Some Classic Views of the Church -- By: Owen H. Alderfer

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 02:0 (NA 1969)
Article: Some Classic Views of the Church
Author: Owen H. Alderfer


Some Classic Views of the Church

Owen H. Alderfer

To those who have devoted time to thought and study about the nature of the church it is readily evident that a number of views have developed and persisted over the years. While giving specific attention to the Brethren views of the church in this issue of the Bulletin, it seems appropriate that other views be indicated which have existed over long periods of time in widespread movements.

The concern of this study is the essential nature of the church—the church as the church. One’s view of what the church is will, indeed, affect his view of everything to which the church is related. If we can discover some “classic views” of the church, it is assumed that it can readily be seen how the various views will work out in the respective relationships.

The approach to this study is historical and theological: It will attempt to locate in time views of the church that have lasted across the years and have influenced the church in various geographic sections or theological streams. The study will attempt, furthermore, to trace out the thought of the several views, suggesting directions in which the respective views may lead insofar as the church in its relationships is concerned. The study takes up classic views beginning with the most ancient views, the Eastern and the Western, leading to the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic. From there the study moves to two Protestant views, the Lutheran and the Reformed.

The Eastern View of the Church: The Mystical View

By “Eastern view” of the church this study refers to a general attitude which grew up in Christianity east of the Adriatic, in Greek speaking parts of Christianity during the first seven Christian centuries. It is not easy to delineate a

specific “Eastern view” of the church because of the mood characteristic of the developing church in that part of Christianity. This attitude did not lend itself of official systematization and legal codes which defined the church and governed its development. The Eastern church is characterized more by a spirit than any clear abiding formulation of a doctrine of the church. Still, it is appropriate to try to grasp that spirit as it indicates a view of the church.

In the early centuries of Christianity, characterizing features began to develop within the church in the eastern Mediterranian which set it apart from the church in the West. The East, productive of a host of great Christian thinkers and writers, walked in the spirit of the Greek heritage to which it was indebted. The speculation of the philosopher, the mystical quality of Platonism, the imagery of the poet and dramatist, the individu...

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