Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Hinze, Bradford E.

Second Advisor

Dabney, Lyle

Third Advisor

Del Colle, Ralph

Abstract

A lively theological debate in recent decades has been the dispute over theological method between "revisionist" and "narrativist" theologians. To explore and evaluate this debate I consider the work of "revisionist" theologian Edward Farley and of "narrativist" theologian James William McClendon, Jr. Farley's method calls, first, for an attempt to uncover faith realities that can be directly perceived, such as the faith community's efforts to remove ethnic boundaries, and, second, for an endeavor to examine how such realities indirectly demonstrate the existence of additional faith realities, such as the character of God. In contrast, McClendon's method calls for an attempt to ground doctrine in various sources, such as experience, community and the narrative of Christian tradition, but most especially in the narrative of Scripture, conceived of as the word of God.

An endeavor to address adequately their understandings of theological method requires not only a direct analysis of the methods themselves (set forth in chapters 1 and 2) but also an examination of how these methods may be applied in the construction of doctrine. Thus, (in chapters 3 and 4) I consider the manner in which Farley's and McClendon's methods inform their doctrines of God. Finally, (in chapter 5) in dialog with other commentaries on their work, I present an assessment and comparative evaluation of their theological methods and doctrines of God, demonstrating strengths and potential deficiencies in each case.

I conclude that there are some significant differences between Farley's and McClendon's projects. For instance, they vary from one another in how they conceive of the identity of Scripture. For Farley, the Bible is chiefly a text that the faith community has "made," and it is one means (among others) through which one can uncover the realities of faith; for McClendon, Scripture is primarily a text in which God speaks (through humans), and it is thus a text through which God can "find" us. Another related difference is in where they place authority as the basis for developing doctrine. Farley locates this authority chiefly with the contemporary ecclesial community, while McClendon places it primarily with the narrative of Scripture.

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