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Textual Linguistic Theology in Paul Ricœur


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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Christian theology is an enterprise based on texts. One of the key tasks of theology is to reclaim the life enclosed in the text as something that again becomes a liveable possibility. This will always require some kind of interpretive process. The text unfolds a possible life before the reader and the reader seeks to appropriate this world through interpretation. Theology is a discourse about life that uses interpretive methods not only to reflect on biblical texts but to show how the world of those texts can become the world of the reader too. In this book I have argued that Ricoeur’s philosophy provides a rigorous method for this kind of interpretive process. I have called this textual linguistic theology—a theology that is not simply a reflective science alone but rather a science that reflects upon life and its fundamental questions. Textual linguistic theology uses texts to show a way of life.

I have tried to show that such a textual linguistic theology is a fruitful method for Christian theology. It is rooted in narrative, grounded on ontological foundations, enlarged by linguistic possibilities, reshaped by metaphoric reality, reorganized by temporality, and oriented towards identity. Textual linguistic theology shaped in conversation with Ricoeur can help contemporary theology to appropriate biblical narratives as a source of selfhood, identity, and meaning.

Textual linguistic theology then centres on narrative for it establishes the narrative quality of both divine and human life. Narrative is the essence of...

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