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Title: 'Beyond the one and the many' : an exposition of the foundational commitments in the theology of Rowan Williams, with particular reference to religious pluralism
Author: Peebles, David Thomas
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 4183
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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In his paper, ‘The Finality of Christ’, Rowan Williams suggests that the fundamental commitments of Christian theology, as he understands them, do not fit easily with the standard responses Christians have made to interpreting religious diversity. Exclusivism, pluralism and inclusivism all offer varying and competing maps with which to locate Christianity in relation to other religious traditions. Williams I would suggest takes a somewhat different approach, one that maybe understood as ‘Trinitarian pluralism’, which offers a theological understanding of the nature of plurality in which Christianity is not a system competing with other systems for the same space. It is precisely because of the nature of the scandalous particularity of Jesus of Nazareth that such an understanding can be put forward. My suggestion is that each of the traditional types harbour an anxiety. Exclusivists are concerned to protect the priority of Gods revelation, which requires the sovereignty and freedom of God to be that which determines all our theology. Pluralists are anxious to give due seriousness and equality to the empirical fact of religious diversity, which Christian assertions of uniqueness and universalism seem to undermine. Inclusivists seek a balance between the two and their anxiety is to find ways in which Christ can be ‘found’ ontologically, and not just epistemologically. The main part of my thesis will use these anxieties to articulate what Williams refers to as fundamental commitments. This will require an exploration of Williams’ understanding of revelation in which he draws us constantly to the conflicts, ambiguities and contingent nature of history as being the only place for our speaking of revelation. As such he resists any revelation from either ‘above’ or ‘below’, which short-circuits our learning of that speech. I shall then explore the Christology of Rowan Williams, in which what I call the ‘primal wound of Christ’ disturbs our religious language so radically that the Church can only offer the world that which it does not possess. Pneumatology, as Williams understands it, is not a way of overcoming the problem of distance between God and the world, but is that which draws us and incorporates us into the relation between Jesus and the one he calls Father. The Spirit is not a vague and generalized divine presence but that which can only be seen in the faces of the endless variety of Christians as they respond in their own particularity to Christ. In other words we shall lay out the foundations of Williams’ Trinitarian grammar of God which shall then be brought together in the conclusion to offer a vision in which radical pluralism, which is the world, is not a threat or a problem, but an expression of the life of God who, as fundamental source of all that is, acts as both logos and spirit. The Church is essentially a space in which a new humanity is given freedom to take shape, but it is not and cannot be a space to be defended or expanded at the expense of others.
Supervisor: Quash, Jonathan Ben ; Janz, Paul Dwight Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available