Narrative and Metaphysical Ambition


Jonathan Lett, "Narrative and Metaphysical Ambition: On Being 'In Christ,'" Modern Theology 33, 4 (2017): 618-639


Lett, Jonathan. "Narrative and Metaphysical Ambition: On Being 'In Christ.'" Modern Theology 33, 4 (2017): 618-639


This article addresses some of the confusion regarding the role of metaphysical claims in narrative theology. Proponents and critics of narrative theology alike wonder at the ambiguous place of metaphysical speech about God as an objective reality. This essay enters the conversation through the side door of soteriology. Rather than focusing on the relationship between narrative and metaphysics or narrative and analogy or narrative and first-order theological claims, I examine what sort of metaphysical statements are required to make the Christian claim that human beings are “in Christ” intelligible as a soteriological reality. I argue that the Christian grammar itself assumes a Christology with a certain kind of metaphysical ambition without which Christianity lapses into incoherence. To make this case, I show that David Kelsey’s “narrative identity” Christology in Eccentric Existence lacks the metaphysical statements necessary to uphold his conviction that human beings are “in Christ.” A comparison with T. F. Torrance and the Book of Hebrews reveals that when narrative circumvents metaphysical statements about the incarnate Son, soteriological claims lack coherence and the biblical narrative itself is distorted by a false metaphysic. Thus, metaphysical claims internal to the narrative of Jesus are necessary to tell the story of God faithfully. In this way, narrative is the expression of a theological metaphysics.

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