As the Person of Christ is United, So *Are* WE?
John Charmley Wrote:At the centre of this discussion is the difficult question of ecclesiology. This is perhaps particularly difficult for those who are converting from another Church, or who are thinking of doing so. After all, if all Churches are the same, why bother?
I appreciate the way you have linked the two thought units in the above as we consider what is at the center of this conversation and the various perspectives of the participants.
And, while I would not want the following term to be interpreted as pertaining to an 'all Churches are the same' thinking, or to speak to a "lowest common denominator," I can't help but wonder if what we find at the center here is a multi-faceted 'ology
' or a prismatic integrative motif?
In many ways, as I am not sure that God created separate denominations/traditions, I am not sure that He has created systematic theology. I cannot picture God speaking of the different branches of theology proper as we do, as we may speak of ecclesiology, christology, pneumatology, etc., (or even basileology).
However, as we may further consider the question of ecclesiology and the various ecclesiologies that are maintained, I think it is helpful to know that of those from 'other' churches who may be considering converting [and especially those who may feel 'all are One in Christ'], many have an underdeveloped ecclesiology. And, just as within Orthodoxy--where some would charge the opposite viz. an overdeveloped ecclesiology--we see one's ecclesiology is one's christology. Whereas within the ranks of the potential converts, for many, one's ecclesiology is one's pnuematology. So here is where there is room for a much needed harmony I think.
In this sense possibly we see that what was meant to unite us (ecclesiology) is what in fact divides us, for various reasons. And, as we further consider this, I would like to suggest again that if all of the above circles were laid out we would see that while much space would not be devoted to overlap within the area of ecclesiology, there would be a significant overlap within the areas of christology/pneumatology.
In this sense, these 'denominators' would overshadow the other and speak directly to one's theology proper. In this way, all ecclesiological divisions have been transcended by the one(s) who find their path made straight by means of a christological pneumatology, or a pnuematological christology. And, all paths/journeys are not the same for all to be sure. However, to continue, ecclesiology does matter as we see many references to the Church in the New Testament by both our Lord Jesus Christ and the writers of the Holy Writ. But, I cannot help but to think it misses the mark to shine the spotlight on the doctrine of the Church, as we do so often. In a conversation such as a 'generous orthodoxy' why would we focus on what divides us, as opposed to allowing much room for what Unites US.
It has been my experience that those who receive a paycheck from their denomination/tradition will want to focus on ecclesiological differences sometimes to the point of a gnashing of teeth. But, it has also been my experience that many who are not vocational ministers/servants will sometimes go to the other extreme. But, we are not talking about either of these here, I don't think. We are not talking about either the one(s) who would push away from tables when it is time to talk (or decline invitations to even attend), anymore than we are talking about those who feel there is no need to sit down and talk because all is one and one is all, and we are all climbing the same mountain, so let's just focus on our individual climbs.
We are talking about those interested in "renewing the center of an historic Orthodox Christianity." And, what is at the heart of this matter of unity, in my view, is not the ecclesia, the assembly itself (anymore than the individual him/herself within the assembly); but, this 'retrieval effort,' this 'restorative effort,' this 'reconciliation' speaks more to an integrative motif whereby ecclesiology is moved beyond in deference to "The Crucified God" and "The Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit," and last but not least "The Kingdom of God and the Trinity!" As we consider these denominators in general, possibly the particular ecclesiologies and denominations/traditions that come into conflict serve primarily to illustrate the proposition that within Christian theology, particularistic thinking is schismatic thinking. Wherein, again, I come to the conclusion that to engage particularism on its ground(s) and its basis is to chase one's tail, as opposed to a transcending of this division. Or to view this another way, and more directly, as St. Mark has written speaking of divisiveness, let there be a marking of this method and then a putting out of it regardless of the agent/vehicle!
PS As an afterthought, it occurs to me that this conversation has much in common with the question of an American Orthodoxy. In other conversations the question is asked, *is* there an American Orthodoxy. Some say yes, of course there is. Others say no. there is no structure, that is not practical, so there is no reality and there is no AO
. In other words, *is* there a Kingdom of God that includes souls from various faith traditions?