More than communion: Toward an eschatological ecclesiology

Scott MacDougall, Fordham University


The thesis of this dissertation is that John Zizioulas' and John Milbank's theologies of the church, understood in terms of the categories of communion ecclesiologies, are marked by an overly realized eschatology and so fail to imagine eschatological futurity and as a result theologically devalue material creation and history, privilege institutions, and emphasize a restrictive and closed concept of the church, and that this attenuated eschatological imagination is connected to both theologians' effective reduction of ecclesial practice to eucharist without paying sufficient attention to a larger range of everyday, social, and political practices that emerge from a more comprehensive understanding of eschatological hope. After providing the background necessary to grasp what communion ecclesiologies are and what is at stake in them, Zizioulas' and Milbank's ecclesiologies are analyzed, demonstrating their consonance with the themes of communion ecclesiologies, situating their own ecclesiologies within the context of their respective overarching theological commitments and projects, delineating the ways in which these are consistent with their eschatological viewpoints, and raising concerns brought to the fore by their construals of eschatology and the church. The final three chapters of the dissertation offer a constructive proposal for recovering the "more" to communion and ecclesiologies of communion. This recovery helps us to imagine—to conceptualize while living out of and into—a church that is not so much beyond the world (as seems to be the case in Zizioulas' ecclesiology) or over against the world (which appears to be the case in Milbank's) but in and for the world in love and service, as the anticipation of the eschatological perfection of a thoroughgoing four-fold communion—between humanity and God, among human beings, within human persons, and between humanity and the rest of creation. This more generous imagination of communion and of the church as an agent of its anticipation is worked out conceptually in conversation with systematic theologians such as Jürgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Johannes Baptist Metz, and practically by engaging with an emerging theology of Christian practices being developed by practical theologians Dorothy C. Bass and Craig Dykstra and other practical theologians aligned with their work.

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Recommended Citation

MacDougall, Scott, "More than communion: Toward an eschatological ecclesiology" (2014). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3611909.