Systematic Theology - Vol. 3

Systematic Theology - Vol. 3

Systematic Theology - Vol. 3

Systematic Theology - Vol. 3

Excerpt

Not just externally the theme of the church lies at the heart of this third volume of the present exposition of Christian doctrine. It occupies by far the largest chapter, though also embracing the doctrine of the Spirit as an eschatological gift that aims at the eschatological consummation of salvation, that guarantees this, and that thus gives assurance of salvation in all the earthly fragility of Christian existence. Themes relating to the individual receiving of salvation by faith, grace, and justification are also brought into the treatment of the concept of the church by way of a discussion of the sacraments. Nevertheless, the focus of the discussion is on individual participation in salvation, with the church and sacraments simply as signs of its future consummation. Their efficacy as signs has to be worked out and demonstrated in the life of each individual Christian. It is only in the immediacy of the personal relation to God that future salvation is already at work, changing presentday life into a life of faith, hope, and love.

Protestantism has often neglected the importance of the church and its unity for the self-understanding of individual Christians. But the Reformers’ teachings provided starting points for a considered evaluation of this theme. Indeed, the Reformation sought reform of the church with the whole of Christianity in view. the schism in the church meant provisional failure for such efforts. This Reformation failure initiated in Protestantism either an undue minimizing of the importance of the church and its unity for the self-understanding of individual Christianity, or its restriction within the limits of confessional church life. We can well understand how this could happen under the conditions of the confessional . . .

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