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

6. Temporal Church, United Christendom, and the Christian Body Politic

THE EARLY CHURCH INTERPRETED ITS LIFE IN TERMS OF THE BODY OF Christ, the Corpus Christi. Originally there was no such separation between doctrine and life as our modern world habitually considers. Being in Christ was an experience which carried with it the necessity of being the light of the world. Thus what God did for, and with, his children in Christ required a response on their part. No reactions to the society of their day could result apart from their own incorporation in the Mystical Body of their Saviour. The love which was to manifest itself among them had to reflect the love which God exemplified in his saving them by means of his Son. The Christian had to live his life in the midst of earthly society on the terms laid down by God through Christ.

Not only is the kingdom primary in such a view; it also gives to the Church a communal and socializing function which rules the relations of Christians to each other and to the whole world as well. The Church must look to its own final reincorporation in the kingdom after the Last Days. In the meantime, it is held to be the business of the Body of Christ on earth -- his true Church among men -- to be a community worthy of the ultimate kingdom. The Church receives its power and its guiding principles from God himself by means of his Word. These principles work themselves out in the brotherhood so as to preserve best the individual character of each member when he, as a part, grows out of the Christlike whole.1

____________________
1
A statement inspired by a Memorandum of June, 1940, issued via W. A. Visser 't Hooft, Geneva (Mimeographed), especially pp. 3-7. Quoted by author's permission. Cf.

-262-

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