Between the Lines: A Conversation with Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger – Part 2

We recently had the chance to talk with Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger about their Brazos book, Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction.

Brad Harper (PhD, St. Louis University) is professor of theology at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon. He is the college adviser for The Institute for Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and the book review editor forCultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture. He has also worked as a pastor and church planter.

Paul Louis Metzger (PhD, King’s College London) is professor of Christian theology and theology of culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary and director of its Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. He is the editor of the journal Cultural Encounters and the author of Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church.

Last week, Brad and Paul explained what ecclesiology is, why evangelicals should care about it, and how it affects how we experience the church.

In today’s post, Brad and Paul address what evangelicals can learn from other ecclesiologies and how ecclesiology can inform our worship and the role of women in our churches.

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What can evangelicals learn from other ecclesiologies?

Here again, we find a question with deep and broad implications. We often tell our students that if they want to do theology well they need to listen vertically (to two thousand years of church history) and horizontally (across the spectrum of traditions). From the Catholic and Orthodox traditions especially, evangelicals can learn that being a Christian is not just about inviting Jesus into our hearts as individuals.

It also entails being constituted and shaped by the saved community: in other words, the saved community is indispensable to our growth as believers. In the early church, if a person were asked what it means to be a Christian, his first response may not have been “I have accepted Jesus as Savior” but rather “I belong to them,” pointing to the church.

From the Pentecostal tradition, non-Pentecostal believers can be challenged to think about what it means that the church is the locus not just of the presence of the Holy Spirit but also of the Spirit’s unique activity.

Again, the list here could be long. If evangelicals wish to influence other ecclesiologies in the spheres of rigorous engagement of Scripture, personal spiritual formation, the priesthood of all believers, and evangelistic mission to the surrounding world, it would be good for us to learn from those in other traditions so as to communicate our values more effectively. Moreover, learning from the unique insights of other traditions helps us to become more well-rounded and so strengthen our particular strengths and remove our blind spots. Otherwise, unguarded strengths can often become glaring weaknesses.

 

 

How can ecclesiology inform our worship?

One of many ways that ecclesiology can inform our worship is in the area of worship styles and music, which have become a battleground for the evangelical church in the last several decades. The common practice of “traditional” and “contemporary” worship services often ends up separating the church along generational or consumerist lines. Instead, we need a strong understanding of the biblical principle that the church is meant to be a community that brings diverse persons together. What would it look like for the church to use music, worship, and liturgical styles that focused on bringing its generations together rather than allowing them to separate along preference lines?

Another area where ecclesiology can inform our worship is in the sphere of individual participation. All too often, praise choruses in evangelical circles emphasize the individual believer and fail to account for the community of faith. Individual believers are not the body and bride of Christ; only the community of believers constitutes the body and bride. While taking seriously the need for individual participation, we must also account for the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of individual parts.

Lastly, the study of ecclesiology will help us recognize the connection between the visible and invisible church. All too often evangelicals have emphasized the invisible church (those who are saved by faith) and have failed to account for the need to make visible our spiritual transformation. If evangelicals take seriously the connection between the visible and invisible church, it will help our movement come to terms with the pressing need to bring people from diverse ecclesial heritages and other backgrounds together in visible worship. Our oneness is intended to signify to the world God’s unity, God’s sending of his Son, and his love for the church in his Son (John 17:23). How else will we demonstrate to the world that we are one?

 

How can ecclesiology inform the role of women in our churches?

One way ecclesiology can cause us to rethink the role of women in the church is to recognize the biblical idea that the church and the family are not the same institutions and operate by different structures. Too often, evangelicals simply collapse these two institutions into each other so that the relationships between husbands, wives, and children in the family are inserted directly into the church when, in fact, the church is built on a different structure. While the church is to recognize and respect the structure of the family, leadership in the church is built on issues of calling, gifting, and communal affirmation, not just on whether someone is a father, wife, male, or female. Regarding communal affirmation, we need to move beyond production and consumption language so often present in the church and society today. In view of the triune God of holy, communal love who saves and shapes the church, we are called to view men and women together in communal terms (not reducing them to mere producers and consumers) where we share in life and ministry together for the sake of cultivating deeper communion in the body. Much more work needs to be done in this area. But these points alone could have a major impact on the role of women in the church.

 

The Weekly Hit List: February 21, 2014

God and Charles Dickens by Gary L. Colledge was reviewed by M. Daniel Carroll R. for Denver Journal.

“I recommend God and Charles Dickens to Dickens enthusiasts. That wonderful storyteller of another time can cultivate our moral awareness in his intricate and complex portraits of humanity that present people in all of their baseness and glory; he exposes us, too, to the harsh realities of personal and systemic sin in powerful ways.

“Now, what we might appreciate in a new way is that in his works Dickens also offers us wonderful models of charity through whom we might see the Savior and learn to live as more faithful disciples.”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

 

 

Quick Hits:

iGods by Craig Detweiler was reviewed on Sunshine Lenses.

Paul Louis Metzger, co-author of Exploring Ecclesiology, wrote “Life Together in the Land of Lewis and Clark: Reflections on Donald Miller and the Northwest Church.”

Miroslav Volf, author of A Public Faith, was interviewed on the life worth living by The Marginalia Review of Books.

M. Daniel Carroll R., author of Christians at the Border, wrote “Frustration with Congress and the Political Football of Immigration Reform” on his Denver Seminary blog.

 

Ebook Specials:

Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian by Heath White is only $1.99 (89% off) through February 27.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger – Part 1

We recently had the chance to talk with Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger about their Brazos book, Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction.

Brad Harper (PhD, St. Louis University) is professor of theology at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon. He is the college adviser for The Institute for Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and the book review editor forCultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture. He has also worked as a pastor and church planter.

Paul Louis Metzger (PhD, King’s College London) is professor of Christian theology and theology of culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary and director of its Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. He is the editor of the journal Cultural Encounters and the author of Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church.

In today’s post, Brad and Paul explain what ecclesiology is, why evangelicals should care about it, and how it affects how we experience the church.

——————————————————————————————

What is ecclesiology, and why should evangelicals care about it?

Ecclesiology is the study of the nature, mission, and life of the church. Evangelicals should care about it for several reasons.

1. The church alone is the bride and body of Christ—now and for eternity. The church is the kingdom community of the triune God. As such, it is very different from other social groupings such as national, regional, or local governments; NGOs; businesses; and nuclear families. As important as these other social groupings are, they should never displace the significance of the church for the individual believer.

2. We belong to the church as God’s people. As God’s people, we are not just a worldwide community of individual believers. We are a community unified under the lordship of Jesus Christ and by a biblical structure which includes, among other things, pastoral leadership, accountability and discipline, and the Word and Sacraments.

3. The Scriptures indicate that the church is a place of God’s unique presence and activity, a place where he engages us as he does nowhere else.

4. The church is not simply a localized and contextualized community for the present. It is also Christ’s community for all eternity. The church is the concrete embodiment of Christ’s eschatological kingdom. We should be participating now in the community that will be our eternal destiny.

 

 

 

How can the study of ecclesiology affect how we experience the church?

Answers to this question could take up many pages, so we will just suggest a few examples: All too often, the church in North America operates by way of pragmatic impulses rather than careful reflection that would benefit sustainable practices that cultivate healthy church growth for the long haul. Careful consideration of what the Scriptures and church leaders throughout the ages and across the globe have to say about the identity, mission, and life of the church can guard against short-term fixes that hurt long-term communal gains. Moreover, the study of the nature and role of church leadership can make a huge difference in how we experience church. For example, if the Bible invests pastors or elders with significant authority in the areas of doctrinal teaching and proper moral behavior, this will tend to cultivate unity of belief and behavior in the church. If, on the other hand, the authority of the Bible as understood by church members is valued over the authority of pastoral leadership, the church has more freedom to question pastoral teaching; having said that, such an emphasis may also give way to greater openness to doctrinal and ethical error.

The study of the Sacraments is also an area which can significantly affect the way we experience church. Something as simple as coming to the conviction that the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated weekly instead of monthly or quarterly makes a significant difference in believers’ ecclesial experience. Further, if the sacraments are understood to be significant moments of the reception of grace rather than merely a time to remember Christ, this will likely affect the attitude of the believer in partaking in them. Lastly, it is important that we take to heart the significance of the table for calling sinners who are saints and saints who are sinners together to serve one another and to receive and offer forgiveness to one another as equals at the foot of the cross. Thus, in addition to confessing our sins to God, we confess our sins to one another so that we might be healed (James 5:16). Here we see the vertical as well as the horizontal significance of the table.

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Next week, Brad and Paul will address what evangelicals can learn from other ecclesiologies and how ecclesiology can inform our worship and the role of women in our churches.

 

The Weekly Hit List: September 13, 2013

A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown was recommended by Crossings Book Club in this video:

 


Arthur Boers, author of Living into Focus, appeared on 100 Huntley Street.

 

Quick Hits:

Jim Wallis, author of On God’s Side, was on “The Stephanie Miller Show” on Sirius XM Satellite Radio

A Life Observed by Devin Brown was reviewed on Bookwi.se.

 

Ebook Specials:

Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction by Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger is only $5.99 (78% off) through September 16.

Ebook Special for Exploring Ecclesiology by Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger

Now through September 16, the ebook for Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction by Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger is only $5.99—78% off! 

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

 

“A substantial introduction to the theology of the church at once firmly evangelical but also appreciative of insights from the broader streams of historic orthodoxy. . . . It deserves a wide readership and a prominent place in the classroom and on the bookshelves of professors, pastors, and students.”
—Marcus Johnson, Trinity Journal 

In this introduction to ecclesiology, respected scholars Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger offer a solidly evangelical yet ecumenical survey of the church in mission and doctrine. Combining biblical, historical, and cultural analysis, this comprehensive text explores the church as a Trinitarian, eschatological, worshipping, sacramental, serving, ordered, cultural, and missional community. It also offers practical application, addressing contemporary church life issues such as women in ministry, evangelism, social action, consumerism in church growth trends, ecumenism, and the church in postmodern culture. The book will appeal to all who are interested in church doctrine, particularly undergraduates and seminarians.

Brad Harper (PhD, St. Louis University) is professor of theology at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon. He is the college adviser for The Institute for Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and the book review editor for Cultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture. He has also worked as a pastor and church planter.

Paul Louis Metzger (PhD, King’s College London) is professor of Christian theology and theology of culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary and director of its Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. He is the editor of the journal Cultural Encounters and the author of Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church.

The Weekly Hit List: July 20, 2012

Peter Enns, author of The Evolution of Adam, was interviewed by The Discarded Image.

Following is an excerpt of his response to the question, “How much value should opinions of what is orthodox or what is heretical drive or limit one’s consideration of new ideas?”

“That’s a tough question, in part because orthodoxy and heterodoxy are not always as clear across the Christian spectrum as we might like to believe. . . . I think one’s exploratory thinking shouldn’t constantly reinvent the wheel, but be in conversation both with the broad Christian tradition and with those who disagree on the basis of their perceptions of what that tradition requires. . . .

“. . . when perceived systems of orthodoxy are seen as unquestioned arbiters of new ideas, the truth is not going to be served, and therefore God is not going to be served. Rather than, ‘What you say challenges our system, and so you are wrong,’ I would like to hear, ‘What you say challenges our system, yet we assume what you have to say is worth listening to. We do not know exactly where this will go at the outset, but let’s trust each other as we take this journey together.'”

 

Quick Hits:

Psalms for All Seasons was reviewed by Worship Leader.

A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf was reviewed in Signs of the Times.

The Bible Made Impossible  by Christian Smith was reviewed on Lawrence Garcia’s blog.

Dale Goldsmith,  co-author of Speaking of Dying, was featured on the Princeton Alumni Weekly blog.

God and Charles Dickens by Gary L. Colledge was recommended summer reading on Her.meneutics.

Exploring Ecclesiology by Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger was recommended by Andy Naselli.