Date of Award
Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion
Miguel A. De La Torre, Ph.D.
Christian social ethics, Elizabeth Clark, Hauerwas, Historiography, Postmodern post-structuralism, Tertullian
Christian ethicists often ground their claims on historical precedent. Unfortunately, this precedent is "accessed" using historical theories and methods taken ad hoc from a wider socio-historical Geist or are derived from their confessional commitments to their theological traditions. The results, however, are often the same--a universal projection of socially located historical truths that exclude, silence or discredit the histories and memories of marginalized communities. Up to now there has been little work done systematically relating current trends in historiography to the historical analyses operative among Christian social ethicists. This dissertation directly addresses the outdated historical methodologies in use in Christian social ethics and outlines some of the consequences stemming therefrom. Adopting the postmodern post-structuralist position of historian Elizabeth Clark, ethicists must learn to read for the gaps, silences and aporias existent in historical texts as well as in the histories that represent them. In turn, these textual elements will illicit the text's socio-theological logic and political unconsciousness, thereby revealing the socially constructed nature of history and the ideological assumptions informing our understandings of the past. This reading strategy is applied to Stanley Hauerwas' narratological approach to history. While he rejects the historical methods of modern historians, he still bases his view of the Christian church on the master narrative, Constantinianism. He then uses this master narrative to derive meaning from Tertullian and his virtue of patience that accords less with Tertullian's textually discursive conditions and more with Hauerwas' own ideological presuppositions. In the end, this dissertation calls ethicists to a critical self-reflexive historiography equally capable of self-critique as it is at reading for the gaps and silences of history. The importance of a critical self-reflexive historiography for ethics will be found in our ability to construct new histories and formulate new ethical norms that more justly account for the discontinuities and differences characterizing our diverse conceptions society.
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Aaron D. Conley
Received from ProQuest
Conley, Aaron D., "We Are Who We Think We Were: Updating the Role of Historiography in Christian Ethics" (2011). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 787.