© 2017

Elasticized Ecclesiology

The Concept of Community after Ernst Troeltsch

  • Offers a creative conceptualization of church as open community for the current context of churches

  • Presents a critical and constructive analysis of Ernst Troeltsch’s interdisciplinary thinking in connection to philosophy, sociology, and theology today

  • Brings Ernst Troeltsch’s ecclesiology to bear on the controversies which revolve around the construction of community past and present


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Ulrich Schmiedel
    Pages 1-14
  3. Religiosity

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 15-18
    2. Ulrich Schmiedel
      Pages 19-38
    3. Ulrich Schmiedel
      Pages 39-65
    4. Ulrich Schmiedel
      Pages 67-98
  4. Community

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 99-103
    2. Ulrich Schmiedel
      Pages 105-128
    3. Ulrich Schmiedel
      Pages 129-145
    4. Ulrich Schmiedel
      Pages 147-174
  5. Identity

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 175-178
    2. Ulrich Schmiedel
      Pages 179-195
    3. Ulrich Schmiedel
      Pages 197-227
    4. Ulrich Schmiedel
      Pages 229-260
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 261-312

About this book


This study confronts the current crisis of churches. In critical and creative conversation with the German theologian Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923), Ulrich Schmiedel argues that churches need to be “elasticized” in order to engage the “other.” Examining contested concepts of religiosity, community, and identity, Schmiedel explores how the closure of church against the sociological “other” corresponds to the closure of church against the theological “other.” Taking trust as a central category, he advocates for a turn in the interpretation of Christianity—from “propositional possession” to “performative project,” so that the identity of Christianity is “done” rather than “described.” Through explorations of classical and contemporary scholarship in philosophy, sociology, and theology, Schmiedel retrieves Troeltsch’s interdisciplinary thinking for use in relation to the controversies that encircle the construction of community today. The study opens up innovative and instructive approaches to the investigation of the practices of Christianity, past and present. Eventually, church emerges as a “work in movement,” continually constituted through encounters with the sociological and the theological “other.” 


protestant ecclesial ecumenical jesus christ Church Christianity

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität MünchenMunichGermany

About the authors

Ulrich Schmiedel received his DPhil from the University of Oxford, UK. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher in systematic theology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany. His research, located at the intersection of theology, sociology, and philosophy, concentrates on the critical purport and creative potential of contemporary Christianity. He has published in a number of international journals. Recently, he co-edited Dynamics of Difference: Christianity and Alterity. 

Bibliographic information


“This is a remarkable book. … The book is full with observations, interpretations, and suggestions that are worthwhile to consider. Schmiedel’s book is surely a corrective to marketeer views that the churches should foremost ‘sharpen’ their profile and compete better on the religious and spiritual market.” (Arie L. Molendijk, NTT Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion, Vol. 73 (1), 2019)

“This monograph is a striking wake-up call to theology to risk a radical reconsideration of its understandings of church and community. Based on a challenging reappraisal of the work of Ernst Troeltsch, Ulrich Schmiedel engages with a breathtaking array of thinkers in order to construct a vision of alterity as a guide to the practice of faith, individual and communal. Not for the faint-hearted but definitely required reading.” (George Newlands, Professor Emeritus of Divinity, University of Glasgow, UK)

“Ulrich Schmiedel has written a wonderful book—thoroughly studied and tightly structured. Combining philosophy, sociology and theology, he explores the complexities which confront churches today. With virtuosity, he draws Ernst Troeltsch into dialogue with thinkers such as William James, Charles Taylor, Ingolf Dalferth, John Milbank, Graham Ward, Zygmunt Bauman and Judith Butler. Bit by bit, he assembles his astute argument: church is a performative project rather than a propositional possession, a church in via which needs to be opened to the other.” (Sturla J. Stålsett, Professor of Religion and Society, Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo, Norway)

“What is wrong with Christian churches today? Instead of defending static forms of ecclesial identity, Ulrich Schmiedel encourages the churches to respond more imaginatively to the dynamic challenges of otherness and of God’s radical otherness. For Schmiedel, Christian identity remains a work in progress. Through a retrieval of Ernst Troeltsch’s interdisciplinary thinking for today, Schmiedel develops original ways of engaging with this perennial task. This book is essential reading for everybody concerned with church reform.” (Werner G. Jeanrond, Professor of Theology, Master of St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford, UK)

“The horizon of Ulrich Schmiedel’s Elasticized Ecclesiology is the current crisis of membership in established churches in Europe. Part of the solution, says Schmiedel, is to reformulate how we conceive of the ecclesial community: a project rather than a possession, a dynamic performance rather than a static entity. This is a timely, highly accessible, well thought out, and original work on a burning ecclesial issue.” (Ola Sigurdson, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden)