Details of Thesis

Title “A Chinese Fish Thinks About Chinese Water”: The cultural engagement of Christian theology in the emerging Sino-Christian context
Author Lau, Timothy Lee Yii
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2008
Abstract Since the 1990s there has been a rising tide of discussion and debate on the nature and task of an emerging Sino-Christian theology. In 1995, Liu Xiaofeng responded by calling for a renewed attempt to reconstruct a Sino-Christian theology in close connection to its contemporary socio-cultural-political context. Though Liu’s project of “Cultural Christians” is problematic, his proposal regarding the future path of the Sino-Christian theology has opened up a number of specific issues needing clarification. These include the goals, methods, and form of Sino-Christian theology, and the way it might effectively engage the competing Chinese thought-systems informing culture and society. Using Liu’s proposal as a point of departure, this thesis intends to further explore the delicate relationship between culture and theology. This project finds Kathryn Tanner’s theory of culture particularly helpful in elaborating the inter-relationship of theology and culture, and the significance of cultural context in relation to theological construction in contemporary Sino-Christian context. Along with Tanner’s cultural approach to theology, our project refers to other theological methods such as that of Bernard Lonergan. In so doing it exposes the artificiality of making rigid divisions between theory and practice, reason and faith, and academic and church theology. Christian theology should not be viewed as limited to the interior life of the Church and the faithful, but is relevant in the academic and the wider cultural worlds. As a result, this thesis argues against the separation of Church theology and academic theology, while, at the same time, indicating the academic potential of Christian theology to vigorously engage other concerns as those represented in religious studies, cultural studies and other academic disciplines. Our approach suggests an answer to the question of whether a non-confessional Chinese scholar can contribute to Christian theology conceived of as a multi-faceted discipline involving the collaboration of various functional specialties. This thesis moves beyond the academic realm by considering the possibility of a public theology in the wider Sino-cultural context. It is argued that theology can appropriately enter into public debates on religious, cultural and ethical issues, while retaining its Christian distinctiveness. Christian theology needs not be so revised as to become publicly acceptable (David Tracy). Nor does it need to be modified in the light of some expected consensus on public issues (Richard Mouw and Sander Griffioen), or change its emphasis from Christian arguments to acceptable conclusions (Kathryn Tanner). Rather, we argue that Christian arguments and conclusions can be admitted into public debate in their own right. After establishing a theological and philosophical framework for Christian theology’s engagement with the wider culture, the public relevance of the biblical heart of Christian theology is demonstrated, following Philip Chia’s call for such a development. Here, our project appeals to Kevin Vanhoozer’s Canonical-linguistic approach. His elaboration of the dramatic nature of biblical theology proves to be a promising method for relating the canonical text to the contemporary cultural context. Finally, Jesus’ teaching on the Golden Rule and its application to the Sino-Christian context is used as an example of how theology can engage the Sino-cultural context effectively. This thesis has proposed a number of ways in which the emerging Sino-Christian theology might move forward to further development within the contemporary Chinese culture and society. This project has, we believe, contributed something to the foundation of a great building in construction, and clarified the design of what is needed as scholars, with their different viewpoints and talents, collaborate in the building of a new theological edifice on a new site. We hope, therefore, to have contributed to a great work in progress, and that our project can be part of a Sino-Christian theology in draft.
Thesis 01front.pdf  107KB
02whole.pdf 2,930KB

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