This dissertation works at the borderlands of philosophy and theology. It represents an attempt to think theologically about epistemology and ecclesiology, both within the context of the realism/antirealism debate and with sustained reference to the logic of the Incarnation.
PART I (The Ethics of Experience) and PART II (The Epistemology of Experience) deal with the role of language and interpretation in experience generally, as well as with some of the curious philosophical problems that foreshadows. I acknowledge that experience is largely a function of language, that there is, owing to one’s past, one’s present context, and one’s embodied existence in the world, interpretation in experience, not only discovery but creation as well. It is not possible to escape the limitations of flesh and finitude. But thinking incarnationally throughout, I explore the extent to which experience of God is, providentially, both incarnate and decisively shaped by the Incarnation; experience (of God) is not only in the flesh and concerned with the flesh, but also indissolubly related to the flesh of God in Christ.
In PART III (The Ecclesiology of Experience) I unpack the logic of the Incarnation within the context of the life of incarnate Christian community, and so consider the complex relation of Christian language and language-related activities to Christian experience. How do the ecclesial practices of prayer, proclamation and eucharist affect (and effect) Christian experiences of God, and how, further, does sharing interpretive burdens prevent experience from becoming private or incommunicable? To what extent is Christian experience a function of the language and concepts of Christian community? In what way(s) does Christian experience depend for its possibility and intelligibility on the community’s gospel, enacted and embodied in the community’s worship, catechesis, and practice? In what sense is it true, Christianly speaking, that to experience is to embody and to embody is to experience? How does Christian experience shape the community’s identity and sustain its worship and witness? Thus, naturally, the ecclesial community shifts from the background to the foreground, and the vital function it performs in distilling Christian concepts, developing interpretive aptitudes, and nurturing Christian experience is outlined.