Friday, January 02, 2009

Thesis Abstract - January 2009

Here's the most recent version of my thesis abstract. It will most definitely change as I continue to write up my arguments - particularly as my arguments continue to shift as I write. The most glaring omission from this abstract concerns my findings, as I haven't quite decided what they are or how to frame them best!!! However, as it stands, this abstract is a good indication of what I intend to write about at the moment! I've also never been particularly good at writing abstracts, so hopefully the I'll get better at that too. As a result I'll keep posting versions as they emerge from my brain.

The religious landscape of the United Kingdom has undergone considerable changes in the last half-century. The death of God theology of the nineteen sixties began an exploration of the possibilities for Christianity ‘after metaphysics’ within a variety of academic disciplines. Recent contributions to the debate have included Radical Orthodoxy’s ‘catholic postmodernism,’ Weak Theology’s notion of non-dogmatic a/theistic ‘religion without Religion,’ a Lévinasian ‘religion of responsibility’ and Slavoj Žižek’s ‘atheistic Christianity.’

At the same time, the questionable evidence for the secularisation of contemporary society envisaged by many sociologists of religion and the growing indications of sacralisation now beginning to be documented throughout the West are being felt outside academia. The spectrum of possible expressions of Christian religiosity and “church” has further diversified. An increasing number of individuals and communities are engaging with the work of Nietzsche, Derrida, and Marion, among others, using these thinkers to inform their practice, and articulating their religious identity in the language of emergence. They are suggesting that something new is happening.

This thesis maps the contours of what it identifies as the UK emerging church milieu, framed by an investigation into the notion of truth. It follows participants’ understandings of truth as the concept traverses the disciplines of philosophy and theology, morphs into ethics, and encompasses politics. Its multi-methodological approach discerns the theories of truth that function within the UK emerging church milieu, placing them in conversation with classical theories.

These emerging understandings of truth are used as a springboard to explore their philosophical implications for Christianity after metaphysics, to evaluate the suitability of Radical Orthodoxy as a theological option for the milieu, and to argue for the ability of Weak Theology to act as a viable premise for ir/religious community. While two strands emerge regarding truth, suggesting philosophical and theological divergence, the thesis argues that there is convergence in practice as participants unite in a prioritisation of ethical justice over theoretical truth. The thesis forms a sustained argument for the undecidability of truth and its translation into justice as a useful means of “doing” Christianity after the death of God.

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