The Gift of the Other: Levinas, Derrida, and a Theology of Hospitality

By Andrew Shepherd

A timely treatise on how Christian hospitality can be practiced in an alienated world, developing a theology of self and community open to the ‘Other’.

ISBN: 9780227174845


We live in an age of global capitalism and terror. In a climate of consumption and fear, the unknown “Other” is regarded as a threat to our safety, a client to assist, or a competitor to be overcome in the struggle for scarce resources. And yet, the Christian Scriptures explicitly summon us to welcome strangers, to care for the widow and the orphan, and to build relationships with those distant from us. But how, in this world of hostility and commodification, do we practice hospitality? In The Gift of the Other, Andrew Shepherd engages deeply with the influential thought of French thinkers Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, and argues that a true vision of hospitality is ultimately found not in postmodern philosophies but in the Christian narrative. The book offers a compelling Trinitarian account of the God of hospitality – a God of communion who “makes room” for otherness, who overcomes the hostility of the world through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and who, through the work of the Spirit, is forming a new community: the Church – a people of welcome.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Andrew Shepherd is a researcher and teacher in theology and ethics. He is involved in A Rocha Aotearoa, New Zealand – a Christian conservation movement – and Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor. His previous publications include the volume Taking Rational Trouble Over the Mysteries: Reactions to Atheism (2013), co-edited with Nicola Hoggard Creegan.


Foreword by Steven Bouma-Prediger

Introduction: A World for All?

1. The Transcendence of the Other and Infinite Responsibility: The Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas
2. Unconditional Hospitality, the Gift of Deconstruction? The Philosophy of Jacques Derrida
3. Levinasian and Derridean Hospitality: Ethics beyond Ontology?
4. Gifted, Called, and Named: Trinitarian Personhood and an Ontology of Communion
     A tête à tête – Wrestling with the Other
5. “LOGOS”, “Sacrificial Substitute”, and “Eikon”: Christology and the Overcoming of Hostility
     A tête à tête – Seen by the Other
6. Dwelling in Christ and the In-Dwelling Other: Forming the Ecclesial and Eschatological Self
     A tête à tête – A Drink with the Other
7. Performing a Different Script: Participation in the Practice of Ecclesial Hospitality
     A tête à tête – Hosted by the Other

Conclusion: Grounded Hospitality: Community, Ecological Care, and Inter-Faith Relationships



Endorsements and Reviews

In a world of a wrongly supposed benign globalization on the one hand, and various forms of militant reactionary movements on the other, millions of people are on the move looking for a new homeland. But everywhere the politics of fear and exclusion seem to predominate. In a thoughtful, yet critical engagement with the philosophies of Levinas and Derrida, Andrew Shepherd argues that the fundamental human reality need not be an inevitable violence between the self and the other leading to a proliferation of ‘gated’ communities. Instead, a redeemed relationality expressed in ‘communion’ and radical hospitality is a normative possibility. This is so, because in the embrace of the radical Other, the Messiah, all social, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences have been absorbed and transcended to make way for the ‘community of the Beloved.’ This passionate book makes philosophical and theological discourse prophetic. May we all come under its spell!
Charles Ringma, Regent College, Vancouver, Asian Theological Seminary, Manila, and The University of Queensland, Brisbane

The Gift of the Other provides a salutary perspective on a world in which fear threatens to dominate our lives. Andrew Shepherd engages such well-known voices as Derrida and Levinas to offer a constructive theological account of how hospitality can be recovered through our engagement with the divine other. By the transformation of our fearful selves into ecclesial selves, we are freed to participate in God’s redeeming purposes.
Beth Newman, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia

Andrew Shepherd here extends discussion of the theme of hospitality through engagement with the work of Levinas and Derrida. While showing what may be learned from these two thinkers, Shepherd moves beyond them to develop an account of how the drama of redemptive transformation enacted in Christ gives rise to a new ecclesial personhood that opens us to the other. Shepherd’s account is as compelling as it is important in the contemporary global context.
Professor Murray Rae, University of Otago, New Zealand

It asserts a theology of hospitality that is well argued and enticing, and which avoids falling into sectarian or denominational ghettos along the way. For those who are wrestling with Derrida and Levinas but have eyes also for the cross and the resurrection, The Gift of the Other is a must read and an unavoidable contribution in a lively and important debate.
Nigel Zimmerman, in Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol 29, No 1