36 Wake Forest L. Rev. 557 (2001)
Ecclesial Profiling

handle is hein.journals/wflr36 and id is 569 raw text is: ECCLESIAL PROFILING

Ashley Woodiwiss*
Much of literature in religion and politics assumes that the
two domains can be adjusted in such a way as to honor the
chief ends of both. Specifically, the problem of religiously
grounded moralities is typically considered solvable by the
employment of any number of rational principles, discourse
models, or theories. All these efforts depict the liberal public
sphere as tolerant, inclusive and egalitarian. In this Article, I
reject this liberal construal and claim that, from the standpoint
of particularistic communities of faith, liberalism is and must
always be committed to the project of ecclesial profiling, so that
certain religiously grounded moralities are embraced and oth-
ers are excluded.
The decade of the 1990s witnessed the emergence of a move-
ment among a small, but influential, group of Christian scholars
that has been labeled radical orthodoxy.' I will not take the time
here to set out this movement in its entirety. But one characteristic
of it, what I have in another place called its ecclesiocentric perspec-
tive,2 does require some elaboration for its relevance to my com-
ments here. By ecclesiocentric, I mean the radical orthodox argu-
ment that all authentic Christian thought begins from within the
Church (her sacraments, practices, and being-in-the-world). That is,
the Church occupies first-place in Christian thought and reflection;
its narrative providing the interpretive read and critique of all other
* For their critical comments upon an earlier draft of this Paper, I would
like to thank my fellow participants in the conference, Bob Audi, John Coleman,
Chris Eberle, Gene Garver, Kent Greenawalt, Cathy Kaveny, Steve Smith, Paul
Weithman, and Nick Wolterstorf, Religiously Grounded Morality- Its Proper
Role in American Law and Public Policy, held at the Wake Forest University
School of Law (October 20-21, 2000). Special thanks go to our conference or-
ganizer, host, and moderator, Michael Perry.
1. For two recent critical summaries of the movement, see R.R. Reno, The
Radical Orthodoxy Project, FIRST THINGS, Feb. 2000, at 37-44; Jeff Sharlet,
Theologians Seek to Reclaim the World With God and Postmodernism, CHRON.
OF HIGHER EDUC., June 23, 2000, at 20-22. A collection of self-conscious essays
by radical orthodox theologians can be found in RADIcAL ORTHODOXY: A NEW
THEOLOGY (John Milbank et al. eds., 1999).
2. See Ashley Woodiwiss, What Is the Church Good For?, BOOKS &
CULTURE, NoviDec. 1997, at 38-39.

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