Saturday 11 July 2009

Mainstream Triangle Latest

Recent posts about the hard-right Protestant wing getting on or not getting on with the had-right Catholic wing have led me back to my once Ph.D Mainstream Triangle. The original had three ends and a middle bloc: the ends were Conversionist (Fundamentalist, Charismatic, Evangelical), Traditionalisms (Protestant and Catholic, at least one per denomination) and Heterodox Liberal (Theist, Exemplarist, Spiritual, Non-realist) and the middle bloc was Orthodox Liberalism, of the old broad Church, of many theologies upholding Incarnation and Resurrection in general and managerial in outlook. These four blocs are transferable to other ideological organisations. In general the middle bloc is bureaucratic in authority (meaning negotiating with give and take, hierarchical but by training, and relating to but still distinctive regarding the surounding culture); the Heterodix Liberals are pro-culture and mainly found in universities and seminaries, and other places of learning, with systemic authority (decentralised to expertise within an organisation - to theologians, for example), but these divide up trinitarian biases; the Conversionists have charismatic authority (it really is what approved and favoured persons say about the Bible, with a forward thrust in attacking the culture); and there are traditionalists of traditional authority (as defined within denominations and Churches, and so this is rather a variable bloc).

Now the question always is how this triangle holds up. But one of the issues now is this FCA joining of dogmatic evangelicals and dogmatic Catholics who are not just going to agree to disagree on what one side and the other side regard as different fundamentals.

There is some confusion I think in ordinary labelling, particularly in the use of Conservative Evangelical. It suggests conserving, but I think the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is about Conversionists of the mainly - I'll now call them - Approved Literalist kind. These people attack the culture, and they are in many ways individualist and lean upon approved authority. There is a different ethos here between them and say the Church Society that puts the Church Society into one of the traditionalisms. In a sense, the approval given (if transitory) from the FCA to traditionalist Catholics is exactly because they are conversionist, that they have flexibility and tactics that a defensive traditionalist can never show. This is why the traditionalist Catholics are so awkward about this alliance. In the United States the issue is whether ACNA can ever be the sort of Church that prevents, in the end, the Catholics there from moving on.

I think the triangle holds on against such an FCA "alliance", and indeed it gives explanation for the unstable nature of the alliance.

The other challenge to the triangle has come from Radical Orthodoxy and Yale Postliberalism. Both of these are as a form of non-realism, but the first is of a kind of Catholic traditionalism (Catholic Platonism indeed, inside its bubble) and the second is a Reformed, ecumenical, 'performance-based' identifier of being Christian rather than via any objective truth. One option is to have a virtual under-side of the triangle where traditionalism includes Radical Othodoxy, and then one can have Yale Postliberalism as a form of virtual Orthodox Liberalism even towards a tradition that is ecumenical. It makes placing Post-Evangelicalism easier and forms of Emerging Church ('Fresh Expressions' though can be all over the place: I just think it is a desperate entertainment based cover for recruitment).

Resisting that I think the triangle does need a bit of redrawing of the boundaries. The Social Evangelicalism that I thought about in 1989 is now more so the Open Evangelicalism spoken about now, and needs a thrust into the intellectual and institutional of the two level triangle.

Two areas need a little explanation. The Theist position is that of the simple God believers but don't really believe in much else; the Spiritist is the position of those who are near Pagan ideas and have strong interfaith views and are syncretist, so they favour being spiritual over being religious and so a church is a holy space where they can give expression to religious feeling.

Here is the triangle as of now (click on it to increase its size):


Brad Evans said...

Wonderfully systematic.
Probably the most useful graph I've ever seen.
Do you think this model holds true for churches outside the UK of GB and NI?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Thanks. European I hope, but North America affects it by the decentralising of denominations and the willingness to specialise institutionally.