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Abstract

In an age of cultural and religious pluralism, relating Christian faith and culture becomes an increasingly pressing problem. Efforts to relate Christian faith and culture have relied predominantly on sociological and political categories of thought, which have framed the personal and interpersonal experience of pluralism in terms of identity rather than integrity. This dissertation understands the theological ethical problem of relating faith and culture as the problem of finding a way to live with integrity in an age of cultural and religious pluralism. Learning to live with integrity in a pluralistic age requires aesthetic attention to the process of integration. More specifically, the thesis of this dissertation is that attending to the formal and emotional qualities of faith is precisely what distinguishes an aesthetic approach from other approaches and further, that such an aesthetic approach is necessary for addressing the question of faith and culture in a globalized cultural context. In order to advance this thesis, the dissertation draws on the work of three thinkers who have significantly shaped the American Protestant theological and philosophical tradition: H. Richard Niebuhr, Jonathan Edwards, and John Dewey. This dissertation engages in a critical analysis of Niebuhr’s work and examines the background resources to his thought, in particular the works of Jonathan Edwards and John Dewey. More explicitly than any other American Protestant theologian, Edwards held faith and aesthetics together. It could be argued that after Edwards the relationship between faith and aesthetics fell apart and was restored, albeit in a different configuration, when the American pragmatists, especially John Dewey, took an interest in the aesthetic dimension of experience. Against the background of the aesthetic thought of Dewey and Edwards, this dissertation sets forth an aesthetic re-interpretation of Niebuhr’s conception of faith.

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