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Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God

Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God

Essays in Honor of Denys Turner

Edited by Eric Bugyis and David Newheiser

In the face of religious and cultural diversity, some doubt whether Christian faith remains possible today. Critics claim that religion is irrational and violent, and the loudest defenders of Christianity are equally strident. In response, Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God: Essays in Honor of Denys Turner explores the uncertainty essential to Christian commitment; it suggests that faith is moved by a desire for that which cannot be known.

This approach is inspired by the tradition of Christian apophatic theology, which argues that language cannot capture divine transcendence. From this perspective, contemporary debates over God’s existence represent a dead end: if God is not simply another object in the world, then faith begins not in abstract certainty but in a love that exceeds the limits of knowledge.

The essays engage classic Christian thought alongside literary and philosophical sources ranging from Pseudo-Dionysius and Dante to Karl Marx and Jacques Derrida. Building on the work of Denys Turner, they indicate that the boundary between atheism and Christian thought is productively blurry. Instead of settling the stale dispute over whether religion is rationally justified, their work suggests instead that Christian life is an ethical and political practice impassioned by a God who transcends understanding.

Contributors: Eric Bugyis, Katie Ann-Marie Bugyis, David Burrell, C.S.C., Oliver Davies, Terry Eagleton, John Hare, Karl Hefty, Robin Kirkpatrick, Karmen MacKendrick, Philip McCosker, Bernard McGinn, Vittorio Montemaggi, David Newheiser, Cyril O’Regan, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Denys Turner, Ludger Viefhues-Bailey, A. N. Williams

“Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God: Essays in Honor of Denys Turner is a testament to the range of Denys Turner’s influence and the varieties of modes of argumentation with which his work is conversant. The volume will be read with pleasure by scholars in the history of Christianity, particularly of Christian mysticism, Christian theologians, and philosophers of religion, as well as scholars across a range of subdisciplines." — Amy Hollywood, Elizabeth H. Monrad Professor of Christian Studies, Harvard Divinity School

“No scholar could wish for a finer tribute to his success as a teacher as this book provides. Students of Denys Turner, and experts in his field, come together in this volume to provide fascinating contributions to the theological and philosophical topics that have engaged him throughout his academic life. And, like Turner, they all show how thoughtfulness and argument can trump rhetoric.” — Brian Davies, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University

“Denys Turner is a rare intellectual witness to philosophies of love and justice from mysticism to marxism and beyond. This rich and engaging volume is fitting testament to his extraordinary influence on new generations of thinkers and scholars. Tackling such crucial questions as theodicy, divine eros, and the perennial struggle between faith and reason, philosophy and theology, the contributors shed new light on ancient problems. The exchange between Turner and Eagleton is a very special gem to be treasured.” — Richard Kearney, The Charles Seelig Professor in Philosophy, Boston College

“A darkly sparkling set of essays, diverse in discipline and in desire, each affirming some intense potentia of negative theology for contemporary conversation. That its stimulation of new exchanges between theism and atheism, cosmology and history, mysticism and Marxism, language and silence, will succeed seems assured by Turner’s concluding performance of an apophatic art of failure.” — Catherine Keller, The Theological School, Drew University

ISBN: 978-0-268-04888-4
480 pages
Publication Year: 2015

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Eric Bugyis is lecturer in religious studies at the University of Washington at Tacoma.

David Newheiser is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian Catholic University.

“This is the most distinguished collection of essays in honour of Denys Turner… [A] detailed and concentrated reading of the essays in this splendid collection should provide refreshment for considerable time to come.” — Theology

“Instead of settling the stale dispute over whether religion is rationally justified, their work suggests instead that Christian life is an ethical and political practice impassioned by a God who transcends understanding.” — Studies in Spirituality

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Edited by Dale M. Coulter and Amos Yong

Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God

Essays in Honor of Denys Turner


Edited by Eric Bugyis and David Newheiser

 Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God: Essays in Honor of Denys Turner
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

In the face of religious and cultural diversity, some doubt whether Christian faith remains possible today. Critics claim that religion is irrational and violent, and the loudest defenders of Christianity are equally strident. In response, Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God: Essays in Honor of Denys Turner explores the uncertainty essential to Christian commitment; it suggests that faith is moved by a desire for that which cannot be known.

This approach is inspired by the tradition of Christian apophatic theology, which argues that language cannot capture divine transcendence. From this perspective, contemporary debates over God’s existence represent a dead end: if God is not simply another object in the world, then faith begins not in abstract certainty but in a love that exceeds the limits of knowledge.

The essays engage classic Christian thought alongside literary and philosophical sources ranging from Pseudo-Dionysius and Dante to Karl Marx and Jacques Derrida. Building on the work of Denys Turner, they indicate that the boundary between atheism and Christian thought is productively blurry. Instead of settling the stale dispute over whether religion is rationally justified, their work suggests instead that Christian life is an ethical and political practice impassioned by a God who transcends understanding.

Contributors: Eric Bugyis, Katie Ann-Marie Bugyis, David Burrell, C.S.C., Oliver Davies, Terry Eagleton, John Hare, Karl Hefty, Robin Kirkpatrick, Karmen MacKendrick, Philip McCosker, Bernard McGinn, Vittorio Montemaggi, David Newheiser, Cyril O’Regan, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Denys Turner, Ludger Viefhues-Bailey, A. N. Williams

“Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God: Essays in Honor of Denys Turner is a testament to the range of Denys Turner’s influence and the varieties of modes of argumentation with which his work is conversant. The volume will be read with pleasure by scholars in the history of Christianity, particularly of Christian mysticism, Christian theologians, and philosophers of religion, as well as scholars across a range of subdisciplines." — Amy Hollywood, Elizabeth H. Monrad Professor of Christian Studies, Harvard Divinity School

“No scholar could wish for a finer tribute to his success as a teacher as this book provides. Students of Denys Turner, and experts in his field, come together in this volume to provide fascinating contributions to the theological and philosophical topics that have engaged him throughout his academic life. And, like Turner, they all show how thoughtfulness and argument can trump rhetoric.” — Brian Davies, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University

“Denys Turner is a rare intellectual witness to philosophies of love and justice from mysticism to marxism and beyond. This rich and engaging volume is fitting testament to his extraordinary influence on new generations of thinkers and scholars. Tackling such crucial questions as theodicy, divine eros, and the perennial struggle between faith and reason, philosophy and theology, the contributors shed new light on ancient problems. The exchange between Turner and Eagleton is a very special gem to be treasured.” — Richard Kearney, The Charles Seelig Professor in Philosophy, Boston College

“A darkly sparkling set of essays, diverse in discipline and in desire, each affirming some intense potentia of negative theology for contemporary conversation. That its stimulation of new exchanges between theism and atheism, cosmology and history, mysticism and Marxism, language and silence, will succeed seems assured by Turner’s concluding performance of an apophatic art of failure.” — Catherine Keller, The Theological School, Drew University

ISBN: 978-0-268-04888-4

480 pages

“This is the most distinguished collection of essays in honour of Denys Turner… [A] detailed and concentrated reading of the essays in this splendid collection should provide refreshment for considerable time to come.” — Theology

“Instead of settling the stale dispute over whether religion is rationally justified, their work suggests instead that Christian life is an ethical and political practice impassioned by a God who transcends understanding.” — Studies in Spirituality