1 juni 2013

#125. Robert har ordet...

"Who lies awake over the relation of canon and creed, when pieces of one's church are threatening to depart, into witness for the true faith or into schism, according to viewpoint? Or when a church's demographics portend extinction, or at least further job cuts at headquarters? If the churchly commissions that pronounce about 'sexuality' or 'peace' or similar matters remember that they are supposed to consult the Bible and the church's doctrine, and call in certified experts on each, the report of the experts is regularly that their disciplines offer no great help with the particular problem – and if they do offer something and it appears in the report, it will be ackonowledged in the introduction but its influence will not be prominent in the proposals. […]

For canon and creed appeared in the church's life as – or so the church has believed – Spirit-given reminders of what sort of community the church must be if it is indeed to be the church; thus alienation from the mutual import of canon and creed may be occasioned by, and in turn occasion, alienation from the church's reason for existence. If we cannot say what it means for the affairs of the church that we have these particular Scriptures, or what convictions center and delimit the life of the church, or how our Scriptures and our convictions work together, how do we make an identifiable community?

Any community that intends to live for more than a moment, that hopes to remain itself through some term of yesterday-today-and-tommorrow, will have to deal with the fragility of an identity thus stretched across time. Many communities, to be sure, are unconcerned about their temporal self-identity, or make some effort to attend to it but fail without much regret; thus a social club may have occasional discussions of its original high-minded 'mission' but not be overly alarmed when little comes of them. The church's diachronic identity is as threatened by the passage of time as is that of any other community, and unlike some other communities, it cannot be relaxed about the threat. It is always a real and vital question: Is the so-called church of today indeed the same community as the church of the apostles? Which is to say, as the church of Christ? To be sure, we are permitted to believe that the gates of hell will not finally prevail against the universal church, but there is no such guarantee for the Presbyterians or the Baptists, as there was none for the great churches of Pergamum or Hippo, now vanished without a trace.

The structure of a community's self-identity through time depends on what sort of community it is, and so then does the nature of possible threats to that identity. What sort of community is the church? Perhaps we may find ecumenical agreement in a truly minimal proposition: the church is the community of a message, that the God of Israel has raised his servant Jesus from the dead. Anyone who cannot agree even to so much belongs to a different religious community than do the author and initially intended readers of this book – though of course all are welcome to eavesdrop and even intrude on the conversation."

  • Jenson, Robert W., 2010: Canon and Creed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. S. 1-3.

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