04 August 2011

Glossary Links- Hyper-Eschatologized Ecclesiology


Hyper-Eschatologized Ecclesiology and its symptom or fruit...Ecclesiastical Apathy-

These are high sounding terms for a concept that's really not too difficult. This phenomenon occurs in several different traditions and factions and yet it certainly is not enshrined in any confession.

Basically, there are those who look at Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the Church) only through the lens of eschatology. They only see the Church as it is in the Eternal State...the ultimate finished Church after the Second Coming. Since that is all that really matters...the temporal manifestation of the Church (right now) can't really be said to be terribly important. Sure it's good to be with other Christians, have fellowship etc..., but you can't say that it's necessary, that it has any bearing on our status.

The hyper-Calvinist says...if I'm Elect, then I can't really 'benefit' from preaching or the Supper or Baptism. These are good things, but that don't 'change' anything, they can't REALLY matter. This is Rationalism applied to theology. It's not about the text anymore...it's about the logical outworking (system speculation) of the foundational premise. In this case, Election. If Election is true, then preaching can't make a difference, baptism cannot be effective or said to mean anything. Logically that would contradict the reality of Election.

It's logically coherent, but un-Biblical. They would say if it is logically coherent, then it is Biblical. Revelation is subjugated to their fallen, temporally bound, human reason. I find it to be outrageous. We're back to basic questions about theology, it's method, and the role of logic in our pursuit of knowing and understanding Divine Revelation.

Likewise you can find the same tendency among certain Arminians (another Rationalist commitment)...if I'm saved by faith, then Church can't really matter. If it's about my decision then these outward forms and symbols cannot possibly contain any substantive meaning.

So whether it's hyper-Calvinism, or a hyper-ized version of Sola Fide, the result is the same. These folks often will essentially shrug their shoulders at the thought of Church (congregating) being mandatory...or at least assumed by the entire context of the New Testament.

Now, I will run into people who are not assembling with a Church. The question is why? If there are no viable groups in their area that meet the Biblical criteria of a Church. That is, they don't preach the Gospel, or they teach heresy or syncretism....then that's one thing. That simply is a sign of the times in which we live and at that point a different discussion can be had....what to do about it. These people are staying home on Sunday morning because of concern for Biblical faithfulness. Maybe they're right or wrong, maybe they're too narrow, or not. But it's a separate issue.

But if people are staying home because...it's really not that big of a deal, it's not that important, then this is symptomatic of either a lack of familiarity with the Bible (perhaps they're babes in Christ) or, they have a hyper-eschatologized understanding of the Church. They've allowed their logic to trump the plain imperatives as well as the teachings of the text of the New Testament. The Epistles assume we're part of a congregation. Indeed if we're believers we are part of the True Church which will become manifest at the End of all things and exists now but only in manifestation visible from the Eternal Throne.

The Covenant is administered in space and time. In the Old Covenant the sacrifices didn't 'actually' save. We know that, but did that give an Israelite the right to ignore the command? What if they said...'oh, I don't need to sacrifice or keep Passover because I'm saved by faith.'

On one level, yes, it's true we're saved by faith and nothing on earth changes that. But does the Israelite of the Old Covenant or the New Covenant Israelite (Ephesians 2.12) have the right to set aside what God commands because they have grasped but one of many Revealed Truths?

So what if the Old Covenant Jew skipped the sacrifice? Does that mean he's lost? That's not how I would frame it. I would simply say....he's in sin.

Because God administers salvation in space and time through the Covenant which has forms and symbols. The New Testament is abundantly more simple. The 'yoke' has been removed. We now have the substance...we who inhabit both the present and eschatological realms at the same time. In Christ we're in eternity and yet we're also here. Since we're also here in space and time...some kind of form-administration is necessitated. It's very simple in the New era. We have various congregations who have some very simple forms and symbols.

Like the person in the Old Covenant, sometimes circumstances prevented them from complying with covenant obligations. That's different than disregarding them. The same is true today. Some people live in places or have circumstances in their lives (like being an invalid) that prevent them from assembling, but that's different than saying...it doesn't matter. The latter is a theological outworking rooted in a flawed understanding of ecclesiology and eschatology.

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