Critical theory is motivated by exigencies internal and external to academic disciplines. This essay discusses some of these motivations, in particular the need to address extreme divisions and polarized conflicts within the wider culture, especially in the domains of politics and religion. Theory can articulate the conditions of possibility for dialogue across radical difference. Such rhetorical theorizing is illustrated in the work of Jacques Derrida and Gaston Fessard, both concerned with political theology. In these two figures, with their different relations to religion and ontotheology, we see notable ways that critical theory emerged out of secular late modernity and its others. That emergence includes a break with earlier forms of philosophical reflection on how communication is accomplished across cultural differences and how the boundary between the secular and the religious is traversed, but the particular content of this transformation also demonstrates a political-theological continuity.