Barber and the Naming of God – Review Excerpt

Excerpt from a forthcoming review in Mennonite Quarterly Review.

Daniel Colucciello Barber. Deleuze and the Naming of God: Post-Secularism and the Future of Immanence. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

The question of God is not one that can be answered with a yes or no. What is evoked in these questions “is the task of imaging a world, the task of world-making.” With God – or at least the name of God – “the stakes of world-making are pushed to the highest degree” (3). With this orientation Daniel Barber furthers his project of exploring the implications of Deleuzian immanence in the context of religion and secularism. Barber challenges the notion that the critical question is between religion and secularity by claiming that religion (as Christianity or defined by Christianity) and secularism work under the same supercessionist logic that is able to name and position all non-adherents; as Christianity re-positioned Judaism and eventually non-Christian or heretical others so to secularism re-positioned Christianity and religion in general.

. . .

Chapter 6 takes up the challenge of what it means to give attention to the present without escape to another world (whether religious or secular). One example is the life of Malcom X, born Malcom Little. Little did not change his name but marked the site of a name with an X. This X demanded attention to the present because of its constant reminder of a now inaccessible genealogy of his past, his marking under the Christian colonial naming in the present, and his refusal of effacing the present by taking on some eschatological future name. The X remained and resisted the present, opening new possibilities. Barber concludes the chapter with a section called The Fabulation of Icons. This section returns us to the opening comments regarding imagination, politics, and the naming of God. At some point all these elements converge on particular types of story-telling. We are told a story that the question of God can be answered with a yes or no but this and other stories keep us from asking the question of yes or no with regards to capitalism, nationalism, and other ideologies. In the face of these competing imaginations Barber proposes the act of fabulation which “names the capacity to tell a story that outstrips the criteria that would decide on its truth or falsity.” (200) A fable takes the materials of the present and creates an account that refuses the present criteria of truth or falsity and so opens a space for the new. These accounts come most clearly from a place of suffering because suffering demands attention to the present but is itself already outside the discourses of truth (inasmuch as suffering remains senseless).



4 thoughts on “Barber and the Naming of God – Review Excerpt

  1. Given his previous publications, it should be no surprise that Daniel Barber, erudite and ingenious, is becoming an increasingly strong contributor to the advancement of Deluzian studies (thanks, in part, to his inclusion of wider than usual original sources), both philosophically (secular) and theologically (sacred).

    He has not only delivered in this new publication refreshing explications on most key concepts of Deleuze (if you are not fully clear about D&R, you will enjoy this), but also has identified key theologically compatible thinkers, including refreshingly Adorno, and Yoder. Finally a crack has been opened via Deleuze to reveal a theology suitable for the 21st Century (although, Whitehead and Process Theology are previous pioneers, but perhaps not as comprehensively).

    Daniel only angered me twice–in the first chapter when I didn’t know what he was up to, and then the final chapter when I did know (but that is for later).

    In the Introduction, we get Daniel’s plan: to address the idea that “the act of imagining God–or of naming God, that is, theology–is brought into relation with the act of imagining and making the world.” (p. 2). Daniel asserts that “God names the value of values, or the value in terms of which the world is evaluated.” (p. 3). It is in the concept of immanence, the imagining and making of the world, versus the concept of transcendence, the abstracting and denial of the world, that Daniel makes the Deluzian appeal: “a discourse of the new that is proper to immanence should not be aligned with any project of secularization (much less with any project of Christianization)” (p. 9). Daniel addresses Christianity as a representative example of religion rather than as a privileged belief in order to contrast religion with the secular, each in contrast with Deleuze.

    Chapter One is an examination of immanence and difference, tracing how they emerge in Heidegger, and become further developed by Derrida, but only become resolved by Deleuze’s differential immanence–a very informative prehistory.

    Chapter Two (The Difference that Immanence Makes) explores Deleuze’s immanence, especially because it is differential, and always in need of re-expression, a central term in Daniel’s project.

    Chapter Three (Stuck in the Middle) is delimited to examining Christian theology’s “analogy of being (where analogy refers to . . . the transcendent)”, primarily via Hart and Milbank who stand against difference and immanence. Daniel argues that their critique is invalid and that they reject the contributions that “suffering and discord make to an account of immanent creation.”

    Chapter Four (Yoder: From the Particular to the Divine) is where it gets most interesting, raising the concern of mediation between the divine and the world, “the givenness of thisworldly and the exteriority of the otherworldly, ” and the need to “understand mediation within immanence” as a break with the present and re-expression of the present.

    Chapter Five (Adorno: A Metaphilosophy of Immanence) deals with what Daniel ascribes failure to Deleuze’s inability to “conceive the relationship wetween the unconditioned nature of the future and the conditioned nature of the present. He thus turns to what he calls metaphilosophy via shame, “suffering, depression, wretchedness and senselessness,” but he argues this to “resist the present’s tendency to continue into the future,” the negative sense of time which is Chronos (versus Aion).

    Chapter Six (Icons of Immanence) begins with the concept of immanent belief (versus transcendent belief), the affection of dissatisfaction precluding any reconciliation with the given. This is where Daniel goes off the rails and into the ditch regarding Deleuze, claiming the necessity of “Icons of Immanence . . . produced by the re-expression of differential intensity . . . having now passed through a dissatisfaction that is utopic [a valuable term, and well developed] . . . and that remains senseless [also a well-developed valuable term] . . . and in this way made real [oops].”

    I suggest that Daniel is wholly on target except for his concept of icon (perhaps a minor issue), which reflects his failure to fully embrace Deluzian immanence, and marks a temporary setback to the transcendental which he stands against throughout his project. Hopefully he will see the incommensurability of the icon and crystalize his position.

    For a clear position on the significance of icon in Deleuze, see Iconoclastic Theology: Gilles Deleuze and the Secretion of Atheism (Plateaus – New Directions in Deleuze Studies) by F. LeRon Shults.


  2. I will admit that I was surprised by his use of ‘icon’ but I took it in keeping with his notion of fabulation which I read as defining his use of icon (though perhaps another term would have been better). It should also be clear that Barber is not interested in ‘adhering’ to Deleuze but in attending to immanence so in a few points they definitely part ways.
    I am hoping to get to the Shults text eventually.
    I agree that process thought lay some groundwork for how this sort of orientation could begin to be in conversation with theology and the church. I am certainly hoping to further that conversation.


    1. thanks for you response david. To quote Barbor: “The icon, then, is not a particular that participates i the unconditioned, it is a particular that creatively re-expresses or constructs immanence. Immanence involves a mediation between the conditioned and the unconditioned, but the aim of this mediation is to create–as a kind of fabulation–icons that produce immanence by giving reality to a different immanence, the only immanence there is” (p. 207).

      While his substantive meaning appears to focus on the immanent, on fabulation (fable, myth, an “autonomous project”)–which “names the capacity to tell a story that outstrips the criteria that would decide on its truth or falsity,” that which “produces a reality that gives the future a life of its own;” his connotative meaning appears to focus on the iconic, “thought products” (p 206). He says that “the immanence that belongs to the icon does not pre-exist the icon, it is instead produced by the icon; the icon expresses the power of the unconditioned in and as a particular thought-product.” What in the Deluzian world could anything that pre-exists immanence possibly be, except God, thought-product?

      For confirmation, “that an icon of immanence is not equivalent to Deleuze’s concept of the crystal, which renders the actual and the virtual indiscernible or immanent to one another.” (p. 206)

      “The icon . . . is not a particular . . . that creatively re-expresses or constructs immanence . . . the aim of this mediation is to create–as a kind of fabulation–icons that produce immanence” (p. 207).

      Daniel, do icons produce immanence, or does immanence produce icons?


  3. Immanence is only performed, correct? I am not sure of the conflict here. I don’t think there is a question of positioning that you raise here. Can you re-state or say more about your thought?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s