Theology through the looking-glass : literary nonsense and the Christian imagination
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This project is an investigation into the character of the Christian imagination. It examines in depth three central aspects: paradox, anarchy and the childlike, acknowledging that within each category there is something of the unreasonable or nonrational. Rather than trying to iron out or explain away the logically problematic, the thesis explores the possibility that an idea can be contrary to rationality and yet be true and meaningful. It is demonstrated that a number of central tenets of the Christian doctrine require a faith that often goes beyond reason or does not exclusively identify with it. The study involves the systematic analysis of central stylistic features of literary nonsense using Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice stories as exemplar. The construction of a nonpejorative model of nonsense is then used to introduce analogous components of Christian theology with a particular focus on the doctrine of Salvation. Sparked by G. K. Chesterton’s description of the Fall as the condition of ‘being born upside-down’, soteriology is conceived of as a tospsy-turvy reorientation of the will and an imaginative attunement to the absurd. The project culminates in the setting-up of a nonsense theology by considering the practical and evangelical ramifications of associating Christian faith with nonsense literature; and conversely, the value of relating theological principles to the study of literary nonsense. Ultimately, the research suggests that faith is always a risk and that a strictly rational apologetic misrepresents the nature of Christian truth.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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