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True to Tradition and True to the Moment: A Situational Hermeneutic and a Life-giving Notion of Christian Love

posted on 20.12.2016, 00:34 authored by Jillian Elizabeth Cox
This thesis investigates the association that is made by numerous conservative Lutheran theologians between the acceptance of homosexuality and the acceptance of secular culture in theology. These theologians argue that progressive theologies can only support homosexuality by relying on a secular understanding of the human person as an ‘autonomous individual.’ For them, the ideals of autonomy and individualism promote selfishness, and contradict the Christian notion of self-denying love, as taught in the Bible and later interpretive traditions. These theologians subsequently associate homosexuality with individualism, and depict queer people as self-preoccupied and incapable of loving the other. In doing so, the thesis suggests that they not only prescribe what it means to be human for a diverse group of queer people –  they also sustain a Christian model of the human person that leaves no room for the self-care all persons need. More particularly, in making these knowledge claims, the thesis proposes  that these theologians reveal a troubling understanding of divine authority and how it is to be interpreted by the theologian. In reducing the will of God to the material biblical text, they fail to place scriptural teachings in dialogue with the critical, scientific frameworks that characterise the present environment.  
       In response, this thesis puts forward a new and dynamic interpretation of the Apostle Paul’s teaching on love in 1 Corinthians, guided by Martin Luther’s emphasis on the living word of the gospel, and John D. Caputo and Catherine Keller’s postmodern theological hermeneutics. It models a situational hermeneutic that can guide future theologians to respond to the concerns of each historical moment in a way that is both faithful to biblical and theological traditions and responsive to the situation of present believing communities. In putting this hermeneutic into practice, the thesis proffers an empowering understanding of Christian love that seeks to reorient normative Christian teachings about what it means to be human in a post-secular environment. This model reconfigures love as mutually self- and other-enabling rather than self-denying, and detaches the charge of self-preoccupation from homosexuality. The thesis argues that this model of Christian love offers a more life-giving picture of what it might mean to be human as a self in relationship with others. Taking heed of Paul’s teaching that human knowledge of the divine ought to be informed by love, it argues that the best kind of theological hermeneutic will be guided by epistemological humility rather than certainty.


Principal supervisor

Peter Howard

Additional supervisor 1

Clare Monagle

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Philosophical, Historical and International Studies

Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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