Date of Graduation

Summer 2012


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

John Schmalzbauer


emerging church movement, religion in America, Peter Rollins, continental philosophy, postmodernism

Subject Categories



American religion has often been defined by its commitment to ideational beliefs and institutional loyalty. Recent theorists have attempted to expand the definition of religion to move beyond the realm of doctrine exclusively. Postmodernism, in particular, has affected the way that American Christians engage questions concerning the melding of theology and practice within a twenty-first-century cultural context. In the late 1990s, a group of clergy developed the emerging church movement (ECM), a network intended to address these issues. The work of philosopher Peter Rollins offers a unique example of the ideology of the ECM in his insistence on materialism and doubt. Rollins argues against what has long been a central tenet in Protestantism—namely theism—while maintaining a strong commitment to Christianity. How and why does Rollins go so far out of his way to reject ideational beliefs and maintain loyalty to the Christian tradition? How does the ECM fit into the landscape of American religion? Rollins represents a radical edge of the ECM, which maintains its commitments to institutional forms of religion despite heavy doses of cynicism. As a whole, the ECM represents a step towards the post-secular religion of the "spiritual but not religious" and the so-called "Nones." They are moving away from institutional religion but have yet to remove themselves from it entirely. By exploring postures of authenticity, humility, and inclusion, Rollins and the ECM emphasize the importance of practice for individuals and for Christian communities.


© Matthew James Gallion

Campus Only