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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created:August 24, 2006
Latest Update:August 24, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Illocutionary Discourse on Religion

Illocutionary discourse is dialog amongst ordinary folks in which they try to understand each other's beliefs and opinions in all their differences. Instead of trying to convince each other about who's got the right belief or opinion, they are trying to understand why each one believes whatever each of them does believe. Some beliefs and opinions are very important to some folks, and there is lots of affect over them. But to other folks those same beliefs and opinions don't matter so much. That's another part of understanding each other. Figuring out what's most important to whom, and then learning to respect those differences by not assuming that my most important issues should be most important to everybody else. Community is built through respect for each other as humans with critical consciousness who can choose for ourselves what matters most to us and what we believe. Freire calls this "critical consciousness." He calls any of us telling the other what he/she ought to believe as "fanaticized consciousness." (Education as the Practice of Freedom: Society in Transition, 2005 reprinting, at p. 15.)

Today, for the first time in my lifetime, we have a President about whom journalists actually ask whether his policies are influenced by his theological beliefs, which are fundamentalist and minority, as opposed to mainstream and majority. He refuses to permit some scientific research because it offends his religious beliefs in morality. He used his first veto on moral grounds. That means that we must learn to discuss religion as a possible influence on our governance, and understand its philosophical, spiritual, and theological underpinnings to determine whether governance policies that a given religion may influence will adequately and fairly represent these United States. We must also begin to discuss whether we want theology and religious beliefs to permeate our governance. What about differing theological beliefs?

I'm going to open this discussion with some definitions that Freire offers in Education as the Practice of Freedom:

Concepts to aid our discussion (Op.cit., at p. 14):

  • naive transitivity - op.cit., at p. 14
  • critical transitivity
  • sectarian transitivity and fanaticism

Discussion Questions




  • The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology Edited by: Graham Ward. Blackwell. "Discusses the following desciplines: Aesthetics, Ethics, Gender, Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, Heideggerians, and Derrideans. . . . Edited by Graham Ward, one of the most outstanding and original theologians working in the field today."

  • Evangelical Philosophical Society. This is the source that led me to the Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology. Religion is on the table of dominant discourse in Fall 2006. We can't escape talking about it. I'd like us to talk about it in the spirit of illocutionary discourse. Here's an important source to help in that. jeanne

  • Episteme Links Web Site recommended by Peter Suber, who has ceased to maintain Hippias, which used to be the best Net Resource for philosophy. Remind me to upload a guide to using this site.

  • The Evangelical Doctrine of Justificaation By Matthew C.Heckel. This is a 2004 article in the Journal of Evangelical Theology that purports to straighten out the Biblical and theological bases for the Doctrine of Justification. I had trouble understanding the difference between Justification by faith alone and by faith and works, because the context seemed unclear to me. As I see it, the grace of God, when granted us, provides the impetus to demonstrate our love for him through our works. So works would seem to come automatically with the declaration of faith. But there is another catch here. What if God chooses not to give us the gift of faith, as is evidenced in several places in the Bible when he chooses one brother over the other? But this might be a good place to start trying to understand why some evangelicals support this doctrine.

    "Though Augustine insisted that merit is God ’s gift to the sinner, his doctrine is a merit system nonetheless and should be distinguished from the Reformation denial of merit. . . . Meritum, which is from the participle form of the verb merere, speaks of something “deserved ”or “earned,” and so the West approached Scripture asking,“What has one done in order to be considered righteous?”47 Thus, justification became a matter of “just deserts” rather than of gracious estimate. Merit, in Latin, is an intrinsic quality in a person ’s constituent nature,as opposed to an extrinsic, adjectival quality attributed to the person. Merit is something concrete and ontological in the Latin mindset, rather than an estimation in which a person is held legally or forensically,as in a law court. Greek, on the other hand, has no such verb as merere ,and its verb dikaiovw, as used in the Septuagint (following the meaning of the Hebrew original qdx) means “to hold in a righteous estimate” or “to make legally righteous.” 48 Correspondingly,iustificare in Latin theology means “to make righteous ” (iustum facere ) rather than to declare righteous in the legal sense.49 Augustine inherited these concepts and was constrained by them but adopted the usage in a unique way, speaking of gracious merit.50 The genius of Luther may be seen in his exegetical insight, prompted by his struggles over assurance, into Rom 1:16 –17, through which he was able to break out of his Augustinian fetters and recover the divine estimate injustification.51

    Luther came to the conclusion that human works were too unsure a foundation and could never quiet the troubled conscience.52 Augustine, on the other hand, emphasized that Christian works were wrought by the Holy Spirit and,as such,could be designated as the meritorious basis of justification.53 For Luther, faith receives righteousness in Christ, and the sinner becomes just in a single act. Augustine expressed justification in terms of an inner,progressive transformation, a making righteous, and did not speak of the merits of Christ."

    From pp. 97-98 of Matthew C.Heckel's The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47/1 (March 2004) 89 –120.

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