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Family problems & the church

You gotta give it to the great Texan when it comes issues regarding the role of “the family” in the Christian life:

The assumption that the family is an end in itself can only make the family and marriage more personally destructive. When families exist for no reason other than their own existence, they become quasi-churches, which ask sacrifices far too great and for insufficient reasons. The risk of families that demand that we love one another can be taken only when there are sustaining communities with sufficient convictions that can provide means to form and limit the status of the family. If the family does stand as a necessary check on the state, it does so because it first has a place in an institution that more determinatively stands against the state—the church. (After Christendom, 127)

Of course I could argue a few things about the way Hauerwas characterized the nature of the church here, but perhaps we’d do better if we simply took Hauerwas’s altogether appropriate chastening of the family here and extended it a step further:

The assumption that the church is an end in itself can only make the church more personally and communally destructive. When churches exist for no reason other than their own existence, they become quasi-nation-states, which ask sacrifices far too great and for insufficient reasons. The risks of being the church that demand that we love one another can be taken only when there is the miraculous work of the Spirit of Christ which transforms us, revealing the limit of our status as the church. If the church does stand as a necessary check on the state, it does so because it first has a place in an eschatological reality that more determinatively stands against, and has defeated all principalities and powers—the Kingdom of God.

63 Comments

  1. I’m really glad that you have taken “the collapse of Christology into ecclesiology” as your project. I’m glad because Jesus announcing the kingdom of God and God gathering for himself a people are far closer to the center of the gospel than the other ‘controversies’ within our relatively recent past.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  2. Brad A. wrote:

    Halden, could you clarify this: “The risks of being the church that demand that we love one another can be taken only when there is the miraculous work of the Spirit of Christ which transforms us, revealing the limit of our status as the church.” I get the main part, but I’m trying to understand how the clause at the end works for you. Thanks.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    I mean that the free work of the Spirit, to which we must attend as the church, reveals to us our limitedness. The Spirit testifies to Christ, calling out out from ourselves, from reliance on ourselves for our life and witness. Its easy for the church to not recognize its limited status vis a vis God and the world, as I think church history bears out.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  4. Brad A. wrote:

    That’s what I thought you meant – thanks.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  5. Brad A. wrote:

    Of course, this in no way nullifies Hauerwas’s comment as you quote it – it helpfully qualifies it. I think they fit together nicely.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  6. mike d wrote:

    Real question – So in your view emphasizing our communal identity via the Kingdom of God doesn’t suffer from the same shortcomings as does emphasizing our communal identity via the church?

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    Well, I don’t see myself as emphasizing “communal identity via the kingdom of God” in what I wrote above. Rather I was trying to point to the way in which the transcendent nature of the Kingdom of God — which is wholly the work of God — qualifies, chastens, limits, and humbles our attempt to make something of ourselves, to solidify our identity, communal or otherwise as something upon which we can rely for coherence and control.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink
  8. Zac wrote:

    I agree with you, Brad. For Hauerwas, to say that the family has a place in the church such that it more determinatively stands against the state is to say that it stands against the state (to use Hauerwas’ recent critic’s term) doxologically. Of course by pointing to Kerr’s work I am implying that, in my humble opinion, his critique of Hauerwas is weak. I recently wrote my thesis on apocalyptic, engaging mostly Barth and how the language of apocalyptic (at least as it is often used in modern theology) in many ways “began” with him and in many ways has become less meaningful the more it has become the “solution” to what many see as a too heavily ecclesiological emphasis in the work of a Hauerwas. I take on Kerr as a case study of where I think apocalyptic has become somewhat confused. Of course, i say this with much trepidation as I admire much of what I read in Christ, History, and Apocalyptic. However I left the book feeling dissatisfied with what all of it means for the church (perhaps I just did not understand). Looking at Kerr’s critique of Hauerwas (particularly in Kerr’s engagement with Hauerwas’ essay “The Church as God’s New Language) I feel as though a lot of what Kerr sees “missing” in Hauerwas, Hauerwas himself actually says. At least, this is my opinion as a humble undergrad. :)

    Zac

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  9. mike d wrote:

    Right “communal identity” probably wasn’t a good way to get at this. I guess I was looking for what distinction between “the church” and “the kingdom of God” was at work here. I gather its that the latter is “wholly the work of God” while you think the former allows for some sort of autonomy to creep in. So what would “end in itself” mean in this context? Something that isn’t “wholly the work of God”?

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  10. Halden wrote:

    I think the church is distinct from the kingdom of God in that “the church” names the gathered community of those seeking to follow Jesus in the world, whereas the Kingdom of God names God’s own apocalyptic and missional intervention into the world in Jesus and the Spirit which will one day be consummated as the outcome of all things.

    Thus, the church can’t be an end in itself because the church always and only a band of those who, having been called out of the world by the gospel, continue to seek the kingdom, pray for its coming, and live in its light.

    So the church is the earthly-historical community of Jesus’s followers whereas the Kingdom of God is God’s own triune act in Christ and the Spirit of invading and transforming the world into what it will eschatologically be. It is this reality that calls forth the church, but the church can never equate itself with the Kingdom or claim to possess or mediate it by its own power.

    That at least is how I would like to frame the matter.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink
  11. Brad A. wrote:

    Well done tackling this as an undergrad, Zac. I’m impressed!

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  12. mike d wrote:

    Thanks, just to be clear I wasn’t calling into question your distinguishing the church from the Kingdom (I whole heartedly agree) – I was just wondering what distinction (assuming there are many) was operative in your post.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  13. Halden wrote:

    No apologies necessary, man. Questions are what this is all about.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
  14. Josh Rowley wrote:

    Halden–

    Yes, the church is distinct from the kingdom. But does the church not participate in God’s kingdom work in the world? Is it not a “preview community” (as some missional thinkers have put it) of what is breaking into the world?

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  15. Brad A. wrote:

    I’m with Josh. Certainly it’s what you say here, Halden, but it’s more than just a community devoted to the Kingdom’s coming. It is to be an embodied witness of the Kingdom’s presence in the world now, until that Kingdom’s consummation. This is a substantive body of witness and enactment, actively called to participate in the current, incomplete instantiation of the Kingdom of God on earth (which is where I would directly disagree with your earlier comment above). It is neither merely devoted to something yet absent, nor a disembodied reaction to Christ’s action (you didn’t say this here – I’m just making the point). It is finite, temporary, and imperfect, but it is substantive communal foretaste nonetheless.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  16. Halden wrote:

    Josh, yes the church participates in the Kingdom and even works for the Kingdom. The only qualification I’d make — which is slight, but utterly vital — is that the church participates in the Kingdom solely by virtue of the free action of the Spirit who ever and again comes to the church, convicting, purifying, tearing down, and making new. Thus I do want to say something along the lines of the “the church is the presence of the Kingdom” but only insofar as we very carefully and properly construe the “is” in that sentence — if I may play the theological Bill Clinton here — in light of this attention to the free, unprecedented, and utterly singular work of the Spirit.

    And I think its crucial that we never presume to be able to point to ourselves as the church and say “Here is the kingdom’s presence in the world. We are that presence. Look to us.” We may be given by the utterly gratuitous work of the Spirit to say, in the course of our common life together, “Behold the Kingdom has come among us” but never can we look at the church in a static sense and just say that it “is” the presence of the Kingdom. It only is such when and where the Spirit graciously gives it to be such.

    That, at least, is my view on the matter.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink
  17. Brad A. wrote:

    Halden, I like the careful way you have put this, and I agree with you on the contingent nature of the church, even though, admittedly, I probably attribute more substance to it as a theopolitical community than you do (not a criticism here, just an observation).

    This takes me back to Schlabach’s article again comparing and contrasting Hauerwas and Yoder on sacrament. If his portrayal of the two is accurate, you would then echo Yoder’s understanding of the Holy Spirit’s constant renewal of the church (if I remember it), over against continuity located by God’s grace in particular objective material elements, whether they be sacramental elements or the community of the church itself. Am I understanding you accurately? Might that then be a specific point we could identify as in dispute between you and Nate on the one hand, and Steve and Jamie on the other? And I ask this not to argue (yet) but to just clarify points of contention.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink
  18. Rob L wrote:

    But why stop there? To extend even further this ‘extensional’ logic:
    The assumption that the Kingdom of God is an end in itself can only make the Kingdom more personally and communally destructive. When the Kingdom exists for no reason other than its own existence, it becomes a quasi-divine-state, which asks sacrifices far too great and for insufficient reasons. The risks of enacting the Kingdom that demand that we love one another can be taken only when there is the abyss of nihilism awaiting us, revealing the limit of our status as the Kingdom. If the Kingdom does stand as a necessary check on the state, it does so because it first has a place in a nilistic abyss that more determinatively stands against the state – the end.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  19. mshedden wrote:

    Halden,
    What if Hauerwas’ project is about the church being the place where we learn the language ( seeing and in the Wittgenstein sense) to recognize the kingdom and the outbreak of the Spirit. I have heard him say that he doesn’t deny God is active outside the church but God has promised to be active in the church so we should take that seriously. So I wonder if for Hauerwas the church is giving you the sight and also the prayers and action to be involved in the apolcalyptic actvity. Not sure if that makes sense but I would be interested in your thoughts.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Permalink
  20. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Zac:

    It is late here and it has been a long day, but I’ve been wanting to get to your comment all night, if just to say thank you and to encourage you in this work. Of course, without reading your thesis I’m hesitant to address your criticisms of my work, but I am sure they are to be well-taken, and the danger you point to is a real one indeed. As I stated in another thread, my focus on apocalyptic is not simply for the sake of being different from Hauerwas, but for the sake of the way in which apocalyptic speaks to a kind of faithfulness to the gospel that I feel has at least been partially comprised in certain strands of postliberal ecclesiology as influenced by Hauerwas and others. I’m also not entirely sure that the point of my book was not precisely to leave one dissatisfied, either. At least I hope to leave one with a certain kind of dissatisfaction, in such a way as to set one on a certain path of questioning and after certain kinds of tasks. At any rate, I hope my next book on the church will help to extend some of what I’m working towards in outline in that last chapter and will at least begin to address some of your questions. That is the reason why I am writing it anyway.

    I’m also very happy to concede to you that Hauerwas actually says much of what I’m asking him to say — or at least he seems to, at different points. Part of this is Hauerwas’ ad hoc way of going about the theological task — which is both delightful and frustrating at one and the same time. The guy just will not stand still, and in that regards, he is at least among the most “honest” of theologians working today, in Donald MacKinnon’s sense of that term. I would only say in response to your comment that it is not what Hauerwas doesn’t say about much of what I’m stressing — mission, Jesus, doxology, diaspora, etc. — that concerns me. I’m more concerned about the ways in which what Hauerwas does say on these points is over-determined by other things that he says, more specifically about “narrative,” and the task of the church as one of “out-narrating” the world and “re-narrating” the givens of history. I am especially concerned with the way in which that “overdetermination” in his work lends itself to the articulation of a more programmatic ecclesiology of identity in his work and especially in the work of many who have been influenced by him and have taken up these themes in his wake. Of course, one of the interesting things is the way in which Hauerwas at various points (because of the very ad hoc and shifting way in which he works) says things that slip free of precisely this kind of programmatic ecclesiology; and I can imagine it would be a very helpful exercise indeed for someone to trace out the way this happens in his work, and thus the ways in which he slips free of my critique at points. Of course, this would require reading Hauerwas against himself at points and moving beyond Hauerwas at several key points as well. But that, it seems, is exactly as Hauerwas would have it.

    At any rate, that is not nearly as substantive a response as your comment deserves. And I’m feeling the need to defend my reading of Hauerwas creeping on, which isn’t necessary here. So I’ll leave it there for now. Thank you for jumping into the discussion and for taking up this work.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Permalink
  21. mike d wrote:

    Sacraments also came to mind for me though not in such a specific way.

    I’m fine with Halden emphasizing the “free action of the Spirit who ever and again comes to the church”. For me that freedom does have some real regularity though in the sacraments, where two or three are gathered, ministry to the poor – that sort of stuff. So I think I’d want to say that the church necessarily embodies the Spirit’s presence in limited and qualified ways.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 5:28 am | Permalink
  22. Chris Donato wrote:

    Church ≠ the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in this time between the times?

    Careful, Halden, your logic might undo the Christian faith.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 5:48 am | Permalink
  23. Brad A. wrote:

    Did Halden say that? I took him to say the KoG cannot be reduced to the church (and that the church itself never perfectly participates as a whole in the KoG).

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink
  24. Chris Donato wrote:

    Having not slogged through the comments, this is the direction I thought he was pushing the reader. I see now that it’s more nuanced than that, yet I still sniff an air which suggests an unnecessary bifurcation between the kingdom of God and the church. The church does more than “participate” when its very telos is something like theosis. To suggest otherwise is to betray a possibly gnostic ecclesiology.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink
  25. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Chris:

    How would this betray a gnostic ecclesiology? I hear this charge often, but often as mere assertion. It seems a common way to just dismiss something that one cannot concretely grab and touch and possess.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 8:25 am | Permalink
  26. Chris Donato wrote:

    Good question, Nate. I certainly don’t intend to perpetuate mere assertion. My thinking was simply (if not simple) this: If the tangible church is not the locus of God’s kingdom, then what is? Suggesting that it is only “when” and “where” the Spirit graciously gives it to be such is a tautology at best, a sneaking in of a denial of a visible church everlastingly present (because such was promised) through the back door at worst.

    No one should deny the utter graciousness of Pentecost. But it’s a perpetual promise and can’t be lost. Thus the church can say, “Here is the kingdom’s presence in the world. We are that presence. Look to us.”

    Questions about which church we’re talking about notwithstanding, of course. We mustn’t be guilty of forging truth based on any current state of affairs.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink
  27. Brad A. wrote:

    Just for clarification, Nate: Does tangibility or embodiment necessarily mean possession?

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  28. dbarber wrote:

    Brad A makes a good point — does mere discussion of the church, or whatever one wants to call it, amount immediately to an identitarian ontology of the church? It seems that is the claim being made by Kerr, Halden, etc., and in my mind you’d have to do more work (than is presently being done) to make that claim. Not doing that work, though, just allows one to position God as the Other to whatever is named.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  29. Josh Rowley wrote:

    The church is not the kingdom of God. Got that. The church is a means to the end of the kingdom of God. Got that. The church is not the only means the Spirit uses. Got that.

    Where I’m fuzzy (with Chris above, I think) is on the subject of whether the church ever embodies the inbreaking kingdom. I want to maintain that the church does (by the power of the Holy Spirit) make the kingdom tangible insofar as it follows the one who inaugurated it (namely, Jesus). Without recognition of this tangible witness (a preview of what is coming), the kingdom may come to be understood in Gnostic fashion–disembodied.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink
  30. Halden wrote:

    Chris, where you sense a bifurcation, I’m afraid I see none, or at least you’d have to make a substantive argument about how that might be the case for me to properly respond to what you claim to smell in the air.

    For my part I don’t see why some sort of binary opposition between either church=the Kingdom or church≠the Kingdom is necessary and the whole point of my comments has been to break out of such a binary, which to my reading cannot help but be a sort of ideological zero-sum game. Why must the presence of the Kingdom be statically identified with the church or completely bifurcated therefrom? It seems like those are the options you think I have to choose from.

    And as long as we’re moving by smell, I must say that my olfactory senses detect something quite amiss in your comment that my logic “might undo the Christian faith.” It is precisely that sort of fear-based reductionism, that sort of grasping for an established certitude located in the church that smacks of a refusal to trust that God, in God’s own gracious freedom will have his way regardless of our failures to rightly and fully embody the calling of the Kingdom.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink
  31. Halden wrote:

    Josh, I think I agree with your formulation here. The crucial part for me though is the “insofar as it follows [Jesus]” part, which I would further spell out as “insofar as it is given, by the gracious work of the Spirit to be conformed to Christ and his way.”

    I guess what I’m putting forth, and what others may disagree with here, is that I believe that the church, in its unfaithfulness, in its ability to resist the Spirit and thus become, as Marva Dawn would say, a “fallen power” can fall short of embodying the Kingdom, and in fact, cease to be the embodiment thereof. Our hope then can only be in God’s everanew coming to the church in its utter failure to resurrect and renew. Which is why I’m becoming more and more convinced that theology and ecclesiology specifically can only be done in a mode of lived prayer.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink
  32. Chris Donato wrote:

    Let me put the brakes on the rhetoric. I meant “undoing Christianity” lightly. It only cuts if and when someone takes up where you left off and, in hyper-Kierkegaardian fashion, guts the kingdom precisely at its center—the Spirit-filled church of Christ.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink
  33. Brad A. wrote:

    But Halden, who in the world – among those we readers would consider legitimate sources – would suggest otherwise? Certainly this has been my position all along (and your second paragraph here is actually an explicit point in my dissertation, rooted in covenant), but the fact that I’ve had to argue it suggests there are other questions on the table.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink
  34. Halden wrote:

    It seems to me that there are many who want to insist that the church, regardless of its unfaithfulness cannot cease to be, in some sense, an embodiment of the Kingdom. I certainly detected it in Chris’s comments and it seems to be a pretty regular feature of a whole stream of certain Roman Catholic modes of ecclesiology. So I certainly think that there are those who would dispute whether or not the church can, by its unfaithfulness cease to be an embodiment of the Kingdom.

    Some of this is getting to the issue of the church’s (in)defectability and where one comes down on that.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  35. Chris Donato wrote:

    And I’d be one of the last guys grasping for certitude here. What God has promised, God himself is indebted to do. That’s my only hope—indeed, “regardless of our failures to rightly and fully embody the calling of the Kingdom.”

    Regarding the only two options, yeah, I do think those are the only two options, because I understand the divine promise to not only establish a Christic community but to effect its very promises through that community. I suppose how we define “community” will shed light on this question: Do we continue to articulate the ecclesiology the church has down through the centuries? Or do we redefine it, with hopes of saving the phenomenological I suppose, according to the reality of the fragmentation of our day?

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink
  36. Halden wrote:

    Why is it not an option to say that the church — by which I always mean the concrete church in history — becomes an embodiment of the Kingdom when and where it is given, by the Spirit over to Jesus’s call to discipleship?

    God’s promise is not in question here. But neither should we take God’s promise as a sort of blank check. We remove ourselves from the experience of God’s promise by our unfaithfulness, but that does not negate the promise, it only judges us in our rejection of it.

    And finally, there is no “the ecclesiology” that “the church has [articulated] down through the centuries.” There are pluriform and divergent accounts of the nature and reality of the church that have been articulated in different ways and times and places. To posit some sort of constant meta-ecclesiology that is just historically there is, well, historically false.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  37. Brad A. wrote:

    I agree, and I am uncomfortable with arguments advocating an inherent ecclesial indefectability (which I do not see in Chris’s comment, btw). To be fair, it should be stated that even such RC doctrines are rooted in a particular understanding of the actions of the Holy Spirit, who is seen to prevent the church from erring in matters regarding salvation. Therefore, as I’m sure you know, you would have to engage their pneumatology along with their ecclesiology on this point.

    However, I also recognize that while the church at any one point in time and space may cease to fulfill its mission – and therefore cease within that particular context to be the ecclesia, for all intents and purposes – that does not preclude God’s correction, restoration, and overall sustenance of the ecclesial community, not by virtue of itself or for its own sake, but by virtue of God’s own promises in and through Christ, and for the sake of the ongoing sign of God’s salvation in the world. That is, the mission can continue in and through the church despite itself. (And this also points to the myriad ways in which the church may in other simultaneous contexts continue being faithful – unfaithfulness of the church in America, for instance, cannot be universalized to the entire global ecclesia. One could easily suppose “the church” is being faithful in particular places and contexts at all times.)

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink
  38. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, that’s basically a point that I made regarding mission in this post.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  39. Chris Donato wrote:

    There’s a trajectory, and it clearly falls in the “Here is the kingdom’s presence in the world. We are that presence. Look to us” camp.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  40. Brad A. wrote:

    To clarify that last sentence: There is no particular context wherein the church is always faithful, but it is likely that at all times, the church somewhere in some situation is being faithful.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  41. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, one trajectory among others.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  42. Chris Donato wrote:

    Come on, now. It was the freakin’ super-highway trajectory.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink
  43. Halden wrote:

    As was Israel’s hope for a military Messiah.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  44. aew wrote:

    broad is the road, that leadeth to destruction

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  45. Brad A. wrote:

    Now Halden, that’s precisely the type of rhetorical move you’d slam somebody else for. It’s a non sequitur in this discussion that does nothing but scandalize Chris’s comment.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  46. Halden wrote:

    I’m just joking around in the spirit of the “super-highway” comment.

    The point being, a long pedigree does not a truthful doctrine make. Obviously my (and Alain’s) Anabaptist cards are showing here, and I know Chris doesn’t share them, but that’s all part of the dance.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 11:16 am | Permalink
  47. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Brad:

    No, not at all. (Well, “tangibility” maybe, but certainly not “embodiment” — I am thinking here of the etymology of the Latin tangere as meaning “to touch” in the sense of “to take hold of.”) I indeed want to articulate an understanding of the way in which the church marks out a concrete and visible space in this world. My point is simply that where this concreteness and visibility becomes or is expressed as something that can be grasped and possessed as such, it ceases to be church. It ceases precisely thereby in what Barth would call its “special visibility” and ceases precisely as such to become visible ever-anew in the power of the Holy Spirit, through the living Christ.

    So, I am really and truly seeking to articulate the manner in which the church exists as the concrete and visible “earthly-historical form” of the resurrected crucified one. But this is to insist all the more exclusively the degree to which this resurrected crucified one alone is constitutive of that church’s existence and visibility in history. Insofar as this is the case, then I am simply suggesting that the resurrected Jesus’ words to Mary in the Gospel of John need an ecclesial inflection: “Do not hold on to me” [Noli me tangere].

    (I hope this comment suffices to indicate that “mere discussion of the church” does not for me “amount immediately to an identitarian [that's a cool word!] ontology of the church.” Though, of course, whatever it is that we “say” about the church, we must insist that finally the church “is” only as a lived reality — in actu.)

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink
  48. Nathan wrote:

    Halden, I believe you should take it upon yourself to write a theology of Texas.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  49. Halden wrote:

    I’m certainly not qualified for that. I’ve never even lived there.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  50. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    You can’t get off the hook that easy. After all, most of Halden’s family lives there. We can start the book with a chapter on Arthur…

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink
  51. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I mean…you can start the book…

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink
  52. roger flyer wrote:

    This really rings my bell.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink
  53. roger flyer wrote:

    This is what rings my bell.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Permalink
  54. Theophilus wrote:

    That bit about Hauerwas claiming “the task of the church as one of ‘out-narrating’ the world and ‘re-narrating’ the givens of history” is precisely behind an interesting critique of the neo-Anabaptist movement I ran across the other day. James Davison Hunter’s book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World argues that most Christians in North America have confused power with politics – not only in the obvious forms of the Christian Left and Christian Right, but also the neo-Anabaptists (he specifically calls out Hauerwas on this) who are so vituperative and vigorous in their antagonism against the politics of the empire that they end up defined by politics no less than those they purport to oppose. (I have a little blurb on it written up.)

    Ultimately, this creates the risks so well put in Halden’s paraphrase in the OP.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink
  55. Halden wrote:

    Thanks, Theophilus. This is the third time this book has come up today, so clearly now I must read it.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink
  56. Nathan wrote:

    I bet Hauerwas would write an intro for you explaining how “residency” is not a theology category.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink
  57. roger flyer wrote:

    I’m not sure but I think I may be starting to get what y’all are talkin’ about, and–it scares me that it might be true. And why critics might shout gnostic.

    …and one of the conclusions I might draw: The bride of Christ (=the church?) is absolutely blind and clueless…?

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 5:01 am | Permalink
  58. mike d wrote:

    I think not only does pneumatology but also soteriology lie at the heart of some of these differences. I’m thinking more along Reformed lines (which I think Chris is) but if regeneration is wholly the work of God then it does seem difficult to see how the church (having at least many regenerate people) could fail to embody the Kingdom.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 5:02 am | Permalink
  59. Chris Donato wrote:

    Roger, I think you’ll find many of us agree with that assessment (at times, at least) while at the same time not projecting that upon the entire communion of saints (living and dead).

    Maybe what is (or will be) more scary, for some, is to write the church off, as if extra ecclesiam nulla salus were adiaphora . . .

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 6:59 am | Permalink
  60. Chris Donato wrote:

    Yes, I see that among the Catholic apologists online especially. But I’m not basing my thoughts on this matter in the indefectibility of any individual magistrate or collegiate (with the latter being certainly more preferable than the former). I’m more rooted in something akin to the Branch Theory, which suggests that there will always be a corner of the church (in succession) that will not fall so far as to be annihilated, thus rendering God, incidentally, a promise-breaker. And while this nudges up against indefectibility, it probably has more in common with your notion of indefeatability (in your post on mission linked below).

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink
  61. roger flyer wrote:

    Thanks Chris. Could you translate the Latin for me as these phrases ar scary for me.

    …and I’m also one who is tempted to write church off as I’ve been spiritual abused three times in churches where I served as a professional ‘pastor’…

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  62. Chris Donato wrote:

    That’s no small matter, roger. I supposed we’d have to dig deeper as to what “write off” constitutes. But that’s better discussed over beers.

    The translation, then, you may not like: “Outside of the church there is no salvation.” Of course, by “church” I mean (whatever Ignatius meant) what I wrote above about the Branch Theory, not the particular churches at which you served.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink
  63. roger flyer wrote:

    I like the translation.
    so ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus is adiaphora’…
    I have to live with that…for no…as I am part of the dispersed ones.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

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