Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ecclesiology V: More on Mother Church and Salvation

4 Lent
Anglican Bishops at Lambeth 1998 (ENS)
I said before,
Folks, we were baptized into the Body of Christ. It is in and through our mystical, sacramental, and nitty-gritty daily communion with Christ, and our brothers and sisters in that Communion, that God transforms us, re-makes us, and gives us new life. Jesus and his Church cannot be separated; his plan for our salvation – the remaking and redemption of our lives – is enacted through the life we share together. You step out of that, you refuse that, you short-circuit what God’s trying to do in you – and the people God wants to be with you. There is no salvation outside the Church.
And of course, we chatted about it a bit more in the comments. I want to try to put that together a bit better, and offer a bit from Hauerwas that might make it a little more clear.

Marshall said (in the comments),
"... let me raise a question related to salvation outside the Church. First, if Christ has saved and is saving, then we need to temper our statments about the limitations of how and when Christ might do that for any individual. Therefore, we can't know that Christ hasn't saved someone outside "the Church."

Which raises the related issue: how do we understand "the Church?" We have wrestled over the issue of the Visible vs. the invisible Church. We have spoken of the Church Militant, the Church Expectant, and the Church Triumphant. Where in those taxonomies do we want to say Christ cannot work or is not working? Yes, certainly, those living experience the presence of Christ primarily through the Body, present in the world through the Church. On the other hand, lack of that Body didn't stop Jesus from reaching Paul. We believe profoundly that Christ saves in and through the Church; but I wouldn't want to exclude Christ doing something in addition."
I think I agree with that. I should also note that I never mean to equate "salvation" and what some people call "justification."
By "salvation" I mean the holistic process by which God is gathering up all the fallen bits of creation and placing them under the headship of Christ. Goin' to heaven, goin' to hell, I don't really do much business with all that.

My understanding of the Scriptures and Tradition is that the primary locus of God's redemptive activity is the Church. Does God do some other things? Probably, but I think the point of it is to bring people to the fullness of salvation in the fellowship of his Church.

No church = less good.
God does not have some kind "Plan B" for redemption that isn't the Church. It is the eschatological community. It is
"the people of God who are constituted by God's saving act in Jesus, through whom the "end" is brought to the here and now, and the healing and completion that marks "the end" starts raining into our lives here and now as we live together as the Church." The other thing just seems to roll of the tongue more smoothly, don't you think?
And a reminder from Stanley Hauerwas:
"... salvation is not individualistic - it's not something one person receives for himself or herself alone. Salvation is the reign of God. It is a political alternative to the way the world is constituted. That's a very important part of the story that has been lost to accounts of salvation that are centered in the individual. But without an understanding that salvation is the reign of God, the need for the church to mediate salvation makes no sense at all.

"Christianity: It's Not a Religion: It's an Adventure" (1991), in The Hauerwas Reader
As always, just a few thoughts...

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1 comment:

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