Multiple concepts of the Church: hermeneutics, identity, and Christian community

Roussel, Christopher M. (2012) Multiple concepts of the Church: hermeneutics, identity, and Christian community. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2011rousselphd.pdf] PDF
Download (774kB)
Printed Thesis Information:


This thesis aims to contribute to Western theology by exploring 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 as a practise in the experience of and participation with God through the living Christ. I propose 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 G. Deleuze and P. 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 I. 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, however I primarily follow group identity in my thesis.

My third chapter applies this theory of identity to the discussion of 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 at times resulted in exclusion rather than reform. 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.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: ecumenism, identity, difference, unity, diversity, social relations, orthodoxy, Christian, Christianity
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jeanrond, Prof. Werner G. and Jasper, Prof. David
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Christopher Michael Roussel
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3073
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2012
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2014 16:27

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year