Thursday, 30 October 2008

Church As Argument

Just got my new copy of Bryan Stone's excellent Evangelism After Christendom. (See the
"Stuff I reccomend" panel on the right.) Had to buy a new copy as I seem to have lost or loaned out my old one. It's been missing now for a few months. I was hoping it would turn up as it has lots of lovely scribblings and underlinings in, but no joy. Frustrating not to have access to my original reactions but I'm going to enjoy rereading it.

Opening the new package from amazon reminded me that Stone's discussion of being an evangelistic church in a pluralistic, post-modern society includes reference to Kathryn Tanner's observation in her Theories of Culture: a new agenda for theology that Christian identity is constituted "by a community of argument concerning the meaning of true discipleship."

That struck me at the time as a very helpful way to conceive of the church. The thought has stuck with me, and grown on me. Here's why I like it:
  1. It's realistic about the divergence of opinions and interpretations within the church.
  2. It takes a centered set approach to church rather than a bounded set approach.
  3. It speaks of commitment and conviction - without these you wouldn't bother arguing.
  4. It implies a notion of church as a process extended through space and time with all the continuities and discontinuities that implies.
  5. It takes seriously the notion that not only does the church have to relate to wider culture but is also itself a culture in its own right.
Tanner's now on my wish list. If you want an assessment of how she fits in with trends in postliberal theology try this religion religion online article by Gary Dorrien. If you've not read Stone yet I would recommend it very highly indeed see here for my initial response to the book.

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