Thesis: Re-scoped, Re-oriented

For various reasons, partly to do with the impact of real life on my intended schedule, and partly to do with how my initial research has reshaped my interests, I’ve recently reworked my thesis project into something a bit less ambitious. (This presumably surprises no one, and presumably relieves the several people who advised me I was attempting far too much. 🙂 )

The revised summary and outline are below. I have a first draft of chapter one in hand. Chapter two is in progress, but I’m confident of its structure. The structure of chapter three is extremely tentative after its first subsection.

It was hard to cut the project back this much, but I think it looks a lot tighter and better focused now. (Yay, editing?)

Summary

The key anthropological insight of mimetic theory is that human identity is received and constituted by patterns of desire that originate externally. Thus humans are naturally caught up in and shaped by patterns of communal desire, particularly conflictual patterns of rivalry and unifying patterns of scandal and scapegoating. This key anthropological insight has been appropriated as a hermeneutical key to the gospel by a small community of scholars. The resulting theological reflections have obvious implications for theological anthropology and soteriology, and less obviously to other theological disciplines.

This paper will identify the ecclesiological implications present in mimetic interpretations of theology, and situate them with respect to the relatively recent trends in systematic, concrete, and practice-based ecclesiology. Although the construction of a systematic mimetic ecclesiology is out of scope for this project, some thoughts towards such a system will be offered.

Mimetic ecclesiology is an ecclesiology “from below” that applies the key anthropological insight of mimetic theory to the identity, mission, and constitutive practices of the church. It understands the church as the community of persons who receive their identity from Jesus Christ (to whom their desires are directed by the Holy Spirit, and who in turn models desire for and identity received from the Father) and renounce rivalry and unification by scandal and scapegoating. Mimetic ecclesiology potentially provides an explanatory and normative framework that connects traditional ecclesiological language with the concrete experience of church, and assesses church practices as authentic and constitutive based on the degree to which they neutralize and dismantle violent patterns of rivalry and scapegoating, and support the emergence of new, nonviolent patterns of desire, identity, and unity in Christ.

Outline

  1. Ecclesiology
    1. Model-based Ecclesiologies
    2. Turn to the Systematic
    3. Concrete and practice-based ecclesiologies
    4. Practice, belief, and desire
    5. Systematic mimetic ecclesiology
  2. Mimetic theology
    1. Mimetic theory
    2. From mimetic theory to mimetic theology
      1. Theological Anthropology
      2. Soteriology
      3. Pneumatology
      4. Liturgics
    3. Ecclesiological implications
  3. Towards a mimetic ecclesiology
    1. Systematic
      1. Foundational statement
      2. From the side: integrating disciplines
    2. Patterns of Desire: The Gifts of the Spirit
    3. Practices: The Imitation of Christ
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