The thesis focuses on the challenge of being church in the postsecular twenty-first century in an authentic way. A shift took place from modernity with concepts such as ŉationalism‘ and ‗unity‘ to the fragmentation and diversity which are characteristic of the present-day postmodern world. After the Second World War the objective of the Ecumenical Movement was to promote and maintain the unity of the church. The unity of the church has been an issue from New Testament times up to the present day. How the relationship between unity and diversity was understood changed along with changing paradigms. During the first centuries of the church when the ecumenical creeds originated, the relationship between the unity and diversity of the church was interpreted in terms of two aspects, namely the unity of the canon which consists of a diversity of writings and the one Triune God who consists of a diversity of personae. This study argues that the great revolutions in North America and France were the breeding ground for concepts such as ŉation‘ and ŉationalism‘. During this period the unity of the church was interpreted in terms of the dominant ideology of nationalism and nation. The revolutions were also a force behind increasing secularisation and the church‘s loss of authority. In Germany the ideology of national-socialism compromised the integrity of the church. In South Africa apartheid had a similar effect. Secularisation, globalisation and fluidity seemingly threaten the unity of the present-day church.
This study aims to contribute to an understanding of unity and diversity that could contribute to the integrity of the church in the third millennium without endorsing the hegemony of the authoritarian church. It attributes a positive meaning to plurality, diversity and the ecumenical movement. This is done after the model of the Cappadocian legacy which associated the immanence (being) of the Trinity with the economy (action) of the Trinity. This model provides the key for the solution to the problemstatement of this thesis. The thesis aims to argue for a correlation between, on the one hand Trinity (diversity in unity) and the ecclesiastical creed (confessing the catholicity of the one church), and on the other hand Christian values such as caritas (agapē) and communion (koinōnia). This study draws a correlation between these Christian values and notions from common law, namely dignitas (dignity) and fama (reputation). The epistemological model for describing a social Trinitarian ecclesiology is that of narrative theology. The ecclesiological model is that of ‗heterotopia‘, a Foucauldian conception of anti-binary space over against the 'utopia‘ as an illusioned space. Chapter 1 indicates the direction of the study: the ecclesiological challenge of the unity of the church amid diversity. The tension between unity and diversity is the crux interpretum of the ecclesiology. The Cappadocian legacy regarding the Trinity is explored as a possible solution. Epistemologically speaking, the approach of the study is a Reformed perspective on the human condition and the methodology is that of narrative. In Chapter 2 the narrative of the Cappadocian renaissance is discussed. The Cappadocian correlation between the immanence (being) of the Trinity and the economy (action) of the Trinity is described and the value thereof for a postmodern ecclesiology is explored.
In Chapter 3 an alternative narrative for the church is sought by investigating the Catholic theologian, Edward Schillebeeckx‘s ecclesiology in terms of the concept of liquidity. His contribution was to replace the Catholic maxim extra ecclesiam nulla salus est with extra mundum nulla salus. Hereby he trandscends the boundaries of the church to include the whole world in God‘s salvation. From a postmodern perspective the question would be whether he was able to overcome the binary thinking of his time. The Netherdutch Reformed Church of Africa is described as a case in point of a church which endorses genealogy and thereby fails to transcend the binary opposition of exclusivism and inclusivity. Nationalism and racism form the ideological underpinnings of this tendency. Theoretically the confession of unity is underscored but it does not manifest in practice. Ecclesiology should overcome binary and linear thinking in order to be relevant to postmodern culture. In Chapter 4 overcoming binary and linear thinking is illustrated by the exploring the autobiography of Protestant theologian, Jürgen Moltmann, in order to ascertain to what extent narratives of inclusivity can be of value for formulating an inclusive ecclesiology for the church in a postmodern world today. Moltmann‘s ecclesiology is investigated in terms of the concept of a social Trinity. From Moltmann‘s narrative it can been seen that he was radically inclusive in practice even before theories of radical inclusivity had been formulated. However, his emphasis on eschatology and hope tends toward apocalyptic utopian thinking.
In Chapter 5 Michel Foucault‘s concept of heterotopia is used to describe reconciliatory diversity, which is characteristic of an inclusive postmodern church which is a space where unity is not threatened by diversity, where the one is not afraid of the Other.
In Chapter 6 the study concludes with the finding that to be church in the third millennium entails transcending linear thinking, desacralizing time and space and bidding farewell to any notion of genealogy as constitutive for 'being‘ church. The broad space where this is possible in the 'here‘ and 'now‘ is that of heterotopia.