Narrative and Ideology

The Promises and Pitfalls of Postliberal Theology

In: Religion and Theology
Sam Houston Department of Religion, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA

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With its focus on “narrative” and theology as an ethnographic enterprise, the “postliberalism” of Hans W. Frei and George A. Lindbeck sought to incorporate insights from the linguistic turn in modern thought. However, it has faced criticisms ranging from sectarianism to concern with its overly static and homogeneous conceptions of “narrative” and “Christian community” that fail to recognize the church’s participation in many overlapping communities of discourse. In this essay, I explore such criticisms and their recognition of the varied narratives and discursive practices by which Christian communities are formed, in ways both recognized and unrecognized. I then examine the work of Ugandan Catholic theologian Emmanuel Katongole which gives due attention to “narrative” and ideology, and in doing so, demonstrates “postliberal” theology’s insights while also compensating for its weaknesses.

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