Ontology, ecclesiology, nonviolence : the witness against war in the theologies of John Howard Yoder, Dorothy Day, and William Stringfellow.
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This dissertation argues that nonviolence bears witness to a particular form of social existence visible in the church. War, I argue, describes a form of social existence which is a counter social ontology to the existence given by Christ to the church. By examining the interrelationship of social ontology, ecclesiology, and nonviolence in the work of John Howard Yoder, Dorothy Day, and William Stringfellow, I argue that a nonviolence which is thoroughly Christian must account for how nonviolence is related to the structures and practices of the church, but also how nonviolence bears witness to a new form of social existence in the church. Discussion of these three figures occurs broadly within the context of the Vietnam War, exploring how nonviolence for each was not an abstracted ethic, but an act which witnessed to a new social reality present in the church. Discussing how nonviolence bears witness to a new social existence made known through the church occurs in uniquely configured ways for each figure, which I describe in chapters devoted to each one. The result is an ecumenical dialogue among Yoder (a Mennonite), Day, (a Roman Catholic), and Stringfellow (an Episcopalian) about how to describe this social existence, how the church structures and practices contribute to the articulation of nonviolence, and how to speak theologically about the normativity of nonviolence for Christian faith and practice. In the conclusion, I bring the insights from these three together, arguing for a more fulsome way to describe Christian nonviolence. I describe the church’s social ontology as “given” in Christ by the Spirit, its ecclesiological practices as under the judgment of Christ, and its nonviolence as dependent upon the humanity of Christ which is the basis for all human existence. In this way, I bring the triune context of Christian nonviolence to the forefront, in that nonviolence is not simply about making an ethical stance, but bearing witness to a way of social existence given by Christ and displayed through the practices and institutions of the church.