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Mature in Christ: the contribution of Ephesians and Colossians to constructing Christian maturity in modernity

Matthews, Bradley J. (2009) Mature in Christ: the contribution of Ephesians and Colossians to constructing Christian maturity in modernity. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis addresses the manner in which Christian maturity is constructed in modernity. The premise developed through the course of the study is that modern works on the nature of Christian maturity have disregarded, or even been ignorant of, the genealogy of maturity. Thus, their constructions of Christian maturity are significantly influenced by modern ideals that are, at times, at odds with ideals espoused by the biblical texts. Specifically, the Enlightenment directed the goal of human existence towards individual autonomy, and subsequent psycho-social theory has standardised the attainment of this goal according to a series of developmental stages. Whilst there are different trends in modern constructions of Christian maturity, the paradigm of developing individual autonomy is still the underlying principle of each construct.

I argue that the ancient world constructed maturity in a fundamentally different manner. Human teleology referenced not only individual persons, but also a divine figure, social group, and the cosmos. Even though Ephesians and Colossians express their theology of Christian maturity in different ways, both letters present a remarkably similar construction that operates within the ancient referential framework. Christian maturity is the eschatological existence of believers, both as individuals and as the corporate community of the Church, in Christ. Moreover, within the mystery of God’s plan, the attainment of Christian maturity is the mechanism that will bring about the redemption of the entire cosmos. Thus, Ephesians and Colossians construct Christian maturity so that the teleology of the individual references the triune God, the Church and the cosmos.

This reading that is based on a historical and philological exegesis of Ephesians and Colossians necessitates the hermeneutical task of determining how to re-appropriate this theology of Christian maturity in the modern world. I argue that there are three distinct features of the construction of Christian maturity when compared to other ancient constructions, namely its basis in God’s mystery, in the somatic nature of the Church, and especially in union with Christ. Whilst it is not possible to return to a pre-modern conception of human teleology, it is possible to recover these three distinct features within the modern discourse about maturity. The proposal offered demonstrates how the recovery of these distinct features provides the necessary corrective to the odern construction of Christian maturity.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Philosophy Religion Sociology Human services
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Jul 2011 18:04

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