Narrating identity : securing adequacy to tradition and experience
This thesis, an exercise in practical theology directed to the pastoral needs of the ecclesial community, develops critical practices intended to facilitate the renewal of Christian self-constitutive discourse. The thesis affirms the value of attention to the category of 'narrative' in systematic theology - 'narrative theology' - but seeks to demonstrate the decisiveness of attention to story in the sphere of applied theology. It is argued that there is a need for a thoroughgoing demonstration of the difference attention to story might make in the concrete existential situations confronting Christians. Thus, the thesis is concerned to develop a methodology that will facilitate the appropriation of a securely, authentically Christian self-understanding in the midst of the ordinary social world. This naturally involves definition of key terms in narratological theory. Having established how the narrative form functions in a self- constitutive manner in both self-directed and other-directed discourse, claims that narrative is either a necessary or inherently virtuous mode of discourse are rejected. The practice of story-telling - 'narration' - that grounds the narrative is identified as the truly significant thing. Specifically Christian self-constitutive narration which can ground authentically Christian narrative discourse is identified as maximally adequate to the intra- and extra-ecclesial experience of the subject or the community and to the inner intention and 'imaginative vocabulary' of the Christian tradition. However, it is argued that these basic criteria are overshadowed by the requirement that Christian narration be carried on in awareness of the approaching 'eschatological horizon'. That is, the decisively Christian belief that life is lived toward a specific eschatological fulfilment incompletely grasped in the present, yet with radical implications for existence 'here and now'. The particular implications of this for Christian narration are drawn out. Solutions to the problems apparently set up by these principles are offered such that a detailed 'discipline of narration' is developed, which is then tested in hypothetical 'real life' situations and examined in relation to wider questions of Christian belief and practice.