Repository logo

The Dwelling of the Word: On Creatures as Signs of God

Change log


Leith, Peter 


This thesis seeks to flesh out Augustine’s incipient semiotic theological anthropology, in which to be a creature is to be a sign of God. Because of the way in which signs function, I argue that our (ecological) embeddedness in place is central for what it means to be a sign of God, and therefore for what it means to be a creature. By drawing on the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, I suggest that being in place involves dwelling in the ecologies of relationship that we find ourselves in, and that such dwelling entails interpreting creatures as infinitely significant signs of God. To interpret creatures in this manner is, I contend, what it means to live faithfully as signs of God. However, our ability to dwell is hampered by sin, and I explore this through engagement with Heidegger’s critique of Enframing and Augustine’s distinction between use and enjoyment. By drawing on the Gospel of John, I argue that our ability to dwell is redeemed by Christ’s dwelling, and that it is only as members of the body of Christ that we can truly dwell (and, therefore, properly interpret creatures). Through our membership of the body of Christ, we are enabled, by dwelling as Christ, to faithfully participate in God’s creative and redemptive activity, God’s own act of interpretation.





Plant, Stephen


Augustine, Heidegger, John's Gospel, Signs, Semiotics, Ecosemiotics, Place, Dwelling


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Gosden Scholarship, Selwyn College; St Matthias Trust; St Luke's College Foundation; Diocese of Durham