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:: Thursday, December 18, 2003 ::

How and Why Do I Connect (Church) History and Ecclesiology?

The following is a quote from an e-mail I sent

Short answer: If you don't know where you've come from, you have a heckofa time determining where "here" is. (Church) history is a frame of reference.

Beyond that, I see several essential reasons for seeking and finding connections between history and ecclesiology.

1. The way we describe and define the church is based upon our culture. We must define the church both over against certain cultural elements and in continuity with others. The church throughout history has done this, consciously or unconsciously.

2. We are all in some level of continuity or discontinuity with the church traditions, whether we admit that or not. Each of our churches interprets the New Testament through some tradition, even if it is the tradition of "the Bible as the sole authority." Most of the time this is invisible to us, until it starts to cramp and chafe. Then we have to take a look at not just our current practice, but the history of our tradition, however we define "tradition."

3. The history of the church is rife with statements about the nature of the church. Most of this involves "reading between the lines" - looking through the assumptions and presuppositions about the way life in God is to determine what our older brothers and sisters thought about the church.

4. When we, as "postmodern Christians" (whatever *that* means), choose to create a certain level of discontinuity with the current or former tradition of the church, we are not (or should not be) doing so for discontinuity's sake. We are doing so in an attempt to either recover, rediscover or live out the Faith of the Apostles in this day and time. However, that Apostolic Faith is knotted in a tangled mass with traditional accretions that have, over time, moved from the margins into "that which is essential." History helps us to untangle that knot (insofar as it is possible in the first place) so that we can take the Apostolic Faith and tangle it in a new web of thought so we can understand it and put it into practice for today. But the main point is this: the discontinuity we are intentionally creating with the tradition is only useful inasmuch as it re-forges continuity with the Apostolic Faith.

5. Our ecclesiological traditions, acknowledged or unacknowledged, have created the ecclesiological situation we are now in - both good and bad. Unless we have some sense of what those traditions are (with their fundamental assumptions) we may either never go far enough (changing assumptions behind traditions) or we may go too far and end up losing the message of the Cross.

As you can perhaps see, my presuppositions about history and about what is essential to Christianity mandate that an emerging ecclesiology emerge from the whole history of the church and not just the last 20 - 50 years or so.

:: Matt 12/18/2003 03:59:00 PM :: permalink :: ::
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