Summary of Hunting the Divine Fox
Robert Capon begins Hunting the Divine Fox with a preface that summarizes his reasons for writing the book. He believes that in order to do proper theology one must strip down to the bare basics and start from there, realizing as they go the disadvantages of a human trying to figure out God. Capon also stresses that understanding these disadvantages lead to an acceptance of the questions that humankind cannot completely answer. The book goes back and analyzes theology from the beginning and from a different approach than most are used to hearing. "It plays, as it were, with the words and images of Scripture in order to bring the readers to cheerful but serious insights into both their limitations and their glories" (Capon 242).
The first chapter reveals the limitations of understanding God with a clever, and slightly odd, analogy. Capon compares a human being trying to understand God like an oyster trying to understand the movements and motives of a ballerina. Thinking about God and his Mystery is going to be confusing and most questions will be left unresolved, but that's the nature of the beast. Capon then takes the train of thought further when he illustrates the limitations of human communication and analogies. In chapter three he gives his perspective on proving God's existence; it's a waste of time. A theologian's work is to figure out "Not, Does God exist? Rather, What is he like?" (Capon 254). To key to discussing God is words. Have fun with the words, enjoy the discussion and enjoy the love of it. Capon does give a caution because words carry so much power: "not power enough to grasp things as they are, but power enough to wreck them as they stand" (Capon 263). Along with words humans use images to communicate broader and more complex ideas. A single image can give more insight than a whole paragraph, thus images are key to theology much in the same way Jesus used parables during his ministry.
Capon outlines one of the trickiest subjects of theology in chapter six; the will of God. Predetermined? What we must do? What if we don't find it? What if we mess up? All these questions are gracefully killed with the statement "God just wants us." God's will is to have an intimate relationship with us, the rest is "flying by the seat of our pants" (Capon 275). Like the will of God where the relationship is the primary focus, the bible is also about a relationship. The bible is not intended to give us what we need to know about God. "Theology is not, as the old manuals had it, "the science of God and things divine"; properly speaking, it is not about God but the mystery of God's relationship to the world" (Capon 277). This relationship is shown in His covenants to His people and the priesthood of all creation that praises Him.
Capon addresses the new, and more modern, setback to the work of the theologian; the computer. The computer is such a complex machine and we are equating human characteristics with the computer. Leveling the thinking of a computer to human thinking perverts the whole system. It makes us mad and sad that we are nothing more than machines, which is false. In chapter eleven Capon spends time honing the term soul, the essence of the soul and how it interacts with the physical body. He also spends some time reiterating the caution to spend time looking at the depth of words. When a theologian says something he suggests the phrase "whatever that means" to put words in their proper perspective.
In chapter 12 Capon gets into the topic of supersizing Jesus. Making him more than human, because the savior of the whole human race couldn't possibly be 100% human...right? Christianity likes to make Jesus the Superman in more ways than just the person of Jesus. In the next chapters he discusses how human logic not only distorts the humanness of Jesus, but lowers the deity of Jesus. The chapters Bookkeeping and Transacting reveal ways in which people limit what God can actually do. God is fully human and fully God, Christ and his work of salvation are not bound by time and space, nor can salvation be contained by logical, human rationale. Capon also emphasizes in chapter 16 and 17 that Christ's work cannot be reduced or diminished. God has accepted the whole world with no strings attached. "The church's temptation to welsh on the Mystery, to fake it, to reduce it to a plausibility, to equate it with morality, philosophy, or religion must be fought to the death" (Capon 337). Parallel to that the church cannot assume that it has some claim to Jesus that others to not. Capon's quote says it best; "So no faking of the signs, if you please, and no simplifying of the Mystery...Just the true church-the old leaky bucket, full of the water of life, from which we drink and never thirst again" (Capon 354). The human condition always assumes that we have to do something and often the church helps foster that false way of living; after all nothing is free...right? In chapter 18 Capon reminds the reader that forgiveness is not an equation, it is a state of being. "Maybe Baptism is not a transaction by which forgiveness is given in return for repentance, but rather a sacramental proclamation of the fact that we're always forgiven, always welcome home, and that we will never have to do anything to earn forgiveness" (Capon 359).
In the final chapter, Fireworks, Capon uses the analogy of four fireworks coming together in the sky. When the fireworks titled "Ark of the Covenant," "Promised Land," "Humanity of Jesus," and "New Jerusalem" all come together these four signs and promises become the new creation. "By the drawing of the Mystery, the world has passed from her lostness and found him whom her soul loves" (Capon 373).
The Author Robert Capon
Robert Capon was born in 1925, raised in New York and still lives there. He was a full-time Episcopalian priest in Port Jefferson, NY for 30 years. He wrote his first book in 1965, Bed and Board, and in 1977 he left ministry full-time so he could spend more time writing. So far he has authored 20 books and lives in Shelter Island, NY with his wife Valerie. Hunting the Divine Fox was published in 1985. He is also an avid cook and has written books on cooking. Capon also does food columns for "Newsday" and the "New York Times." This partially explains why his book Hunting the Divine Fox has so many cooking and seafood analogies in it.
One of Capon's key elements throughout the book and even displayed in the title is that theology should be fun, it should be a love, a passion. The title of the book The Romance of the Word: One Man's Love Affair with Theology speaks heavily about how Capon deals with a subject that is sometimes used as a weapon. After all, the Bible is the sword of the spirit and some theologians take that literally. Too many people use their understanding of God and use that to validate their point, and obviously shoot down another opinion. Capon does a fantastic job of keeping the discussion light and open. A good example is chapter 16, Faking. Members of any church body, and preachers, don't take it well when somebody comes along and compares their practices to being "fake." Capon however, does a nice job of directing the conversation to the church at large. The way he writes never focuses on ridiculing but simply thinking. Comedians can often talk about serious issues that most cannot bring up. He uses the same technique of lightheartedness to keep the conversation going when Capon presents many divisive issues.
Along the lines of keeping the reading light and humorous he uses so many, often ridiculous, analogies and references that people don't usually associate with theological terms. The "unlobstered lobster"...and some readers are asking, what? He also throws in so many food analogies, it is obvious to see that Capon is an avid cook. Those analogies and references are ideas that people from any profession can relate to, which fits well into his idea that every person is a priest. Much in the same way Jesus used parables to talk about heaven in a way the masses could understand. Capon has a finesse of comparison that gives so much more meaning to the words. The odd allusions also get the mind wandering in different directions, which adds new vigor to the conversation about God and His relationship. While adding some very nice and fresh perspectives these same analogies also have some confusion mixed in. Sometimes the analogies are just too odd. Some of his images are so random that, if the reader isn't familiar with the subject, it can be confusing and possibly misleading. Capon himself stresses the importance of analyzing and focusing on the details of words. Theology can be really messy if all the words being thrown around are undefined; that will only lead to more confusion. In some sense Capon does use brilliant analogies that can be taken many different ways, which detracts from their value and adds to it. Overall Capon is an excellent writer with novel ways of looking at old ideas. Often his presentation adds great meaning to the gospel message, and sometimes it confuses. The humor is, that was probably Capon's intention all along.