Theology usually appears to us to be dogmatic, judgmental, condescending, maybe therapeutic, or perhaps downright fantastical—but seldom enticing. Divine Enticement takes as its starting point that the meanings of theological concepts are not so much logical, truth-valued propositions—affirmative or negative—as they are provocations and evocations. Thus it argues for the seductiveness of both theology and its subject—for, in fact, infinite seduction and enticement as the very sense of theological query.
The divine name is one by which we are drawn toward the limits of thought, language, and flesh. The use of language in such conceptualization calls more than it designates. This is not a flaw or a result of vagueness or imprecision in theological language but rather marks the correspondence of such language to its subject: that which, outside of or at the limit of our thought, draws us as an enticement to desire, not least to intellectual desire. Central to the text is the strange semiotics of divine naming, as a call on that for which there cannot be a standard referent. The entanglement of sign and body, not least in interpretations of the Christian incarnation, both grounds and complicates the theological abstractions.
A number of traditional notions in Christian theology are reconceived here as enticements, modes of drawing the desires of both body and mind: faith as “thinking with assent”; sacraments as “visible words” read in community; ethics as responsiveness to beauty; prayer as the language of address; scripture as the story of meaning-making. All of these culminate in a sense of a call to and from the purely possible, the open space into which we can be enticed, within which we can be divinely enticing.
MacKendrick mines a Platonically-inflected Christian tradition to reimagine for today how to ask the question of God in an intertwining of memory, desire, and words that are both excessive and inadequate. Valentinus, Augustine, Nietzsche, and Chrétien are among the stunning array of conversation partners in this evocative staging of a poetic theology in which God is a coincidence of 'all names' and 'not nameable.' Divine Enticement elicits theology’s seductive potential in seductively elegant prose.
—Patricia Cox Miller
Once again, MacKendrick’s contemplative writing draws us, calls us, into a bottomlessly alluring enigma. Much too enticing, this text, for theology or philosophy proper—and yet students at the liveliest reaches of either must irresistibly respond. For with its gentle brilliance, it plumbs the deep unknowing from which any knowledge worth thinking emanates.
In the Republic, Plato’s Socrates calls for lovers of poetry to speak in prose about the benefits of poetic instruction and pleasure; this requires respect for tragedy, but not obsession with it. Karmen MacKendrick is one of those rare thinkers—too rare in a dispirited republic—who speaks the language that Socrates is calling for. In Divine Enticement, she does for theology what Anne Carson does for classics: she restores intrigue and eros to erudition.
The book takes up traditional theological topics such as prayer, sacraments, and Scripture, reading them in a way that explores not a 'fixed' meaning, but rather how these practices and texts allow God to call and shape people. . Recommended.
“Beautifully written and elegantly theorized. . ."
Drew Theological Seminary