Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Divine authority and covenant community in contemporary culture
Author: Billingham, John
ISNI:       0000 0004 4020 7495
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
The question I address is: how might a theology of authority be conceived in the light of questions raised by what is termed 'post-modernity'? Is it possible to articulate a theology of authority coming to the church community 'from God' that avoids an oppressive and alienating heteronomy? The thesis explores the question of authority as of vital importance in the sociological dimension of religion, calling for legitimisation (in light of claims made for itself) and as obligatory in the theological sphere. For this reason the project involves two methodologies (theological and sociological/ethnographic). While this investigation is relevant to all sections of the Christian church, particular attention is paid to Baptist churches in the UK, since they hold a concept in their tradition that I suggest is valuable in answering the question of the thesis, namely that of covenant. Within the Christian tradition there is an inner 'problematic' relating the personal authority of Christ to the forms of institution (church) and text (scripture). I explore this with a brief survey of theological authority as found in the fourfold foundation of scripture, tradition, reason and experience. From this is developed a brief theological and Christological reflection on divine authority and covenant theology as found in Karl Barth and his response to the 'inner problematic'. Within contemporary culture I view authority through the lens of so-called 'postmodernism', identifying four challenges to the notion of 'external authority' (all of which exemplify a move from the external to internal, and objective to subjective approaches to authority). This is further explored by means of qualitative research with one-to-one interviews conducted in a Baptist church in York. This data is reflected upon by means of ethnography and 'judicious narratives', especially in dialogue with material from Guest ('congregational study'), Heelas and Woodhead ('subjectivised-self') and Healy ('theodramatic horizon' and 'practical-prophetic ecclesiology'), providing an intersection between the language of theology and sociology. The concept of church as covenant community is explored in Baptist and (more briefly) Anglican traditions, leading to a constructive proposal that both the inner-church 'problematic' and the 'postmodern' challenge to authority might begin to be resolved with the notion of covenant. It is within this context of relationship, human and divine, that the authoritative and revelatory Word of God, the story that is Christ, is found in community and praxis. Here is a 'triangulating' relationship between authority, story and covenant revealing divine authority in a non-coercive way and relevant to contemporary culture.
Supervisor: Fiddes, Paul S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Theology and Religion ; Christianity and Christian spirituality ; Modern theology ; Biblical studies ; Church history ; Philosophy,psychology and sociology of religion ; Ethnographic practices ; Contemporary Culture ; Covenant Theology ; Late-modernity ; Authority ; divine ; Trinity ; Jesus Christ ; relationship ; perichoresis ; post-modernity ; theology ; covenant ; subjectivisation ; secular ; theodrama ; practical-prophetic ecclesiology ; tradition ; scripture ; Word of God ; reason ; experience ; ethnographic ; sociological ; media ; coercive ; persuasive ; language ; inner-problematic ; Karl Barth ; York Survey ; metanarrative ; coercion ; private judgement ; community ; open textuality ; judicious narratives ; congregational discourse ; rule of Christ ; postmodern challenge