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Title: The shape of waiting : a conversation with Ephraim Radner and the prophet Hosea on the church in the post-Christendom west
Author: Erickson, Amy J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7425 7853
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2018
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Introduction: The introduction begins by canvassing a popular discussion about the state of the Western church today that serves to locate this project in recent theological discourse. I propose that the contemporary scholar Ephraim Radner remains a significant but over-looked voice in these discussions. I then suggest that the prophet Hosea offers a neglected biblical voice that promises to serve as a constructive anvil on which to assay Radner's various ecclesiological and hermeneutical views. Chapter One: In Chapter One I survey Radner's distinctive hermeneutical method: figural reading. After distinguishing figuralism from allegory and typology, I explicate Radner's presentation of figuralism and its sources, especially Jansenism. Next, I elucidate the metaphysical implications of figural reading and its attendant resistances to supersessionism, in that figural reading entails a nonlinear temporality requiring that the church read the history of biblical Israel as her own. I conclude by summoning insights from Michel Foucault to hone this chapter's running thesis that figural reading sees the body of Christ. Chapter Two: In Chapter Two I continue to expound the relation of figural reading to the body of Christ by detailing Radner's ecclesiology. I suggest that nuptiality serves as the central framework of Radner's ecclesiology, which seeks to understand ecclesial oneness in light of the church's painful experience of division. I then survey his diagnosis and prescription for contemporary ecclesial ills, which he takes to derive primarily from divisiveness unleashed by the Reformation. Next, I critically engage the biblical and theological justifications which Radner deploys to argue that just as Christ released his spirit at his death on the cross, so too the church is now a divided and dead body abandoned by the Holy Spirit. While Radner insists that today's ecclesial members are rendered incapable of any human efforts at reunification and must simply cling to their received denominational forms, I suggest that Radner's account shows signs of inconsistency that leave room for reconfiguration of both his diagnosis and prescription for today's church, especially in its neglect of eschatology. Chapter Three: In Chapter Three, I set out to perform a figural reading of the prophet Hosea with which to hone Radner's ecclesiological account. I suggest that Hosea primarily constitutes a critique of Israel's traditional political and cultic forms. I propose that Hosea indicates that a grammar—which correlates natural forms and cultic ones in order to relay the covenantal knowledge that YHWH is the one who feeds Israel—has broken down. Emblematic of this grammatical breakdown is Hosea's own tortured language. As such, I propose that the book should be read as a portrait of the crumbling temple complex. Because of their semiotic decay, Hosea warns that God will take Israel's institutions away. Yet this stripping of her institutional forms is itself the outward display of God's repentant stance by which he determines not to completely destroy Israel, but to instead grant her the space to repent. The name of this space, characterized by the absence of both natural and institutional forms, is wilderness. In the secularized space of wilderness, language remains the sole recourse by which God's people renew their relationship with him as they await re-entry. Chapter Four: Chapter Four concludes by bringing Hosea's insights back to correct Radner. I suggest that today's prevailing secularism constitutes a wilderness experience for the contemporary Western church, who—like the Israel of Hosea—is experiencing a stripping of her traditional institutional forms. What Hosea proposes is not that God is absent, but that his presence is no longer signaled in the ways it once was. As a result, it is not the language of abandonment but eschatological hope that must dictate the posture of God's people in the wilderness. Hosea suggests that such a posture is inherently poetic. I close by suggesting that the quotidian, the passionate, the imagination, and the ambiguous are four key characteristics of the poetic shape which the church should adopt as she waits in the wilderness for God's reign.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Church ; Christianity