A review of David Newheiser, Hope in a Secular Age: Deconstruction, Negative Theology and the Future of Faith (2021)
David Newheiser’s Hope in a Secular Age makes the case for an ethical discipline characterised by self-critical hope as a source for unpredictable transformation in secular politics. Against the view that hope, and especially religious hope, is illusory and unsustainable, Newheiser argues that a hope that acknowledges its uncertainty bears within it a promise for future transformation and sustains the urgent work of addressing present political injustices. Newheiser’s account of hope is developed on the basis of his reading of two thinkers, neither of whom are consistently read in a particularly hopeful register: Dionysius the Areopagite and Jacques Derrida. Thus, Newheiser also develops the argument for approaching both Dionysius and Derrida, first of all, in conversation with one another, and secondly, with an ear attuned to hopeful affirmation. In claiming that the two authors “clarify the character of hope,” the implicit claim is that hope itself is in need of revising – or deconstructing – if it is to bear any promise for ethics, secular politics, and the future of faith.
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