Herbert Xunyu Lin

2014
Dissertation Title: God, Language, and the Way of the Ordinary
 
My research is centered on the following problematic: how can we really mean what we say, if we no longer know what our words must mean? Indeed, how shall we mean anything at all? This, it seems to me, depicts precisely the crisis of Christianity today, where people do not find themselves at home with the words of the Christian language. The problem here, as the American philosopher Stanley Cavell acutely observes, is not that the Christian cannot find the right words, but “it is the way he means them that is empty or enfeebling.” He is unable to claim the words as his own, to speak authentically about that reality which he seeks to express. But how did this happen in the first place? More importantly, what can this tell us about the nature of Christian discourse, especially in relation to the ordinary, that is, the everyday lives of human beings?  
 
Receiving the Marty Center Fellowship will enable me to pursue these questions within an inter-disciplinary setting, as I seek to interrogate the thought of Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard and Cavell on issues relating to God-talk, hermeneutics, and ethics, with a view towards the possibility of an ‘ordinary-language theology’. As a Junior Fellow, it is a great privilege to be a part of this intellectual community, and I very much look forward to the learning experience, which, I believe, will further motivate my pursuit of theological knowledge in service to the church as well as the wider public.