Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks

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Divine discourse comprises Nicholas Wolterstorff's philosophical reflections on the claim that God speaks. This claim figures large in the canonical texts and traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but there has been remarkably little philosophical reflection on it, in good measure (so Professor Wolterstorff argues) because philosophers have mistakenly assimilated divine speech to divine revelation. He embraces contemporary speech-action theory as his basic approach to language; and after expanding the ...
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Divine Discourse

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Overview

Divine discourse comprises Nicholas Wolterstorff's philosophical reflections on the claim that God speaks. This claim figures large in the canonical texts and traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but there has been remarkably little philosophical reflection on it, in good measure (so Professor Wolterstorff argues) because philosophers have mistakenly assimilated divine speech to divine revelation. He embraces contemporary speech-action theory as his basic approach to language; and after expanding the theory beyond its usual applications, concludes that the claim that God performs illocutionary actions is coherent and entails no obvious falsehoods. Moving on to issues of interpretation, he considers how one would interpret a text if one wanted to find out what God was saying thereby. Prominent features of this part of the discussion are his defense, against Ricoeur and Derrida, of the legitimacy of interpreting a text to find out what its author said, and his analysis of the double hermeneutic involved when the discourse of one person is appropriated into the discourse of another person. The book closes with a discussion of the epistemological question of whether we are entitled to believe that God speaks.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...Wolterstorff makes an important contribution to biblical hermeneutics. His work should cause all concerned readers to ponder the implications of this challenging theory." Christianity and Literature

"...the most extensive and penetrating philosophical discussion of the idea of divine speaking ever undertaken." The Princeton Seminary Bulletin

"...this rich book gives substance to the ancient Jewish conviction that God has not left us to ourselves but "speaks to us on our way," and that. accordingly, our special calling is to listen to that speech in order to hear the threats and promises, the commands and blessings, the exhortations and assertions, that God is addressing to human beings." First Things

"Wolterstorff provides the first philosophically informed look at the nature of divine communication, removing it from general theories of revelation and placing it right into the midst of common language debates of speech-act theory of J.L. Austin. This innovative position is then applied against the record of theological discourse and biblical hermeneutics....Recommended." The Reader's Review

"A careful reading of this book will provide acquaintance with the style and method characteristic of the best in contemporary anglophone philosophy of religion....[A] splendid book, a model of clear and careful argument on a very important topic in philosophical theology." Paul J. Griffiths, Anglican Theological Review

"This book, based on the Wilde Lectures at Oxford in 1993, is probably the most extensive and penetrating philosophical discussion of the idea of divine speaking ever undertaken." The Princeton Seminary Bulletin

"The subtitle of this book captures its aims very well....I recommend it...to philosophers of religion, theologians, and Biblical scholars." International Philosophical Quarterly

"...the sheer breadth of material covered, the incisiveness of Wolterstorff's analyses, and the lucidity of his prose makes this book deserving of a wider audience tha, perhaps, Wolterstorff himself may have intended." Andrew V. Jeffery

"...Wolterstorff has done in Divine Discourse what all good Christian philosophers do: He has allowed believers both inside and outside the academy to think more precisely about a topic of unspeakable existential importance-namely, what we possibly can mean when we say, with the Maggid of Mezritch, 'this is the word of the Lord.' Andrew Chignell, Books & Culture

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521475396
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1995
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
1 Locating our topic 1
2 Speaking is not revealing 19
3 The many modes of discourse 37
4 Divine discourse in the hands of theologians 58
5 What it is to speak 75
6 Could God have and acquire the rights and duties of a speaker? 95
7 Can God cause the events generative of discourse? 114
8 In defense of authorial-discourse interpretation: contra Ricoeur 130
9 In defense of authorial-discourse interpretation: contra Derrida 153
10 Performance interpretation 171
11 Interpreting the mediating human discourse: the first hermeneutic 183
12 Interpreting for the mediated divine discourse: the second hermeneutic 202
13 Has Scripture become a wax nose? 223
14 The illocutionary stance of biblical narrative 240
15 Are we entitled? 261
16 Historical and theological afterword 281
Notes 297
Index 325
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