|dc.description.abstract||Broadly, this thesis examines the effect of Christian traditions on rationality. I offer
an account of the specific way that Christian traditions affect processes of reasoning and
supply the concepts that shape what counts as normal, good, and true.
More specifically, this thesis examines the importance of world Christianity for
philosophical theology. The global reception of Christianity has produced cases of biblical
interpretation that pose problems for some European hermeneutical theories. This thesis
considers those problems, and it asks questions about how they might reconfigure accounts of
the relationship between rationality and ‘orthodoxy’.
Hans-Georg Gadamer and his teacher Martin Heidegger respectively offered the ideas
of ‘consciousness affected by history’ and ‘thrownness’. These both attempt to account for a
single phenomenon: the effect of traditions on reasoning. These concepts acknowledge that
humans are always already within traditions, and they attempt to describe the specific way
that those traditions affect perceptions of the world, including how texts are understood.
In this work I examine two specific cases of Christian reading, first analyzing a
Bakongo community in central Africa, and then a Tamil bishop in southern India. Each case
is followed by an examination of the theoretical claims made by Gadamer and Heidegger
concerning the way traditions affect reason. The case studies expose problems in their
description of that relationship, and I attempt to revise their concepts in order to account for
the phenomena displayed in the case studies.
The case studies demonstrate a powerful relationship between overarching
commitments and the specific interpretive judgments or practices that become subordinated
to them. The posthumous followers of Simon Kimbangu (1887 – 1951) appeared
traditionally Christian in important respects, yet their recitation of the Nicene Creed, for
instance, was actually directed by a commitment to the divinity of Simon Kimbangu.
Conversely, the theology of A. J. Appasamy (1891 – 1975) embraced doctrines and practices
that appeared Hindu, but these were used to express Christian commitments.
I argue that traditions affect reason by providing an accumulation of commitments,
and I analyze these commitments using the categories of ‘superordinate’ and ‘subordinate’.
The dramatic interpretive habits revealed in the case studies are best indexed by accounting
for the relationship between these terms. In the global reception of Christianity, the effect of
superordinate commitments is not always obvious, but such directive commitments can
reorient large bodies of judgments or practices. They are vital to an account of the
relationship between rationality and ‘orthodoxy’.||en