Mark Noll, the former Wheaton historian who is now teaching at Notre Dame, jokes that “The main difference between us and the Catholics is ecclesiology. They have one and we don’t.” There is a new book which seeks to remedy that, and I am so taken with it that I’ll be using it as a textbook in Systematic 3 (eschatology, ecclesiology, and soteriology) when class starts next month.
Here is why Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger’s Exploring Ecclesiology (Brazos Press) is a terrific fit for what I teach:
1. In Systematic 1 (prolegomena, God) we emphasize the communal, self-giving love of the Trinity. Harper and Metzger begin every doctrinal chapter from this foundation (they alternate chapters between theology and application).
2. Systematic 2 (humanity, sin, Jesus, and Holy Spirit) focuses on the Christian (Kuyperian) worldview. Harper and Metzger repeatedly reaffirm this perspective and inquire how this shapes a holistic ministry for a missional church.
3. The first day of Systematic 3 I explain the difference between covenant and dispensational theology and promise that this distinction will reappear in soteriology and ecclesiology. Harper and Metzger frequently explain that eschatology determines ecclesiology—that our level of optimism about the immediate future influences how we think the church should relate to culture (pessimistic dispies tend to withdraw from culture while covenant theologians typically seek to transform it).
I have been searching for a worthy evangelical ecclesiology, and am delighted that this one supplies an integrating capstone to the other subjects I teach.
I also just finished Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s Why We Love the Church (Moody), and heartily recommend it as the right antidote for the disturbing number of “I left the church to find Jesus” books. DeYoung and Kluck renewed my appreciation and love for the church, and I worshipped better today because of it.
I also note that my former student and friend of the blog Zach Bartels got a shout-out on p. 149-52. He and his church were profiled immediately after Chuck Colson, which will likely now appear on his resume. Use my blogroll to head over to Z’s blog and learn more about this “young, talented musician/pastor/scholar who could probably be somewhere else.”
I love it when Kevin rants, and I’ll end with his longest and best (p. 87-88):
“But then again, consistency is not a postmodern virtue. And nowhere is this more aptly displayed than in the barrage of criticisms leveled against the church. The church-is-lame crowd hates Constantine and notions of Christendom, but they want the church to be a patron of the arts, and run after-school programs, and bring the world together in peace and love. They bemoan the over-programmed church, but then think of a hundred complex, resource-hungry things the church should be doing. They don’t like the church because it is too hierarchical, but then hate it when it has poor leadership. They wish the church could be more diverse, but then leave to meet in a coffee shop with other well-educated thirtysomethings who are into film festivals, NPR, and carbon offsets. They want more of a family spirit, but too much family and they’ll complain that the church is ‘inbred.’ They want the church to know that its reputation with outsiders is terrible, but then are critical when the church is too concerned with appearances. They chide the church for not doing more to address social problems, but then complain when the church gets too political. They want church unity and decry all our denominations, but fail to see the irony in the fact that they have left to do their own thing because they can’t find a single church that can satisfy them. They are critical of the lack of community in the church, but then want services that allow for individualized worship experiences. They want leaders with vision, but don’t want anyone to tell them what to do or how to think. They want a church where the people really know each other and care for each other, but then they complain the church today is an isolated country club, only interested in catering to its own members. They want to be connected to history, but are sick of the same prayers and same style every week. They call for not judging ‘the spiritual path of other believers who are dedicated to pleasing God and blessing people,’ and then they blast the traditional church in the harshest, most unflattering terms.”