Emerging ecclesiology in crisis

I have been meaning for some time to respond to some comments made by Jason Clark to the effect that the emerging church lacks a coherent ecclesiology. He was commenting on a piece I wrote four years ago asking: What does the emerging church stand for?

Jason acknowledges that there have been some important ecclesial “turns”—the search for a more solid experience of church in Anglicanism, for example, or the development of “missional communities”. But he feels, nevertheless, that ecclesiology has rather lost out to mission. The emerging church movement has mapped the postmodern socio-cultural landscape in considerable detail but has not attempted to define the form of the body of Christ in this brave new world with anything like the same enthusiasm.

How could the church have got doctrine x wrong?

Doctrinal revisionism is in the air, and unsurprisingly it makes people nervous. Currently it appears that many of the fundamental tenets of modern Protestant orthodoxy are being subjected to critical re-examination from the inside—among them justification by faith, penal substitutionary atonement, the subordination of women, the second coming, heaven as the final destination of the saved, hell as the final destination of the lost. How come? How can that be good? How can the church have got so much wrong?

1 Peter and communities of eschatological transformation

This is another attempt to sketch the “eschatological” narrative that underlies 1 Peter and shapes the theological content of the Letter. My argument is that the eschatology—the narratively constructed future that can be extrapolated from the Letter—is not merely a component of Peter’s theology alongside other components such as soteriology or ecclesiology. Modern theology has taught us to look for that sort of systematic organization, but the Letter is a response to the concrete circumstances of the communities addressed. Those circumstances are narratively or dynamically or historically constructed; and the theological content is what Peter has to say in the light of that construction. Theology and narrative are inseparable.

Jimmy Dunn: one God, one Lord, and the shema

During a lively dialogue with Larry Hurtado at the British New Testament Society conference this morning Jimmy Dunn put forward his well known view that there is a significant functional differentiation—even subordination—between Jesus and God in the New Testament that should not be obscured in our efforts to safeguard a high christology. He was responding to Hurtado’s basic argument that the worship of the earliest churches exhibited a dyadic pattern—that is, in their prayer, acclamation, confession, hymns, and such practices as the Lord’s meal and baptism, they effectively “worshipped” Jesus in the same terms as they worshipped God.

The revelation of Jesus: a quick narrative-historical reading of 1 Peter

Behind every letter in the New Testament there is a story. Behind Romans, for example, there is the story of communities of Gentile Christians called in Christ to be living sacrifices for the sake of the eventual victory of Israel’s God over the gods and powers of the pagan world. That’s how I read it, at least. Behind the Letter to the Hebrews there is the story of a Jewish-Christian community somewhere that has faced severe persecution and is likely to encounter worse in the near future, but has grown weary of the struggle to remain faithful.

Why do we need a divine author?

In his address to the Jews in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia Paul draws on three distinct passages from the Old Testament in order to say something about the resurrection of Jesus: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” (Acts 13:33; cf. Ps. 2:7); “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David” (13:34; cf. Is. 55:3); “You will not let your Holy One see corruption” (13:35; cf. Ps. 16:10). It cannot easily be claimed that any of the three Old Testament texts originally referred to the resurrection of a future Messiah. So, in a critical age, how do we make sense of Paul’s hermeneutic?

Quote: William Stacy Johnson: The Gospel is not a foundation

The Gospel is not a foundation

It is time that we recognized this foundationalist way of thinking for what it is. In its Christian guise, it represents not the strength of faith but the result of a faith that has lost its nerve. The Christian Scriptures set themselves up not so much as truth claims to be defended by philosophical foundations but as witnesses to the transforming power that no truth claim itself can contain. The gospel is not a “foundation” to render our traditional notions of rationality secure but a remaking of everything, including rationality itself.

William Stacy Johnson

Quote: William Stacy Johnson: The fear of postmodernism

The fear of postmodernism

…this new mode of postmodern rationality is frightening to some Christians. They find it frightening because they have completely succumbed to a one-sided objectivism out of a deep-seated fear of the dangers of relativism. Without an objective and infallible source of meaning, so their reasoning goes, the truth claims of the gospel seem to be undermined. Hence, their response is to ground Christian belief in an infallible text, an infallible experience, or an infallible magisterium.

William Stacy Johnson

Resurrection from the dead

The basic template for New Testament belief in any sort of life after death is the Jewish idea of the resurrection of a person from the dead at the end of the age—and probably the resurrection of the righteous Jew who has lost his or her life out of loyalty to YHWH (cf. Dan. 12:2-3). Personal resurrection derives from a theology of martyrdom (cf. 2 Macc. 7:9, 14), and I think that this pattern largely controls references to personal resurrection in the New Testament.


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