What is the Church?
I have just begun reading A Lover's Quarrel: A Theologian and His Beloved Church, written by Disciples theologian Joe R. Jones -- formerly Professor of Theology (now retired) at Christian Theological Seminary. I will, of course, be reviewing the book upon completion, but I may also add some posts in the in between times. As I read the Introduction to the book, I came upon this definition of the church that the author is going to use in the course of the book. I wanted to share it and make a few preliminary comments. Before offering his definition, I also should note that language plays an important function in Joe's theological work, as seen in his two volume systematic theology -- A Grammar of Christian Faith: Systematic Explorations in Christian Life and Doctrine (2 Volume Set).
The church is that liberative and redemptive
community of persons
called into being
by the Gospel of Jesus Christ
through the Holy Spirit
to witness in word and deed
to the living Triune God
for the benefit of the world
to the glory of God (p. xxv).
It is a community of persons -- not an institution or a building -- that is engaged in liberative and redemptive work. It is a community "called into being by the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ" --- that is the Word of God -- "through the Holy Spirit." As you can see from this definition that Jones is clearly Trinitarian. In reading his earlier work -- and in conversation with him -- I know that he finds inspiration in the work of Jurgen Moltmann and Karl Barth (for Disciples this is unusual) -- both of whom are strongly Trinitarian. This Church is called to witness to the Triune God in word and deed -- to benefit the world and to glorify God. It is an activist vision of the church. It is a call to share the good news that we have received as well as live out this good news in service to the world. Through this work -- God is glorified.
I realize that the Trinity is a stumbling block to many both inside the Christian community and outside it, but it seems to me that a Trinitarian understanding of God is foundational to understanding the communal nature of the church -- in that the church mirrors the community of persons within the Godhead.
I will share more in the future, but I wanted to share this definition to stimulate some conversation.