I am finishing Kevin J. Van Hoozer’s book, Biblical Authority After Babel for the second time. I was “cramming” in preparation for the meeting of our book discussion group this last Tuesday night. As I mentioned before, it is not an easy read. I felt like I needed to read it again in order to better retain and understand the ideas written about in the book.
In this chapter, I learned about Martin Bucer (1491-1551), a professor of theology at Cambridge University, who tried to find doctrinal unity between Catholics and Protestants and between various factions of Protestants. He seems like a very interesting guy and I added a biography about him to my list of books to read.
My favorite quotes from the fifth chapter, which is titled, “For the Glory of God Alone“:
- “To the extent that the ecumenical movement single-mindedly pursues unity as if it were always a good, and assumes that unity is a human creation, we must be wary.” “Mere Protestant Christianity is not an ecumenism after the flesh.” (p.187)
- “Sects typically refuse to recognize the legitimacy of other gatherings of two or three in Christ’s name, which effectively means denying Christ’s presence among those gatherings.” “Mere Protestant Christianity is not sectarian.” (p.188)
- “The term ‘catholicity’ may be a better term to use than “unity” for expressing the church’s oneness because it does not deny difference. There is a commitment by the church to be ready to challenge but also be challenged by other Christian traditions.” “Catholicity becomes not merely a description of the church but an ecclesial virtue: a willingness to engage other church traditions.” (p. 195)
- “The best Protestants are catholic Protestants – people centered on the gospel but also alert to how the gospel has been faithfully received across cultures and centuries.” (p. 199)
- “Level-one doctrines are catholic doctrines – what every follower of Jesus, anywhere and at all times, must believe to preserve both the intelligibility of the gospel and the fellowship of the saints. Disagreements about level-two doctrines do not disqualify a person from the fellowship of the saints, but they may lead to a parting of the ways.” “Finally, level-three doctrines, though important, are not regarded as necessary for everyone to affirm even in the same confessional tradition or denomination. There are areas on which there can be a legitimate diversity of opinions, even in a local church.” (pp. 205-206)
- “Understanding of God’s word grows, not when people simply repeat what it says, but rather when they enter into a conversation about it with others, past and present.” (p. 207)
- “Dialoguing can even be a means of sanctification and transformation to the extent that it affords individuals and churches the opportunity to grow in the conversational and interpretive virtues.” (p. 208)
- “The church glorifies God when local churches share their biblical interpretations and doctrinal reflections with one another, especially when this is done in the overarching context of table fellowship.” (p. 212)
I finished the book, and we had a good discussion about it. One of the biggest takeaways was to value the diversity among Christians and churches and to be mindful how that can be part of reflecting more of God’s fullness. I’ll probably do one more post about the Conclusion (and then on to another book!).