While on a short break from school and the craziness of ministry life, I thought I’d focus my posts during the next couple months on quotes from various books that I’ve been wanting to read and just now have the time to do so. One of those books is Confident Witness, Changing World: Rediscovering the Gospel in North America, a collection of essays edited by Craig Van Gelder, Professor of Congregational Mission at Luther Seminary.
This is a quote about the church from Douglas Hall’s essay titled Metamorphosis: From Christendom to Diaspora. Speaking of the reality of the North American church’s outdated identity and structure, Hall states:
We need to learn a critical and constructive theology of the church that is based on the character of Scripture and informed by the Holy Spirit, in contrast to one that is entrenched in the ecclesial conventions of Christendom.
Where is it written that the church must be a majority? Where are we told that the dignity, order, and authority of the corpus Christi can only be maintained if the church mirrors, in its internal structure and its mission, the accepted patterns of its host culture. Where, in our biblical charter, does it stand written that the Christian religion, being the only true one, must displace and repel every other claim to truth and goodness, and get the whole human populace onto its registry.
We have been giving to God what belongs to Caesar! We have been reading our scriptures with Constantinian eyes! We have made much of the so-called Great Commission, but little of the characteristic metaphors by which our Lord described his “little flock” (Luke 12:32). And we have made almost nothing at all of his question whether, upon his return, any faith would be found on earth (Luke 18:8). We have isolated and grossly exaggerated all the triumphal language of the Bible, and have paid little attention to the fact that the cross is the center of our faith where it ought to condition the whole of our ecclesiology.
Wow! I find this quote radically eye-opening. The Church has too long been condition by the ways of a now-defunct Christendom world (one where the church sought to maintain its legitimacy and majority influence in society). I think Hall is here serving as a prophet to us today.