Towards a Theological Hermeneutic for Contexts of Change: Love in Liminality

Michelle Trebilcock

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Saint Augustine, the founder of Western theological hermeneutics, declared the double-love command of God and neighbour-as-self to be the key to Christian theology (On Christian Doctrine). Love is the heart of Christian theology, but love has a fluid range of meanings and its expressions are enmeshed within contextually specific forms. In an era of mass cultural change, as is currently the case in Western late-Capitalist cultures, the normative sociality of love is highly contested, complicating its function as a guide to Christian theology.This thesis develops a theological hermeneutic for contexts of change utilising liminality theory from the discipline of anthropology, in order that love might continue to be a concept that acts as a guide to Christian theology, even whilst it is in the midst of cultural transformation. Central to liminality theory is a movement of ''open-space''''a chaotic but creative opportunity where stable sociality falls away in order to be transformed into a new sociality, fit to express the complex relationship between the individual and the universal. By negotiating the cultural open-space via a spiritual open-space of contemplative prayer''an embrace of apophatic strategies for knowing without form and for the refinement of human wisdom''the theologian is equipped with the resources required to love in liminality. This can be translated into a theological method where dialectical propositions and practices are held as ''threshholds'' to be traversed into a ''liminal'' anti-structure of discourse. The ''contemplative-communitas'' present in liminal states of sociality, that is, a type of relating that emphasises direct and immediate engagement with a multiplicity of pre-systematised ''other/s,'' affects both an objective and a subjective transformation of theological knowledge.Re-examining Augustine''s theological hermeneutic of love with these resources in place, it is argued that if love is to be a guide for theology in contexts of cultural change, the conception of love itself must fall into liminality and be re-formed in the crucible of personal spiritual encounter with God-who-is-love.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Meyer, Ockert, Principal Supervisor
  • Thomson, Heather, Co-Supervisor
Award date16 Nov 2015
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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