The public and political character of postliberal theology

Richard Dean Crane, Marquette University


This dissertation presents the argument that a postliberal theology is capable of communicating across cultural and linguistic boundaries in order to address social and political issues within a pluralistic society. Postliberals contend that theology's primary location and audience is the Christian community and that theology's proper starting point is the church's historic confession that God is known in Jesus Christ. Chapter one will present a general sketch of the primary characteristics and the central theological and methodological commitments of the postliberal theological project. The second chapter will survey postliberal criticisms of liberal and revisionist theologies and will describe the ways in which postliberals have defined themselves in opposition to these approaches. Chapter three will explore the ways in which postliberals have appealed to recent philosophical currents in defense of their theological method. If human knowledge and reasoning are radically contextual in character, they argue, an intratextual method of doing theology from within the epistemic context provided by the Christian community and tradition is not radically different in character from other academic disciplines or methods of inquiry. In the fourth chapter, I will respond to critics who charge that postliberals view the Christian community as a self-enclosed cultural and linguistic ghetto that can be inhabited, as it were, in isolation from the larger cultures in which the Christian faith is practiced. It will be pointed out that postliberals have displayed the ability to interact with perspectives external to the Christian religion and to engage in conversations across cultural and linguistic boundaries. In the final chapter, a constructive proposal will be presented. In the first section of the chapter, it will be argued that resources are present within Hans Frei's theological reflections for the development of an ethic of ecclesial discipleship that is supportive of passionate Christian concern for and involvement with struggles for justice, peace, and human well-being within the political arena. In the second section, the case will be made that the postliberal insistence that theology speak with a distinctively Christian voice is no barrier to participation in public conversation about matters of social and political issues. In the final section, I will explore the implications of two postliberal emphases which appear, at first glance, to be detrimental rather than beneficial to a theology which hopes to contribute to social transformation. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Recommended Citation

Crane, Richard Dean, "The public and political character of postliberal theology" (2000). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9977727.