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CHURCH, Category, and Speciation

Jakob Karl Rinderknecht
Published Online: 2018-01-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0004


The Roman Catholic definition of “church”, especially as applied to groups of Protestant Christians, creates a number of well-known difficulties. The similarly complex category, “species,” provides a model for applying this term so as to neither lose the centrality of certain examples nor draw a hard boundary to rule out border cases. In this way, it can help us to more adequately apply the complex ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council. This article draws parallels between the understanding of speciation and categorization and the definition of Church since the council. In doing so, it applies the work of cognitive linguists, including George Lakoff, Zoltan Kovecses, Giles Fauconnier and Mark Turner on categorization. We tend to think of categories as containers into which we sort objects according to essential criteria. However, categories are actually built inductively by making associations between objects. This means that natural categories, including species, are more porous than we assume, but nevertheless bear real meaning about the natural world. Taxonomists dispute the border between “zebras” and “wild asses,” but this distinction arises out of genetic and evolutionary reality; it is not merely arbitrary. Genetic descriptions of species has also led recently to the conviction that there are four species of giraffe, not one. This engagement will ground a vantage point from which the Council‘s complex ecclesiology can be more easily described so as to authentically integrate its noncompetitive vision vis-a-vis other Christians with its sense of the unique place held by Catholic Church.

Keywords : Ecclesiology; Second Vatican Council; Ecumenism; Categories; Speciation; cognitive linguistics; Roman Catholic Theology


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About the article

Received: 2017-09-28

Accepted: 2017-12-18

Published Online: 2018-01-17

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 46–59, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0004.

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© 2018. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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