Date of Submission
Chineegadoo, P. L. (2015). A Contextual Ecclesiology of Dialogue: the Self-Identity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Postmodern Context of Mission (Doctoral thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4226/66/5b0b89e1c8775
The objective of this ecclesiological research is to explore the extent to which the SDA church’s self-understanding as the remnant church is being transformed in the context of postmodern mission. The SDA church has described itself as the remnant church, based on its interpretation of apocalyptic Bible prophecies including the books of Daniel and Revelation. In the past 50 years, this interpretation has been the subject of various studies within the Seventh-day Adventist Church and has given rise to six main views:
1. The traditional and official position that the SDA church is God’s faithful end-time remnant people of Bible prophecies.
2. God’s remnant includes Adventists and non-Adventists.
3. There is a remnant within the remnant church, which means that only a minority of Adventists within the SDA church are faithful to the Gospel commission.
4 The Remnant is an invisible entity that describes God’s chosen peoples rather than people.
5. The Remnant is not yet a reality and is still future.
6. The Remnant is to be understood as a movement for social resistance and justice.
Our literature review analyses primary sources, including the Fundamental Beliefs of the SDA Church, official theological statements and academic biblical theological research on the question of remnant ecclesiology. We observe that remnant ecclesiology in Adventism during the modern period (19th–20th century) has undergone a dynamic doctrinal development not without any theological and hermeneutical tensions, characterised by two divergent views of mission -- missio dei and missio ecclesiae. We conclude that the body of literature on remnant ecclesiology under review has a lacuna because there is no actual research investigation that addresses the impact of the postmodern context of mission on remnant ecclesiology, both as a missional doctrine and as a core dimension of the self-understanding of the SDA community of faith itself.
We intend to address this lacuna and contribute to ecclesiological knowledge in the area of ecclesiological self-understanding and mission through a contextual ecclesiology of dialogue. This methodological approach seeks to mediate the theological meaning of remnant ecclesiology through a dialogue between the past experience of God’s remnant people as witnessed in Bible stories and kept alive through faith traditions and the contemporary experience of the ecclesiological self-understanding of SDA believers in the postmodern context of Otherness. This is an inductive ecclesiological study that takes as its starting point, the faith experience of the believers who belong to SDA churches and who are postmodern-sensitive in their mission outlook.
We will conduct an inductive exploratory case study involving a selected group of 34 participants from various missional church groups in Australia, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. As an exploratory case study, it uses a mixed-mode approach for data collection consisting of an online survey using Survey Monkey and email interviews over a six-month period. The overall summary survey results show that the majority of participants have an inclusive ecclesiological self-understanding. In other words, God’s remnant people comprises SDA and non-SDA. Furthermore, a deeper analysis of the participants’ narratives shared during our interviews reveals that their self-identity as SDA is expressed and characterised by an asymmetric relationship of proximity and attachment, uniqueness and difference to their community of faith.
Consequently, in the light of our case study, we reflect on the theological meaning and implications of the inclusive nature of remnant ecclesiology. We propose that remnant ecclesiology is an ecclesiology of alterity anchored in God’s difference from the creature, yet close and in proximity. Such an ecclesiology models on God’s revelation through Jesus Christ, who bridges the distance between God and the human but is yet radically, absolutely different from humanity. It is an ecclesiology that is faithful to God’s past revelation and his passion for dialogue with the human race in view of salvation and open to God’s action in his faithful church today, calling a new generation of believers to hear what the Spirit has to say to the churches.1
In the epistles of Christ to the seven churches of Asia, the leitmotiv—‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’— recurs seven times: Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.
Finally, we conclude that in the present postmodern cultural context of mission characterised by the turn to the Other, a contextualised remnant ecclesiology rooted in missio Dei and God’s Revelation of Otherness is an ecclesiology of dialogue which is a sign of God’s proximity and attachment, of difference and uniqueness with humanity through his son Jesus Christ—Immanuel, God with us—(Matthew 1:23).
School of Theology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Theology and Philosophy