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Symbolism: A Systematic Theology of the Symbol

MOBLEY, JOSHUA,KENDALL (2020) Symbolism: A Systematic Theology of the Symbol. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis is a speculative systematic theology that attempts to provide a dogmatic outline for the recovery of a traditional theological practice and rationale. It arises from the problematic posed by Henri de Lubac. De Lubac sought to recover a mode of theology that he called “symbolism,” a patristic mode of thought that assumed a real unity-in-distinction between symbolized and symbol, sustaining a thoroughly sacramental vision. A symbol is a sign that mediates the presence of the symbolized, and “reading” symbols is a work of spiritual exegesis. Such reading involves understanding the symbol, encountering God in and through the symbol, and being transformed into a clearer symbol. Recovering such a theology, de Lubac thinks, offers a vision that can nurture forms of Christian life fit for the challenges of the present. Yet de Lubac is coy about how such a theology might be recovered. What would symbolism, systematically developed in a contemporary idiom, entail and accomplish? This thesis proposes an answer to this question. I take up de Lubac’s fragmentary reflections on symbolism and develop them systematically in order to provide a dogmatic outline for symbolism’s recovery. Beginning with God, I explore the ways the language of symbols can furnish an appropriate analogy for the Trinity. Father-Son-Spirit can be described as symbolized-symbol-symbolism; the Son is the symbol of the Father, and the Spirit is the personal agent of unity between symbol and symbolized. Creatures then participate analogically in these relations, so that symbolized-symbol-symbolism analogically corresponds to God-creation-church: creation is a symbol of God, and the church is symbolism, the unity of creation with creator. Symbolism, thus developed, resists modernity’s “ontotheological” temptation, refuses both a “Barthian” flattening of nature and a neo-Thomist reification of pure nature, and recovers a sense of theology as an ecclesial discipline of mystical reason.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Trinity, Christology, Pneumatology, Ressourcement, Henri de Lubac, Karl Rahner, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Sep 2020 11:13

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