Posts tagged with: Ecclesiology

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
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bookIn this week’s Acton Commentary, “Piety and Politics: The Church’s Social Responsibility,” I take up the Kuyperian distinction between the church conceived as organism and as institute and point out some ways in which such ideas can help us navigate the dangerous waters of social and political engagement.

When the Letter to Diognetus describes the diffuse influence of Christians in the world, it uses the living imagery of the soul:

What the soul is in the body, that Christians are in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but does not belong to the body, and Christians dwell in the world, but do not belong to the world.

Hunter Baker has more recently argued that “the church is the soul of the system.” If this is not to be understood in a clericalist sense, then it must refer to the organic church as the soul of the polis, so to speak.

Abraham Kuyper presents the organism/institute distinction in his sermon, “Rooted & Grounded,” which appears in the forthcoming anthology On the Church, part of the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Kuyper’s ecclesiology can well be understood as the crux of his public theology, and the organism/institute distinction is at the core of his conception of the church in its relation to God and the world.

In “Rooted & Grounded” Kuyper observes that both realities the distinction points to must be kept together. We have to do justice both to the dynamic, living, organic aspects of the body of Christ as well as the structural, formal, and institutional expressions of this community.

Thus, says Kuyper,

“Rooted and grounded” unites organism and institution, and where Scripture itself refuses to allow any separation, it weaves them together. By means of the person who sows and plants, the metaphor of vital growth overflows into that of the institution; by means of the living stone, the metaphor of the building flows over into that of the organism. The church of the Lord is one loaf, dough that rises according to its nature but nevertheless is kneaded with human hands and baked like bread. The church is called a multitude of priests, legitimated through birth but consecrated only through anointing. A bride brought forth by the Father but accepted by choice. A people, finally, who indeed sprouted from the living trunk but nevertheless are organized with wisdom and guided with self-motivation.

Just as body and soul are united in the human person, the church as organism and institute are united in the people of God and, ultimately, in union with Jesus Christ.

In a new video from Made to Flourish, Tim Keller offers practical guidance to ministers and churches on how they can better disciple their people when it comes to work and stewardship:

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Blog author: jsunde
Thursday, April 16, 2015
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In the latest video blog from For the Life of the World, Evan Koons recites Rainer Maria Rilke’s powerful poem, “Go to the Limits of your Longing” from Book of Hours.

“In this poem is the whole of what it means to live for the life of the world,” Koons explains. “God speaks to each of us as he makes us.”

The poem offers a compelling complement to the conclusion of the series, in which Stephen Grabill reminds us that the “church maintains the hope of the not yet by living the kingdom now.” We are the “lived memory of God’s purposes in the world,” he says. “The church is called to be the very embodiment of the kingdom to come.” (more…)

BroadwayUMC-naveIn the early 2000s, Broadway United Methodist Church had a series of outreach programs, including a food pantry, after-school program, clothing ministry, and a summer youth program that served up to 250 children per day. Today, these programs are completely absent, and it’s no accident.

“They’ve been killed off,” writes Robert King in a fascinating profile of the transformation for Faith and Leadership. “In many cases, they were buried with honors. But those ministries, staples of the urban church, are all gone from Broadway. Kaput.”

“One of the things we literally say around here is, ‘Stop helping people.’” says Rev. Mike Mather, the church’s pastor. “I’m serious.”

Although Mather was the first to initiate many of these programs, with some efforts going back as far as the late 1980s, after a series of circumstances, including a series of community tragedies, he began to believe that a new approach was needed. “I started paying attention to what they really cared about,” he says. (more…)

RootedGod has clearly given us dominion over creation, yet a variety of divisions and distortions persist. Radical environmentalists dream of a world without us, even as hyper-consumerists wield God’s call as justification for undue exploitation and self-seeking.

Getting the relationship right not only impacts our stewardship, but gets to the core of what we believe about God, why he created us, and who he has called us to be. It’s no wonder, then, that Abraham Kuyper begins one of his sermons on the role of the church by examining humanity’s broader role in creation.

In his sermon, “Rooted and Grounded,” Kuyper proclaims that the church must be both rooted”in the “organism” of the Gospel, even while being grounded in various institutional forms. Yet insofar as we are “rooted” in “organic” life, we must ask: Which garden do we intend to cultivate? How do we plan to do it? Why? (more…)

imageIn an increasingly atomizing and alienating culture, what role does the church play in holding the fabric of civilization together?

Over at the Evangelical Pulpit, Bart Gingerich offers a hearty response, albeit by way of answering a rather different question: Why do folks abandon the church, particularly those who still believe in Jesus?

Although plenty of disaffected church-ditchers have undergone deep shifts in basic doctrine and belief, Gingerich observes that, for many, “the abandonment testimonies seem fueled more by embarrassment and bad experiences.” If this is the key driver, he continues, such departures may have just as much to do with the typical failings of human organizations in general as they do with the church in particular.

“Humans in groups can be jerks, make mistakes, have blind spots, and mishandle all sorts of cases,” he writes. “Many of the ‘I’m leaving or taking a break from church because people hurt me’ manifestos could just as easily been authored about the local Ruritans, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Garden, or Women’s Club.”

But therein lies the issue: “Few under the age of 40 participate in such societies any more.” (more…)

Rooted & GroundedChristian’s Library Press has released Rooted & Grounded by Abraham Kuyper. This short volume includes first-ever translated sermons by Kuyper showing his passion to the church. While he’s well known for his writings on theology and common grace, this book demonstrates Kuyper’s enthusiasm for the church as well. In his seminal sermon, included in this volume, Kuyper outlines the basic distinction and connection between his conception of the church as institution and the church as organism, a view which became formative for neo-Calvinist reflection on the church and society.

In his endorsement for the book, Stephen Grabill, senior research scholar at Acton Institute says:
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