x_filesize')); // Sort image tag $OC_sortImg = 'current sort selection'; ?> ࡱ> |~{'` ybjbjLULU ;.?.?U%2Fl L  !!!8,"\"$ 5f""""""###4444444$s6h8p4%##h&&D4dx""4T+T+T+0'""4T+%4T+T+6X12"" cp=h!(T82x440 5T2@K9,*K9822K9: 22#h$JT+g$<$###44*d### 5%%%% $    How Can a Church Be a Public? A Deweyan Analysis Introduction: Pragmatism and the Church The central question of this essay (How can a church be a public?) is one specific manifestation of what I take to be a crucial and ongoing project in American philosophy: rehabilitating the relationship between pragmatism as a tradition and method of philosophical investigation and religious social institutions in America. This rehabilitation is already underway in the general sense of the revival of the theme of philosophy of religion in modern scholarship about pragmatism. Yet it is still the tendency of pragmatists to overlook or obfuscate when it comes to a specific analysis of organized, institutionalized religion. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read Deweys A Common Faith, which can be seen as the final word on the subject of religion given by the classical figures. In the final part of this book, Dewey asserts that the secularization of modern society is the greatest change that has occurred in religion in all history, and that the essential point is not just that secular organizations and actions are legally or externally severed from the control of the church, but that interests and values unrelated to the offices of any church now so largely sway the desires and aims of even believers. Dewey quashes the notion that institutional religion holds much if any influence in the radically pluralistic society of secular America, giving those who esteem his philosophical perspective the perfect excuse to avoid its consideration. Dismissing institutional religion in such a manner, however, neglects the reality that churches, however great or small, do in fact affect American society in important ways that need to be understood. Deweys choice to put such analysis aside must at the very least be analyzed to discern its philosophical motivation. Part of this will rely upon the concept of seriousness discussed later in the paper, but at least initially, one may note the tendency towards a lack of institutional analysis in general in Deweys work that Richard Bernstein points out in Deweys Vision of Radical Democracy. The split effected in A Common Faith between the religious (a pattern of behavior) and religion (a social organization) could be a symptom of this larger tendency toward avoiding structural critique in Deweys socio-political philosophy. If pragmatism is to see its resurgence better realized in our post-postmodern era, its current enthusiasts must get beyond this queasiness and address structural institutions rigorously, utilizing the tools that they have inherited, but that have not yet been put to the screws. In this essay, then, I will show how one such tool, Deweys own notion of a Public, can be applied structurally to understand the governance of dynamic and conscientious Christian churches in America. I argue that the application of this conceptual framework to church structures will have a two-fold effect: first, it will provide a novel philosophical warrant for churches to either maintain or renew their role as institutions of social regulation and service, providing the kind of institutional analysis that pragmatism in the public sphere is meant for; and second, it will show how the problem that classical pragmatists, and Dewey in particular, had with religious institutions ideological dogmatism can be ameliorated by understanding Christian churches as potentially dynamic communities of inquiry. I. What is a Public? As with so many of Deweys concepts, the idea of a public arises out of a functional analysis of a specific problem. In the opening chapter of The Public and its Problems, Dewey lays this problem out by stating that We take then our point of departure from the objective fact that human acts have consequences upon othersIf it is found that the consequences of conversation extend beyond the two directly concerned, that they affect the welfare of many others, the act acquires a public capacity. Dewey begins from humanitys common condition: all their actions have consequences for other humans. In order to differentiate public from private activities, Dewey describes them in terms of their effects: public actions effect indirect consequences in the lives of those not intimately involved in the action itself, while private actions have direct consequences only upon the agents doing them. Both of these terms should not be considered absolute; as seen in the above quotation, Dewey claims that public actions affect many others, and later says that the effects of private action are confined, or thought to be confined, mainly to the persons directly engaged in it. The number of those affected thus ranges on a spectrum, as does the degree of directness or indirectness of consequences. To this Dewey adds yet another qualitative measure of public and private actions, this time having very much to do with the formal concept of a public. He writes that an action warrants being called public if its indirect consequences upon other persons are enduring and extensive, or, more succinctly, serious. Dewey states that it is these indirect consequences that, when recognized by the greater or smaller number of affected persons, precipitate the formation of an organization he calls a public. Another key element of this definition is that the public appoints representatives and it is through these representatives, however few or numerous they may be (depending upon the wishes or situation of the group), that regulation and governance are carried out. This public is organized and made effective by means of representatives who as guardians of custom, as legislators, as executives, judges, etc., care for its especial interests by methods intended to regulate conjoint actions of individuals and groups. Dewey goes on to say that When the public or state is involved in making social arrangements like passing laws, enforcing a contract, conferring a franchise, it still acts through concrete persons. More often than not, Dewey puts the indirect effects which warrant the organization of a public in negative terms: Recognition of evil consequences brought about a common interest which required for its maintenance certain measure and rules. Yet a public can also be organized to promote positive indirect consequences as well: consider, for example, a homeowners association that imposes rules for the maintenance and appearance of houses in a neighborhood, thus raising property values for all involved. Whether for good or bad, the key notion here is that The public consists of all those who are affected by the indirect consequences of transactions to such an extent that it is deemed necessary to have those consequences systematically cared for. The question of seriousness remains ambiguous in the work. While some examples of serious indirect consequences are easily identifiable (nuclear waste leaking into groundwater causing health problems, civilians killed by bombs intended for combatants, the effects to the community of widespread addiction to dangerous drugs), the question of just how serious serious is remains open for Dewey. What is clear is that Dewey regards seriousness as something that must be argued for and agreed upon by those involved; this is part of the emergence of a public as a public. He asserts that The primary problem of the public[is] to achieve such recognition of itself as will give it weight in the selection of official representative and in the definition of their responsibilities and rights. Part of the point of the collective agency that a public asserts in society through the creation and implementation of regulation and governance by officials is to articulate to those not counted among its members that their plight is in fact a serious matter, and to give authority to its officials to effect the change it seeks. Finally, public action is further defined as the process of collective inquiry. In a public, Perception of the consequences of a joint activity and of the distinctive share of each element in producing itcreates a common interest; that is concern on the part of each in the joint action and in the contribution of each of its members to it. When a person buys in to a common cause, they are accepting the onus of participating and contributing that comes with all conjoint social activity. In a public, that cause is first and foremost self-discernment as an organized public, that is, discerning the necessary regulations and ordinances by which to ameliorate the situation. Dewey states that what thus grounds all rightly democratic (i.e. involving a collectivity which individuals have bought into) political activity is inquiry into the consequences of some particular distribution[and] inquiry into what altered distribution would yield more desirable consequences. Realization of a public is an ongoing process of inquiry, of making hypotheses and testing different solutions to the problem it faces and, finally, ameliorating the situation. Because of this, publics are constantly in flux, coming to be and passing away as problems arise are made less problematic, and then arise again in new ways to be dealt with in new ways. For this reason one can never think of a monolithic Public, but always a collectivity of individuals seeking the right answers in their time for their problems. II. The Church as a Public I have already alluded to some of Deweys thoughts about religious organizations. The salient points are that Dewey saw all religious organization as arising out of some combination of biological necessity and cultural habituation for what he calls the religious in A Common Faith. In this way, his view is hardly atheistic. Yet, as shown in the introduction, Dewey saw the institutions of religion, and in particular the Christian Church with all of its rigid doctrines and immutable dogma, as steadily being eclipsed by the more dynamic meaning-making avenues of secular American society. Most importantly, Dewey asserted that in secular societies, religious activities had been relegated to the private sphere. In The Public and its Problems, as has been shown, Dewey called the collective worship of God a conjoint activity, but it is not public. One can be religious, according to Deweys Common Faith publicly, but to participate in religion is always and exclusively private. Against Deweys assumptions about religion, I would like to here define the concept of a church in such a way as to show how it could constitute a public, and not merely a private association or collectivity of persons. In order to do this, I will show how the criteria of being prompted by indirect consequences that are extensive and serious enough to warrant regulation and organization, operating through individual representatives, and conducting itself on the basis of collective deliberation and inquiry line up with some general theological underpinnings of Christian churches. Churches, in all of their myriad manifestations, are, first and foremost, historical creations. No church sprouted from the ground or fell from the heavens according to the laws of nature, but was founded by the activity of freely-willing agents to ameliorate consequences that are independent of their control. On the one hand, God seeks reconciliation and communion with humanity through the organized outreach of a Church, although human persons, by their own choice, again and again turn their backs on this offer. On the other hand, when human beings pause to reflect upon the limited, finite, sorrowful and uncertain experience that we have been borne into by no fault of our own, we too seek to join together in an organized fashion to confront these circumstances. This is the definition of the church-as-public based upon negative consequences; it can also be thought of, however, in terms of positive consequences. On Gods side, God stands to benefit from participation in collective activity with human beings because it thoroughly enriches Gods experience. On humanitys side, the positive effects of communal worship, public service, and ethical regulation through organization are powerful tools for relieving indeterminacies in experience. It may, perhaps, sound odd to hear God spoken of as an active participant in a church-public. In Deweys view, religious worship is directed towards God as an object or an ideal; that religious activity could in fact be a case of cooperative activity between human and divine persons would have been immediately ruled, since it clashes with his thoroughly naturalized ontology. Yet from the perspective of Christians, the activity of God in the Christian Church is and has always been one of the keys to legitimizing the work of the church in the world and is central to understanding how the governance of the church must be regulated. In a public, its members deliberate upon forms of governance: in the church-public, one of these members is the Holy Spirit. Human members of the church-public thus have to inquire into exactly how to establish regulations that respect both the mystery and the importance of the divine person in their midst. Different instantiations of the Christian Church have seen fit to do this in different ways by going through a process of inquiry that takes into account the specific circumstances of the church itself, as well as the character and makeup of its membership. In some cases this process was short-lived and ended in the establishment of permanent and rigid structures of governance; in others it was more dynamic and reminiscent of Deweys understanding of the democratic process of collective deliberation and inquiry carried out by representatives within a public. In the Lutheran and Reformed Protestant traditions, this process of confronting the world through the articulation of a church-public can be seen in the concept of declaring status confessionis, or situation of confession. The act of confession (from the Latin for bringing together) is a reinterpretation and articulation of doctrine within and in response to the experience of indeterminacy. The purpose of the declaration of a status confessionis in a church is to initiate a collective inquiry into problems of interpretation that are indirectly and negatively affecting the churchs mission and practice. In addition to this doctrinally-oriented definition, however, the German Reformed Theologian Alfred Rauhaus, drawing on the conception of status confessionis developed by Martin Schloemann, argues for extending the declaration of a state of confession beyond ecclesiastical matters. The term no longer refers exclusively to ecclesiastical motives, but can also be a response to evil in the world, a menace to the existence of mankind. This is perhaps the clearest articulation of the way in which status confessionis represents the activity of a church-public: as a collective body of individuals, the church responds to actions in the wider social realm that only indirectly affect it (as a church). Its response through status confessionis is a collective inquiry into the meaning and expression of Christian norms and regulations in their context. Eugene TeSelle explains this by saying In such cases, a status confessionis is seen in that essentials of the faith must be stated with new clarity-and must be stated nowTo declare a status confessionis is to say that time has run out, that toleration has reached its limits, that a line must be drawn. It is to say that the time is an evil time (Amos 5:13), but one in which we may no longer keep a prudent silence. In what ways does status confessionis fit the functional definition of what a public does? First, status confessionis requires collective deliberation by church members and church leaders about the way in which their Christian faith can confront whatever problem has precipitated the situation. This articulation takes the form of a written confession or theological declaration that comes to regulate and govern the church. This document is compiled by representatives from within the church body. Those who are entrusted with the task of articulating the churchs confession have no less a weighty task than do heads of state or chief political advisors: these confessions shape the organization and praxis of the church thenceforward. As theologian Eberhard Busch puts it, To have a confession is a good thing. The confession points in the direction in which the host of Christians is to move. Yet a confessional church is only a church-public insofar as it continually responds to new problems and challenges. Busch goes on to say that, A confessing church does not celebrate her confession. She tries and tests her confession practically in concrete challenges. Just as publics come relatively into and out of existence in response to problems, so too the church-public continually tests and retests its norms and convictions against the circumstances of its time through the agency of its individual members and their chosen representatives in the clergy, ecclesiastical government, and theological academy. The divide between humankind and the divine necessitates a collective inquiry to seek Gods will out in human experience. This is especially true in status confessionis, where the role of the church-public is ultimately to discern how to walk the Christian path through the vicissitudes and conflicts abounding in humans experience. The many doctrines generated within the Christian church, then, are essentially pieces of human experience that are inquired into, worked through, and lived out by individual persons in coordination with the Holy Spirit. However, the formation of a Christian congregation cannot be understood merely in terms of the interactive deliberation over ideas: people come together as a church in order to do something, that is, to respond to the situation in which they find themselves. The deliberations over dogma do not concern the validity of the ideas in some abstract realm, but whether or not the truths of Christian faith are truths in the everyday lives of members of the church-public, both human and divine. On this scale, then, a Christian church-public is formed with a unified and singular purpose; yet the multiplicity of disagreements over dogma and outright schisms found from the level of the Christian Church Universal all the way down to individual congregations are indicative that within this larger public there is a further plurality of publics operating. The establishment of doctrines often does have indirect consequences that generate outcry from others within the church that can result in the creation of separate congregations and denominations. Most of the time this arises when one church establishes some exclusionary practice (like denying full participation to women or racial minorities, or creating divisions along financial lines). When it becomes clear that a church-public is dysfunctional, as in the case of all publics, the best solution may be the reorganization of loyalties and the formation of new publics. In each of these cases, the Church-Public Universal is further bifurcated into more and more denominations and congregations who see themselves as the indirect victims of policies wrought presumably for the good of all. IV. Concluding Thoughts: Cashing Out the Church-Public Concept What I have endeavored to show here is that the Christian Church in many different ways is in fact a dynamic public seeking to gain awareness of and ameliorate the serious circumstances its members are subject to. This church-public has appeared in myriad forms and manifested itself in ways that were both appropriate and inappropriate to its circumstances. But this is no different from any other public: all publics are forced to carry out inquiries that inevitably have varying degrees of success at relieving the indeterminacy brought on by the indirect consequences of others actions. What makes a Christian church-public unique in this regard, however, and which may account for its perseverance on this planet for so long, is that it counts among its membership the Spirit of God, actively guiding and participating in the lives and inquiries of the church. Yet this last point ought not to be taken the wrong way: the fact remains that the distance between human beings and God cannot be overcome by even the greatest of human feats of understanding. The task of the church-publics inquiry is thus made more complicated, rather than less so, by the presence of God in it. Human members of the Christian Church ought never neglect this reality. This last fact also highlights the need for philosophical analysis of religious institutions. Recognizing the radical finitude of human understanding is no excuse for not attempting to improve the tools at its disposal. The time for simply decrying religious institutions as ideological and backwards is over: in order to engage the social institutions that matter in the American context, pragmatists cannot afford to shy away from the task of thinking through the philosophical issues latent in church doctrines and practices. In fact, continuing the practice of refusing to engage these institutions represents a failure by the academy in its role as a regulative Public to combat the force of fundamentalism and ideology that is pervasive in Americas churches. In order to fulfill the mission of pragmatism in the public sphere, I think that inquiries into the functional nature of churches in society are a necessary and vital undertaking for those concerned with the social effects of a religious devotion and dynamic collective practice in the context of a world in need of amelioration. Word Count: 3,449     PAGE  PAGE 1 Is this a reference to Hickmans pragmatism as post-postmodern? replace with: not just to critique secular institutions, but to institutional religions as well. having the potential to be dynamic In the quotation he calls it THE public. Should this also be THE? representatives? This quotation might not be needed in the body of the paper. representatives? The following sentence is awkward. I think Dewey is arguing against the necessity of experts, not against any need for them at all. perhaps Christian churches or most Christian churches or C. churches in the X tradition? I agree with this, but is this unproblematic? Arent their traditions that take the Church as given or established by God and individuals can choose to join? And is God a member of the public? If so, this should be made more clear. I see this is addressed belowyou might want to state it here first. for the church traditions you are talking aboutsome but probably not allone of those members is the person of Godfor Trinitarians, the person of the Holy Spirit. In the case of Unitarians or those who think of God as nature or as clockmaker (probably some other metaphors as well), God is not a person and so could not be a member of a public. Does it have to be a religious problem? Could it be that any serious problem is potentially a problem for a church-public? You probably need a note briefly describing what a confession is (that is, not Catholic confession). You might move this definition up, but leave the discussion here. nice word Somewhere I almost want you to say that the steady elimination of religion from the academy marks a kind of failure of the academy as a public. Rather than engaging the tough questions of the role religion plays in the lives of most people, the academy (Dewey included) set the issue aside or perhaps laughed it off. Part of the state of the world now is the consequence of not taking the church-public seriously. Notes  See Richard Bernstein, Pragmatisms Common Faith, in Pragmatism and Religion, ed. Stuart Rosenbaum (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 129-141, as well as Rosenbaums introduction in the same volume, 1-5.  John Dewey, A Common Faith (New Haven: Yale UP, 1934), 61.  Ibid, 65.  Richard Bernstein, John Deweys Vision of Radical Democracy, reprinted in The Pragmatic Turn (Cambridge: Polity, 2010), 87.  John Dewey, The Public and its Problems (Athens, OH: Swallow Press, 1954 [1927]), 12-3.  Men have always been associated together in living, and association in conjoint behavior has affected their relations to one another as individuals (Dewey, The Public and its Problems, 97).  Ibid, 12.  Ibid.  Ibid, 17.  Ibid, 35.  Ibid, 18.  Ibid, 17.  In this case, the consequence of increased property values is indirect because what raises the value of the homes is not the maintenance itself, but real estate appraisers and potential buyers perceptions of the homes.  Dewey, The Public and its Problems, 15-6.  Ibid, 77.  Consider, for instance, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, in which great efforts had to be made by organizers just to show that practices of discrimination were occurring that were unjust.  Ibid, 188.  Ibid, 193. This is part of Deweys larger argument against the need for experts for amelioration of social ills. He asserts that, even when individuals find themselves locked into rigidly oppressive institutional forms, impoverished, or uneducated, the solution cannot be a political theory generated from on high in the Ivory Tower. It may be confidently asserted that the chief enemy of a social thinking which would count in public affairs is the sterile and impotent, because totally irrelevant, channels in which so much intellectual energy has been expelled (194).  See Dewey, The Public and its Problems, 27. See also Richard Bernstein, Pragmatisms Common Faith, 132-3, and Michael Eldridge, Deweys Faith in Democracy as Shared Experience, in Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, vol. 32, no. 1 (1996), 12.  It is not clear that the concept of a public in se rules out the participation of non-human agents. The criteria for participation in the public is the capacity for meaningful engagement in the processes of governance and collective inquiry; as long as an agent has that capacity, then there seems no good reason to rule that person out as a member. That Dewey left some types of agent out of his ontological scheme does not necessarily mean that they ought to have been left out.  The participation of the Holy Spirit (it should be noted) is a Trinitarian concept that is pervasive throughout many branches of Christianity. It is not, however, universal: the Unitarian Universalist Church, for instance, does not hold to the notion of a Triune God. Instead, the singular creator God established and governs the world through laws of Nature. Even in this case, however, it can be seen that God actively participates in some sense in the governance of human affairs and specifically in the affairs of churches.  It should be noted that the term confession is used here in the sense of the Protestant tradition, and does not refer to the Roman Catholic sacrament. Eberhard Busch, in an interview with The Presbyterian Outlook, explains the link between status confessionis and schism, stating In a status confessionis, there will be divisions in the church for the sake of the truth without which the love of Christ cannot be love. This can lead the confessors into isolation as they receive resistance rather than applause (Reformed Confessions and the Confessing Churchan Interview with Eberhard Busch, The Presbyterian Outlook, published May 14 2002 to website: http://www.pres-outlook.com/opinion/guest-commentary/6-guest-commentary/1065-reformed-confessions-and-confessing-church-interview-with-eberhard-busch.html).  I assert that these problems arise indirectly because it is absolutely unfeasible to me that any Christian would ever be intentionally heretical (that is, intentionally anti-Christian). It is, however, the case the people often disagree over interpretations of what it means to be a Christian, and that doing so often results indirectly in schism.  Rauhaus, A., 2009, Is an ethical status confessionis possible? HTS Teologiese/Theological Studies vol. 65 no. 1, 630.  Eugene TeSelle, How do we recognize a status confessionis? Theology Today, vol. 45 no. 1 (April 1988), 75, 78.  Examples from the twentieth century include the Theological Declaration of Barmen (May 1934), created by the German Confessing Church (led notably by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller, with help from Karl Barth, who was one of the principal authors of the Barmen Declaration) in response to the Reichs appropriation and corruption of the German Lutheran Church, and the Belhar Confession of 1987, written by the integrated Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa in response to the segregation of South African Churches under apartheid.  Reformed Confessions and the Confessing Churchan Interview with Eberhard Busch.  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