Monday, August 07, 2006

What is good ecclesiology?

We're having blackouts here today, which leaves us not only without light and internet-connection (my laptop still has some life in it), but the doors don't work either. It's amazing how power-dependent we are.)

Anyway, WTM posted a comment to my last post on ecclesiology, asking what is the criteria for a good model of the Church. Is it a model that works? Or is it one that is theologically correct? Well, to me it seems that the problem is that neither of these alternatives is right. Even if a model "works" according to some criteria (church growth, doctrinal  unity , whatever)  it can still be a false model. And even if a certain model has a sound theological theory behind it, it can still fail to fulfil its mission.

I actually did give a kind of definition of the church in an earlier post: The Church is the acting out of the hope of the future world in this world. And this is the criteria. If a model fails to do this it is a bad model. This means that if you have 100.000 new members a month, but fail to be an Icon of the kingdom of God, your model is not good enough.

Now, as I have shown in my posts on the sacraments, these rituals are the most important ways in which the Church can reflect its hope in the future world. But even if "The Word of God and the Sacraments" are present in a church, the model used may be failing unless that particular church fails to communicate this to the world. This means that the Criteria of a "good" model of the Church has an element of cultural relevance to it. In some way the model that is in use must be adaptable to a particular cultural context.

This means that it may be difficult to find one model that works all over the world in our time, but this is part of the problem, because at the same time the Church has to be catholic - there has to be an element that identifies the Church in every culture and in every age.


D.W. Congdon said...

So what you need is a theology of the "marks of the church" -- e.g., "where the Word is preached and the sacraments are administered ..." -- with a culturally sensitive model that adapts to its societal context. In other words, we need a model that is strict on the material but loose on the form.

WTM said...

D.W. - You're allusion to Calvin (Institutes 4.1.9) is not lost upon me. However, you forgot the bit about not simply properly preaching the Word, but properly hearing the Word as well. Which begins to push us past the norms of proclamation through Word and Sacrament and to the question of church disciple, which is a very strong current in Calvin and even stronger in the later Reformed theologians. And, the minute that you have church disciple, you necessarily need some form of heirarchy to organize / enforce it. The question is, How do we best do this?

Primitivism is often the driving force behind talk of church polity. I'm glad to see other lanes being walked.

John said...

Good ecclesiology can only proceed from an understanding of Real God!
The inherently godless ego is fundamentally incapable of creating good ecclesiology!

These related references provide a unique understanding of Real God.


Aaron G said...

Patrik, just thought I'd let you know that the Christian Century has featured you and your World Cup again. This time you've been upgraded from the witty Century Marks section to the more serious News section.

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