Friday, September 14, 2007

Edinburgh Dogmatics: Christ and the Church

The final summary from The Dogs is upon us - can you detect a hint of hysteria? This paper was given by Dr Stephen Holmes (St Andrews). This of course, is a paper on the subject of the Person of Christ and the church, rather than the Work of Christ and the church. I would far rather give a paper on the latter, but that luxury was not open to Dr Holmes! Anyway, here's my very brief summary:

  • Recent theology has located ecclesiology under the doctrine of the Trinity, rather than under Christology, as in the Heidelberg Catechism which answers an ecclesiological question with a christological answer (Q.54).
  • Volf has pointed out that analogous projection of Trinitarian relations into the life of the church has been 'an almost self-evident proposition' in recent ecclesiology. But for Volf person and communion in ecclesiology cannot be directly identified with person and communion in the doctrine of the Trinity, they are analogous.
  • The personality of God belongs to his one unique essence. So person has no implication of personality (Barth). Barth claims that Gunther sees the persons of the Trinity as three independently thinking and willed subjects.
  • The problem has been the projection of modern conceptions of personhood (the person of Romantic thought is characterised by interiority), which has led to the Trinity-ecclesiology link.
  • A separate stream in recent theology has been the connection of Christology to ecclesiology in an attempt to re-evaluate the rise of catholicism. E.g. Schweitzer's view that Jesus did not intend to found a church.
  • There followed an exegesis of Q.54 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which uses the designator Son of God: '...the Son of God gathers, defends, and upholds for himself, an elect community destined for everlasting life...'. This was devotional and a fitting end to the conference: 'the proper response of the catechumen (when thinking of Christ and the Church) is confidence'. The final words uttered by Dr Holmes in giving his paper were 'thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift'.
As Prof McCormack pointed out in the closing question time, the problem for social trinitarians is the question of where the disimilarity lies between God's ad intra relationships and those in society? We do not dwell with one another perichoetically, we are individualised. Prof Macleod made a good point warning of collapsing the persons too far into unity of intellect and will. If we do this, how do we maintain the persons e.g how can Christ be sent, meaningfully?