Thursday, June 6, 2013

Unity, Division, and the Church's Holiness - brief thoughts

A few weeks ago I read this review of a new book on ecclesiology, and was intrigued enough to want to read the book for myself.  May was very busy and I wasn't able to read it as thoroughly or deeply as I hoped, so this post will remain very general.  (I also didn't take notes while reading it, and no longer have it in front of me - ILL is a wonderful thing! - so can't cite examples of my impressions.)

Radner's argument seems to be that division, violence, and sin are inherent in the (life of the) Church.  He dismisses "traditional" ecclesiology(s) that distinguish between the holiness of the Church and the sins of her members.  He simply elides "the sins of Christians" to "Christian sin" to "the Church is violent."  Therefore an "adequate" ecclesiology will account for this, and the way forward, he asserts, is to root ecclesiology more firmly in the Church's imitation of Christ's sacrificial love (although he then avoids the obvious direction of the argument to the Eucharist and to grace).

I was certainly not convinced by most of Radner's argument, on several counts.  But the most important objection is simply this: a church that is not holy in the traditional sense, is not a church that can offer me relief from my own sins.  If I don't want to be free from my sins, I don't want any church, while if I do, I want a church that is holy, with the relevant divine gifts that make not only forgiveness but transformation possible. In any case, the church that he's describing is not one that attracts.

So I'll defend the traditional ecclesiology of the Church's holiness as sharing in the holiness of God, through the Incarnation, Passion, death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, by means of this lecture:

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