T&T Clark Handbook of Ecclesiology
eBook - ePub

T&T Clark Handbook of Ecclesiology

Kimlyn J. Bender, D. Stephen Long, Kimlyn J. Bender, D. Stephen Long

  1. 592 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

T&T Clark Handbook of Ecclesiology

Kimlyn J. Bender, D. Stephen Long, Kimlyn J. Bender, D. Stephen Long

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About This Book

Divided into 3 parts, this handbook provides a wide-ranging survey and analysis of the Christian Church. The first section addresses the scriptural foundations of ecclesiology; the second section outlines the historical and confessional aspects of the topic; and the final part discusses a variety of contemporary and topical themes in ecclesiology. Compiled and written by leading scholars in the field, the T&T Clark Handbook of Ecclesiology covers a range of key topics in the context of their development and importance in each stream of historic Christianity and the confessional traditions. The contributors cover traditional matters such as creedal notes, but also tackle questions of ordination, orders of ministry, and sacraments. This handbook is extensive enough to provide a true overview of the field, but the essays are also concise enough to be read as reference selections.

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T&T Clark
Kimlyn J. Bender and D. Stephen Long
Ecclesiology Within the Discipline of Theology: Its Task and Questions
Ecclesiology is a discipline that, broadly speaking, examines the church’s identity and activity, its theological definition(s) and temporal existence, and thus its divinely established reality as one people and the seemingly contingent reality of its various historical instantiations and diverse forms of doctrines, polities, ministries, liturgies, rituals, and practices. Ecclesiology in its most expansive undertaking engages all of the attendant questions that surround the church’s placement within God’s salvific economy and takes full account of all the paradoxes, peculiarities, and practices that accompany a people whose origin lies in eternity and who looks to a heavenly destiny, yet whose embodied life is firmly rooted on earth and whose ministry is carried out in the world across the span of centuries.
Ecclesiology as a distinctive area of dogmatic investigation exists as a late arrival in the corpus of theological topics and disciplines, though its sources predate its appearance in the modern period and originate in Scripture and the very earliest traditions of the church. Ecclesiology is a derivative area of study following upon prior theological (trinitarian), christological, and pneumatological doctrines because the church exists as a people whose origin lies in the preceding work of God in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. The church thus stands in a unique position between the triune God and the world. On the one hand, the church resides on the side of God over against the world as the divinely constituted and appointed witness to the gospel of God’s salvation in Christ and the new life in the Spirit, and on the other hand, the church resides on the side of the world as a created and reconciled human fellowship, a people sharing in the full range of the experiences and indeed vagaries of earthly and mundane existence. This peculiar place of the church entails that its study will navigate a number of complex relationships, and developments and disagreements in ecclesiology are in no small way determined by the unfolding and understanding of these relations. These relationships cannot here be explicated in detail but they are either implicitly present or explicitly examined across the range of the following chapters. Now they are but briefly identified in a list that does not claim to be exhaustive.
Ecclesiology examines the distinct place of the church in the economy of God’s reconciling and redemptive work. It thereby elucidates the relationship of the triune God to the church, and thus the relation of the Creator to the creature insofar as the church is both the product of a divine election, call, and event and simultaneously a created and continuing human society of persons that lives in response and obedience to this divine call and action. Of particular interest is the way that this relation of the triune God and the church is contrastingly understood and construed in different ecclesiologies. In one type, the church is portrayed as a created product of God’s economic salvific activity which stands in unqualified distinction from God’s own eternal immanent divine perfection and life, even as it shares in covenantal fellowship with the triune God. In another type, the church is portrayed as a direct reflection of, and even participant in, God’s own inner divine life. This question of the relation of God and church set within the context of the inclusive question of the Creator’s relation to the creature remains a matter of continuing discussion and debate in modern ecclesiology and trinitarian reflection.
The church’s relationship to Christ himself is a particularly rich area of ecclesiological deliberation yielding various interpretations among the ecclesial traditions. The church’s intimate relationship to Christ is set forth by some theologians and traditions in a manner that has so stressed the continuity and prolongation of the incarnation and ministry of Christ in the life of the church that others have believed it to undermine the very distinction of Christ and the church itself. Such differences of understanding are in no small way predicated upon diverging interpretative traditions surrounding the biblical image of the church as the body of Christ. This christological variance is also complicated by differing conceptions of the church’s ministry. One type understands this ministry to be a proclamation of the perfect work of Christ’s substitutionary and salvific work, while another sees it as the prolongation of Christ’s own exemplary and sanctifying ministry. Much sacramental and ministerial disagreement between the churches (including the precedence given to either gospel proclamation or eucharistic participation as constitutive of the church, as well as the opposition between the singular exclusivity of Christ’s vocation and the shared inclusivity of Christ’s threefold priestly, prophetic, and kingly office with the ministerial offices, with all the contentious attendant questions of valid ecclesial authority) thus lies in the range of questions surrounding this christological one. Similar issues accompany conceptions of the relation between the church and the Kingdom of God, a relation which follows the same orderly logic in expounding the apposition and distinction of Kingdom and church. Moreover, as not only the body of Christ but the new people of God, the church stands in both continuity with Israel and the original covenant of God with Abraham, as well as in discontinuity with Israel in the newness that comes with embodying the new covenant foretold by Jeremiah and inaugurated with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The dialectical relation of continuity and discontinuity in the life and ministry of Jesus with all that came before him in the time of the patriarchs and prophets is reflected in the relation of the church with Israel. This relation is set over against that of the church with the world that reflects Israel’s own: the church lives within the world and among the peoples of the earth, but it also is set no less over against the world as a light to the nations and as a witness to the gospel which the world itself does not know.
A further set of questions surrounds the relation of the Spirit and the church, the first the divine agent bringing forth the church‚Äôs very existence, edification, and empowerment for new life and witness, the second the embodied fellowship called forth by the Spirit as an earthly and historical agent (or collection of agents) existing as the Spirit‚Äôs own temple. Ecclesiological investigations therefore attempt to set forth the corresponding relation between the church as invisible and visible and between its spiritual reality and its social embodiment, expressed in the words of Jaroslav Pelikan as that tension between ‚ÄúSpirit versus structure,‚ÄĚ the vital spiritual reality of the church set over aga inst its institutional form. Such tension is reflected in the correlative debates surrounding the navigation between theological and sociological descriptions of the church‚Äôs nature and reality, and thus between dogmatic definition and ethnography. Finally, such tensions are also rooted in the twofold truth that we must speak of both the holiness of the church in its eternal election and call, and the very real sins that are witnessed in the history of the church‚Äôs concrete life throughout history (and this question of speaking of the church‚Äôs sinfulness, as well as of its infallibility, is itself an area of profound debate). Such paradoxes of theological identity and historical instantiation also mark how ecclesiology speaks of the Nicene marks of the church: the church is one (in the midst of its divisions); the church is holy (in the midst of its historical failures); the church is catholic (in the midst of its recurrent parochialism and insularity); and the church is apostolic (in the midst of ongoing disagreements among the churches regarding the very signification and denotation of this modifier and concerning what it means to stand in succession to the apostles). In sum, there remains an ongoing negotiation between stating what must be said of the church‚Äôs dogmatic esse and its historical vita.
Other disputed relations are less about the church’s relation to God, Israel, or world, or about designating the church as a mystery pointing to both divine and creaturely action for its identity. They are nonetheless endemic and perennial in theological evaluations of the church over time. The first is the relation between the primitive ecclesiology of the New Testament and later developments of the church and its tradition (which entails the question of historical faithfulness and valid development in its creedal and confessional claims, as well as its later liturgical forms and ethical practices). The second is the relation between the unity of the church as one and the real diversity of various churches in their many ecclesial, confessional, and denominational instantiations, a particular concern for ecumenism as well as for considering the continual expansion of the church throughout the world. A third relation that in no small way undergirds the other two is the tension between understanding the primary referent for the church as the universal church of all believers across time and space, and understanding the church as the concrete gathered community of believers in a particular place and time. This tension is often found between episcopal and congregational forms of church order, but may be echoed within them, evident when one considers the famous debate in the twentieth century between then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Cardinal Walter Kasper over the question of the temporal and ontological priority of the universal church over any particular local one (a question also present in the work of the Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas).
Such fundamental theological and dialectical relations are accompanied by more fine-grained and specific material questions. A perennially disputed relation is that between understanding the church predominantly as a single agent or as an assembly of agents‚ÄĒthat is, whether the church should be spoken of as a single subject or as a collection of subjects. Such reflects the ongoing negotiation of the relation between the church and the Christian, or in other terms, the community and the individual. Another disputed relation is that between the ordained ministry and the ministry of the laity. Here we may now be witnessing ecclesial ships passing in the night‚ÄĒchapters in this volume demonstrate an increasing focus upon the ministry of the laity in twentieth-century Roman Catholicism, even as Anglicans and Lutherans (of a particular persuasion) have argued, against simple notions of the priesthood of all believers, for a constitutive and definitive place for bishops and clergy and a correspondent ‚Äúministerial and episcopal authority‚ÄĚ as necessary for the very esse of the church.1
The conceptualization, articulation, negotiation, and resolution of the questions surrounding these matters of the church’s placement within the divine economy of God’s works as well as of its fundamental relationships to the triune God and to the world are central to the overarching task of ecclesiology. Also important to this task is a consideration of the lesser questions surrounding the relation of the church to the individual Christian and of the form the church should take in its political structure, ordained ministry, and ethical stances and practices. The differing ways various churches and theologians have answered these questions and set forth their understandings of these relationships have impacted, and been influenced by, how they interpreted both the images and descriptions of the church in Holy Scripture and embodied these interpretations in the various forms of ecclesial and confessional life. This plurality of interpretation and ecclesiological reflection has in turn led to the great diversity of positions reflected in these chapters.
The Intention and Goals of the Handbook
As editors, we have not understood our task as to adjudicate between or proscribe the diverse answers to such matters which exist in ecclesiology, but rather to allow for the full range of historic and contemporary reflection on the church to be included, represented, and given full voice in this handbook. Therefore this work, while at times prescriptive and rightfully partisan in the individual chapters, is descriptive and representative in the whole (though we make no claim for it being exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination). We are certain that the chapters taken together will evoke both hearty approval and disagreement from those who read them. As editors we simply serve the task of presenting ecclesiology in its bewildering range of interpretation, even while, as individual theologians, we take our own particular place within the range of answers given.
With this in view, this handbook on ecclesiology contains a twofold purpose. The first aspect of this purpose is to provide an accessible overview to the scriptural, historical, confessional, doctrinal, and ethical sources that inform and comprise ecclesiology. The second aspect is to offer resources for theologians, ethicists, and historians to engage in the continuing work of ecclesial development and ecclesiological reflection.
The first aspect is straightforward and direct. Each of the following chapters provides an overview of the biblical foundations for ecclesiology, or of the historic emergence and contemporary character of a particular ecclesial tradition, or of a dogmatic or ethical matter related to ecclesiology. To accomplish this objective, we invited leading biblical scholars, theologians, and ethicists to speak from their specialty. Our hope is that readers will find this handbook useful whether they are interested in the origins of ecclesiology in Scripture and tradition, in the differences between ecclesial confessions and families, or in the doctrinal and ethical issues that ecclesiology, with its diversity, raises. Here we offer a brief and incomplete overview of the work as a whole.
The handbook is divided into three parts. The first attends to the scriptural foundations for ecclesiology. It begins with the Old Testament and a ‚Äúfour-stage narration‚ÄĚ that shows how the question of ecclesiology is not alien to the Old Testament. The centrality of the church in the New Testament is unintelligible without first attending to Hebrew Scriptures. Although ecclesiology is central to the New Testament, neither the synoptic gospels nor the Acts of the Apostles present a readymade ecclesiology. They allude to ecclesiology by emphasizing the corporate character of Christian discipleship. Jesus‚Äôs ministry is the basis for that corporate character. It establishes a new ‚Äúfamily‚ÄĚ characterized by discipleship, following in the ‚Äúfootsteps‚ÄĚ of the one who shows the way forward. One of the reasons ecclesiology has become significant in contemporary theology and ethics is because of the new perspectives on Paul that make the church ‚Äúessential‚ÄĚ to Christian ‚Äúexistence.‚ÄĚ Paul‚Äôs epistles are foundational for an adequate understanding of the early developments of the church, and even more so for why ecclesiology continues to matter. As in all things doctrinal, the gospel of John has a pivotal place for understanding how to think about the dogmatic status of the church. The four Nicene marks of the church‚ÄĒunity, holiness, catholicity, apostolicity‚ÄĒreadily find their biblical origins in John and the general epistles. Readers will note how these four marks appear throughout the following chapters in different forms and sometimes with conflicting interpretations. The first four chapters of the handbook on the Old Testament, the synoptic gospels and Acts, the Pauline letters, and the gospel of John and general epistles are foundational for everything that follows.
From the focused origins on the scriptural foundations for ecclesiology, the second part branches out into the diverse, and often contending, traditions of ecclesiology. It begins with a broad examination of the church in the Latin West and the Greek East. We are reminded that no dogmatic definition of the church is available in the Eastern Church. Readers should take this reminder to heart. Unlike the two great mysteries of the church, the Trinity and the incarnation, the church does not receive a ‚Äúdogmatic definition‚ÄĚ on ecclesiology in the patristic era. The four marks of the church are generally affirmed, but those marks are not specified with great detail. While the doctrine of the church was a ‚Äúdistinctive feature‚ÄĚ of the Latin West, it also did not develop a dogmatic definition in distinction from other crucial loci such as christology and pneumatology. A plethora of images, metaphors, and symbols were used in the patristic era to speak about the church. In the Middle Ages ecclesiology was a concern, primarily as a ‚Äútreatise.‚ÄĚ The ecclesiological reflections of this period are often neglected, and even disregarded as exclusively ‚Äújuridical,‚ÄĚ primarily as a contrast to the renewed emphasis on patristic ecclesiology arising from Vatican II.
The role of Vatican II for reenergizing ecclesiology as a central doctrine cannot be overstated. Of course, as the first seven chapters of our handbook ably demonstrate, neither ecclesiology nor its centrality for Christian thought and practice originate in the twentieth century. Yet, ecclesiology was updated at Vatican II through a ressourcement from patristic sources. The importance of Johann Adam M√∂hler and the T√ľbingen school is another important theme in the history leading up to Vatican II that receives diverse interpretations in several of the chapters. While Catholics engaged in scholastic reflection on ecclesiology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Orthodox intentionally withheld offering ‚Äúpropositions and definitions‚ÄĚ for the church. The church concerns worship, liturgy, and life. Roman Catholics would never, of course, deny these concerns as well. However, Catholics and the Orthodox have been disputing the nature of the church since the eleventh century, if not before. Despite the good ecumenical work and efforts at reconciliation during and since Vatican II, the disputes still divide them.
Although Vatican II stated that the one, true church ‚Äúsubsists‚ÄĚ in the Roman Catholic Church, Catholics consider the Orthodox Church to be a true church. The various Protestant communions did not garner such consideration. They were, and are, viewed as defective. According to Catholic teaching, they have ‚Äúelements of sanctification and truth,‚ÄĚ but they are not considered churches. If two Roman Catholic theologians rather than two Protestants edited this volume, the chapters that follow the three on Roman Catholic and Orthodox ecclesiology in the second part of the handbook might have had different titles. We understand Protestant traditions as legitimate churches. The Reformation did not consider its reforms to break continuity with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church but to retrieve those marks in faithful ways. Nonetheless, Protestant ecclesiologies can have significant differences between them, and not only with their Roman Catholic and Orthodox counterparts. Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, Anglican, Methodist/Wesleyan, Baptist, Pentecostal, and Evangelical/Restorationis...

Table of contents

  1. Cover
  2. Half-Title
  3. Series
  4. Title
  5. Contents
  6. Preface
  7. Acknowledgements
  8. 1 Introduction
  9. Part I Scriptural Foundations
  10. Part II Historical and Confessional Traditions
  11. Part III Theological and Critical Explorations
  12. Notes on Contributors
  13. Index of Names
  14. Index of Subjects
  15. Copyright