Thursday, September 11, 2008

Summer Hiatus Finally Over (Hopefully!)

Okay, so I've been a bit quiet over the past few months and I'm going to make up for that here. Since I last blogged about my thesis, I've been wrestling with transcribing (yes, I'm still transcribing!) after injuring my wrist (so, no, I haven't finished it yet!), finding and moving into a new house, buying kitchen appliances (Comet suck, but, when you complain, they give you stuff), and trying to get used to a new routine in a new place, whilst anxiously worrying about how my partner is getting on in his new job.

I've now transcribed 15 interviews (about 30 hours worth of data) with about 10 more interviews to go. Because I've been working from my fieldnotes about the content of the interviews, I've drawn up a very detailed thesis structure which I'm using to conduct thematic analysis of the transcripts, assigning participant quotations to their respective chapters. Of course, this is also further shaping my thesis structure as I do it.

Roughly, here are the main arguements of each chapter of the thesis, and some of the key words which I'm using to allocate interview data to particular chapters:

Chapter One argues for the concept of a "milieu" in approaching the emerging church and presents my understanding of the UK emerging church milieu.

Key words for (all) empirical data (not just interviews): alternative worship, "ancient-future," church, contextualization, culture, emergence, emergent, emerging church, experimentation, fresh expressions, "glocal," incarnation, leadership, mysticism, organization, post-evangelical, tradition.

Chapter Two presents the rationale for framing a study of the UK emerging church milieu and its spiritualities within an exploration of truth; namely, the criticisms of evangelical detractors, who wish to retain the "biblical" concept of truth as correspondence.

Key words: access, anti-intellectualism, correspondence, cultural postmodernity, emerging church critics, elitism, foundationalism, idolatry, intellectualism, modernity, "moral panic," nihilism, philosophical postmodernism, realism, relativism, representationalism, self-refutation.

Chapter Three provides the reader with an historical introduction to classical theories of truth, using a presentation of Nietzsche's critique of the will to truth and subsequent critiques of representationalism to introduce the ways in which participants understand the concept of truth.

Key words: Aquinas, Caputo, coherence, correspondence, Derrida, existentialism, event, Foucault, Heidegger, justification, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, metanoia, objectivity, personal, perspectivism, pragmatism, propositional, Radical Orthodoxy, realism, relativism, representationalism, subectivity, transcendence.

An Interlude: Mystics and Prophets explains that two sets or strands of philosophical implications can be drawn from the data about participants’ understandings of truth, and relates these two strands to the apophatic and prophetic strands which Jack Caputo identifies in the work of Jacques Derrida (and to Merold Westphal’s distinction between a hermeneutics of finitude and a hermeneutics of suspicion).

Chapters Four and Five highlight the epistemological and ontological implications of participants' understandings of truth, detailing the two strands which are in evidence.

Chapter Four agues that some participants are ontologically realist in relation to absolute truth, whilst acknowledging the epistemological limits that fallibility places on human knowledge of absolutes. These participants demonstrate a fear of what is constructed as postmodern relativism and postmodern nihilism, in their understanding of deconstruction as a necessary methodological phase through which they must go on their way to the reconstruction of Christianity.

Key words: absolutism, bivalence, certainty, deconstruction, doubt, faith, fallibility, finitude, foundationalism, humility, (in)accessibility, "moral panic," nihilism, relativism, subjectivity, universalism.

Chapter Five argues that, ontologically, other participants extend the themes of doubt and uncertainty to the reality of God's being and that, epistemologically, participants understand decosntruction to be inherent to language, as displayed throughout Christian history, and as a calling.

Key words: aporia, a/theism, auto-deconstruction, confession, deconstruction, doubt, event, faithful betrayal, metanoia, the other, ritual, slash, to-come, transformation, transformance art, uncertainty, undecidability, unravelling.

Chapters Six and Seven reflect on the theological implications of participants' understandings of truth.

Chapter Six assesses Jamie Smith’s suggestion that Radical Orthodoxy is an appropriate theological frame for the emerging church, arguing that, while RO connects with many of the theological implications of participants’ understandings of truth (especially within the first philosophical strand identified above), it needs to be revised in order to accord with these participants’ views on truth and religious pluralism.

Key words: aesthetics, arrogance, certainty, creativity, exclusivism, the "gathering center," Generous Orthodoxy, heresy, Hick, hierarchy, inclusivism, language, liturgy, meaning, narrative, "ontology of peace," "ontology of violence," "onto-theology," paganism, participation, pluralism, Radical Orthodoxy, sacramentality, "theo-ontology," transcendence, universalism.

Chapter Seven argues that the other strand within the data holds more affinity for Jack Caputo's weak theology, and that participants exhibit what I refer to as an “a/theistic orthodoxy,” which I show to be a practical expression of Caputo’s project.

Key words: activism, agnosticism, atheism, a/theism, deliteralization, language, the messianic, orthodoxy, postfoundationalism, pragmatic orthodoxy, theism, translatability, transformation, undecidability, undeconstructible, weak theology.

The second Interlude: Convergence argues that, while it is possible to discern differences between the philosophical and theological implications of participants’ understandings of truth, a convergence occurs in practice as participants unite in an emphasis on justice.

Chapter Eight argues that a Levinasian primacy of ethical action over settling theoretical differences is an appropriate framework in which to understand the political implications of the participants' notions of truth.

Key words: absolute future, activism, Augustine, call, Caputo, Derrida, ecumenism, ethics, event, facere veritatem, gift, hospitality, hyper-realism, justice, kingdom of God, law, Levinas, love, missio-Dei, orthopraxis, the other, per(ver)formative, politics, pragmatism, prayer, response, to-come, undeconstructible, Zizek.

The Conclusions re-cap my main findings, but also explore the importance of the context from which participants' understandings of truth arise (particularly post-conflict Belfast), and highlights two spiritualities which emerge from the emerging church milieu: Deep Church and A/theistic Spirituality.

So, any thoughts on the thesis structure as it is emerging? Admittedly, some of the key words and where I've chosen to place them within the overall strcuture only make sense to me, but hopefully the brief summary of each chapter's main arguments will give you at least an idea of where the data is taking me at the moment.


paul said...

Heya Katharine,

That looks like a pretty comprehensive of an emerging church theology, ecclesiology and missiology.

Are these "chapters" how they will appear in your finished thesis? I have arguments that are structured kinda like this, but my finished thesis must have certain labelled chapters (introduction, lit review, methodology, data, analysis, etc) which is bloody boring.

Would love to talk more about your ideas sometime. Just added you as a friend on facebook!


Katharine Moody said...

Hi Paul,

Yeah this is pretty much my thesis structure at the moment. My MA had to be structured like you say, with theory/, methodology (yawn!), findings, analysis, and conclusions, etc. etc. etc. But my PhD can be a bit more interesting.

I obviously still have to include reviews of the field and my methodological concerns etc, but where I place them and how I address those issues is left up to me. Yay!

Chapters One and Two are pretty much the review of the field, and my methodology mostly revolves around reflecting on the nature of the blogosphere and the benefits/difficulties of having both on- and offline relationships with participants.

Glad you Facebooked me! We can chat there too!!!

Katharine x

Anonymous said...

Hi Katherine,

wow - your thesis outline ia a comprehensive project.

From my laymans grass roots perspective I realise how messy, grey and constantly evolving the ecm scene is - it almost defies catergorisation? Maybe not...

For someone like me who is attracted to mystery and stuggles with holding truths in paradox and opposite truths in tension I would probably see parts of myself in both camps. Just a thought but be careful about constructing either/or definitions that overlook the complexity and nuances it peoples ideas about truth in the theoloogical realm.(I realise I am NOT an academic and apologise in advance if this sounds too foward/cheeky).

One scene I am familiar with is post conflict Belfast so it will be particularly interesting to read
your material about that

all the best,


Katharine Moody said...

Hi again Rodney, here's a sentence from my thesis structure which I didn't include in this post. Trust you to realise the omission!!

Interlude: Mystics and Prophets
•Explains that two sets or strands of philosophical implications can be drawn from the data about participants’ understandings of truth.
•Acknowledges that some participants exhibit elements of both strands at the same time.
•Recognizes that the data does not represent the systematic theologies of participants, but rather a moment of reflection, a snap shot along their individual journeys.

I'm very wary of the plethora of either/ors that appear in EC literature, mostly of the type: 'from... to...' like there is no overlap or fusion or negotiation or combination.

Part of my MA thesis (which I'm still trying to turn into a journal article) attacks the dichotomies of a particular sociological theory about the nature of the religious/spiritual landscape today, so I've done quite a bit of work on dualisms. I'm interested in the fact that dualisms are often theoretically necessary in order to empirically test whether or not they hold in reality!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Katherine,

all the best with transcribing