Thoughts of a Living Christian

Musings of an amateur theologian and hopeful writer

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

The Church’s Kingdom-Oriented Mission

Introduction

According to the German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, “the central concern of the Church, and the primary point of reference for understanding the Church, must be the Kingdom of God.”[1] He elsewhere states,

In this way the church is related to the coming kingdom of God: the kingdom of God is not the church; it is the future of the church, as it is the future of all mankind. But the church is the community of those who already wait for the kingdom of God for Jesus’ sake and live from this expectation.[2]

Pannenberg insists upon a proleptic understanding of the function of the Church as a sign of the future fellowship believers will experience with the coming Kingdom of God, which has, paradoxically, already arrived with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom has indeed arrived in the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah, and thus the values of the Kingdom, predominately love which results in perfect peace and justice, are to be central in the Church’s mission. The Church will never permanently implement these values, or any lasting positive social change, for it is merely provisional until the Kingdom arrives, which will bring the final consummation of humanity.

This essay seeks to analyze Pannenberg’s ecclesiology, with particular focus on the role of pneumatology, which he argues is a core aspect of any ecclesiological discussion, and the relationship the Church has with the Kingdom of God. Discussion will begin with analysis of his ecclesiology, before moving to the Church’s function as proleptic sign of the Kingdom. The essay will then assess the way in which, according to Pannenberg, the eschatological realization of the Kingdom influences the Church’s mission in contemporary society, with critical reflection before concluding with an assessment of the viability of this theological perspective.

The Church and The Kingdom of God

Pannenberg begins his ecclesiology with discussion of the vital role of the Spirit in the formation of the Church. He argues the Church is a continuation of God’s creative work, the Spirit eschatologically unifying believers with one another and with the Son, empowering them to continue God’s work of creation. Hence, the Spirit and Son work closely in forming the Church; Spirit enables and Son fashions.[3]

The Spirit is gift in our lives producing fellowship with Jesus, who is criterion for entering the Kingdom of God. This communion with Jesus brings people into the Kingdom, giving us a taste of our final eschatological humanity, precisely because Jesus is himself the Kingdom of God. According to Grenz, “Pannenberg describes the church as the anticipation of a new eschatological humanity,” and “the Spirit grounds not only the individual assurance of faith but also the fellowship of believers.”[4] Furthermore Pannenberg states,

The gift of the Spirit has a soteriological function as an anticipation of the eschatological outpouring of the Spirit and is defined as a gift by the fact that Jesus Christ has given him to believers, the eschatological future of salvation having dawned already in his own person and history, so that they are aware that the Spirit they have received is the Spirit of Jesus Christ.[5]

The Church is the eschatological people, gathered for mission, unified as the Spirit witnesses to, and reveals, Jesus in believers. The Spirit reveals the eschatological nature of Jesus’ resurrection as the future eschaton itself, breaking into the present, promising the resurrection of the dead to come for believers. Thus it is only by the Spirit’s work that Jesus is the foundation of the church, leading believers to the Father.[6] Pannenberg hence appropriately labels the Church as “the field of activity of the Spirit of Christ.”[7]

The Church, as the new People of God, has as its vocation the reflection of the light of the nations: Christ. This does not mean, however, the Church possesses light and authority to force a sense of superiority over this world.[8] Believers are bound together with Jesus through the knowledge that in Jesus the consummation of humanity has come, revealed by the Spirit, enabling us to see Jesus as Messiah. However, distinction must be made between Jesus and the church, and the kingdom of God and the Church; the church anticipates the future fellowship of humanity in God’s Kingdom. Jesus is the consummation of humanity, but this consummation is yet to find total actualization in the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The church must therefore educate believers for the Kingdom.[9]

Pannenberg asserts that the Church’s existence finds its origin “when the first step was taken to proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation,”[10] referencing Pentecost as this decisive moment. However, the resurrection and Pentecost were merely partial aspects of the consummation of the Kingdom, as was the formation of the primitive community which would find realization in the fellowship in the Kingdom of God.[11]

The rule of Christ is…already present in the church’s proclamation. For the rule of Christ can have no different goal from his earthly ministry, where it was to call men into the kingdom of God and to proclaim the coming of that kingdom. Through the continuation of the mission of Jesus Christ in the church’s proclamation of Christ, the rule of Christ shows itself to be present within it. And yet the community of Christians in the particular historical form which its life takes at any given time is not identical with the kingdom of Christ.[12]

Jesus’ earthly work was the formation of a church and the proclamation of the nearness of the Kingdom, for the immanence of Jesus means no less than the immanence of the Kingdom. The calling of the 12 disciples was less the formation of a core community, and more a symbolic eschatological action, representing the restoration of Israel. With the rejection of the Easter message by most of the Jewish population, this core fellowship transcended the bounds of the Jewish people, becoming a representation “of the destiny of all humanity as a new and definitive society in the Kingdom of God.”[13] The 12 were thus “a provisional sign of God’s dominion, although in such a way that in it the future of this dominion was present already, even if not fully so.”[14] Furthermore, Pannenberg argues that Jewish eschatology had always included recognition of the inclusion of the Gentiles; “In Israel expectation of God’s rule developed as the hope of a future in which God’s just will would be done without break or limit, both in Israel itself and also among the nations.”[15]

Jesus’ ministry was the proclamation of this coming Kingdom and thus, Pannenberg argues, any who dedicates their life to Christ inevitably dedicates their life to the Kingdom. Jesus points the Church toward the Kingdom and reigns where people acknowledge the Kingdom and live accordingly.[16] This was Jesus’ Messianic function, to enable others to participate in the Kingdom. Jesus was exalted to exercise God’s power, and as one with the Father, he serves the Kingdom of his Father, who exercises his power through Jesus.[17]

He argues that the Church is a proleptic “sign of the future fellowship of humanity under God’s reign,” seen particularly in its liturgical life and specifically in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.[18] It functions as an eschatological community, thus as a sign of God’s coming rule, but must be distinguished from this coming rule. It must proclaim this provisional nature, ever moving towards God’s lordship which is already present as a sign. The Kingdom was therefore present in Jesus’ ministry and presently in the Church, by the Spirit, through proclamation.[19] Bradshaw explains,

The future remains the future in our historical continuum, and the kingdom of the Father remains in the future, however it has arrived proleptically in Christ…The kingdom of God is present as the future of God’s final reign proleptically arrived in Christ, and yet the future holds the fullness of this reign and our participation in it.[20]

The Church is, therefore, the “sacrament of the kingdom.”[21] It is, in Christ, both the mystery of salvation and has the function as sign. Jesus is the revelation of the mystery of salvation, and the Church is a sign of the Kingdom by participation in this salvation. Pannenberg argues that “the church has its end not in itself but in the future of a humanity that is reconciled to God and united by common praise of God in his kingdom.”[22] The Church, as sign, witnesses to this end, but is not in itself this end, nor can her work be undistinguished from that of Jesus’.[23]

Pannenberg rejects the chiliastic notion of a distinction between the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of God, a notion resulting from the Jewish-Christian expectation of the millennial reign of the Messiah. There should be no separation between the two, for the Kingdom of Christ is the Kingdom of God, for, as Pannenberg argues, there is unity between the Son and the Father as the Son participates in God’s Lordship; “There can exist no competition between the Son and the Kingdom of the Father.”[24]

Because the Kingdom is an all-encompassing event, the consummation of all humanity, justice and peace will reign supreme. As the fulfillment of this justice and peace, it will be perfect communion, for without justice and peace, this communion is broken; it is clear that the Kingdom is not yet realized precisely because of the injustice and brutality in the world.[25] It is clear, therefore, that the Church is merely a partial realization of the Kingdom. To remain faithful to Jesus’ message of salvation, the Church must keep the Kingdom of God as the central concern in its proclamation, which points toward the future of the world and of humanity. Pannenberg argues against the Protestant emphasis on individual salvation as the goal of the Church’s mission, rather arguing that the purpose of the Church must be directed toward the Kingdom of God.[26]

Eschatological Peace

Pannenberg argues that the Church is a proleptic sign of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom breaks into the present from the future, revealing love and true peace and justice. He states, “In the work of Jesus the kingdom of God, and therewith the eschatological future of the world, had already broken into salvation.”[27] This was particularly revealed through his resurrection, which was revelation of the end. He also argues, “The hope of the coming of God’s kingdom necessarily goes hand in hand with the expectation of a cosmic renewal of the world,” extending beyond the temporal to the inclusion of eternity into the present; “Eternity will no longer have to be in antithesis to time but must be thought of as including time.”[28] Bradshaw clarifies,

At the eschaton the kingdom of God enters time, eternity being the future perfection of everything. Everything that occurs and perishes in time is preserved in God’s eternity, which embraces all temporal events and identities and brings them to their final destiny, that of praising the Father with the Son in the Spirit.[29]

Invariably, the general resurrection of the dead is anticipated. Only this can lead to all individuals participating in the perfect society of the Kingdom, for this resurrection implies transformation, with the believers being transformed into the light of God’s glory. This transformation, however, cannot occur in the present, rather in the future return of Christ.[30] He states, “It is only because the full advent of the kingdom of God occurs together with the general resurrection of the dead, that all individual members of humankind will have a chance to participate in the final consummation of human destiny in the kingdom of God.”[31] The Kingdom, the perfect society, will be realized in history, thus in time and not outside of or beyond time. This realization will be simultaneous with the new heaven and Earth as eternity breaks into history. Schwӧbel observes that for Pannenberg the end of history does not mean transition into void, but rather that history is included into God’s eternity, the consummation of humanity finding fulfillment in eternity.[32]

This eschatological renewal, wherein the Church’s reality is included into God’s eternity, finding realized and complete actualization, impacts upon the present. Hence, the Church is called to enact these Kingdom values into the present. The future realities of the Kingdom of God are present only through faith, not through the Church enforcing these values onto this world. There are functional implications as the sign of this reality, but the Church cannot cause the Kingdom into this world.[33] When the Kingdom does come, there will be no need for the Church to remain, for the Church exists only as long as the political orders do not provide the ultimate human fulfilment, which is found only in the Kingdom of God. This should not result in despair, but in hope, for this provides us with the strength needed to accept these limitations.[34]

Panneberg argues that the Kingdom will bring true fellowship between all people; this unity only comes in the present through the reign of God amongst those who are subject to its authority. This unity cannot be enforced or coerced, but only through loving and caring for one another, advocating for justice.[35] Political order is, also, connected to the Kingdom of God and God’s reign. Politics establish peace and justice in society, but any stable political order requires a foundation that transcends the world, appealing to a higher authority. However, the goal of politics will only find actualization in the Kingdom. The difference between the spiritual and the secular in the political realm, is in the eschatological awareness of Christianity. Hence, “Christians and their churches must act as advocates of our rational autonomy in awareness of our own finitude and hence also of the divine mystery that constitutes our finite existence.”[36]

Christians must not keep silent on matters of injustice, but must remember that full and final justice comes from the Kingdom of God which is still to come. Christians should enact Kingdom values, but these values will only ever be a partial reconciliation. Only God can definitively bring the Kingdom into actualization. The Church must remind the State of this fact.[37] Hence, the Church is essential in society, pointing others toward the Kingdom, primarily in two ways: 1) preventing humans from claiming ultimate significance, and 2) encouraging social action.[38] He argues,

While we must not despise the legal forms of life, neither should we think that, by themselves, they can provide ultimate justice for the individual. Laws cannot achieve the justice we seek precisely because they are abstract and general. Only care for the individual achieves true justice; legal formulations must be subordinated to this justice…Love effects that unity among men which expresses itself in legal forms but which is always more than those forms. Love fills the legal forms with life and thus achieves true justice.[39]

The actualization of this love and true justice is realized only in the Kingdom of God. Hence, the Kingdom speaks to these legal forms and is thus “pointedly political.” Pannenberg’s view of the Kingdom is indeed political, but, contrary to liberation theology, this Kingdom comes neither through political agenda, nor through human action.[40]

He states, “In the light of the futurity of God’s Kingdom, it is obvious that no present form of life and society is ultimate.”[41] But this does not disqualify the need for political activity. The future Kingdom of God demands obedience in the present. In fact, any recognition of God’s future reign and obedience to God as ruler requires a change in the present situation, for the future of God’s reign has a reality of its own, one which includes and revises the present. Yet any political forms of peace and justice remain provisional and preliminary and require an awareness of this temporality. We must engage in politics, inspired by a transcendent ideal that we will only ever see realized provisionally, striving towards history’s destiny and fulfillment in the realization of the Kingdom.[42]

This view of human political orders as provisional is likely influenced by his history, being exposed to both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Eastern Europe; “His firsthand exposure to the evils of two human social orders…forms a part of the background to Pannenberg’s conclusion that no human political system can ever fully mirror the perfect human social structure that one day will come as a divine gift in the kingdom of God.”[43]

Human laws can never actualize a perfect society of peace and justice. Only God can bring this justice because his law is perfected by love, reconciling individuals with one another. However, a totally new heaven and Earth is required before this love can reign, “for human conflict, on account of the dominion of sin in human relations, is deeply rooted in the natural conditions of existence as it is now.”[44]

The Church, as constituted by both Spirit and Son, proleptically reveals the fellowship that is to come in final fruition in the actualization of the Kingdom of God, which constitutes the consummation of humanity in Christ, found particularly in his resurrection. This future reality which the Church reveals is one of perfect community, wherein God reigns supreme through love, and perfect justice and peace is enjoyed. The Church represents this fellowship, albeit merely partially. The Church’s essential nature is living in this world, showing Christ’s death and resurrection to the world and is thus missional in nature. The Kingdom of God constitutes this mission, being a sign of God’s reign over all humanity. The Church is not a means to salvation in itself but points to Jesus Christ, who is.[45]

Pannenberg argues, “The truth is that the Church can only be understood in relationship to the world…the connection between Church and world is by no means accidental; the Church’s relationship to the world is determinative for her authentic vocation.”[46] He asserts that the Church must always gaze outwards toward humankind.[47] He further argues that there is no distinction between a ‘horizontal’ love and a ‘vertical’ love. In other words, loving God is loving others and vice versa. Therefore, in loving one another and the world, in being unified through love, we are participating in God’s rule, anticipating the future fellowship between all in the perfect society of the Kingdom of God.[48]

Critical Reflection

Pannenberg’s theological understanding of the relationship between the Church and the Kingdom is not without criticism. According to Grenz,

Some remain skeptical concerning the practical working out of his proposal, specifically how modern pluralistic society, in which many truth claims are competing for adherence, can nevertheless appeal to a religious understanding of reality for the legitimation of its political order.[49]

In other words, Grenz is questioning the place of Pannenberg’s political theology in contemporary pluralistic society. He observes that religious pluralism is the result of humankind’s innate knowledge of God, but Christians must demonstrate the truth of the love inherent in Christian theology, built around the proclamation of the immanence of the transcendent Kingdom. While Pannenberg rejects a religious plurality as sufficient for salvation, he asserts the inclusiveness of the Gospel, while further arguing that other religions have their place in revealing Christ.[50] Hence, Pannenberg is seemingly unperturbed by these criticisms, for he asserts that while other religions may reveal Christ in a partial way, Christianity is the one true faith and hence the Kingdom values must be implemented in any human political society. But he stresses that ecumenical unity must be formed, and that Christians must demonstrate the truth of these Christian values to the world; the only way the world can acknowledge the truth of the Kingdom is through demonstration and proof of its efficacy.

Activist theologians have criticized Pannenerg for not providing a theology for social change, arguing his political theology is too conservative. They focus on his claims that no political order will provide lasting positive change, which can only come with the actualization of the Kingdom of God. However, this criticism is unfounded, for he argues not for a disengagement from the world but rather that the Kingdom causes the Church to engage with the world, without overestimating the Church’s ability to bring about significant lasting change.[51]

Another area of criticism pertains to Pannenberg’s tendency toward determinism. If the future is not already determined, how can it influence the present? How can the Kingdom function retroactively unless it is determined already? Hence, Pannenberg’s theology, argues Grenz and Olson, presupposes a strict determinism.[52] These are fair concerns, and highlight a major area of tension in Pannenberg’s eschatology. He denies this determinism, but argues, “God creates his creatures as they are, which means in the case of the human creature that human freedom itself is to be conceived as God’s creation.”[53] In other words, human freedom is in itself a divine determination. The future impacts upon the present not in removing freedom, but by providing that freedom.[54] The tension, however, is still left unresolved.

Conclusion

In sum, Pannenberg’s ecclesiology seeks to incorporate a greater pneumatological – and, arguably, eschatological – aspect than had been allowed in much evangelical theology. The Spirit’s vital role is in leading humans to Christ, who in turn leads to the Father, and in whom the Kingdom is made present. Pannenberg insists upon, however, a distinction between the Church and the Kingdom; the Kingdom is made present by Christ, through proclamation, but the Kingdom can only be experienced provisionally until Christ returns and the rule of God is actualized in totality. The Church thus functions proleptically. It is a sign of the Kingdom, albeit a provisional sign, and hence the Church’s mission is intricately linked with the Kingdom.

The Church’s Kingdom-oriented mission is to represent the peace and justice that will come with the actualization of the Kingdom. The fellowship to come with the resurrection of the dead, when eternity breaks into history and a new heaven and earth will be formed, will have love as its foundation. Therefore, the Church must represent these Kingdom values of love, justice and peace, by loving and caring, and being involved in social action, whilst remembering than any system or political order will always remain provisional. She must remind society of its temporality and finitude, pointing to the future fellowship in the Kingdom as the hope that strengthens the Church’s mission.

Despite the tension of the tendency toward a strict determinism, of which Pannenberg denies, his ecclesiology and his understanding of the mission of the Church as being determined by the future Kingdom of God is comprehensive and on the most part, agreeable. His argument is intricate and logical and is difficult to find fault with. It is impossible to escape tension within the bible itself in regards to the eschatological bend in its portrayal of the Church and the “now – not yet” of the Kingdom of God which Christ proclaimed. Pannenberg seems to play on this tension, and rather than simplifying this tension so as to remove the paradoxical eschatological mystery of the Church, he returns focus to Christ, and through Christ the eschatological proclamation of the consummation of humanity in the Kingdom of God.

Pannenberg’s ecclesiology and understanding of the relationship and tension between the Church and the Kingdom is an important contribution to missiological ecclesiology, for it places the Church’s mission upon a transcendent ideal. The promise of the perfect fellowship to come with the Kingdom, that has come and has been revealed through the resurrection, places the Church in something much bigger than itself. This understanding will – and must – cause the Church to recognize the fact that it is God alone who builds his Church, but he builds his Church through his children. The Church must therefore not remain static or inactive but must seek to fulfill the Great Commission by loving and seeking the implementation of the Kingdom values. The Kingdom will always invariably orient the Church toward love, and anything other than this will cause the Church to cease to be the Church, for it will cease representing Christ and his Kingdom.

Bibliography

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Bruce Chilton, J. I. H. McDonald. Jesus and the Ethics of the Kingdom. London: SPCK, 1987.

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Harvie, Timothy. “Living the Future: The Kingdom of God in the Theologies of Jürgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 10, no. 2 (2008).

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[1] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God, ed. Richard John Neuhaus (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1977).  73.

[2] Wolfhart Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed: In the Light of Today’s Questions, trans. Margaret Kohl (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1972). 154 – 155.

[3] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 3 (London: T&T Clark International, 2004). Cf. Christoph Schwӧbel, “Wolfhart Pannenberg,” in The Modern Theologians, ed. David F. Ford (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1997). 198.

[4] Stanley J. Grenz, Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (New York: University Press, 1990). 150 – 152. Cf. Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 82 – 83. Cf. Timothy Bradshaw, Pannenberg: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: T&T Clark International, 2009). 88, 102.

[5] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 7. Cf. Phil. 1:19; Rom. 8:9.

[6] Ibid. 13 – 16. Cf. Don H. Olive, Wolfhart Pannenberg, ed. Bob E. Patterson (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1973). 63; Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man, trans. Lewis L. Wilkins (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1968. 107.

[7] Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed: In the Light of Today’s Questions. 145. Cf. Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man. 107 – 108.

[8] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 75.

[9] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 17 – 21. Cf. Wolfhart Pannenberg, “The Present and Future Church,” First Things, www.firstthings.com (accessed 28/05/2013). 4.

[10] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 28. Cf. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Ethics, trans. Keith Crim (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1981). 181 – “The Kingdom of God…became present reality for his hearers in and through that proclamation.”

[11] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 28.

[12] Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed: In the Light of Today’s Questions. 153.

[13] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 29 – 30. Cf. Bradhsaw. 90; Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed: In the Light of Today’s Questions. 153 – “The church, as the community of the end-time, is now the company of people who are already united in expectation of God’s future for mankind.”

[14] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 31. Cf. E. Frank Tupper, The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1973). 231 – 232; Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man. 193, 212; Wolfhart Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology,” in The Last Things: Biblical and Theological Perspectives on Eschatology, ed. Carl E. Braaten, Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002). 5, 10; Bradshaw. 77 – “Jesus is clearly the bringer in of the kingdom of the universal God, the one who is to come has come.” Cf. Luke 11:20; John 12:31, 48.

[15] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 30. Cf. Zech. 9:9-10; 14:9, 16-17; Mic. 4:1-4; Deut. 33:5; Num. 23:21; Ps. 47:7; 1 Chron. 28:5; 17:14; 29:23; 2 Chron. 9:8.

[16] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 76 – 77, 83. Cf. Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology.” 3.

[17] Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man. 218. Cf. Pannenberg, Ethics. 181; Bradshaw. 138.

[18] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 31. Cf. Pannenberg, “The Present and Future Church.” 5; Grenz. 151; Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed: In the Light of Today’s Questions. 152 – “The church is not the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is, rather, the church’s future as it is the future of the world.”

[19] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 32 – 38. Cf. Pannenberg, Ethics. 19; Grenz. 180; Pannenberg, “The Present and Future Church.” 4 – “The kingdom of God is not something that we can bring about, nor is it identical with the life of the church…The church’s mission is to be a sign of the kingdom.”

[20] Bradshaw. 102. Cf. p. 166 – “God’s kingdom is still to come, while being proleptically here.” Synder argues similarly, “In a very real sense, the church is not only a sign but also (when faithful to Christ and led by the Spirit) the agent of the kingdom on Earth. The church is not the kingdom; neither is it unrelated to the kingdom. It is the witness to the kingdom and, when anointed and animate by the Holy Spirit, becomes in a partial though not unambiguous way the sign, prototype and pilot project of the kingdom on earth,” (Howard A. Snyder, Kingdom Lifestyle: Calling the Church to Live under God’s Reign (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1985) 80).

[21] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 42.

[22] Ibid. 45.

[23] Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man. 219. Cf. Tupper. 241.

[24] Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man. 369. Cf. Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed: In the Light of Today’s Questions. 152 – 153. Furthermore, “The Father establishes his Kingdom precisely through the Son, not apart from him, or beside him, or after his Kingdom…The Kingdom of the Son is also that of the Father and vice versa,” (Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man. 369).

[25] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 80. Cf. Pannenberg, Ethics. 181; Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology.” 5.

[26] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 73. Cf. Grenz. 153.

[27] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 581. Cf. Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Future and Unity,” in Hope and the Future of Man, ed. Ewert H. Cousins (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1972). 65.

[28] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 584, 595. Cf. Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man. 61, 193.

[29] Bradshaw. 167.

[30] Pannenberg, “Future and Unity.” 70 – 71. Cf. Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man. 106 – 107; Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology.” 6 – 7. Cf. Isa. 26:14, 19; Mark 12:26f; 1 Cor. 3:13-15; 15:50ff; 2 Cor. 5:10.

[31] Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology.” 11.

[32] Schwӧbel. 201. Cf. Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 76.

[33] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 48.

[34] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 83. Cf. Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology.” 2, 6.

[35] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 78 – 79.

[36] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 49 – 54. Cf. Grenz. 179.

[37] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 55 – 56. Cf. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Human Nature, Election, and History (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1977). 101.

[38] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 85. Cf. Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology.” 6 – “Hope for the kingdom may inspire and direct our human efforts in this world, but its achievement is for another world and puts an end to our antagonistic history of human action.”

[39] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 79-81 – “Love is the final norm of justice.” Cf. Bradshaw. 91.

[40] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 79 – 80. Cf. Grenz. 180.

[41] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 80. Elsewhere Pannenberg states, “The expectation of the Kingdom of God implies that only when God rules and no man possesses dominating political power any more, then the domination of people by other people and the injustice invariably connected with it will come to an end,” (Pannenberg, “Future and Unity.” 70 – 71). Cf. Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology.” 1 – 2.

[42] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 81. Cf. Ulrich Wilckens, “The Understanding of Revelation within Primitive Christianity,” in Revelation as History, ed. Wolfhart Pannenberg (London: Sheed and War Ltd., 1969). 61; Olive. 87.

[43] Stanley J. Grenz, Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1992) 186 – 187.

[44] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 584. Cf. Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology.” 11. Cf. Rev. 21:1; Isa. 65:17.

[45] Pannenberg, Systematic Theology. 45 – 47. Cf. Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 75 – “The Church is true to its vocation only as it anticipates and represents the destiny of all mankind, the goal of history.”

[46] Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God. 72-74 – “Since every conception of the Church that disregards its relatedness to the world remains one-sided, and since only the vocation of the Church for the Kingdom of God explains theologically the essential character of her relatedness to the world; therefore, the whole of the ecclesiological thematic can be brought into perspective only from the viewpoint of the Kingdom of God.”

[47] Pannenberg, The Apostles’ Creed: In the Light of Today’s Questions. 147.

[48] Ted Peters, “Pannenberg’s Eschatological Ethics,” in The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg, ed. Carl E. Braaten, Philip Clayton (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988). 242, 247.

[49] Grenz. 170-80.

[50] Steffen Lӧsel, “Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Response to the Challenge of Religious Pluralism: The Anticipation of Divine Absoluteness?” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 34:4 (1997). 499-519.

[51] Grenz. 181. Cf. Peters. 248-49 – “God’s future has had and continues to have an impact upon our present situation. The direction of force comes from the future.”

[52] Grenz. 198-99.

[53] Wolfhart Pannenberg, “A Response to My American Friends,” in The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg, ed. Carl E. Braatan, Philip Clayton (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988). 322.

[54] Gijsbert van den Brink, Almighty God: A Study of the Doctrine of Divine Omnipotence (Kampen: Koh Pharos Publishing House, 1993). 220.

The Church as Trinitarian Eschatological Koinonia

Introduction

Ecclesiology has been an area of contention for much of the Church’s existence. Where the Church receives its authority, who is in the Church, what the Church looks like, how the Church should act; many debates have arisen from this creature called ekklesia, some of which become divisive. This paper seeks to present a Biblical and historical argument that the Church should be recognized as trinitarian, eschatological koinonia (or fellowship/community). Initial discussion will pertain to the nature of this Church, before moving to discussing its expression through the marks, ordinances and mission of the Church.

Nature

Trinitarian

“Outside the Trinity…there is no church.”[1] Similarly “Moltmann believes that ecclesiology is fundamentally trinitarian…The church does not correspond to any one member of the Trinity, “but to the eternal perichoresis.””[2] The Biblical picture is that the Father elects his Church, given to and found in Christ, built up and united by the Spirit (Gen. 12; Deu. 6.6-11; Isaiah 49.5; John 17; Eph. 1.4; Col. 1.13).[3] This people, says 1 Pet. 2.10 is a ‘Holy Priesthood’ of God, his own people and nation.[4] It is also the Body of Christ (Eph. 5.29-32) and hence, as Grenz notes, we must be doing the will of Christ, who is the head.[5] Importantly, we are not Christ himself,[6] but we are connected to him, the True Vine (John 15.5).[7]

Yet it is also decidedly pneumatological in nature, being the ‘Temple of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor. 3.16).[8] According to Aquinas, the Spirit animates the Church,[9] and Barth states, “The Christian congregation arises and exists neither by nature nor by historical human decision, but as a divine convocation…called together by the work of the Holy Spirit.”[10] Pannenberg’s ecclesiology is largely pneumatological; through the Spirit we have fellowship and the Kingdom is made present.[11] He argues, “Only by the work of the Spirit…is Jesus Christ the church’s foundation.”[12]

Eschatological

The Church as an eschatological entity refers primarily to its relation to the Kingdom of God.[13] The Kingdom of God is both a present reality (Luke 17.20), by which Satan has been defeated (Matt. 12. 28-29; Luke 10.9, 18, 20) and prophecy has been fulfilled (Matt. 11.2-26; Mark 1.14-15; Luke 4.21); and a future expectation (Luke 21.31).[14] Unlike much medieval theology, it is important to make a distinction between the Church and the Kingdom;[15] “The church…is not identical with the Kingdom of God. It is a sign of the kingdom’s future of salvation.”[16] As a sign of the Kingdom, the Church is a doorway to the Kingdom, bearing witness to the Kingdom, represented through fellowship with one another.[17]

Referencing the eschatological nature of Joel 2, Pannenberg says, “The event of the outpouring of the Spirit…involves a comprehensive account of the church as the eschatological people of God who, in contrast to the Jewish people, is gathered by mission from the human race as a whole and thus becomes…the new people gathered out of all peoples.”[18] Küng argued similarly, centering unity on participation in “the truly eschatological event” of the death and resurrection of Christ.[19]

As a sign, the Church is thus sacramental by nature. Rahner labelled the Church a sacrament of salvation, “the presence of God’s love,” pointing away from itself to God.[20] He states, “By the very fact of being in that way the enduring presence of Christ in the world, the Church is truly the fundamental sacrament…From Christ the Church has an intrinsically sacramental structure.”[21] For Pannenberg, “The Church…is nothing apart from its function as an eschatological community and therefore as an anticipatory sign of God’s coming rule and its salvation for all humanity.”[22] It should be noted that the term ‘sacramental’ should not be understood in terms of administering grace, merely pointing toward the One who does administer grace. The church’s role, according to Pannenberg, is to educate us for the Kingdom.[23] One other element of this eschatological nature of the Church is the Church’s missiological being. As a reflection of the God who revealed his missiological and proactive nature, by electing Israel and his Church, sending his Son, and promising eschatological renewal, the Church must also be missiological. Its very nature is missional. This is discussed below, but it is important to note this eschatological element, as the Church points toward Christ and the Kingdom through mission.

Koinonia

The word ekklesia, coming from the two Greek words meaning “to call” and “out of” is used in the LXX to translate qahal, meaning “assembly,” (Cf. Deu. 23.1ff; 1 Chron. 28.8). Hence Jesus’ ekklesia is a continuation of the Old Testament assembly of the Lord.[24] This assembly, or community, is emphasized in Zizioulas’ ecclesiology: “The Church as the Body of Christ points to a mysticism of communion and relationship through which one is so united with the ‘other’ (God and our fellow man) as to form one individual unity.”[25] Ratzinger argues similarly,[26] and both centre this communion on the Eucharist.[27] Rather than the metaphysical unity as presented by Zizioulas and Ratzinger, Moltmman’s view is preferred, wherein the Church is a reflection of the trinitarian fellowship; “Through the ministry of the Spirit the trinitarian fellowship invites persons, the church, and the creation into its redemptive, agapic, eternal-life-giving koinonia.”[28]

Is this community ‘catholic’ (meaning ‘universal’)? Cyril of Jerusalem said in the fourth century that the church is catholic because it “extends through all the world,”[29] to which Aquinas added inclusivity and timelessness.[30] However, it moved away from the temporal toward an invisible understanding, as the Westminster Confession affirmed, “The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ.”[31] However, Barth argued the Church is primarily visible,[32] which seems to fit the biblical picture whereby the Church will be recognised by its actions (Cf. John 13). Grenz argues that according to Hebrews 12.22-23 the Church is “one cosmic fellowship that transcends time,”[33] an idea taken further by Ratzinger and Zizioulas, who argue that the transubstantiated elements in the Eucharist is what unifies the Church, i.e. the one body of Christ.[34]

Eucharistic ecclesiology such as this suggests that the Church is unified in the act of participating in the Eucharist (Cf. Eph. 1.4; John 6). This is largely based on a transubstantiation theology, which will be discussed below. However, unity should be seen as coming solely through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5.5; Eph. 4.1-6; Phil. 2.1-3; 1 Cor. 12.13). Hence, not the Eucharist, but the worship of the One God and the submission to the One Word should be the focal point of the Church’s universality.

Expression

Marks

Since the Reformation, elements that ‘mark’ Church has been a matter of contention. The First Helvetica Confession and Luther affirmed the central position of the word of God.[35] Luther stated, “Anywhere you hear or see such a word preached, believed, confessed, and acted upon, do not doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica, a “holy Christian people” must be there.”[36] Calvin added to this the administration of the sacraments,[37] and then later Barth added to these two the “fellowship of prayer.”[38] Hence the visible Church exists where the Bible is expounded, believed and acted upon, the ordinances are administered and not neglected, and the congregation joins in prayer and worship.[39]

Ordinances

The celebration of the ordinances are the high point of corporate worship.[40] They are symbols by which the Church obediently responds to God’s grace, remembering their participation in his death and resurrection, and allow God to “begin and sustain that faith.”[41] However, appropriate administration requires the other ‘marks’ to be present, thus validity the Church’s presence.[42] The number of ordinances should be kept to two, based on two criteria Grenz outlines: 1) Biblical evidence that Jesus ordained the act, and 2) evidence that the early Church practiced the act. Hence, only baptism and the Lord’s Supper should be considered ordinances.[43]

Baptism is the initiatory symbol of participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. Pannenberg aptly puts it, “In terms of baptism the Christian life is a process of dying with Christ, and at the same time, by the Spirit, the new humanity, the resurrection life, is already at work in Christians.”[44] Infant baptism must be rejected because of the lack of a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, which the New Testament picture clearly portrays as vital in baptism.[45] Hence, the concept of ‘believer’s baptism’ is preferred.[46] Similar to a marriage ceremony, baptism is public confession of personal faith, symbolizing entry into Church, Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the sealing of a covenant with God.[47] Furthermore, baptism is an oath, pledging loyal service to the Lord, surrendering to his will.[48] It does not bring salvation, but is a celebration of God’s grace within the individual.[49]

After baptism, which is the initiatory rite, the Lord’s Supper is the repeated ordinance, by which the Church is invited to remember Christ’s sacrifice and the Church’s participation in that death and resurrection. Further, it acts as proclamation of Christ’s sacrifice, a visual illustration of the gospel.[50] Contentions surrounding the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper have focussed on the debate of Jesus’ presence in the elements. The Roman Catholic perspective became transubstantiation, wherein the elements physically and literally become the body and blood of Christ; the Lutheran consubstantiation purported Christ’s physical presence in all things, not merely in the elements becoming Christ’s physical body; and Zwinglian memorialism which asserted the Lord’s Supper was no more than a symbol – Christ was not literally physically present.[51] Calvin responded to all three by arguing that Jesus is physically present by the Spirit, who lifts us up to God the Father.[52]

Transubstantiation must be rejected, because it is clear from Scripture that Christ has physically ascended to his throne in heaven (Acts 1.6-11),[53] which thus inevitably contradicts consubstantiation.[54] However, the Biblical picture stresses the fact that it is more than merely a sign as the Zwinglian model affirms. Because eucharisto (‘to give thanks’), kuriakon deipnon (‘Lord’s Supper’), and koinonia (‘communion’) are each used in reference to this ordinance (Luke 22.19; 1 Cor. 11.20; 1 Cor. 10.16, respectively), it can be understood as being based in the Trinity. It should be understood as christocentric, pneumatological, eucharistic and celebratory remembrance of Christ as the paschal Lamb of God, in whom we are unified and in whose death and resurrection we participate.

Mission

The Church’s essence, reflecting God’s nature, is to be missional. Much ecclesiology has focussed on what the Church does, but the focus should be on what the Church is; the Church’s very nature is rooted in mission.[55] Harper and Metzger argue this missional nature “flows forth from the church’s communal identity…communion with God gives rise to its missional existence, for God’s communal being is co-missional.”[56] According to John 17, as God sends the Son, so the Son sends the Church; as his body, the Church lives by Christ’s will.[57] We are sent to proclaim the Gospel (1 Pet. 2.9). According to Barth, the Church exists for the world, to reveal the Word of God. Ministry is subordination, both to God and humanity as we serve God. We need not, nor should not, do any more. It is up to God to complete his mission. He states, “Its task is simply to serve…to assist both God and man.”[58] The Church merely witnesses to what God is doing; “with the deepest humility it points to the work of God accomplished in Him and the Word of God spoken in Him.”[59]

Conclusion

The Church is trinitarian, eschatological koinonia. It does not correspond with any one person in the Godhead, but to all three; it is the People of God, the Body of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It sacramentally points toward the Kingdom of God and the salvation offered through Christ; a community united by the Spirit to visibly reveal Christ’s love. The Church is marked by submission to the Word, administration of the ordinances, and corporate prayer and worship, and by its very essence is missional. The mission of the Church is, thus, to eschatologically point toward the Kingdom of God by being a community of love. The Baptist perspective is virtually synonymous with this understanding, but would respond to the emphasis on Calvin’s spiritual presence in the Lord’s Supper, preferring a Zwinglian memorialism.[60] The most important thing for the Church to remember, however, is that God has not deserted his Church, but has promised to ensure its survival, even from all the powers of Hades; the Church will endure.

Bibliography

Allen, R. Michael. Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics: An Introduction and Reader. London: T & T Clark International, 2012.

Barth, Karl. Dogmatics in Outline. Translated by SCM Press. 2 ed. London: SCM Press, 2001.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.

Godfrey, W. Robert. “Calvin, Worship, and the Sacraments.” In A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes, edited by Peter A. Lillback David W. Hall. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2008.

Grenz, Stanley J. The Baptist Congregation. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1985.

Grenz, Stanley J. Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Grenz, Stanley J. Theology for the Community of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994.

Harper, Brad, and Paul Louis Metzger. Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2009.

Hill, Graham. Salt, Light, and a City: Introducing Missional Ecclesiology. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2012.

Küng, Hans. The Church. Translated by Ray and Rosaleen Ockenden. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967.

Mannion, Lieven Boeve and Gerard, ed. The Ratzinger Reader. New York: T&T Clark, 2010.

McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: An Introduction. 5th Edition ed. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

McGrath, Alister E., ed. The Christian Theology Reader. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Church in the Power of the Spirit. Translated by Margaret Kohl. London: SCM Press Ltd, 1977.

Mullins, E. Y. Baptist Beliefs. Valley Forge: Baptist World Publishing Company, 1912.

Norman H. Maring, Winthrop S. Hudson. A Baptist Manual of Polity and Practice. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1991.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Systematic Theology. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Vol. 3. London: T&T Clark International, 2004.

Rahner, Karl. The Church and the Sacraments. Translated by W. J. O’Hara. London: Burns & Oates, 1963.

Reymond, Robert L. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998.

Stone, Bryan P., ed. A Reader in Ecclesiology. Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012.

Vriezen, Th. C. An Outline of Old Testament Theology. Translated by S. Neuijen. 2 ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1970.

Zee, Leonard J. Vander. Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Zizioulas, John D. Being as Communion. New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985.

Zizioulas, John D. Communion & Otherness. New York: T&T Clark, 2006.


[1] Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger, Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2009). 19.

[2] Graham Hill, Salt, Light, and a City: Introducing Missional Ecclesiology (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2012). 90.

[3] Col. 1.13 reinforces that it is something the Father has done (note the perfect tense). Furthermore, as Barth argues, “A congregation is the coming together of those who belong to Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit,” (Barth, in R. Michael Allen, Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics: An Introduction and Reader (London: T & T Clark International, 2012). 132). Cf. Th. C. Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology, trans., S. Neuijen, 2 ed. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1970). 88 – “Israel was only elected in order to serve God in the task of leading those other nations to God. In Israel God sought the world…in His mercy He called Israel to the service of His kingdom among the nations of the earth.”

[4] Cf. Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994). 466. Notice the link to Old Testament theology (cf. Exod. 6.7).

[5] Ibid. 466.

[6] Cf. Barth, who states, “It is not itself Jesus Christ either acting for the world or speaking to it,” (in Allen. 200).

[7] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, trans., Margaret Kohl (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1977). 5 – “Christ is his church’s foundation, its power and its hope…The lordship of Christ is the church’s sole, and hence all-embracing, determining factor.” Also, Hill comments on Moltmann’s Christological emphasis, “The church’s foundation, essence, power, mission, and future are built on and directed toward Jesus Christ…The church’s identity and purpose is wrapped up in the messianic mission of Christ,” (Hill. 87).

[8] This imagery clearly reflects Old Testament imagery, the temple representing God’s presence (Cf. Grenz. 466).

[9] Aquinas, in Bryan P. Stone, ed. A Reader in Ecclesiology (Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012). 65.

[10] Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, trans., SCM Press, 2 ed. (London: SCM Press, 2001). 133. Furthermore, Moltmann argues similarly, that the Spirit is the primary shaper of the Church; “The Spirit leads the church to witness        to and worship Christ, to embrace his messianic mission, to live in eschatological hope, and to pursue God’s power and presence in all dimensions of its being,” (Hill. 91). Cf. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, trans., Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 3 (London: T&T Clark International, 2004). 13 – “By the Spirit each is lifted above individual particularity in order, “in Christ,” to form with all other believers the fellowship of the church.”

[11] Stanley J. Grenz, Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990). 152-54. This eschatological perspective is shared by McGrath, who argues that the Spirit’s presence “within the church is a sign of the coming of God’s new age, and the distinctive role that the church must play in bringing about the kingdom of God on earth,” (Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 5th Edition ed. (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). 377).

[12] Pannenberg. 16.

[13] Cf. Ibid. 73 – “The central concern for the Church, and the primary point of reference for understanding the Church, must be the Kingdom of God.”

[14] Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 474. He labels the Kingdom “the eschatological in-breaking of God into history,” (p. 474). Furthermore, Rev. 5.9 and Gal. 3.28 reveal that the Church’s diversity of people expresses the inclusiveness of the Kingdom. n

[15] Ibid. 477.

[16] Pannenberg. 37.

[17] Harper and Metzger. 48-71. Also, Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 461 – “As the fellowship of believers we enter into relationship with God and with one another. This covenantal relationship is a foretaste of the future community we will share in the new creation and a sign of the eternal community of the triune God himself.”

[18] Pannenberg. 13.

[19] Hans Küng, The Church, trans., Ray and Rosaleen Ockenden (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967). 81. Cf. Hill. 30 – “Küng describes the church as the eschatological community of salvation, called into existence through the eschatological event of the life, message, death, resurrection, and reign of Christ.”

[20] Hill. 14-16.

[21] Karl Rahner, The Church and the Sacraments, trans., W. J. O’Hara (London: Burns & Oates, 1963). 18.

[22] Pannenberg. 32. According to Grenz, “For Pannenberg the church is a proleptic sign of the kingdom, and the people of God live from the proleptic presence of the future among them mediated by the Spirit,” and “the church is the anticipation of the kingdom; therefore its essence is constituted by the kingdom, of which it is a sign,” (Grenz, Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg. 151-53).

[23] Pannenberg. 26. Cf. Grenz, Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg. 153 – “The biblical discussion focuses on Jesus’ own purpose, to proclaim the kingdom, which for Pannenberg means that ecclesiology is not to be grounded directly on the concept of the fellowship of believers but on the kingdom.” Pannenberg reasons, “The Spirit’s specific work in the church always relates to Jesus and to the eschatological future of God’s kingdom that has dawned already in him. The consequences of this for the doctrine of the church is that its relation to the kingdom of God, as an anticipation of the future fellowship of the humanity renewed in this kingdom, must form the context for an understanding of the church as the fellowship of believers that is grounded on the participation in the one Jesus Christ,” (Pannenberg. 20).

[24] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 464-65 – “The early Christians linked themselves as the followers of Jesus to what God had begun in the wilderness with the nation of Israel.” Furthermore, implicit in this is the idea of sanctification, to be set apart for a particular purpose (Cf. John 17). This continuation of Old Testament imagery implies participation in the Abrahamic covenant, as the “People of God,” (Rom. 4.1-16; Gal. 3.6-18) (McGrath. 376).

[25] John D. Zizioulas, Communion & Otherness (New York: T&T Clark, 2006). 307. Furthermore, Hill describes Zizioulas’ ecclesiology, “Our natural biological essence is not eradicated, since Christians live in the body and are subject to death. However, our biological substance, and our transformed substance and nature, are bridged by the nature of the Eucharist, and by our communal participation in the sacrament (bridged by a sacramental or Eucharistic hypostasis),” (Hill. 64).

[26] Lieven Boeve and Gerard Mannion, ed. The Ratzinger Reader (New York: T&T Clark, 2010). 93 – “These disciples became a ‘people’ through communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus, which is simultaneously communion with God. The Old Testament theme of covenant, which Jesus incorporates into his preaching, receives a new center: communion with Christ’s Body.”

[27] Hill. 5-11, 72.

[28] Ibid. 93. Further, McGrath labels the Church the “Community of Salvation,” called into being as response to God’s salvation work, to proclaim and extend this work, (McGrath. 376).

[29] Cyril of Jerusalem, in Alister E. McGrath, ed. The Christian Theology Reader, 4 ed. (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). 411.

[30] Ibid. 415.

[31] Ibid. 426. Furthermore, “The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion.” This dualism affirms what Augustine argued, who, as a result of the Donatist controversy, argued for a mixed body of sinners and saints. Due to sin, the church cannot be made of saints, but the church is sanctified and made holy by Christ, (McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction. 379-80).

[32] Barth. 133 – “By men assembling here and there in the Holy Spirit there arises here and there a visible Christian congregation. It is best not to apply this idea of invisibility to the Church…If the Church has not this visibility, then it is not the Church.”

[33] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 467. Cf. 1 Cor. 12.20; Eph. 1.22-23.

[34] Hill. 11, 68; John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985). 144-45 – “Although the catholicity of the Church is ultimately an eschatological reality, its nature is revealed and realistically apprehended here and now in the eucharist.” See below for discussion on the Eucharist, including discussion on transubstantiation.

[35] In McGrath, ed. The Christian Theology Reader. 418-419. The First Helvetica Confession stated, “It is not only known but also gathered and built up by visible signs, rites, and ordinances, which Christ Himself has instituted and appointed by the Word of God as a universal, public, and orderly discipline,” (p. 419).

[36] Ibid. 418-19. McGrath notes that for Luther, it was “more important to preach the same gospel as the apostles than to be a member of an institution which is historically derived from them,” (McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction. 382).

[37] Calvin argued, “Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence,” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans., Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989). 4.i.9.

[38] Barth, in Allen. 135 – “The congregation is the place where God’s word is proclaimed and the sacraments are solemnised and the fellowship of prayer takes place, not to mention the inward gifts and works, which are the meaning of these outward ones.”

[39] This should not, however, disqualify the inevitable invisible aspect of the Church. While these ‘marks’ are what characterize the Church’s activity, the Church can still exist in their absence. Hence, it should be clarified that a basic understanding of these ‘marks’ should be what the Church should be doing regularly, and through these regular actions, the Church can be distinguished from the rest of the world. Furthermore, as discussed below, the term ‘ordinance’ is preferred to ‘sacrament.’

[40] The meaning of the word ‘sacrament’ has historically been somewhat ambiguous. It is not within the scope of this essay to debate semantics, but based on historical tendency toward the belief that the administration of the sacrament is in itself the administration of the grace it signifies, the term ‘ordinance’, as employed by Grenz, is preferred, referring to the fact that these acts were ordained by Jesus Christ, (Cf. Stanley J. Grenz, The Baptist Congregation (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1985). 29-32).

[41] W. Robert Godfrey, “Calvin, Worship, and the Sacraments,” in A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes, ed. Peter A. Lillback David W. Hall(Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2008). 372. Calvin argued, “It seems to me, then, a simple and appropriate definition to say, that it is an external sign, by which the Lord seals on our consciences his promises of good-will toward us, in order to sustain the weakness of our faith, and we in turn testify our piety towards him, both before himself, and before angels as well as men,” (Calvin. 4.xiv.1. Furthermore, the eschatological nature in this argument must be recognized, as Pannenberg states, “The significatory nature of the sacramental presence of Christ and God’s kingdom in baptism and the Supper is an expression of the “not yet” of our Christian life in tension as we move on to the eschatological consummation of salvation,” (Pannenberg. 353).

[42] Calvin argued similarly, in that they must never function independently of the spoken word, (Godfrey. 375).

[43] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 32.

[44] Pannenberg. 243. Furthermore, Mullins argues that baptism symbolizes a remission of sin, union with Christ, and a cleansing from unrighteousness, (E. Y. Mullins, Baptist Beliefs (Valley Forge: Baptist World Publishing Company, 1912). 68-69).

[45] Leonard J. Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004). 122 – “The primary objection to the baptism of infants…is the fact that in infant baptism one of the most important aspects of New Testament baptism is missing: conversion and the profession of faith in Jesus Christ.” Cf. Acts 8.37, which insists on the need to accept Jesus as saviour before baptism.

[46] It is not within the scope of this essay to argue the points of the links between circumcision and baptism, the Acts ‘household texts’ and others.

[47] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 34. Cf. 1 Cor. 12.13; Rom. 6.3-4; 1 Pet. 3.21.

[48] Winthrop S. Hudson Norman H. Maring, A Baptist Manual of Polity and Practice (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1991). 153.

[49] Mullins. 14 – “Baptism does not regenerate. It is to be administered to those who have previously been regenerated by the Spirit of God. Baptism does not secure remission of sins save in a symbolic way…Baptism is simply the outward symbol of what has already taken place within the subject.”

[50] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 39-40. Cf. Mark 14.22-25; Matt. 26.26-28.

[51] McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction. 419-20; Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 532; Godfrey. 372-383.

[52] Calvin. 4.xvii.9, 10, 19. Cf. Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998). 962 – “It is a fact that Calvin does teach that by the Spirit’s empowering Christ’s human nature, although in heaven and not endowed with ubiquity is nonetheless brought to us (or perhaps better, by faith we are lifted to it) and that we derive spiritual life from feeding specifically upon it by faith.” Furthermore, John 6.51-58 recounts Jesus declaring that in order to have eternal life, one must “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,” (v.53). John 15.26 and 16.13 state that it is the Spirit who testifies on our behalf before the Father and who guides us into truth and, thus to the Father. Therefore, seeing that it is the Father who gives eternal life through Christ (John 2.16) and it is the Spirit who unifies us to Christ (1 Cor. 12.13) and guides us to the Father, the source of eternal life, we must acknowledge – with Calvin – that it is by the Spirit that the Supper becomes efficacious.

[53] Furthermore, Rom. 8.34 places Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension in the same category, and thus can be understood as a physical death, physical resurrection, and physical ascension. Also, 1 Cor. 15.20-28; John 3.13; 16.5-7; Heb. 4.14; 8.1.

[54] It is for this reason that eucharistic ecclesiology is to be rejected.

[55] Cf. Irenaeus, in McGrath, ed. The Christian Theology Reader. 408.

[56] Harper and Metzger. 20. Furthermore, “The purpose of the church’s missional nature is the glorification and worship of the Father,” (Hill. xiii). Also, “The church has a mission in the world, but it is not its mission – it is the mission of the Trinity, revealed in human history, breaking into the present and awaiting fulfillment in the future. The Spirit empowers the church to fulfill its nature and role in this trinitarian history of God’s dealing with the world, by his transformative presence in word, sacrament, office, mission, worship and witness to the gospel…it does not merely have mission; instead, the church can only be fully comprehended as a missionary organism and community in the light of the Spirit’s work, the eschaton, and the missio Dei,” (Ibid. 90).

[57] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 75.

[58] Barth, in Allen. 192-98.

[59] Ibid. 201.

[60] As purported in Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 15-26.

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