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Is the Church Primarily What It Thinks or Knows?


There are several beautiful ideas in this post. One certainly is the far greater recognition of the giftedness of each and all of the baptized in all of the contexts in which they find themselves. Another is the re-centering of the understanding of church as the people (laos, a term also inclusive of but not dominated by clergy) on mission in the world. A third is there are ways, if we pursue them, to enable botg of the above far more effectively than we currently do.

My concern is the metaphor you've provided ro describe such a means. It strikes me as precisely gnostic and perhaps (in its pejorative sense) Pelagian.

Wikipedia is all about getting the "facts" right. One parallel that comes to mind is the thin version of Christianity and discipleship that emerges when it asserts Christian faith and discipleship consists primarily in the correctness of its doctrines. But, a purified body of doctrines does not a Christian people make. Rather, the Christian vision is about a purified people whose lives, and life together in real time, loving the sisters and brothers they can see, reveals Truth, and Life, and Joy, and Faith, and Hope, and above all, Love.

So it takes a regular physical assembly, indeed more than one bigger one, but multiple smaller ones throughout the week, assemblies of worship, fellowship, and mutual learning and teaching, adequately to form and sustain such a people. And yes, it often takes some kind of building (maybe not as many as we currently deploy nor where or how we currently deploy them) to facilitate at least some of these assemblies.

The "Pelagianesque" concern I have is with a vision that seems to presume Christianity consists primarily in its actions. (I am cautious about Pelagius-related terms because I think Pelagius himself was a better theologian than Augustine portrayed in his rhetoric). But the actions in the Bible everywhere seen as the fruit of the lives of a people and individual people submitted to God, whom we in the church know as Triune. And the primary means by which we help each other live out this obedience, this displeship that brings and bears and poinrs to signs of good news of God's kingdom drawn near is through functioning as body of Christ, watching over one another in love so we each and all pursue the way of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Put another way, to get the church to be tge people, we must center our lives individually and collectively on the Triune God and on our neighbors, starting, as Wesley's 2nd General Rule notes, with those that are of the household of God. Or... it takes functioning like a people who love God and the sisters and brothers they can see, to generate the church as a people whose word is truthful and whose actions are beautiful.

Taylor Burton-Edwards more than 7 years ago

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