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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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Ricoeur’s project is an elaborate search for identity and self-understanding through the medium of texts. In his thought, the self stands inseparably linked with narrative. Identity emerges from narrative through a creative process of interpretation. This interpretive process opens up the world of the text and uncovers the “textual” form of reality. It also elicits from the text new possibilities of human being in the world, set against a horizon of narrative hope. The reality that comes in this way through language redescribes human existence and reorganizes the shape of life by stretching it temporally toward the future. Here a self comes to understand itself in terms of its total possibility, so that a reshaped identity emerges in the present against the horizon created by the text.

This book presupposes agreement with several theologians that contemporary Christian theology1 must look for new ways to appropriate the biblical text and to address the questions of human existence and identity. I argue that Ricoeur’s philosophical project, consisting of his philosophical anthropology, narrative theory, hermeneutic philosophy and linguistic theories, can be an effective conversation partner with Christian theology. His philosophical project can provide insights to sharpen the methods of theological reflection. Engaging Ricoeur as a dialogue partner can help theology to appropriate the biblical text in a creative way, and to formulate a theoretical framework for understanding the relation between text ← 1 | 2 → and self. The result is a theology which addresses an enlarged sense of identity in...

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