Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 110:440 (Oct 53) p. 362
The Misunderstanding of the Church. By Emil Brunner. Translated by Harold Knight. Westminster Press, Philadelphia. 132 pp. $2.50.
The writings of Emil Brunner have attracted widespread interest both on the Continent and in America, because along with the works of Barth they are the voice of a virile form of modern theology, lying somewhere between modern liberalism and Biblical orthodoxy.
The present volume in the realm of Ecclesiology presents in new form the old distinction between the organized church and the true ecclesia or the body of Christ. It is Brunner’s position that the relationship between the two has never been accurately stated and that it constitutes a theological problem of great proportions in modern theology. There can be little question that modern liberalism has not solved this problem, but in most conservative circles the problem does not really exist. There is nothing new to the concept of a true body of believers bound together in a common salvation as in contrast to the organized church which is a sphere of profession. That this distinction interests Brunner is, however, an item of note.
Brunner’s analysis traces the historical origin of the “ecclesia” or the true church as existing in the apostolic church. It is his position that the “ecclesia” of the New Testament “is a communion of persons and nothing else” (p. 74). The organized church, on the other hand, was a post-apostolic development. He finds, further, that sacramentalism is interlocked with the organization, and was not a part of the original communion. He states: “We must see the two movements—sacramentalism and institationalism—as interlocked and developing concomitantly in order to be able to understand each of them separately. Institutionalism is produced by sacramentalism” (p. 77). Organization and sacraments and the episcopacy which evolved with it are, according to Brunner, the substitutes for original spiritual power in the “ecclesia” and grew up as this power waned. Coming from Brunner, such a position is remarkable.
The growth of the institutional church resulted in the divided organization and many groups of modern Christianity. According to Brunner, the ecumenical movement is not the answer: “Diversity of liturgical and other forms
BSac 110:440 (Oct 53) p. 363
by no means precludes unity in Christ. But on the other hand to emphasize the need for reunion of the quasi-political church bodies implies an over-valuation of the church as an institution and therefore favours clericalism, the false identification of the church and the Ecclesia” (p. 112). Brunner goes on in one of the most significant portions of the book to state: “Furthermor...
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