July 20, 2010 Matthew

The Church Throughout History

I’ve come across more than a few papers, books, and theories that pose the notion that Christianity is on its way to a full-circle return to its roots in the ancient model. Some of these are from over 10 years ago and seem more relevant than ever.
What is interesting to me, is when you think of all the social and political events that surround these shifts in church models. It would seem to me that change in the church happens not so much because the church just happens to feel like it, but because of the social and political constraints forcing it to. For example, the way of church takes a dramatic turn and ends up looking very different when it comes under the fire of persecution. Postmodernism, whatever that really entails, seems to be dictating a new way of doing church:

Ancient Medieval Reformation Modern Postmodern
The continuation of the incarnation: the body of Christ

The Unity of the church

Mystery

Institutional

Visible

Sacramental

Juridical

The herald model; the true church is an invisible inner Christendom Rise of denominations

Invisible

Return to incarnational model

Visible

Church is the mystical presence of the body of Christ on earth

“The postmodern emphasis on the interconnection of all things drives us back to the biblical recovery of the church as the body of Christ, the continued presence of Christ in and to the world. This emphasis will create a new apologetic that focuses on the church as ‘metaphysical presence,’ the door into Christ. Consequently we will need to stress the unity of the church and seek fellowship in the family of faith based on a mutual affirmation of the classical Christian heritage.”

Source: Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Faith. (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI). 1999. p.91

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