, Volume 69, Issue 1, pp 29-43
Date: 14 Mar 2010

Theology and narrative: the self, the novel, the Bible

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This paper critically evaluates the work of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre by comparing their understanding of the narrative structure of selfhood with paradigms derived from three other sources: Heidegger’s conception of human being as Dasein; Rowan Williams’ interpretation of Dostoevsky’s theology of narrative; and Kierkegaard’s project of reading the Old Testament narrative of Abraham and Isaac as part of the Christian God’s autobiography. These comparisons suggest that Taylor and MacIntyre’s own narratives of Western culture lack a certain, theologically required openness to a variety of specific ways in which both individuality and history resist understanding in narrative terms as much as they demand it.

The initial version of this essay was written to be delivered to the 3rd Graduate Conference on Continental Philosophy of Religion, held in Oxford in September 2009, on the general theme of ‘Narrating the Human Subject: Religion, Culture and the Politics of Emotion’. I would like to thank the conference organizers for inviting me to participate, and all those present whose questions pressed me to try to take my initial thoughts a step further.