.” Deconstruction gives essential understandings about language, but these too are fragmentary. Its conclusions need to be deconstructed in a never-ending process. Thus there is ample room for theopoetry, for the playfulness of its symbols, signs, metaphors, and images, for its manner of speech that invites participation and disagreement, and for the God it offers the world.


Excerpted from Preaching as Poetry: Beauty, Goodness, and Truth in Every Sermon by Paul Scott Wilson. Copyright © 2014 Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

[1] Clark M. Williamson, “Proper 8 [13],” Abingdon Theological Companion to the Lectionary, Preaching Year B (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2014), 203.

[2]Gene Weingarten, “Pearls before Breakfast: Can One of the Nation’s Great Musicians Cut through the Fog of a D.C. Rush Hour?” Washington Post (Sunday, April 8, 2007), accessed on March 20, 2009, dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

[3] Stanley G. Clarke and Evan Simpson, “Introduction: The Primacy of Moral Practice,” in Anti-Theory in Ethics and Moral Conservatism, eds. Stanley G. Clark and Evan Simpson (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), 1.

[4] “Hermeneutics seems to me to be animated by this double motivation: willingness to suspect, willingness to listen; vow of rigor, vow of obedience.” Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (New Haven: Yale Univer- sity Press, 1970), 27.

[5] Howard Gardner, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Educating for the Virtues in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Basic Books, 2011)98.

[6] Ibid., 98.

[7] David Brooks, “The Moral Diet,” in New York Times (June 7, 2012), accessed on June 7, 2013, moral-diet.html?_r=1&ref=global-home.

[8] Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, eds. Perry Meisel and Haun Saussy, trans. Wade Baskin (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

[9] Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1976 [French, 1967]), 65.

[10] Ibid., 65.

[11] Ibid., 71.

[12] Jack Reynolds, “Jacques Derrida (1930–2004),” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource, Section 6b, accessed on June 11, 2013, He cites Derrida in “Psyche: Inventions of the Other” in Reading De Man Reading, eds. Waters and Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 60.

[13] Jacques Derrida, “Derrida on Prayer, Part 2,” Interview at a conference entitled Derrida and Religion: Other Testaments, University of Toronto, Toronto (November 23–26, 2002), accessed on June 13, 2013, /watch?v=MG_nyd45czM.

[14] For the importance of preaching as teaching, testimony, and proclamation, see Paul Scott Wilson, Setting Words on Fire: Putting God at the Center of the Sermon (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008).

[15] “The activity or productivity connoted by the idea of différance refers to the generative movement in the play of differences. The latter are neither fallen from the sky nor inscribed once and for all in a closed system, a static structure that a synchronic and taxonomic operation could exhaust. Differences are the effects of transformations, and from this vantage the theme of différance is incompatible with the static, synchronic, taxonomic, ahistoric motifs in the concept of structure.” Jacques Derrida, “Interview with Julia Kristeva” in Positions, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 29. See also Derrida, Grammatology, 23, 63.

[16] See George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1984).

[17] See Jacques Derrida, Acts of Religion (New York: Routledge, 2002), 243.

[18] Shyh-Jen Fuh, “Derrida and the Problem of Ethics,” Concentric: Studies in English Literature and Linguistics 29, no. 1 (January 2003): 1.

[19] Ibid., 19.

[20] Ibid., 20.

[21] Troy Jollimore, “Godless but Good,” Aeon Magazine, a digital magazine published February 18, 2013, accessed on February 18, 2013, http://www.aeon

[22] John McClure, Other-wise Preaching (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001), ix.

[23] Graham Ward, “Introduction to Walter Lowe,” in Graham Ward, ed., Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 491.

[24] Phil Snider, Preaching after God: Derrida, Caputo, and the Language of Postmodern Homiletics (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2012).

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