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Lay Christian Views of Life After Death: A Qualitative Study and Theological Appraisal of the ‘Ordinary Eschatology’ of Some Congregational Christians

By ROBERT MICHAEL ARMSTRONG

Abstract

The thesis investigates the life after death (hereafter LAD) beliefs of members of my Congregational church via in-depth semi-structured interviews. Complementary criteria of critical reflection and visible effect on behaviour are used to identify these views as ‘ordinary theology’. It is argued that the disclosed ‘ordinary eschatology’ provides a valuable commentary on both the current theological norm of protestant Christian tradition and contemporary academic debate. Ordinary theologians can be considered as Spirit signal processors for the church: a claim based on a view of continuing revelation, the changing living tradition of the church, and the nature of doctrine as ‘regulative principle’. \ud Protestant doctrine and funeral liturgy is not entirely clear about LAD, so this is supplemented with a particular view of ‘life after LAD’ to provide a comparative ‘norm’. The present data shows a significant disjunction with this norm in several key areas. Ordinary eschatology does not envisage a physical afterlife or final re-embodiment of the dead: the afterlife is an immediate soul-spirit existence. Jesus’ resurrection is not regarded as directly relevant to the nature of human afterlife but rather was to confirm his person and message. \ud These ordinary theologians are deeply sceptical of scholarly and ecclesial authority, and their attitudes suggest a failure on the part of church and academy to convey the results of academic scholarship. Ordinary eschatology challenges the contemporary theological trend of denying a substantial soul, and questions some interpretations of key biblical texts concerning LAD. These ordinary theologians also frequently report experiences of supernatural phenomena: continuing contact with the known dead is especially important. \ud The listening process used to disclose this ordinary theology has great benefit and could be applied in other congregations and contexts. There is an identified desire among these ordinary theologians for LAD to become a more common and routine topic of church conversation. \u

Topics: "Ordinary Theology", "Life After Death", "Eschatology"
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:3274
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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