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Title page for ETD etd-02022007-184632

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Belcher, Joseph David
Author's Email Address joseph.d.belcher@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-02022007-184632
Title Baptism into the poor body of Christ: or, how to possess nothing and yet have everything
Degree Master of Arts
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
M. Douglas Meeks Committee Chair
Robin M. Jensen Committee Member
  • political theology
  • love
  • unity
  • ecclesiology
  • mission
Date of Defense 2007-02-01
Availability unrestricted
This thesis investigates the problem of the disappearance of the Church, which is a result of the fracture of Christian praxis. First, the problem is introduced and outlined according to the maxim that the Church can only appear as it is one. Then a response to the problem is given by way of analogy to the early Christian understanding of Baptism. Baptism is here considered as the rite of dispossession that grounds the possibility for Christian Eucharistic unity. The identity of the unified Church is thus one that lives into the dispossessive character of baptism. This premise is used to further demonstrate that the Church today refuses such unity by its possessiveness, particularly in the political realm. Then follows an investigation of the mystics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which serve as a model for how the Church might live into the dispossessive character of its baptismal identity. In conclusion, the dispossessive identity of the Church is given ground in the dispossessed of this world; Church unity, and thus the overcoming of the disappearance of the Church, is only possible when the Church lives into its mission to become a Church of and for the dispossessed.
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