Friday, September 28, 2007

THOUGHT BUBBLE--credo unam ecclesiam

As the researching and writing of my ThM thesis continues, I will be posting some "thought bubbles" for the purpose of critique and clarification. Questions, comments, and corrections are welcome.

Unity (and too often uniformity) and division seem to be constants in the church. At the very moment when the church is striving for ecumenism, denominations are splitting. Barth shows us (in Church Dogmatics) that a unity based on external conformity or agreement is a false unity. True unity is only gained by a radical and intentional trust in the One Head, Jesus Christ. Barth also shows us that in its visible/earthly for, the one church will have historical, cultural, national, etc. differences. Unity is not gained by the removal of such differences--or even by forced doctrinal conformity--but by relationship in and participation in the One Head. Such unity--and confession of disunity--is the responsibility of each local gathering.

NOTE: This is a rumination ("1. The act of pondering; meditation. 2. The act or process of chewing cud." American Heritage Dictionary) in search of synergy ("1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.")


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  1. This ties in perfectly with our oh-so-recently concluded Ephesians study. Paul had a lot to say about unity. I think this is another case for more Bible study in today's church.

  2. I could not agree more. As important as those "biblical principles" and "bible points" are, nothing beats reading, studying, and thinking through the text for yourself. So much is morphed by our presuppositions and experiences (which is another case for studying in a group, where one just might encounter an opposing position).

    Here's to expansion!

  3. Laura,

    I read Thought Bubbles 1, 2 and 3 a few days ago and tried to get some grip on the 'rubric' by referring to Wikipedia. So I see the approach as follows:

    - we need a general model of 'ecclesiology' that shows its primary (classifying) attributes,
    - these attributes of 'ecclesiology' are expressed as 'criteria' in the rubric,
    - actual instances of (EC) ecclesiologies are evaluated by scoring their 'levels' for each 'criterion' in the rubric

    In this way (EC) ecclesiologies can be systematically compared. A comparison could also be made with 'ecclesiology as God intended' if we can score the levels of its criteria in the rubric.

    Does this come anywhere near describing your approach?

    Are the following possible criteria appearing (I wanted to say 'emerging'!) in Bubbles 4, 5 and 6?

    - missional
    - holiness
    - catholicity
    - unity

    What does the rest of this list look like?

    Looking at the Wikipedia description of an academic rubric, we then need 'descriptors' for each of the criteria. And principles for scoring 'levels' for actual instances.

    I recently read "How (Not) to Speak of God" by Peter Rollins and just opened "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller yesterday evening. One of the messages I got from Peter Rollins (and from "Gods's Ultimate Passion" by Frank Viola) was that God is not there primarily to meet our needs, but we are created to be focussed on Him. Tossing and turning in bed this morning this seemed to contrast with the opening image of "Blue Like Jazz" - God walking to meet me along a long dusty track. That is a nice comforting image, but seems super-individualistic - there is nothing in the universe but God, me and the endless dusty track. And God spends eternity walking to meet ME. I wondered if a criteria for ecclesiology could be distilled out of this contrast - God being there for me versus me being here for God.

    Making any sense .... ? I think I am mixing aspects of ecclesiology with aspects of theology.

  4. Andrew,

    You've captured my intention quite nicely. I'm basing the rubric on a line from the Nicene - Constantinopolitan Creed of 381, which (with modification for some--the removal of the "and the Son" clause) is accepted by every major branch of Christianity: We believe "in one holy catholic and apostolic Church." In consultation with various theologians (Barth, Brunner, Berkhof, Clowney, and others), I hope to create a rubric which is general enough for broad acceptance.

    One likely issue is that I am approaching the four marks from a Protestant perspective. I hope to keep the criteria broad enough to be accepted by Orthodox and Roman Catholic, but the differences are essential.