(Re-)visions of transcendence : theological responses to the late-modern eclipse of transcendence in the thought of Robert W. Jenson and Alexander Schmemann
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This thesis investigates the significance of the Church's experience of transcendence in the theologies of Robert W. Jenson (b. 1930) and Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983). Both theologians emphasize the indispensable role of eschatology for Christian theology, but they offer strikingly different accounts of what that means. Following an introductory chapter, the first half of the thesis (chapters 2-4) clarifies the loss of transcendence by following Jenson's and Schmemann's respective theological diagnoses of the chief problems facing the Church in the late-modern West. Jenson argues that a long hidden error in the ontology of the doctrine of God is the underlying cause of the nihilism pervading Western culture. Schmemann perceives secularism as the pervasive cultural backdrop to Christian faith in the West, identifying the betrayal of the Orthodox Church's liturgical experience of the Kingdom of God as the chief culprit. By placing their critiques in dialog with one another I further trace the mutually diagnosed problem of the Church's debilitated eschatology to underlying problems in received ontologies of transcendence. The second half of the thesis (chapters 5-7) explores Jenson's and Schmemann's theological proposals for rehabilitating eschatology. Jenson revises the ontology of God to more adequately fit the God identified by the gospel. His narratival ontology enables him to conceptualize God's transcendence in terms of triune faithfulness through time rather than in metaphysical immunity to time. Schmemann retrieves a symbolic ontology in order to affirm the sacramentality of the world by which God's transcendence can be mystically experienced in the Church's liturgical worship. I argue that Jenson's theological rejection of timelessness rests upon historicist assumptions which Schmemann's eschatological theory has resources to withstand and that, furthermore, theology should preserve apophatic humility rooted in the aseity of God rather than historicize the doctrine of God as Jenson proposes.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Electronic copy restricted until 14th March 2017
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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