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Textual Linguistic Theology in Paul Ricœur

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Xavier Lakshmanan

In this work, Xavier Lakshmanan argues for a textual linguistic approach to Christian theology. The book takes its shape in conversation with Paul Ricœur’s philosophical thought, demonstrating how Ricœur’s hermeneutic philosophy can inform the way Christians interpret and appropriate biblical narratives without delimiting the potential of the text or eroding the distinctiveness of its language. The text can be appropriated in ways that address the fundamental questions of life. New meanings are constantly generated from the same text in order to describe and redescribe existence, and form human identity. The self is linked inseparably with narrative; every interpretation of narrative is at the same time a reinterpretation of the self and of its possibilities. In such interpretative processes, the reader interprets the text and the text interprets the reader at the same time through an interactive reading. Accordingly, the aim of interpreting the narratives is to open up the world of the text in front of the text and in front of the reader. Here what the text uncovers is the «textual» structure of existence itself. The reality that unfolds through language discloses the possibilities of existence, and in this way the text creates a future. A revised identity emerges against the horizon of that future to give a coherent and dynamic account of the self against a horizon of hope.
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1. The Nature of Life: Narrative

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In this chapter, I will explore Ricoeur’s theory of narrative that affirms human life is narrative that demands composition. His account of narrative aims to provide human life unity and meaning. Meaningful actions are those that can be composed into readable texts. And for Ricoeur, an inseparable relation between narrative and life can be established. He bases this relation upon the pre-narrative qualities of life. Appropriating Ricoeur, I will argue that Scripture is the narrative composition of divine-human revelatory experience into readable text. Through interpretation, the narratively composed experience can become a revelatory event for subsequent readers. Thus all meaningful experience requires narrative composition, and narratively composed experience needs interpretive processes if it is to be translated into the present.

Narrative Form of Life: A Debate

Narrative theorists agree on the importance of narrative in human life and culture. Nevertheless, they differ in their opinion as to the nature of this narrative role. What is the precise relationship between narrative and human experience? Is human life essentially narrative oriented? Or “is narrative extrinsic to human ← 11 | 12 → experience”? Philosophical, literary and theological narrative researchers establish this vital relation between narratives and human life. Louis Mink, Hayden White, Alasdair MacIntyre, David Carr and Paul Ricoeur have explored this extensively. They hold several ideas in common in analysing the nature of narrative. But it is interesting to observe Mink and White arguing for the extrinsic nature of the narrative form in human existence. Human experience...

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