Following Pete Wolfendale’s lead, I am making available my thesis for private use by request. While I have received a bit of comments already, I would like to receive comments from others — both those who work in related areas and those who do not (so don’t be put off from giving feedback!). Rather than have direct download links (as I am interested in trying to edit and reorganise this for publication), I am providing just the abstract and table of contents. If you wish to read any particular section, chapter, or the whole thing, please contact me (my email is email@example.com@tuOtraPsihTekaT) with what you would like to read. The only caveat is that I would like feedback.
Title: Multiple Concepts of the Church: Hermeneutics, Identity, and Christian Community
This thesis aims to contribute to Western theology by exploring the plurality as well as unity within Christianity. By looking at the history of orthodoxy as a narrative construction of identity, I argue that Christian identity is not based on doxa, dogma, or practises. Instead, I suggest that Christian identity should be rooted primarily in the experience of and participation with God through the living Christ. Similarly, I propse that ecumenical unity is not ecclesial or doxalogical but rather practical because unity is achieved when groups act together and participate in each other without ceasing to be different.
I explore in my first chapter the philosophical concepts (time and narrative) which form the basis of identity. I introduce the thoughts of Gilles Deleuze and Paul Ricœur separately before bringing them together in a dialogue. The dialogue develops the concepts of time and narrative into a general theory for constructing identity. I analyse identity in the second chapter by reading historical reactions to Immanuel Kant’s conception of a permanent identity because Kant is a central focus in contemporary philosophical thought on identity. Inspired by the dialogue between Deleuze and Ricœur introduced previously, I construct a new approach to identity. My concept of identity can be applied equally to individuals and groups, and my thesis follows group identity towards the concept of orthodoxy.
My third chapter applies this theory of identity to discuss the concept of orthodoxy. I present a model for interpreting orthodoxy in terms of group identity, then I trace the history of orthodoxy in three general periods: the early Church, the Reformation era, and our contemporary period. I show that concerns with theological truth in questions of orthodoxy were often politicised and used to establish an authority to control Christian identity. During the Reformations, reforms were treated as questions of authority and resulted in exclusion rather than reform. However, These political moves subsequently created multiple authorities which I suggest reveal the contingency of authority. Since the nineteenth century, groups approached Christian unity without addressing the implications of authority’s contingency. In my fourth chapter, I pursue the question of ecumenical unity by interpreting authorities as created and embedded in particular contexts which render impossible a single, universal authority. In contrast to a singular definition of the Church, I argue that Pauline images of the body of Christ shape Christian identity as polydox. My model of relating differences within unity reveals the extent to which many theological ‘controversies’ still are politicised. Finally, I argue that the ecumenical dialogue overlaps with inter-religious and ‘secular’ dialogues, both of which are necessary for the Church’s work on identity as organic unity.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: A Prelude to Thinking about Orthodoxy
- Chapter 1: The Contribution of Deleuze and Ricœur to Identity
- Difference and Time in Deleuze
- The Narrative Hermeneutics of Ricœur
- Deleuze and Ricœur in Dialogue
- Chapter 2: A Contemporary Model of Identity
- Philosophies of Identity since Kant
- Constructing Identity as an Internal Community
- Identity’s External Community
- Chapter 3: Reading the Narratives of Orthodoxy in Terms of Identity
- An Orthodoxy in Terms of Identity
- Orthodoxy as True Beliefs in the Early Church
- Orthodoxy in Terms of Salvation During the Reformations
- Embodying Orthodoxy in the Ecumenical Movement since the Nineteenth Century
- Chapter 4: The Church in Multiple Social Contexts
- Authority and Ecumenical Unity
- The Body Without Organs of Christ as Ecumenical Unity
- Social Controversies and Different Theological Opinions
- The Church Alongside its Social Partners
- Conclusion: A Concluding Interlude for Additional Voices