Christian ethical implications of the presence of the Kingdom as God's performative action in the light of speech act theory

Cho, Anna (2017-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis engages some Christian ethical implications of the presence of the kingdom as God’s performative action by reconsidering the role of the linguistic character of the biblical text from the perspective of the Speech Act Theory (SAT). In SAT, Christian ethics is not to be viewed simply as relating to the norms of human behaviour or moral principles that are extrapolated from the Biblical text. Rather, the performance of ethics in SAT must be considered from the perspective of God’s performative action and intent (God’s self-involving activity by illocutionary force). In particular, this points to God’s speech act in daily Christian living. In other words, it is not only aimed at reconstructing the content, or meaning of the ethics of the kingdom in Scripture, but also aims at reconstructing the Christian life as the performance of the ethics of the kingdom by God’s performative action. These ethical implications result from God’s illocutionary action which creates the perlocutionary effect or action which is the perlocutionary ethical response (PER) in the believer. Namely, it constitutes what some would consider “the norms of Christian living” or “Christian ethics”. The PER is a perlocutionary action in Christian life, which is based upon the intention of God’s illocutionary force in the Bible, creates a specific responsibility for the contemporary Christian. She or he, is to live and act in accordance with the “Word of God”. By this, it is not only meant the words of scripture, or the communicative content of the Bible, but also the illocutionary effect in the Words and their communicative intent. The living Triune God is still communicating through Scripture. This communication is not only the relaying of past events or narratives. Rather it is communication in the present to fulfil God’s will and God’s kingdom among humanity and all creation. In SAT, the work of the Triune God, in terms of God’s total speech act F(p) in the Bible, can be seen as the ethical identity of the moral agent through God’s locutionary action. The ethical purpose of the rules of behaviour in Jesus’s illocutionary action as well as the ethical responsibility from the effect of the Holy Spirit’s perlocutionary action in communication are also important and need to be considered in Biblical ethics. In other words, in Scripture, the self-involving character of the speech act involves God’s deeper performative action. This produces additional meaning in the text for the contemporary reader/hearer in accordance with the illocutionary point that is constitutive of the person of faith (e.g., specific moral conduct within a social community). Thus, God’s self as a self-communicative act, continuously addresses God’s people through Scripture, and God (the speaker) reveals God’s self through Jesus (the Word) to those are illuminated by the Holy Spirit (reception). In this regard, the Holy Spirit participates in God’s self-involving activity in the lives of believers. The Holy Spirit initiates a change in the attitudes and minds of believers to God’s will, and empowers them to act in accordance with God’s will in their private and public lives (i.e., individually and socially). Accordingly, God’s speech act F(p) in the Bible represents God’s intention which is communicated through the biblical text for the Christian life as an intended perlocutionary action (ethical response). God’s illocutionary action and its energy (power) are continuously being echoed for the Christian life with illocutionary force by what God is communicating to believers. This communicative activity and intent invites Christians to performative action in response to the Word of God operating in their daily lives – and this should be particularly important when we face moral or ethical issues. The intended perlocutionary effect faced by the Christian through the illocutionary force and power of God’s communicative act requires us to respond properly (ethically) to the Word of God in the private and public domains (e.g., individual ethics and social ethics). Therefore, if we truly face the illocutionary point (intent) in God’s communication, we should perform perlocutionary responses in our lives that respond appropriately to moral and ethical issues, in a manner that is in keeping with the content, intention, and ethics of God’s kingdom.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek van die etiese gevolge van die koninkryk van God se teenwoordigheid deur, vanuit die perspektief van Spraakhandelingsteorie, die Bybelse teks te heroorweeg as ’n handeling van God. Vanuit ’n spraakhandelings-perspektief kan Christelike etiek nie beperk word tot norme vir menslike optrede of morele beginsels wat vanuit die Bybelse teks ontgin word nie. God se performatiewe handelinge en bedoelinge word as meer bepalend beskou (met ander woorde, die self-betrokkenheid van God se aktiwiteite en die illokusionêre krag van God se uitsprake). Vanuit hierdie veronderstelling, ontstaan die vraag na die rol van God se spraakhandelings in die alledaagse Christelike lewe. Met ander woorde, ’n spraakhandelings-perspektief is nie net gerig op die inhoud of die betekenis van die etiek van die koninkryk van God soos dit in die Skrif daargestel word nie; dit poog eerder om die Christelike lewe opnuut te beskou as die konkrete uitvoering – deur God se performatiewe handeling – van ’n Koninkryksetiek. Hierdie etiese gevolge vloei voort uit God se illokusionêre handelings wat ’n perlokusionêre effek, of eerder, perlokusionêre etiese respons (PER), in de gelowige tot stand bring. Dit is hierdie PER wat normaalweg bekend staan as die “norme van die etiese lewe” of “Christelike etiek”. Die PER in die Christen se lewe, wat tot stand gebring is deur die illokusionêre krag van God in die Bybel, skep ’n unieke verantwoordelikheid onder die kontemporêre Christen. Sy of hy moet volgens die “Woord van God” lewe en handel. Die “Woord van God” beteken egter nie net die woorde wat in die skrif staan, of die kommunikatiewe inhoud van die Bybel nie, maar ook die illokusionêre effek in die woorde en die kommunikatiewe bedoeling agter die woorde. Die lewende drie-enige God kommunikeer steeds deur die Skrif. Hierdie kommunikasie is nie beperk tot die oordra van geskiedkundige gebeurtenisse of verhale nie. Dit is veel eerder kommunikasie in die hede om God se wil en God se koninkryk onder die ganse mensdom en in die hele skepping te volbring. In Spraakhandelingsteorie kan die handelings van die drie-enige God, in terme van God se gehele spraakhandeling F(p) in die Bybel, gesien word as die etiese identiteit van die morele agent wat deur God sel lokusionêre handeling geskape is. Ook die etiese bedoeling van die reëls in Jesus se illokusionêre handelinge, so wel as die etiese verantwoordelikheid wat voortvloei uit die Heilige Gees se perlokusionêre kommunikatiewe handelinge is belangrik en verdien dus aandag in Bybelse etiek. Die self-betrokke karakter van taalhandelings beteken dus dat die Skrif ook God se dieper performatiewe handelings insluit. Die gevolg hiervan is dat bykomende betekenis vir die kontemporêre lese/hoorder ontsluit word in verhouding tot die illokusionêre posisie wat bepalend is vir die gelowige persoon (bv. spesifieke morele handelings in ’n gemeenskap). Dus, God se self, wat verstaan kan word as ’n self-vertolkende handeling, hou aan om God se mense deur die Skrif aan te spreek; God (die spreker) openbaar God se self deur Jesus (die Woord) aan diegene wat verhelder word deur die Heilige Gees (resepsie). In hierdie verband, raak die Heilige Gees betrokke by God se self-betrokke aktiwiteit in die lewens van gelowiges. Die Heilige Gees bewerk ’n koersverandering in die houdings en gedagtes van gelowiges in die rigting van God se wil en bemagtig hulle om in lyn van daardie wil in hulle private (individuele) en publieke (sosiale) lewens te handel. Die gevolg is dat God se spraakhandeling F(p) in die Bybel God se intensies verteenwoordig wat deur die Bybelse teks gekommunikeer word om in die Christelike lewe ’n bepaalde perlokusionêre handeling (of etiese respons) tot stand te bring. Die illokusionêre krag van God se woord weergalm deurlopend in die Christelike lewe soos wat God met gelowiges kommunikeer. Hierdie kommunikatiewe intensie en praktyk, waardeur die woord van God daagliks in Christene se lewens werksaam is, nooi hulle uit tot performatiewe handelings van hulle eie. Dit is veral van belang waar ’n mens voor morele of etiese kwessies te staan kom. Die bedoelde perlokusionêre effek wat in die Christen tot stand kom deur die illokusionêre krag en mag van God se kommunikatiewe handeling vra na ’n gepaste etiese respons tot die Woord van God in beide private (individuele etiek) en publieke (sosiale etiek) terreine. As ons dus werklik die illokusionêre bedoeling van God se kommunikasie in die gesig staar, behoort ons perlokusionêre response op morele en etiese kwessies uit te oefen wat pas hou met die inhoud, intensie en etiek van God se koninkryk.

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