Ecclesia as Res Publica: Responding to 'Churchless Faith'

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Back in July I made a post about my PhD research, that tried to summarise the problem I am exploring and the resources and methods I am using to respond to it.

This time, I stepped away from everything with a blank piece of paper, to try to 'see the wood from the trees', and landed on something more focused, and shorter, that I'll be giving the next 3 years to.

I.  WORKING TITLE

Ecclesia as Res Publica:  A diagnosis of the phenomena of ‘Churchless Faith’ within Consumer and Market Society and implications for Evangelical Ecclesiology.

II.  SHORT ABSTRACT

We seek to diagnose the recent phenomena of ‘Churchless Faith’[1] within Evangelicalism, wherein Christians in growing numbers are pursuing a ‘post-Church’ faith journey, and suggest that rather than facilitating Christian conversion and identity formation, this response instead, leads to a converse formation.

We do this by asking how this phenomena might have arisen within the relationship of the Evangelical Church to consumerism and the market, of how the Evangelical Church having focused on mission within these realties with a lack of determinate social structure and ecclesiology has resulted in the identity formation becoming captive to the logic of consumer and market relationships.  Christians have become isolated monads, forced away from any community identity construction, and public habitus for formation of faith.  We then ask what internal and traditioned resources are available for an Evangelical ecclesiology that might begin to counter this problem.

To address these questions, first, we provide an historical account and analysis of the relationship of the individual to ecclesiology within evangelicalism, consumerism and the market, and public life, second, we ask what authentic resources internal to the Christian tradition are available in response and by what method they might be best appropriated, third, we outline and correlate the resources of three such identified Christian traditions, and fourth, we produce an assessment of current emerging ecclesiologies before making our proposal for an evangelical ecclesiology.

In chapter one, we provide an historical account of the relationship of the development of evangelical church in relation to consumerism and the market, and show how unlike it’s earliest manifestations, later renewal movements did not take on determinate social forms, resulting in a corresponding lack of exploration of polity, which it ultimately ceded to the logic of the market and consumerism.  In chapter two, we provide descriptions from social, philosophical and political theories to map the false and alternative realities that have taken captive Christian formation and the church with regard to its ecclesiological imagination, within this relationship.

In chapter three, we ask if rather than these false realities, does Christian tradition have the methodological and internal resources to construct a theological description and evangelical ecclesiology that is better able to fund the imagination of the relationship between the Christian individual and community.

In Chapters four, five and six, we argue that such a description may be made from an Augustinian account of the nature of the individual in relationship to public life, that can be correlated with consumer and market realities, and then delineate this account from within the traditions of Reformed, Anabaptist and Radical Orthodox theology, whilst exploring the implications for Ecclesiology.

In chapter seven, we test our diagnosis against current emerging ecclesiologies to examine how far they are captive or attend to consumer and market identities.  In Chapter eight we provide a proposal for an evangelical ecclesiology that might better lead to Christian conversion and identity formation within consumerism and the market.