Author: Kathryn TANNER, Professor of Systematic Theology, Yale University Divinity School
Contemporary Christian theology often addresses the issue of Christian identity in ways that reflect a modern understanding of culture. Christian social practices are taken to be a group-specific, unified whole, sharply bounded to form, some sort of self-contained unit. These presumptions are contested by postmodern developments in cultural studies, and sit uneasily with a number of common claims in Christian theology; they also entail a judgment in favour of a particular position on substantive theological matters. Typically, theologians have offered one sort of answer for the many-sided question of Christian identity – defining identity in social terms, or with reference to cultural boundaries, or by looking at intrinsic continuities in Christian belief and action. This article proposes a variant of the last type, Christian identity in virtue of a distinctive cultural style. It considers how tradition and rules have been used to determine identity, and outlines a theory of style as an alternative, but reiterates that Christian identity is ultimately a task, one which necessarily eschews definitive formulae.
Christian identity, social practices, cultural style
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