What is the Purpose of the Local Church?

This post originally appeared as a contribution to a Round Table discussion at Conciliar Post.

Any full discussion of the church—in either its New Testament or current forms—demands more space than a round table affords. Accordingly, I want to focus on two central characterizations of what the New Testament Church seemed to be and how contemporary local churches might still satisfy those purposes: the Church as expectant and missional. Continue reading

Advertisements

Blogging Ecumenically: A Way Forward

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on Orthodox-Catholic online dialogue, originally delivered at the “That They May Be One” Conference.

Conciliar PostIn this series, I have drawn upon the ecumenical website Conciliar Post in order to examine how Orthodox and Catholic Christians dialogue in an online environment. Through this overview, I have argued for three basic approaches to dialogue: Cooperation against common opponents, Reinforcement of disagreements, and Coordination seeking unity. While cooperation and reinforcement must (to some extent) exist in a divided church, intentional Orthodox-Catholic coordination appears to be best way forward toward meaningful Christian dialogue and unity. Continue reading

Questions about Getting Saved in America

Praying before CrossIn “Getting Saved in America: Conversion Event in a Pluralistic Culture,” Bill Leonard outlines the history of the salvation conversion experience in the American context, more specifically the history of the eastern “evangelical protestant”[1] conversion experience. Tracing the event from its Puritan beginnings in the New World to its current usage among American church people, Leonard writes in such a way as to both describe and problematize the process and actions of the current “conversion experience.” As a result of this article, a number of important questions need to be asked regarding the history of the experience. Continue reading

Reflections on Communion

These reflections originally appeared as part of a Round Table discussion at Conciliar Post.

CommunionWhat is communion and how does it impact my faith? For me, Communion is the sacramental participation in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus, a visible and real “joining together” with our Lord that, among other things, is a foreshadowing of our eventual union with Him in the new Heaven and new Earth. I think a good explication of this are the three English terms that are often used to describe this Christian meal: Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and the Eucharist. Continue reading

Book Review: The Ancient Path (Talbot)

The Ancient Path (Talbot)When you want to understanding something, you look for information. When you want to make sense of a story, you ask people to explain things from the beginning. When you want to comprehend a complex event, you consult eyewitnesses and experts. In an age of self-help, independence, internet “research”, and self-sufficiency, however, fewer people take the time to consult someone other than themselves when it comes to questions, even questions regarding something as profoundly personal as religious faith. Yet there are many who would suggest that, in a marketplace of ideas as varied and complex as the 21st century, we should be willing to consult something other than ourselves for insight into reality. One such voice is John Michael Talbot, who along with Mike Aquilina argues that contemporary Christians must return to the wisdom of the Christian past in his book, The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today (New York: Image, 2015). Continue reading

Reflections on Vatican II

Vatican II (Calnewman.org)The Second Vatican Council (1962-5) stands apart as one of the single most important events of modern Church history, not only because of the number of Christians that the Church at Rome influences, but also because of the magnitude and depth of the canons of the council. While a thorough examination remains outside the parameters of our course, here we examine three of the most interesting and impactful sections of the Vatican II documents, those decrees on Indulgences, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Non-Christian Religions. Through our examination of these sections we will note the interesting connection of the Vatican II statements to the history of the Catholic Church. Continue reading

ECA: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles

This post is part of our ongoing series considering Early Christian Authority.
The Apostolic Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers

The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (hereafter, the Didache, it’s more common name) is one of the earliest non-canonical extant texts of the Christian tradition. Almost certainly a praxis oriented church “manual,” the Didache has two main sections: an exposition on the Path of Life and Path of Death (Chapters 1-5) and then an extended church manual detailing proper practices for the Christian community (Chapters 7-16). The date and place of origin of the Didache are debated amongst scholars, though in general it is believed to have been composed in the early second century in or around Syria. The Didache’s early date of composition and highly practical contents offer a number of notable contributions to a contextualized understanding of early Christian faith and practice, including the treatment of traveling charismatic’s, the Eucharist celebration, baptism, and the Lord’s Prayer. Also noteworthy is the Didache’s relationship with the Gospel of Matthew, which will be discussed in more detail below. Continue reading

Book Review: The Church According to Paul (Thompson)

The Church According to Paul, ThompsonThe Christian church is facing a crisis. It is losing face, hemorrhaging influence in the public sphere of Western civilization, churches are declining in membership, and increasing swaths of people are not longer interested in what Christianity has to offer. This apparent decline is not a new trend to be sure—and stems, at least in part, from the ecclesiastical shift which began during the Protestant Reformation—but it is no less concerning. In order to address these concerns, Christians of all denominations and contexts have been recasting the church in various molds: as a political action committee, a corporation, a theater, an association or country club, the emerging church, or as a missional organization, to name a few. According to The Church According to Paul, this last option, in which the Church is defined by its mission to express the gospel of Christ in the community of God throughout the world, best represents the view of the Christian Church presented by the Apostle Paul. Continue reading

Parable of the Prodigal Son: Arland Hultgren

This post is part of our ongoing series examining interpretations of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Arland Hultgren

Arland Hultgren

Arland J. Hultgren’s interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in The Parables of Jesus offers a commentary style interpretation that will function within this paper as an example of several facets of the “traditional” Christian interpretation.[1] Before examining his interpretation of this narrative, we must first note several methodological factors in his hermeneutic. Within the context of his commentary, Hultgren write that “the primary interest within this volume is exegesis and theological reflection on the parables of Jesus as transmitted within the Synoptic Gospels.[2] In examining Luke 15:11b-32, Hultgren employs a variety of historical-critical tools, including textual criticism, philology, a contextual understandings of words and phrases during the Greco-Roman period, literary examination of the parable, and theological engagement of the narrative.[3] Hultgren’s overarching approach to the parables of Jesus lies with his declaration that underlies the perspective that parables are to be considered one of the two undisputed facets of historical datum (the other being his crucifixion), which makes their interpretation central for understanding the message of the historical Jesus and early Jesus movement.[4] Within this interpretation, the Parable of the Prodigal Son can only be understood within its context,[5] especially the literary context of Luke 15, in which Jesus is responding to the Pharisee’s and this parable follows those of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin.[6] As a final note concerning Hultgren’s methodological perspective, he affirms that his interpretations are but one of many possible interpretations, though adding the caveat that a parable should not be understood to mean just anything.[7] Thus Hultgren approaches this parable from a typically Protestant interpretative framework that places emphasis on the theological implications of the parable, as well as the surrounding contextual and especially socio-historical concerns. Continue reading