24 August 2005

A Thought

I've often wondered if much of the confusion in Lutheran ecclesiology is due to the fact that we tend to identify two distinct but related entities: the Kingdom and the Church.

The Kingdom is by its very nature "invisible" - "within you" as our Lord put it, or "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" as St. Paul expressed it. In "this world" it is not seen, but consists in the union accomplished in faith between persons and the Blessed Trinity.

The Church is by its very nature "visible" - that is, it is the manifestation and sign of the Kingdom in this world. Schmemann once said it like this, I think, "the Church is the sacrament of the Kingdom for the world." The Church is the "x marks the spot" of the Kingdom in this world. Find her and you'll find an entry point into the invisible Kingdom of God.



William Weedon said...

Two things give me pause about that translation: 1) I've not seen the Fathers of the Ancient Church nor of Lutheranism understand it that way; 2) I happen to like "among you" better and what *I* like is usually a good indicator of what not to go with! ; )

Chris Jones said...

I'm no Greek scholar, but a quick perusal of the available online lexica doesn't much support "among". The primary sense of entos seems to be "inside" contrasted with "outside". The idea of "among" would seem to come from the fact that our Lord is addressing a group, so that εντος υμων is taken to mean "inside the group that you all form". But "inside each one of you" would seem to me to be more straightforward.

The difficulty is, of course, the lack of a second person singular in English; so the pronoun "you" is not unambiguously plural. It seems to me that translators use "among" not to assert that the group is necessarily the locus of the Kingdom, but to mark the "pluralness" which the pronoun "you" by itself no longer has.

William Weedon said...


I agree. And it fits well with "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" as the definition of the Kingdom that St. Paul provides. That is clearly "within."

Chaz said...

It's perichoretic.

The Kingdom of God is Jesus.

Jesus is in me by Word and Sacrament.

I am in Jesus by Baptism.

William Weedon said...

(Nagel mode on)

Is it our Lord Jesus or is it the Spirit?


(Nagel mode off)

Chaz said...

I so dig Aussies. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Since I'm new to Lutheranism but not to Christianity, I guess I get to ask -- could you please describe the confusion in Lutheran ecclesiology?

William Weedon said...

That's a biggy and probably too big to cover on a blog. One of the bigger problems that I see is that Lutherans rely upon the BOC to do what a BOOK can never do. The BOC cannot function as the Church's rule of faith. It can EXPRESS the rule of faith, but it requires some sort of trans-parochial reality, which the book describes as residing by divine right in bishops, precisely to *judge doctrine and reject doctrine which is contrary to the Gospel.* We are sorely missing that among ourselves and so it has become a matter of each parish and pastor sort of doing their own thing, and where is the one who holds them accountable, who shepherds and guides them? We have District Presidents but they seem not to function this way at all. The result is the diversity witnessed in doctrine and in practice among us. It is a function of the loss of ecclesiastical oversight - and that's an ecclesiological problem. There are others, but that is the most glaringly obvious in my opinion.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Weedon,

What you describe is, in my view, a problem not of ecclesiology but of polity. The two are closely related but not the same.

Ecclesiology seeks to answer the questions "What is the Church?" and "What is her mission, her role in the economy of salvation?" Based on correct and orthodox answers to these fundamental ecclesiological questions, polity goes on to ask "How, in practical terms, should the Church be organized and governed, so that she may be what she is and fulfill her mission?"

I'm not sure that the failure of our LCMS polity to function effectively as a "trans-parochial reality" proceeds from a less than fully orthodox ecclesiology. (I'm not sure that it doesn't, either; but that's another question.) It's more likely that (1) our LCMS polity is not properly grounded in the ecclesiology of the Confessions; and that (2) we're not properly reading the ecclesiology of the Confessions in the context of the wider apostolic tradition. And of course if (2) is true, that would contribute mightily to (1).

You may be interested in some of my thoughts on these matters on my own weblog: here and here. Check out the comments thread on both.

William Weedon said...

The idea that you can separate neatly polity from ecclesiology is in itself an indictment of Lutheran ecclesiology in my opinion.

Chris Jones said...


But it's clear that polity has varied significantly over Church history, while one would hope that the dogmatic facts about the Church herself have remained the same.

Have a good vacation, Father.

William Weedon said...

I heard it at seminary first too - I think from Nagel. Which means you might have heard it from Masaki (Nagel redux).

Still I think the overwhelming balance of the fathers is against such a reading...