Toward Engaging the Secular: Charles Taylor's Modern Social Imaginaries, Human Flourishing, and Theological Method
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Religion, Theological Studies PhD
John C. Peckham
Increasing secularization seems to fly in the face of Christian proposals for a Scripture-only principle for theology. The question that this dissertation explores is "How will Christian theology tackle the resulting church-society impasse in a way that is both faithful to Scripture and intelligible contemporaneously without appearing to privilege one aspect over the other?" That is, "What form should theological method take to efficaciously engage the secular?" This study suggests that the answer might lie in an innovative fusion of Scripture with borrowed concepts from secular culture. Thus, this dissertation responds to the problem of the need for robust, multidimensional theological methodology that seeks to enhance engagement with secular philosophy and culture. In the wake of cultural shifts and secular dynamics, this dissertation draws from Charles Taylor's articulation of modern social imaginaries and the accompanying theses of secularity. This study shows how, in Taylor's view, secularists have derived their self-understanding and ethos of economic human flourishing by way of continual shifts and interactions in perceptions of philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and theology (PAST). From this perspective, the dissertation demonstrates how the secular identity is entangled in economics (οἰκονόμος)—material aspects of human activity (wealth production).
Methodologically, utilizing a four-pronged approach, this dissertation examines these important concepts: first, by reading through lenses of selected genealogical dynamics of modern social imaginaries; secondly, via the contours of Charles Taylor's articulation of secularity; thirdly, via scriptural analyses of social imaginaries and human flourishing; and fourthly, by expanding their horizon of meaning by redeploying lessons, implications, and rereadings derived from applying a Spirit-directed Scripture-principle to propose a sketch of a multidimensional model toward secular engagement.
The chapters of this dissertation extend secular considerations beyond a social science perspective to the biblical canon allowing the new biblical lens to broaden the term "human flourishing" from economics to a more wholistic conception and producing new understandings of PAST and οἰκονόμος. Connecting the conversation about secularity, social imaginaries, and human flourishing with ongoing discussions about theological method, and articulating for rereadings, the dissertation concludes by proposing a three-dimensional model—secular, canonical, and stewardship (οἰκονόμος)—that appears as a potentially powerful response toward secular engagement. These tentative findings enhance the study's contributions: interdisciplinary, explicit multidimensionality, explicit application of human flourishing as key to secular engagement, and an explicitly practical aspect in the form of a reoriented theology of stewardship as one's way of living in the world. By focusing on these complementary dimensions, the study seeks to create a sense of how they work together and how they produce a rich interdisciplinary reservoir which is key to a multidimensional strategy toward secular engagement.
Taylor, Charles, 1931- ; Secularism; Theology--Methodology; Secularization (Theology); Church and the world
Daley, Jenifer A., "Toward Engaging the Secular: Charles Taylor's Modern Social Imaginaries, Human Flourishing, and Theological Method" (2019). Dissertations. 1690.
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