THE CONCEPT OF MORTALITY IN ERNEST BECKER: A FOUNDATION FOR A CONTEMPORARY THEOLOGY

SALLY A KENEL, Fordham University

Abstract

This dissertation is a work of fundamental theology which utilizes Ernest Becker's analysis of the human experience of mortality and the biblical passages dealing with death as sources. As such, it studies and evaluates Becker's concept of mortality and correlates it with biblical reflections on death in the fashion suggested by David Tracy.^ Although the value of Becker's analysis of the human condition is often noted, to date no major study of his thought has been undertaken. In view of this lack, this dissertation critically examines Becker's concept of mortality from the perspectives of psychology, social theory and theology. Moreover, these perspectives are not only studied separately, but are integrated into a model of the human person which is characterized by a dialectic between immortality and mortality.^ This model of the human person indicates that mortality constitutes a central human experience of religious significance. Its religious value lies in the fact that awareness of mortality urges people to acknowledge their creatureliness.^ Once mortality is established as a religious concept, it is brought into dialogue with the biblical passages dealing with death. Although it would be possible to utilize these sources in a variety of ways, this dissertation focuses on their theistic components.^ Correlating the experiential and scriptural concepts of mortality gives rise to a notion of God as a living, compassionate, saving Creator. Based on Becker's analysis of mortality, the author contends that existentialism provides the philosophical framework in which such a concept of God can be understood. More specifically, the ontology of Paul Tillich is utilized for this task. Although Becker's concept of mortality demands that Tillich's system be revised to admit that the situation not only gives rise to the question of God but also points to the answer, with this modification it is judged to provide a framework for understanding God that is in keeping with the exigencies of both the experiential and biblical sources. ^

Subject Area

Theology

Recommended Citation

KENEL, SALLY A, "THE CONCEPT OF MORTALITY IN ERNEST BECKER: A FOUNDATION FOR A CONTEMPORARY THEOLOGY" (1984). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8506339.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8506339

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