The Church (I)
As you may or may not know one of my greatest passions/interests is theology and within my study of theology, the Bible, and the history of the Christian Church, is the nature of the Church (proper), or ecclesiology (from the Greek ἐκκλησίᾱ, meaning “church/assembly”).
In exploring the nature of the Church it is my desire to both push broadly and pull narrowly. What I mean by pushing broadly is to define the Church in broad orthodox terms. This approach is roughly the approach of the Ecumenical Movement. This approach rests on the assumption that there are various factors that unite the three main denominations of Christianity—Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant—and these factors are what determine what it is to have membership in the Church. The main difficulty with this approach is that the three main denominations of Christianity are generally at odds with one another. Conservative Catholics would consider neither Protestants nor Orthodox believers Christians per se. Conservative Orthodox and Protestant believers share these “exclusive Christian” sentiments with reference to themselves and the other denominations.
This is not to say that I am necessarily taking a liberal stance, but one that simply (at least I’d like to think so) seeks to unite those who do in fact belong to the Church of God, as is evidenced by the seal of the Holy Spirit (whatever that may mean). But I do not expect the Bishop of Rome, the Patriarch of Constantinople, nor the Archbishop of Canterbury to get wind of this thought and embrace a broad Ecumenical view of the Church (maybe the Archbishop of Canterbury would). These views are not new. But in my meager attempt I seek to press broadly by defining the absolute essentials of Christian orthodoxy. I am not ignorant of the fact that what are considered the “absolute essentials of Christian orthodoxy” are quite different among the three denominations, but I will press on in spite of such things. I will leave the quarrels between the strands to the great apologists from each grouping. I am not necessarily trying to develop an apologetic for Ecumenicism, but to express certain elements of the Christian religion and the composition of the Church that may be beneficial to each of the denominations. This is a conversation regarding what it is to be a Christian and in that broad determination we can also allow for those who simply comply with Christianity without seriously addressing whether or not they are a member of the Church to avoid Christian nominalism—either into the Church or away from an inaccurate classification.
I believe the best way to accomplish the goals of this endeavor is to start with the most fundamental element of Christianity: the Gospel. In accurately and creatively expressing the central tenant of the Christian religion we can express the truths of God’s action and his call to humanity throughout history, in our present time, and in the future in a way that pushes broadly and pulls narrowly. And I believe that in the expression and rehearsal of this refined Gospel (as well as growth and enhancements in one’s understanding of the Gospel over the course of a lifetime) Christians will experience God’s grace and love in a new way. Perhaps in this experience Christians will also be unified, empowered, and challenged in their participation in the Gospel, the Church, and the kingdom of God.