Common Ground 

Jordan Bajis

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CHAPTER NINE
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What is the Church?

The Church. Which one is the right one? Where is it? Is it invisible, or visible? Just what exactly, is the church, and what is it not? Can one be a member of the Church and not be a believer? Christians have fervently fought over these questions for centuries. And, unfortunately, these skirmishes rarely benefit either party. Most of the time, all parties leave such discussions more angry and divided in heart than when they first began. Much of this conflict is based on a murky understanding of the Church.

Unquestionably, the meaning of the Church is often blurred and confused in our culture. We are asked, "What Church do you go to?" and this question really means, "What denomination are you affiliated with?" The words "Church" and "denomination" are used inter-changeably, as if they both meant the same thing. They don't. As the next few chapters will show, the Church is the united, indivisible Body of Christ. A denomination is an administrative fragment which contradicts that Biblical truth. There may be many different "denominations", but the Bible makes it plain that there is only one Church.

What is the exact definition of the Church? The East offers none.1 This should not be surprising. The Christian people formulated no rational definition of the Church, for the first fifteen hundred years of its existence.2 The New Testament calls the Church a divine "mystery" (Eph. 5:32). It does so for good reason: the Church is the miracle of Christ in us and us in Christ. This mystery will always be beyond explanations.

In keeping with the Hebraic thought and culture of the times, the New Testament writers depicted the Church in "spiritual images", not rationalistic formulas. The Church is: the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23; Rev. 22:17), the True Vine with its branches (John 15: 1-7), the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22), the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:6), the Household of God (Gal. 6:10), and Living Stones (1 Pet. 2:5). These and other New Testament figures speak not only to reason, but to our hearts, spirits, and human life experience. Each vision gives us a deeper insight into the truth that the Christian has been made a member of a divine-human community. Yet not one of these images (by itself or all together) can ever succeed in communicating the full reality of that union.

In the next three chapters I will discuss some of these images of the Church. But I would ask that you please keep the above point in mind: the Church is a spiritual entity. Therefore a spiritual sensitivity is necessary to see the pictures the Spirit paints for us to ponder. The mind alone will never be able to fully grasp any one of these illustrations.


HOW THE CHURCH BOTH IS AND IS NOT AN INSTITUTION

The Church is a human institution in that it exists within this world, has order, history, and is made up of people. The Church is a divine institution in the sense that her government is Divine, she exists eternally, and God dwells within her.

The Church is not an institution as the word is popularly understood to mean, i.e., a bureaucracy concerned with getting a job done. When the Church is thus spoken of by what it does rather than by what it is, it is reduced to a mere factory or academy.3 Some aspects of the Church's mission may call it to serve as a "teaching forum," a "soul-winning center," or as a counseling clinic, but these things do not constitute the nature of the Church.4 Her being is not defined by activities, but by communion with Christ and the brethren.

The love of God is the "heart-beat" of the Church, it is her very life. This divine power transforms the church as institution into the Church as a divine living organism, the Life of God. How is this so? By the fact that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Christ has come not only to provide us forgiveness, but fullness of joy through life in, with, and through Him.5 Christ, "the firstborn" of the Church (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, 18; Rev. 1:5), is the one Who shares membership with us in the Church. It is He who unites us in love to Himself and to the brethren. He is the Vine, we are the branches (John 15:5).

The Church is more than an association of believers,6 and more than a collection of religious individuals working together.7 The Church is the community of Christ Himself.8 It is Christ who gives the Church her existence. The Church's nature and essence are totally dependent upon His nature and essence. For this reason, one's perception of the Church must rest squarely on who Christ is. "The nature of the Church is the nature of Christ because it is His body."9 A faulty view of Him will, therefore, yield an equally defective view of the Church.

One of the most significant Church councils pertaining to the doctrine of Christ was the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.). In its profession, we gain not only a great insight into the nature of Christ, but also a perception of the Church as well.10 The following is an excerpt from one of its declarations:

[Christ is] to be acknowledged in two natures [divine and human], without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way abolished because of the union, but rather the characteristic property of each nature being preserved, and concurring into one Person and one subsistence, not as if Christ were parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; even as the Prophets from the beginning spoke concerning Him ...11

Just as Christ, the God-Man, has both a divine and a human nature, so the Church likewise manifests divinity and humanity. Of course, Christ's humanity differs from the humanity constituting the Church in that her members are not yet complete and perfect. This, however, in no way detracts from the fact that the mystery of Christ's presence fills the Church. As it is within the Person of Christ, the Church's human will lives and acts in cooperation with the divine. Such a cooperation results in the Christian becoming more and more like Him Who is the Church's Head.

One's affiliation with the Church's outward expressions (in clergy, membership, government, doctrine, etc.) does not automatically provide one with an assurance that he has a reserved seat at the heavenly banquet. The Church is a Community of the Spirit; her essence transcends denominational boundaries and earthly authority. To be a member of a "religious" body is not always the same thing as being a member of the Church. Such a religious group grants membership when one conforms to its rules (e.g., no dancing, smoking, drinking), obligations (tithing), and doctrines (subscription to a "statement of faith," professing Christ as Lord).

However, to be a member of the Church is not so simplistic. Membership in the Church requires a life of love lived with God and the brethren. This communal life in the Spirit is the Church (1 Cor. 12:12,13).12 The Eastern Church is "aware of being clearly differentiated from the more or less institutional conception of the church which characterized the development of the medieval Roman church."13 Christ came not to found a "Standing Executive Committee" or a "Divine Religious Jurisdiction." He came to bring man into communion with God and others.

In other words, Church membership is not given to those who trust in "churchly" forms, but to those who live in communion with the Spirit Who fills some of those forms.14 When these forms become ends in themselves, the danger of religious institutionalism appears.15 This occurs when people relate to the observable structures as if they guaranteed God's indwelling (e.g., "God must be with us, our bishop is within the historic line of the Apostles").16 However, no outward structure no matter how ancient or modern can command the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit may use structures, but He can never be manipulated by them. We must not confuse one for the other.

God's Church is where truth and love are; His Church is not where structures are revered no matter how beautiful, "religious" or "effective" they may be. In fact, even if the "organization and discipline of the earthly church ... be perfect, ... if its life and activity are not inspired by the Spirit of God, they are not even Christian."17 As Orthodox theologian Serge Verhovsky notes:

...what we call the life of the Church is very often the life of our sinful human society having but the appearance of Christianity...there is no Church where the will of God is not done. The presence of grace and of true Christian faith and love are the best criteria of the reality of the Church. "Where there is the Holy Spirit, there is the Church," says St. Irenaeus of Lyon and, 'Where there is the Church, there is the Holy Spirit! And He is Truth'."18

The Church does not exist to perpetuate its own institutional structures. She uses them to administer, to secure, and to promote the koinonia [communion] of man with God and with his fellow man. When they are not used to this end, they become obstacles to union. Such a misuse is no less than "blasphemous."19


VISIBLE OR INVISIBLE?

Discussing the institutional element of the Church naturally brings up another question: "Is the true Church visible or invisible?" In general, the Reformation tradition promoted the doctrine that the true Church was the invisible Church.20 According to this teaching, God was the only One Who could identify the real Christian from the false; no religious structure could be trusted to make the recognition.21 The emphasis for this view of the Church was a direct reaction to the Roman Catholic teaching on the Church. Romeıs hierarchy claimed to be the representatives of the Christıs Church. If you wanted a chance at being a member of the Church in heaven someday (the invisible church), you had to be a member of the Church on earth (the visible Church).22 This visible Church, Rome taught, was none other than the Roman Catholic Church.

How did the concept of visible and invisible Church first develop? Ironically, the foundation for the doctrine of the invisible Church evolved from within the Roman Church, or at least as it was expressed through Augustine of Hippo. In this famous bishopıs writings titled City of God, a basis was built for a conception of the Church as a spiritual-material dualism. This perspective viewed the invisible things of the Spirit as distinct, separate and unrelated to the material things of creation.23 Luther, echoing Augustine's dualism some thousand years later, not only asserted that the true Church was the invisible one, but that the visible and the invisible Church may be held in outright opposition to each other.24 Ulrich Zwingli, a key figure of both the Reformed and Anabaptist traditions, affirmed that because only God knew whom He had elected to salvation, the true Church's membership would of necessity be invisible. The logical implication of this reasoning was that unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity applied only to this specified "mystical" body.25

Generally speaking, contemporary Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism are very much in sympathy with the Reformed and Zwinglian perspective. The true Church is something mystical, spiritual, unknowable, and "heavenly", whereas the "earthly" church, whose membership is composed of both Christians and non-Christians, is but a passing, fallen institution. Certainly those who are members of "physical" churches can receive encouragement, teaching, and moral discipline through them, but only one's membership in the heaven-based Church has any eternal significance.

 

The Eastern Approach: Visible, Invisible, and Indivisible

The Eastern minded Christian takes a different approach to the matter. He finds no Biblical reason either to divide the Church into two "parts" as the Catholics do (visible/invisible), or to believe it exists only in heaven (the invisible "mystical" body of Christ) as many Evangelical-Fundamentalists do.26 Eastern Christians believe that dividing the Church into visible and invisible parcels actually contradicts the very nature of the Church. The Church is one, whole organism. The visible is inseparably linked to and a part of the invisible, and vice versa. If the Church is indeed the Body of Christ (not two different bodies, one in heaven and one on earth), then her nature must be an undivided whole. In short, Eastern Christianity holds to a visible yet mystical body of Christ.

It is impossible to view the Church as only invisible. Although the Church exists outside of time and space, its historic origin at Pentecost was clearly a divine and human event, i.e., the Church was born in time at a specific place, Jerusalem.

Even Christ's membership in the Church makes the claim of the invisible Church impossible. He did not poof into an invisible, divinized mist after His ascension. Christıs humanity was not erased after His resurrection (just as ours will not be in our glorification on the Last Day [I Cor. 15:20ff]). At the right hand of God Christ can still be seen in His glorified humanity (flesh, bones, teeth, etc.).

Christ's Covenant makes one a member of the Church, and that Covenant applies to the earthly saint as much as it does to the heavenly believer. The two realms of the Church are indivisible for Christ is the common foundation for both heaven and earth. Clearly, the Bible makes it plain that the Church is of heaven and of earth.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant ... (Heb. 12:22-24).


WHY THE CHURCH CANNOT BE A DENOMINATION

The Church is one organism within the one Christ: "There is one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all" (Eph. 4: 5, 6). This intrinsic wholeness of the Church leads Eastern Christians to refuse to see Christianity as a collective of denominations.

The Lord is the shepherd of "one flock" (John 10: 16). Dissensions and factions are a work of the flesh (Gal. 5: 19, 20f), not an administrative division of the Church. The Church's internal being can neither be reduced nor altered. The divisions between East and West, the Reformation, the Radical Reformation, or other such reform movements, have neither decreased nor increased the number of "pieces" making up the Church. Christianity is not the sum total of all denominations.27 The Church is one and Christ cannot be divided (1 Cor. 1:13).

In essence, the Church cannot be in dissension with itself. The Church embodies the Truth, and the Truth can never oppose itself with "many" truths for there is only one Truth. Since the Truth is whole, the Church can not be sliced and diced into competing denominations. A differing doctrinal confession does not create another "Church," it creates another denomination.

As the Church cannot be administratively divided, neither can it be administratively reunited. One does not "bring the Church together." The Church is already together. One cannot divide God and His Truth, and then through later efforts restore them to unity. Those who read John 17 ("that they may all be one") as a mandate to "put the Church together" ignore the unity and union which is already an inherent characteristic of the Church.28

One does not work for "Church unity" by trying to assemble all denominations under one administrative roof; each group is not a "state" within the Church Kingdom that can be united in a kind of federation. The Body of Christ exists concretely on the earth, but we do not organize the Church. With Christ, we compose the Church!

The earthly administration of denominations is not the same thing as the earthly administration of the Church. For the most part, the purpose of a denomination's government is to perpetuate its distinctives and defend its exclusive loyalties. On the other hand, the purpose of the Church's administration is to bring humankind into union with God. One seeks to distinguish and separate, the other to bring Divine-human harmony and communion.

 

THE CONFESSIONAL "CHURCH" VERSES THE CHURCH

The Origin of "The Confessional" Church

Both during and after the Reformation, Protestants formulated many of their doctrines in protest to what Catholics believed, and later Catholics developed much of their teaching in opposition to Protestants positions. Aspects of both theologies were being defined in contradiction to the other, each body trying to affirm only its doctrines as representative of the true Church. The result of such a battle was that true Christianity came to be equated with a particular breed of doctrine. To the Roman Catholics, one could not espouse Protestant doctrines and be a true Christian; and to the Protestants, Roman Catholic thinking prohibited one from entering into the Kingdom.

Thus began the "confessional" view of both Church and doctrine. Where the Early Church maintained that it was impossible to objectively define the mystery of this union in Christ, the confessional groups now believed that the Church could be sufficiently explained through encyclicals and "statements of faith." Hence, doctrine became something one can define, defend, and propagate through propositional logic. Whereas the early Church used doctrines only as a means of defending the faith, the confessional groups now used doctrines as a way to exhaustively delineate the Faith.29 Instead of doctrines being a means to deepen one's experience of God, each doctrine became merely another "theological brick" cemented in the confessional barrier. Christians now had a "theological" reason for their fleshly divisiveness.

The Fallacy of the Non-Confessional Church

The Reformation period's stress upon doctrine as a means of defining the Church is rejected by many ecumenically minded Christians today. To these Christians, ones doctrine is not as important as Christian "unity." Where for one person, confessionalism is a sign of orthodoxy; for another, a lack of theological awareness is an expression of "love."30 Those who have a concern for doctrinal clarity and precision are judged as cold, prejudiced, individuals on the hunt for a reason to exclude others.

Such thinking replaces confessionalism with doctrinal minimalism. The argument becomes: "If division was mothered by exacting confessionalism, why not create a confession of 'bare essentials' in which all Christians could agree and be unified?"31 The "confessional church" one belongs to is unimportant. Now the only thing that matters is that one "believes in Jesus."

The nature of the Church of God, however, can never be minimalistic. It must always be maximalistic. Why? The Church cannot prioritize Truth, because Truth cannot be abbreviated. To confine Truth to its "Top Ten" propositions implies that the other eleven to infinity are not really important. Thus, according to this reasoning, there is such a thing as irrelevant Truth. All Truth, however, is relevant, for where there is Truth, there is a revelation of Him Who is the Truth. Actually, to say that Truth has a minimal expression is a contradiction. Truth, to be Truth, hides nothing; only in ignorance is falsehood permitted to reign. Where there is Truth there is Light, and darkness, by necessity, must be dispelled.

The call of the Church is to manifest the Truth in its fullest, not its least, expression. Truth is the very foundation and nature of the Church, its Head being Truth Himself (John 14: 6). It is not our option to give Truth a "crew cut" simply to encourage a "practical," confessional unity. It is a fallacy to assume that a common confession will guarantee real unity. Despite the doctrinal agreement each confessional group maintains among its membership, the multitude of divisions existing within both "non-denominational" and "Brand Name" denominations sufficiently proves this point.

An agreement based on "minimums" is either a commitment to bridle one's pursuit of Truth, or an admittance that a fuller measure of truth is insignificant (at least in respect to the promotion of unity). In this latter case, Truth and the disclosure of God is not the goal of doctrine, but a superficial, administrative unity. Such a compromise is contrary to the purpose and character of Christ and His Church. We are not to find our unity by limiting ourselves in the fear that our "unity" will be "ruined" through greater insight into the things of God. We "are to grow up in all aspects into Him" (Eph. 4:15).

The spiritual reality of the Church is never realized confessionally by either definitions or through minimizing Truth. The Church is actualized only in communion with God and the brethren (Eph. 3: 18, 19; 4:13-16). This neither denigrates nor exalts the place of doctrine. It puts it in its proper perspective: within the context of love. This relational (as opposed to confessional) environment will always lead us to live more compatibly with God, i.e., to live in Truth.32 Only in this setting of communion and love will we rightly understand the purpose and end of doctrine: to emulate God's love (I Tim. 1:5; Eph. 5:1, 2).

Because confessionalism distorts the vision of the Church as a divine-human community, its major premise is unbiblical. Christianity cannot be shrunk down to a few fundamentals. The Church is life in God, a supernatural and human society which seeks to embrace all of creation in the redemption given to her by her Head.33 Confessionalism, on the other hand, depicts the Church as an institution of confessing individuals. The church of confessionalism inevitably ends up competing with the Church of communion.

 

THE CHURCH AS THE BODY OF CHRIST

Christ's Inseparable Union With The Church

Because the Church is the body of Christ, it is an organism. It is a living entity. In 1 Corinthians 12: 12 Paul says,

"For just as the [human] body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ."

What can we conclude from this passage? Christ and the Church (His body) are intimately united to each other. How deep is this union? His union with us is as intimate as the relationship we have with our own physical members Š actually, even deeper. This is a profound mystery! Christ's closeness to us is such that Paul can speak of our relationship with Him as union (Rom. 6:5). We are joined into Christ (Rom. 6:3. We are member of the very Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12).34

The body of Christ is the realization of Christ's promise to be with us even unto the end of the ages (Matthew 28: 20). When Christ ascended into heaven, he did not leave the Church. He kept His promise to remain with us at Pentecost in the pouring out of the Spirit. On that day, Christ made His people His body, an "incarnation" of His very being.35 This is the "intimate union which constitutes the mystery of the Church."36 The Spirit has made the Church and Christ inseparable, a genuine union emphasized time and again in Scriptures:

"He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit with the Lord." (1 Cor. 6:17).

Our bodies are "members of Christ" (1 Cor. 6:15).

"For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body ... and we were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13).

We are all one body, in the one Christ (1 Cor. 12:20-27).

"...we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." (Rom. 12:4, 5).

The mystery of our union with the Lord in the Church is as intimate as the one a believing husband and wife are to share (Eph. 5:29-32) in some respects it is even richer. In this union Christ can honestly say to us, "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me, receives Him who sent Me." (Matt. 10:40, Matt. 25:40). It is an identity so strong that Jesus can say that He experiences what even the least of His brethren experience at the hands of others (Matt. 25:40). It is this bond which made Paul's persecution of the Church a persecution of Christ Himself ("And he said, 'Who art Thou, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting' "[Acts 9:5]).

The Church can never be separated from Christ, for "She cannot exist without Him from whom she received all fullness."37 The book of Ephesians says this very thing when it refers to the Church as "His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:23). The Word "fullness" here is the Greek word pleroma (plhroma), which means "that which makes something full or complete."38 In this light, the Ephesians passage reveals an amazing and incomprehensible mystery: we, as the Church, somehow actually supplement, and complement Christ Himself! How can this be? In Christ, the Church stands as a new humanity (1 Cor. 15:20-23), redeemed and reborn through her Head.39 The depth and intensity of our intimacy with Christ unfolds the mystery of His existence within the Church. In this context,

... the Church is Christ Himself, in His all-embracing plenitude (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12). Š For if He is the Head, we are the members; the whole man is He and we... 'For Christ is not simply in the head and not in the body, but Christ is entire in the head and body'.40

In some wonder of God, we the Church will complete His work of redemption on that Last Day when He restores all creation in Himself.41 How? We do not know exactly, but we do know that the answer lies somewhere in our genuine union with Him. As our union in His Body restores us,42 so His union within us will be used to restore creation itself.43 In this awesome wonder to be unveiled on the Last Day, the truth is again clear: "Christ is never alone. The Redeemer and the redeemed ... [are] together inseparably."44

 

The Spiritual Ramifications of Being the Body of Christ

The Church's being the body of Christ strongly emphasizes that the Church is Community. In every place but one where the phrase "the body of Christ" is found in Scripture, it is used in direct connection with the Eucharistic gathering,45 the gathering where "the many become one" in the communion of Christ.46 Paul's reference to the Church as the body of Christ was not just a metaphor. It was based on the spiritual-historical reality that Christ became a Man and now shares our humanity.47 The purpose of the Incarnation was not just to make it possible for Christ to take on our sin on the Cross, but to unite our humanity with His, and through Himself, to bring us into a healing bond with one another (1 Cor. 12:13).

The body represents the whole self, including will and heart, soul and mind, as well as the physical parts. For this reason, membership in the body is not a casual joining of a group of people, but an incorporation into the body of Christ, the visible body of people here on earth who belong to Him. ... there is such a solidaric relationship between these members, such an interdependence, that 'if one suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together' (I Cor. 12:26).48

The individual Christian is a member of a body of believers, and therefore he truly needs his brethren. If a glowing hot coal is taken from the fire it soon becomes cold and useless. Likewise, the Christian needs the fellowship of Christ's body to maintain the spiritual vitality that is supposed to characterize the Christian life.49 Our union with each other in the Body is not just so we can have a more intimate relationship with one another, but so that we can have a more intimate relationship with Christ, the Head.

The truth is that our genuine communion with other Christians is actually the chief way that the Lord strengthens us, reveals Himself to us, and transforms us into His likeness. We receive the nourishment supplied by the Head through each joint (member) of the body.

"From Whom [Christ] the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Eph. 4:16)

"...holding fast to the head [Christ], whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God." (Col. 2:19)

We are called to actually live in such a way that this reality of our shared bond in Christ is manifested. When it is, we will be living witnesses to the truth that God is indeed among us. "The ultimate desire in the heart of God in visiting a people is not just to bless them as individuals; but His constant yearning is that they be knitted together as a functioning body through which He can express Himself to the world."50 May the world, which stands in such great need, receive this living witness soon.

Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian. Chapter 9.
Light and Life Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 1991


NOTES FOR CHAPTER NINE

  1. "No definition has been given by the Ecumenical Councils. In the doctrinal summaries drafted on various occasions in the Orthodox Church in the seventeenth century...again no definition of the Church was given ... This lack of formal definition does not mean, however, a confusion of idea or any obscurity of view." Alexander Schmemann, "The Eucharist and the Doctrine of the Church," St. Vladimir's Quarterly (1954) vol. 2, No. 2, p. 10

  2. Alexander Schmemann, "The Eucharist and the Doctrine of the Church," St. Vladimir's Quarterly (1954) vol. 2, No. 2, p. 10 citing G. Florovsky, The Church: Her Nature and Task, in "The Universal Church in God's Design" The first systematic treatise on the Church was composed by Cardinal Turrecremata in the late Fifteenth Century.

  3. "For the Church is an institution, but she is also a mystery, and it is mystery that gives meaning and life to institution and is therefore the object of ecclesiology." Alexander Schmemann, "Ecclesiological Notes," St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly 11 (1967) p. 35

    "In the West, the Church developed as a powerful institution; in the East, it was seen primarily as a sacramental (or 'mystical') organism, in charge of 'divine things' and endowed with only limited institutional structures. The structures (patriarchates, metropolitinates, and other officialdom) themselves were shaped by the empire (except for the fundamental tripartite hierarchy—bishop, priest [presbyter], deacon—in each local church) and were not considered to be of divine origin." John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, (New York, Fordham Press, 1979) p. 215

  4. This typical depiction of the Evangelical Church as existing almost for the sole sake of evangelism is more an American phenomenon than something inherent in its Reformed-Anabaptist origins.

    The main theological continuation of the evangelical impulse in the church during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is contained with the streams involved in the First and Second Awakenings. In the course of the nineteenth century, however, the American evangelical stream began to suffer constriction and reduction. This did not occur without further development and some positive gains: Charles Finney and D. L. Moody, whose native intuitions were never disturbed by seminary education, popularized the gospel in a way that brought the laity into the process of witness as never before. But there were losses in this process also. The frontline work of evangelical renewal was no longer led by men with the intellectual and theological stature of [Jonathan] Edwards and [John] Wesley ... Revival became revivalism; what had been a comprehensive program of church renewal, evangelism and social and cultural reform, became increasingly limited to one expression of mission: mass evangelism and personal outreach through the local church.

    Robert Webber, Donald Bloesch, eds., The Orthodox Evangelicals, "A Call to Historic Roots and Continuity," Richard Lovelace, (New York, Thomas Nelson, 1977) p. 59

  5. "...seeing the Church as the locus where participation in Christ's life becomes a reality, and not so much as a human institution, where the Word is only 'heard' and where 'obedience' is required, but, in fact, never fully realized in the Body of Christ. The relations between God and man cease to be extrinsic; they are a living communion." John Meyendorff, Joseph McLelland, eds., "Conclusion", John Meyendorff,, The New Man: An Orthodox and Reformed Dialogue, (New Jersey, Standard Press, 1973) p. 164

  6. "As the fullness of divine life communicated to men, the Church can never be totally identified with its earthly members and institutions. The Church of God is not coextensive with it's creaturely members nor is it exhausted in its being and membership by them. ... the body includes in its membership Christ Himself as its Head, and the Holy Spirit as its vivifying, sanctifying and deifying power." Thomas Hopko, "Catholicity and Ecumenism," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (Crestwood, N.Y., St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1973) vol. 17, No. 1-2, p. 64

  7. "In order to understand the New Testament teaching concerning the church, we must see it as an endeavor to express a reality that transcends any concept of human community or organization." Veselin Kesich, "Unity and Diversity In New Testament Ecclesiology," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (Crestwood, New York, New York, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975) Volume 19, No. 2, p. 109

  8. "Orthodox tradition is unanimous in its affirmation of the Church as an organic unity. This organism is the Body of Christ and the definition is not merely symbolical but expresses the very nature of the Church." John Meyendorff et. al., "The Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology," Alexander Schmemann, The Primacy of Peter, (Bedfordshire, England, The Faith Press, 1963) p. 34

  9. Serge Verhovskoy, "The Highest Authority in the Church," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (Crestwood, New York, 1960) vol. 4, No. 2-3, p. 81

  10. "The doctrine of the Church is not an 'appendix' to Christology, and not just an extrapolation of the 'Christological principle,' as it has been often assumed. There is much more than an 'analogy.' Ecclesiology, in the Orthodox view is an integral part of Christology. One can evolve the whole body of Orthodox Dogma out of the Dogma of Chalcedon." George Florovsky, "The Ethos of the Orthodox Church," Ecumenical Review , XII, 2, 1960, p. 197

  11. J. Stevenson, Creeds, Councils and Controversies (London, S.P.C.K., 1966) p. 337

  12. "In contrast to other Christian traditions, ours permits a diversity of life and thought, for it has never been greatly concerned to formulate dogmas concerning the nature of the Church, or to change the charismatic fellowship created at Pentecost into an institution to canalize God's grace." A. J. Philippou, ed., The Orthodox Ethos, "The Mystery of Pentecost," Angelos J. Philippou, (Oxford, England, Holywell Press, 1964) p. 70

  13. Gustaf Aulen, Reformation and Catholicity (London, Oliver and Boyd Ltd., 1962) p. 12

  14. "Because it is charismatic, the institution ... is not meant to create an objectified security; it constantly depends on the Spirit ... Thus although it relies on a given form, the institution is never this form itself; it cannot be isolated from the charismatic event of communication, it cannot exist outside the community .... It is a liberation from selfhood and individualism that the Spirit grants to us in the Church, and this makes him once more simultaneously the Spirit of freedom and the creator of the community. The freedom of the Spirit means that the structure of the Church is not an objectified superimposed thing, but the fulfillment of each one's personhood." J. D. Zizioulas, "The Pneumatological Dimension of the Church," (International Catholic Review, Vol. II, No. 2, 1973 )

  15. "The problem is not so much that the church is inevitably an historical institution but that because it is also an institution it may lose sight of its new life in Christ at various levels with the result that its institutional aspects gain the prominence. Then the Church risks being only an institution with primary reference to itself, that is, its offices, rules, traditions, and teachings, rather than to God. ...the central problem is not structural or administrative but spiritual "Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, "Aspects of the Life of the Church," (Brookline, MA., Holy Cross Press, 1977) Vol. XXII, No. 2 pp. 203, 204

  16. "The Spirit bestows upon the bishops a 'certain charisma of truth' (charisma veritatis certum ), but He never becomes prisoner of an institution, or the personal monopoly of any human being. 'Where the Church is,' writes St. Irenaeus again, 'there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is Truth.' It is not the Church which, through the medium of its institutions, bestows the Spirit, but it is the Spirit which validates every aspect of Church life, including the institutions." John Meyendorff, The Catholicity and the Church, "The Significance of the Reformation in the History of Christendom" (Crestwood, New York, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1983) p. 28

  17. Serge Verhovskoy, "The Highest Authority in the Church," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (Crestwood, New York, 1960) vol. 4, No. 2-3, p. 78

  18. Serge Verhovskoy, "The Highest Authority in the Church," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (Crestwood, New York, 1960) vol. 4, No. 2-3, p. 78

  19. John Meyendorff, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, New York, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1978) p. 137

  20. They, following Augustine, differentiated between a visible and invisible Church, "...asserting the true church to be invisible." In essence the Reformers affirmed that the nature of the Church is dominated by two fundamental convictions: 1) a necessary individual response to the Spirit's invitation and 2) because of the fall, whatever institutional forms a church will take will bear the marks of the sinfulness of their creators. William A. Scott, Historical Protestantism: An Historical Introduction to Protestant Theology (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1971) p. 17

  21. "The idea of the invisible church is found in Augustine, City of God; Wycliffe, De ecclesia; Luther, Preface to Revelation; Calvin, Institutes IV 1 7....The thought that is uppermost is not to minimize the importance of church membership, but to recognize the possibility of hypocrisy and deceit. In the last analysis, those who belong to God are visible to God alone. Membership of the true church is a fact which is not visible to man. The idea recalls the statement of 2 Tim. 2:19: "'The Lord knows who are his'." Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 1, "Church," L. Coenen (Grand Rapids, MI., Zondervan Publishing House, 1975) p. 299

  22. "The essential characteristic of the Western ecclesiology is that it was built up almost exclusively in terms of legal authority, of 'power.' Š in other terms — a 'hierachology.' On the other hand, the Protestants in their struggle against the Roman distortions also accepted the same 'legal categories.' But, in opposition to Roman clericalism, to that reduction of the whole Church to the principle of a 'sacred power,' they reduced this organizational, 'legal' aspect of the church to a minimum..." Alexander Schmemann, "The Eucharist and the Doctrine of the Church," St. Vladimir's Quarterly ((1954) vol. 2, No. 2, p. 10

  23. "In the West .... that dualism was actively brought back in a powerful theoretical form, in St Augustine's far-reaching distinction between the mundus intelligibilis and the mundus sensibilis, reinforced by a somewhat Neo-platonic and Ptolemaic outlook upon the universe, which came to be built into the whole fabric of Western thought. ...it also had the effect of bifurcating [dividing into two parts] the religious wholeness of the Judaeo-Christian tradition into a dualism of visible and invisible, outward and inward spheres of experience, which then needed to be coordinated through a system of sacramental causal connections. ...the religious consciousness fostered by the monastic orders (especially Augustinian and Franciscan), had the effect of widening the dualism within the Roman Catholic Church as community of believers and the Church as identified with the ecclesiastical ruling class." T. F. Torrance, Theology in Reconciliation: Essays Toward Evangelical and Catholic Unity In East and West, (Grand Rapids, MI., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975) pp. 31, 37, 38

  24. "As Luther puts it, the Creed says 'I believe in one Holy Church', not 'I see one Holy Church'. But this distinction cannot be maintained. For although Fathers such as Origen, Jerome, and Augustine, agreed that the Church contains both false and true members, and that the latter constitute the corpus Christi verum , they still see the Church as a visible community with external marks which distinguish it from heretical and schismatic bodies." Methodios Fouyas, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism (Oxford University Press, 1972) p. 116. See also Hans J. Hillerbrand, Men and Ideas In The Sixteenth Century (Chicago, Rand McNally, College Publishing Company, 1969) p.76

  25. Bernard M.G. Reardon, Religious Thought In the Reformation (New York, Longham Inc., 1981) p. 103

  26. The Eastern Church has a different view from both the Protestant and the Catholic vision of the Church. Unlike the Reformers, the East did not have to do battle against Roman claims nor was it greatly effected by Augustine's dualistic teachings. These factors allowed the Eastern Church to escape many of the philosophical and theological dilemmas within which the Reformers were born.

  27. "Orthodoxy would insist on the fact that unity belongs to the one church, which essentially cannot be divided by human controversies. ...Orthodoxy prefers to allow the Holy Spirit, the inspirer of the church and the indwelling Spirit of Christ, to judge the external as well as internal visibility of the ecclesia militans on earth. Having said this, Eastern Orthodoxy does go on to assert that the true and actual visibility of the church within human perception is seen in the Eucharistic worship, set aside and blessed not by human hands but through the mystical act of the Holy Spirit. ...the apophatic nature of its theology in general, points toward an ecclesiology that is basically mystical, shrouded in wonder and mystery. In short, Eastern Orthodoxy holds to the visible but mystical body of Christ." Carnegie Samuel Calian, Icon and Pulpit (Philadelphia, PA., The Westminster Press, 1968) p. 75

  28. This passage does not call for an administrative unity; certainly there were no "denominational" breeches at the time which would have led Jesus to ascribe this interpretation to His prayer. That the Church is called to mirror the moral and spiritual oneness which exists in God, however, is beyond question. Only in this testimony, can the world look at the Church and know that God has indeed sent His Son (John 17:21).

  29. "...doctrinal definition is viewed only as an extraordinary and extreme measure, an anti-dote to heresy, and not as an end in itself. It is therefore distinct from truth, which is 'apostolic,' i.e. present explicitly or implicitly in the consciousness of the Church from apostolic times and based upon apostolic witness." John Meyendorff, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, New York, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1978) p. 38

  30. When Dwight L. Moody (1837-99), one of the most popular and successful mass crusade evangelists in American history, was confronted by a woman who said she did not agree with his theology. Moody responded, "'My theology! I didn't know I had any.' He insisted that that instead of troubling his hearers with the disconcerting intricacies of theology, he simply stuck to the 'three R's' of the gospel: 'Ruin by sin, Redemption by Christ, and Regeneration by the Holy Ghost.'" Winthrop S. Hudson, Religion in America, (New York, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981) pp. 234, 235

  31. Such a philosophy advocating a "pragmatic" Christian unity was underscored in the revivals which swept America's Great Awakenings:

    "In America, for the first two centuries Protestantism dominated overwhelmingly, and the Bible had played a role in shaping the culture for which there was no European parallel. Lacking a strong institutional church and denying the relevance of much of Christian tradition, American Protestants were united behind the principle of Scriptura sola. ... In the wake of Revolution, Americans saw themselves as inaugurators of a new order for the ages. The new order was conceived as a return to a pristine human condition. For Protestants this ideal was readily translated into Biblical primitivism. The true church should set aside all intervening tradition, and return to the purity of New Testament practice. The Bible alone should be one's guide. Biblicism was closely related to religious individualism, also encouraged by revivalism. The individual stood alone before God; his choices were decisive. The church, while important as a supportive community, was made up of free individuals."


    George M. Marsden. Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980) p. 224

  32. "The catholicity in minimalism, which is very popular in the ecumenical movement, contradicts the very nature of Christianity ... Jesus Christ calls us to the perfection of the heavenly Father and for the transfiguration of the whole universe in God." Serge S. Verhovskoy, "Catholicity and the Structures of the Church," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (Crestwood, N.Y., St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1973) vol. 17, No. 1-2, p. 40

  33. "The role of the Church is not, therefore, to impose upon man's mind some truth which otherwise he is unable to perceive, but to make him live and grow in the Spirit, so that he himself may see and experience the Truth ." John Meyendorff, Living Tradition, (Crestwood, New York, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1978) p. 41

  34. "As the title "son of man" is probably the most important and most comprehensive for understanding Jesus, so the image of the body of Christ is for the church. It is recognized that this image is "the most inclusive and impressive, is the most emphatic expression of the basic vision' or "the most mature result of the New Testament thinking about the Church." Veselin Kesich, "Unity and Diversity In New Testament Ecclesiology," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (Crestwood, New York, New York, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975) Volume 19, No. 2, p. 117 citing Georges Florovsky, "The Church: Her Nature and Task," in The Universal Church in God's Design (Amsterdam; London, 1948) p. 53

  35. The Church is not "literally" another Incarnation of Christ as if there were now two bodies of Christ (One the Son of God took from Mary and the other made up of the Redeemed). Neither do we mean by Christ's union with the Church in one body that He is the head and we are the remainder of His parts (neck, arms, chest, legs, etc.). These conclusions stem from the error of trying to understand a divine mystery in rational terms (an approach which will always lead us to wrong conclusions.). Unquestionably, Christ's Body at the right hand of God is the glorified body He ascended in from this world.

    Nevertheless, an actual union in the Spirit has made us members of His body. He literally dwells among and within us in a way no less intimate than the union of Christ's humanity and divinity. The only difference between our union with God and His is: 1) His union is based upon His own God-nature, ours is given to us as a gift in our union with Christ; 2) Our union with Him does not make us God (we do not lose our specific identity as persons), we can become like Him (1 John 3:2) not Him, and; 3), We must appropriate divine life through Him in the Spirit, we do not have any divine life to "contribute" to Him. His source of divine life is in Himself as He shares it with the other Persons of the Trinity.

  36. "Christians are incorporated into Christ and Christ abides in them—this intimate union constitutes the mystery of the Church." Georges Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View ( Belmont, MA., Nordland Publishing Company, 1972) p. 65

  37. Veselin Kesich, "Unity and Diversity In New Testament Ecclesiology," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (Crestwood, New York, New York, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975) Volume 19, No. 2, p. 117

  38. William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, "plhroma", A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature , (Chicago, Il., The University of Chicago Press, 1957) p. 678

  39. George Florovsky, "The Ethos of the Orthodox Church," A Faith and Order Dialogue (Geneva, WCC, 1960) Faith and Order paper #30, pp. 47-48

  40. Georges Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View ( Belmont, MA., Nordland Publishing Company, 1972) p. 64, 65 citing St Augustine in Evangelium Jannis , tract XXI, 8 (ML., XXXV, 1568), Ps. CXXVII , 3 (ML., XXXVII, 1679), and Ps. XC enarr. I, 9 (ML, XXXCII, 1157) respectively. Italics mine.

  41. Eph. 1:9, 10, Rom. 8:20-23; 1 Cor. 15:20-28, 35-58

  42. "In Paul the 'body of Christ' is understood in antithesis to the 'body of death.' This contrast is expressed in Romans 5:12-21. [those not in Christ abide in the Body of death as opposed to the body of Life] ..In Christ's body the believer has 'died to sin' (6:2); been baptized 'into his death' (5:3); 'buried with him in death' (6:4). Now that the believer participates in his body (7:4) the believer is to die to the body of death and live the new life. The believer is no longer a slave to sin (6:20-23) because there has been a deliverance from 'the body of death (7:24), a freedom 'from the law of sin and death' (8:2)." Robert Webber, Common Roots: A Call To Evangelical Maturity (Grand Rapids, MI., Zondervan Publishing House, 1978) p. 50

  43. See 1 Cor. 15:20-53; Eph. 1:7-12; Rom. 8:16-23; Philp. 3:21.

  44. George Florovsky, "The Ethos of the Orthodox Church," A Faith and Order Dialogue (Geneva, WCC, 1960) Faith and Order paper #30, pp. 47-48

  45. "The phrase swma Cristou [the body of Christ], writes A. E. Rawlinson, 'was in the mind of St. Paul a corollary of what to him was involved in the eucharist.' In the view of H. Conselmann, St. Paul used the expression 'once outside the eucharistic tradition: 1 Cor. 12:27.' But even here the apostle 'surely cannot have helped thinking of the liturgical formula 'this is my body,' which he quotes in the same epistle.'" Veselin Kesich, "Unity and Diversity In New Testament Ecclesiology," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly (Crestwood, New York, New York, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975) Volume 19, No. 2, pp. 119, 120 citing (respectively) A. E. J. Rawlinson, "Corpus Christi," in Mysterium Christi, G. K. A. Bell and A. Deissmann eds., pp. 226, 230 and Hans Conzelmann, An Outline of the Theology of the New Testament (New York: Harper and Row, 1969) p. 262

  46. "The idea of the common sharing of the Lord's supper establishes the principle of the essential oneness of the members of the community" (1 Cor. 10:17 ). Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology, (Downers Grove, IL., Inter-Varsity Press, 1981) pp. 745,746

  47. "In early Christian times the Church was not viewed as a disciplined and hierarchically ordered society, lacking in mystical and invisible characteristics; It was seen as two-fold—human and divine at the same time—and complete. It corresponded to the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ." Metropolitan Emilianos Timiadis, "The Eucharist: The Basis of All Sacraments and Union With God," The Patristic and Byzantine Review (Kingston, N.Y., American Institute for Patristic Studies, 1984) Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 185, 186

  48. Robert Webber, Common Roots: A Call To Evangelical Maturity (Grand Rapids, MI., Zondervan Publishing House, 1978) p. 50

  49. William R. Davies, Gathered Into One (New York, Morehouse -Barlow Co., 1975) p. 23

  50. Carlton Kenney, The Church Which is His Body


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