Analytic Ecclesiology: The Social Ontology of the Church

Joshua Cockayne


In this paper, I aim to show that analytic philosophy can contribute to the theological discussion of ecclesiology. By considering recent analytic work on social ontology, I outline how we might think of the Church as one entity, constituted by many disparate parts. The paper begins with an overview of the theological constraints for the paper, and then proceeds to examine recent work on the philosophy of social ontology and group agency. Drawing on this literature, I outline three models of social ontology from the history of philosophy and suggest reasons why all of them fail to provide an account of the Church’s agency. Finally, I develop an alternative model which, I suggest, better fits the conditions stipulated.

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The Journal of Analytic Theology is a publication of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame.

ISSN 2330-2380 (online)