Is Theism Compatible with OOO?

by C.S. Lammer-Heindel

Not obviously.

The object-oriented ontological (OOO) perspective developed by Levi Bryant, which in many respects I find appealing, is explicitly anti-theistic, at least vis-à-vis traditional theism. By this I mean OOO is not merely agnostic on the issue of God but, rather, it allegedly entails that there can be no being (to use the phrasing of the Book of Common Prayer) “[to] whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.” Moreover, the very spirit of OOO, as exemplified by its staunch anti-anthropocentrism, is presumably incompatible with (traditional) theism, which is subject to the Feuerbachian critique of being a disguised anthropology.

However, it seems to me that there might be a kind of object-oriented ontology and a kind of (non-traditional) theism which would be compatible. To even begin to constitute a unified and consistent theology, a speculative realist theology would have to affirm what John Caputo, following (in an ironic twist) St. Paul, has called “the weakness of God,” as well as Jürgen Moltmann’s related notion of “a suffering God.” (See this review article by Heltzel.)

I’ve just begun to explore Caputo’s weak theology of the event, and it has only been a few months since I’ve become interested in the possibility of a speculative realist theology. My research agenda for the coming months includes the following topics:

  • A critical examination of Levi Bryant’s anti-theistic arguments.
  • A careful reading of Caputo’s The Weakness of God, with special attention to how it might bear on Trinitarian thought (something which I have gathered has been underdeveloped).
  • Consideration of the anti-anthropocentrism of speculative realism, its rejection of correlationism, and whether a “weak theology” can meet the basic requirements of speculative realism.