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.

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About Elijah

My name is Elijah and I am a proud Angeleño-Glaswegian. I serve as Minister of Queen's Park Govanhill Parish Church. My other interests include life in active community, writing, performing and partaking of music, collecting vinyl records, hiking/outdoors, urban exploration, Celtic FC and the Detroit Tigers.

3 responses to “The Church (I)”

  1. Ryan says :

    Mark sent me an email regarding this new blog…it looks promising.

    A couple thoughts I had.

    First, I believe that the position of the Roman Catholic Church, as worked out in Vatican II is that, while the RCC is the Church…they recognize other branches of Christianity to be “ecclesial communities.” Though this is somewhat vague, I believe they are trying to acknowledge some legitimacy in other forms of Christianity – namely, that God is active in places outside the RCC.

    Second, I think real ecumenical efforts within the Church are absolutely essential. I’m not sure how far we can go with this, but we must try…I think God is absolutely grieved that we have split the one body of Christ…it goes completely against the gospel which is about Christ bringing one people to himself.

    Third, one of the major obstacles to striving for some level of unity between the major branches is that so many Protestants are absolutely ignorant of Catholic belief and doctrine. For instance, it’s just not true that Catholic doctrine affirms that we “earn our way to heaven.” It’s also not true that they deify Mary (Mary prays with us and for us…she does not answer prayer). Of course, I’m sure there are many Catholics that get confused and end up thinking they earn their way to heaven or that Mary literally answers their prayers…but I’m sure there are many Protestants confused about a lot of things as well.

    Fourth, would you mind spelling out what you think are some central aspects of the Gospel that unite us?

  2. Elijah says :

    Ryan,

    Good to hear from you too.

    First, I understand the “ecclesial communities” to apply primarily to the Lutheran and Anglican Churches, though His Holiness Benedict XVI has generally characterized these as apostate.

    Second, yes.

    Third, I am absolutely on board with you there. I am very sympathetic with Catholic doctrine and organization. There are several issues that keep me (loosely) a Protestant, but with humility I acknowledge the authority and sovereignty of the Church, and if any Churches have any historical claim to these, the best bet would be the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

    Fourth, I’m glad you asked, but I am developing a larger argument in an essay which includes a discussion of the “essentials of the Gospel,” but I’m hoping to write/edit it through this blog and I’d love to discuss it with you personally.

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  1. The Church (II): Exploring the Gospel « Criticism As Inspiration - 19 November 2008

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