The Hermeneutics of Followship: Relocating Narratives of Discipleship

Peter Hobson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

711 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of my thesis is to provide an examination of the praxis of
discipleship. My aim, however, is not an objective study, as if such a thing were
possible. It is my contention that it is only on the way with Christ that discipleship can ever be truly understood. My study is also not an appraisal of the institutions and practices of the church per se. Discipleship finds its genesis in the call of Christ. Instead, my focus is twofold: to develop a greater understanding of the way in which discipleship praxis is the legitimate response to the revelation of God found in Jesus Christ; and to identify an authentic hermeneutic of discipleship through which to interpret and engage the world. I introduce the term ‘followship’ as a descriptor for the primacy of ‘following Christ’ as the faithful response for Christian disciples.

In Part One of my study I undertake an examination of the writings of Dietrich
Bonhoeffer. Through exegetical analysis of his major writings I identify a
consistent hermeneutic which seeks to discover Christ already at work in the
world as the Incarnate One, the Crucified One, and the Resurrected One.
Bonhoeffer’s methodology, however, is intrinsically entwined with the story of his life. As 1930’s Germany descends into the chaos and evil of Hitler’s National
Socialism, Bonhoeffer continually looks to the praxis of followship as the way of
faithfulness and hope. In his later writings, Bonhoeffer hopes for a ‘religionless
Christianity’ in order to bring good news to a world ‘come of age’.

The unorthodox terminology of Bonhoeffer’s later theology, and his desire for
Christianity to rid itself of the shackles of institutional and cultural conformity,
occasions the need to investigate the way language itself actually works. In Part
Two of my study I turn to Ludwig Wittgenstein and introduce his concepts of
language games and picture thinking. Wittgenstein’s theories also provide a
foundation for my exploration of narrative via Paul Ricoeur, Don Cupitt, George
Lindbeck and others. From this basis I then develop my own methodology of
‘narrative participation’ for the praxis of followship incorporating the work of
Samuel Wells, Jürgen Moltmann, and Carl Braaten. Followship requires a
hermeneutic that can identify the story of Christ being told in the world and
demands active participation in the story itself.
Part Three of my thesis explores the implications of my hermeneutic for a
contemporary Australian context. By identifying the Incarnate One in Australian
creative fiction and indigenous Dreaming, I am stipulating that God is already
present in the stories we like to read and share. The Crucified One is revealed in
the vilification of asylum seekers by Australian media outlets and demands a
response from disciples. The Resurrected One is encountered in the personal
testimonies of loss and hope disclosed by survivors of the Queensland floods of

My project is one that establishes a hermeneutic praxis for followship as narrative participation in Christ’s story of reconciliation in the world. The Hermeneutics of Followship, then, is offered as a contribution to the study of how disciples (followers) authenticate their faithfulness to the Lordship of Christ.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Pearson, Clive, Principal Supervisor
Award date01 Feb 2012
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'The Hermeneutics of Followship: Relocating Narratives of Discipleship'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this