Living theology: the discovery, understanding, and critical revision of James Wm McClendon Jr.’s biographical method
James McClendon is a theologian with a small loyal following. His Biography as Theology contained the suggestion that the practice of theology could be improved by attending to narratives of current faithful lives. This method was fuelled by the notion that images (metaphors) were of special significance in the connection between convictions (the subject of theology) and how that life is embodied. The implications of this suggestion are the focus of this thesis.
The methodological approach of having empathy and imagination as guiding approaches to hermeneutics and rationality is taken throughout this study. This project seeks to explore McClendon’s thought by applying his own convictions as to how theology should progress. After a biographical study of McClendon himself his biographical method is examined – first through its initial form via Biography as Theology, and then in the implicit metaphoric manifestations present in his later work. Image-based thinking is found to be present throughout, although McClendon himself avoids wading into the waters of metaphor theory and its implications for this type of thinking. Following McClendon’s own understanding that critical revision is necessary within the task of theology, I respond by allowing a reading of McClendon to be informed (and transformed) by Mark Johnson.
Johnson, a leading philosopher within conceptual metaphor theory suggests that metaphor is primarily a matter of thought and action, and only derivatively linguistic. This has significant implications for McClendon’s image-based method. Proposals are made for the potential integration of Johnson’s proposals and McClendon’s approach. These are tested in a critical re-examination of McClendon’s treatment of Christology. Conclusions are then drawn concerning the study of McClendon, the application of Johnson, and theological method in a wider context.