Christian Eschatology and Social Thought: A Historical Essay on the Social Implications of Some Selected Aspects in Christian Eschatology to A.D. 1500

By Ray C. Petry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
The Ecclesiastical Community as Servant of the Eternal Kingdom in the Temporal World

1. Jesus, the Kingdom, and the Church: Unity in Duality

THE PROBLEM OF WHAT JESUS THOUGHT AND SAID ABOUT THE CHURCH is controverted beyond any likelihood of general agreement. The more outright insistence that he dramatically made Peter the repository of his ideals and the basis of his consciously planned organization is open to serious reservations.1

Jesus' larger significance, however, cannot be seen apart from his constituting the heart of a fellowship which eventuated in the Church. Nor can his founding of that Church in its most distinctive aspects be successfully challenged.2 As shown in a previous chapter, Jesus' whole life and teaching are meaningless apart from his devotion to the kingdom.3 Dedication to the eternal order, itself supremely social, was the key to all the relations which he sustained with his disciples. Loyalty to the kingdom of God determined the social reorientation of his followers. With much of the life-abandon of their Master, who had felt himself to be God's unique spokesman for and revelation of the kingdom, they became the agency for the eternal in the temporal. While the old order lasted-and its duration was immaterial so far as their total self-surrender was concerned -- they were the society engendered and moved from beyond which permeated the conventional world with a new ethical leaven. How much time

____________________
1
Even the early documents permit widely varying interpretations. See J. T. Shotwell and L. R. Loomis, The See of Peter ( New York, 1927); also E. Giles, ed., Documents Illustrating Papal Authority A. D. 96-454 ( London, 1952); C. H. Moehlman, Protestantism's Challenge ( New York, 1939), p. 119; J. H. Nichols, Primer for Protestants ( New York, 1947), pp. 39-40.
2
R. N. Flew, Jesus and His Church ( New York, 1938), especially Part I.
3
Chapter III.

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