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The present volume is not capable of fulfilling such a project, except in the broadest and most general of ways, pointing to a proposed dialectic of miracle, as it were, and emerging liberal engagement together as potentially explanatory of an eristological history of the Church. It is nothing but an experiment, aimed at Christians whose moral standing depends on faithful and responsible apprehension of their own historical form. I am convinced nonetheless, and despite the tentative "history" I offer, that such an approach must entail a rethinking of ecclesiology in a way that means a rethinking too of history and its character—that is, if the details are poorly presented, nonetheless the purpose is ineluctable and inevitably challenging. That is not to say that an eristological approach is something novel in its theological presuppositions. It is not; and, adopting Collingwood's metaphysical notions, it shares its "absolute" grounding in the same basic premises of most traditional Christian thinking. That is, it assumes a fundamental scriptural literalism, in the sense that the Scripture's textual language is viewed as having divinely determined referents and, hence, referents that are—and only because of this determination—"real." To this extent, Scripture and its referents, however defined in a secondary way, are in fact the primary language and meaning of the Church, privileged and prior to other reasonable languages. This, as I said, is a common understanding of Scripture as an "ultimate authority," albeit expressed in a particular way. In addition, an eristological approach to the Church assumes a commonsense, if not uncomplicated, view of the referents of human experience and apprehension as also being real, in the sense of their having a place within the arena of divine signification. These are "real to me," sometimes indeed "to me and others"; but they are also real somehow with respect to God's determination. And these commonsense experiences, in this case given within ecclesial life, are therefore accountable in their meaning to the primary language of Scripture. All this leaves much "as it is" in terms of historiographical discipline, with all of its contending, but also overlapping, schools of method; and critical discussion of such historical work, to which this volume refers in various places, remains essential to the task of identifying precisely the "realities" to which eristological analysis must turn.
But the purpose of this analysis is particular to itself: the issue is to judge these realities according to, or better to describe them in, the primary language of Scripture, so that their referents and signification can be rendered more coherent for the Christian understanding of God. This is a clearly theological project, then. It takes place within a well-established context of Christian ecclesiological reflection, even if it seeks to challenge certain common approaches to such reflection in ways that argue for particular understanding of, in this case, scriptural figuralism and historical meaning, in terms of the figure of Christ in all of this. Its tests, though, will be those that have always been applied to theological activity: Is God known, praised, and obeyed more fully as a result?