Evangelicals, Catholics, And Orthodox Together: Is The Church The Extension Of The Incarnation? -- By: Mark R. Saucy

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 43:2 (Jun 2000)
Article: Evangelicals, Catholics, And Orthodox Together: Is The Church The Extension Of The Incarnation?
Author: Mark R. Saucy


Evangelicals, Catholics, And Orthodox Together: Is The Church The Extension Of The Incarnation?

Mark Saucya

The nature of Christ’s relationship to the Church and the Church’s role in salvation have been points of dispute among the Christian traditions since the days of the Protestant Reformation. 1 Recent gatherings of evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox for dialogue indicate that questions of ecclesiology will continue to command attention for dialogue to proceed fruitfully. Of particular interest in the current context are indications of an openness from some evangelicals to the usual Catholic and Orthodox charge of being weak in ecclesiology. One evangelical, for example, reflecting on his own encounter with Orthodoxy states, “… it is understandable that evangelicals feel that the Orthodox doctrine of the church is too ‘high.’ But perhaps our theology of the church is too ‘low,’ much lower than our Protestant forebears would have it.” 2

At the heart of the issue for “high” and “low” ecclesiologies is the interpretation of the apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers in 1 Cor 12:27, “… you are Christ’s body.” Typically Protestants take the body image to be a metaphor not unlike the other images the NT uses to discuss the nature and function of the Church. As Paul’s favorite metaphor for the Church, the body image particularly illuminates the grand Pauline theme of Christ’s union or communion with his Church. 3 Catholics and Orthodox, by contrast, see 1 Cor 12:27 as more than mere metaphor and particularly as a simple statement of reality proving that the relationship of the Church and Christ

should be seen more in terms of identity. 4 This interpretation is illustrated by appeal in these traditions to Chalcedonian christology whereby the Church, like the God-man, is the mysterious union of the divine and human natures in the eternal person of Christ. 5

Taken to this extent, the incarnation as an analogy of the church is acceptable to Protestants; there is a divine and human component in the Church’s gatherings. But Catholics and Orthodox raise the stakes in their use of incarnation theology to make the claim that the union of divine and human in the Church actually makes a new single acting subjec...

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