This is not a thesis proposal.

Very thick open book.It’s not even going to be one when it grows up: rather the reverse! This is the five-year, 500 page book version of the project I have in mind. But I’ve always been the kind of person who has to write all the terms of the equation on the blackboard, and then figure out which ones are negligible and can be ignored. Or to say it another way, I have to start with the comprehensively detailed description, and then figure out what to cut and how to compress.

So here is the comprehensive, nay, voluminous, prodigious, elephantine version with (almost) all the terms included:

The School of Right Desire:
Constructing a Mimetic Ecclesiology

Thesis: The insights of mimetic theology can be applied and organized to produce a coherent and fruitful ecclesiology.

Motivation; context; similar approaches.

1. Systematic ecclesiology
Systematic frameworks; ecclesiology “from below”; church as praxis.

2. Mimetic theology
Mimetic theory; from theory to theology; theological anthropology; atonement; pneumatology; liturgics.

3. Mimetic ecclesiology
Integrating the pieces of chapter 2 into a framework from chapter 1. Strengths, weaknesses, limitations.

4. The church and the Christian
Formational practices; identity.

5. The church and the world
Expressive practices; mission.

6. The church and the churches
Notes, marks, and streams; lived experience and object of faith; emergence Christianity; ecumenical relations; institutional forms.

7. Conclusions
Comparison with other ecclesiologies; fruitfulness; implications; future work.

…whew! Any advice on getting this down to 9 months and 80-100 pages? One approach that occurs to me is to take the first three chapters and the last, and confine myself to brief remarks in the direction of the other three chapters.

Another might be to skimp chapters 1 and 2, write 3, and pick one of 4/5/6.

Other ideas? Pros and cons? All advice and suggestions will be gratefully accepted.

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5 Responses to This is not a thesis proposal.

  1. mirabilis says:

    What you have outlined here strikes me as much more of a textbook than an original contribution, which is in most cases more the point of a thesis. (Although I guess YMMV depending on your program!) So:

    What/where is your *original* contribution, and where are you leaning mostly on previous work? Like, “mimetic theology” seems to me to be A Thing today, where you could perhaps sum up a few VIP contributions in a lit review chapter, but do you have significant thoughts that take mimetic ecclesiology in a new direction theologically? Or is mimetic eccles. also A Thing where you could add a few paragraphs on the key existing works to the lit review, and then focus on how this model of doing church could apply to some modern situation or problem (like, a rift between Northern and Southern, or feminist and malestream, understandings of Christianity/Catholicism; or something on a more individual level).

    • Mirabilis, thanks for your response! My program doesn’t, actually, require an original contribution for the MA thesis;
      but to my knowledge, there’s been relatively little written about mimetic ecclesiology as such. It’s all latent and implicit in the other areas of mimetic theology; it becomes occasionally explicit in James Alison’s work, but not in a very systematic way. (If you know of some material I’m missing, please do let me know!) So pulling together that dispersed, latent, implicit material into something more systematic does seem like a contribution.

      In terms of a contemporary problem to which to apply, I do think that mimetic ecclesiology has something valuable to contribute to understanding and navigating the current situations of divisiveness and polarization in the church today. And it may also be a means of bridging the gap between churches in the emergent movements and the pre-emergent(?) churches.

      I had both of those issues in mind as part of the general category “the church and the churches”… but that discussion seems to require working out an ecclesiological schema first.

      • mirabilis says:

        Hee! I am actually a historian and much more likely to know things about martyr stories involving actual mimes than mimetic theology as such. ;o) (…which is one of the reason I love your blog so much; you are very good at explaining things my theology background did not cover). If what you say about no systematic mimetic eccles. floating out there is true, I bet working towards one could make for an awesome and worthwhile (personally and theologically) thesis.

        I could see something like: (1) lit review of mimetic theology (2) lit review of emergent church/doing Church ideas (3) spin them together into a mimetic eccles., perhaps as applied to a specific context like “religion in assisted living communities” or some such. It might end up being easier, or even necessary, to work out mimetic eccles. contextually, while drawing on a theoretical background of mimetic Christology/pneumatology.

        Given the general theme of your blog and the close nature of the two fields, by the way, at some point I hope you will post some musings on a mimetic Mariology (as long as you’re interested). I’d LOVE to read your thoughts on that!

        • Thank you for the nice words about my blog – made my night! 🙂

          And for the encouragement and brainstorming. Interesting point about working it out contextually. I’ve been thinking systematically on the one hand (cuz, that’s what I do 😉 ); and/or, sort of process-oriented, almost developmentally? That’s kind of the progression my christian/world/churches series was going: start with

          1. how human beings receive their identity and how that connects to Christian formation; go on to

          2. how humans influence and interact with each other and how that connects to evangelizing the world in the sense of being salt for the earth, light for the world, leaven for the lump; then finally see

          3. how that connects up with a) traditional understandings of church and b) institutional forms of church.

          Where 3b is more or less how 1 and 2 might manifest as specific human social structures/patterns.

          ….mimetic Mariology. Huh. Now there’s an idea I’ve never heard put forth in so many words. I’ve been chewing it over in the back of my mind since reading your comment the other night, and it occurs to me that orthodox Marian devotion is precisely consistent with mimetic theology, because Mary points to Jesus. I’m going to have to reread the Marian chapter of Lumen Gentium again with that in mind. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: Something resembling a thesis proposal? | Gaudete Theology

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