Great Resources from Asbury’s Seedbed

Just a quick post today to point you towards the great resources that are being produced by Seedbed, a site that Asbury Theological Seminary has set up.  Seedbed features blog posts and videos of Asbury faculty discussing a variety of topics relevant to ministry and theology – and doing so in a way that is accessible to a general church audience.  Former Tyndale professor Howard Snyder is one of the featured bloggers, and in posts like this one, he continues to challenge evangelicals to take creation stewardship seriously as an integral aspect of Christian mission.

One of the best features of Seedbed is their video series, “Seven Minute Seminary,” which features Asbury scholars giving concise but substantial talks.  This week Ben Witherington III discusses why he is a Wesleyan.

It’s great to see Asbury producing these excellent teaching materials.  I’d say seedbed is a wonderful example of a seminary trying to bridge the church/academia divide.  I hope other schools follow suit.

Leaving revivalism behind?

Christianity Today has posted a fascinating article by Gordon T. Smith, excerpted from his essay on “Conversion and Redemption” in the Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology.  The Handbook itself is a fantastic resource, though it is terribly expensive.  Thankfully the libraries I have access to have bought the electronic version.   Included in the Handbook are articles by my dissertation director, Ephraim Radner, on the church, and a chapter on spiritual gifts by Howard Snyder, who has been a mentor to me and many other Canadian Wesleyan theological students during his tenure as Chair of Wesley Studies at Tyndale Seminary.

Smith’s article argues that evangelical understandings of conversion are changing dramatically, and that a common feature that can be seen in the wide variety of changes in this regard is that, across the board, revivalism is being left behind:

It is not be an overstatement to say that evangelicals are experiencing a “sea change”—a paradigm shift—in their understanding of conversion and redemption, a shift that includes the way in which they think about the salvation of God, the nature and mission of the church, and the character of religious experience. Although there is no one word to capture where evangelicals are going in this regard, there is a word that captures what they are leaving behind: revivalism.

Smith offers a sketch of the ways that revivalism has impacted evangelicalism’s understanding of conversion: the focus on a dramatic one-time experience, often crystallized in the the saying of the “sinner’s prayer”; the emphasis on the afterlife; the practical distinction between “evangelism” and “disciple-making,” the emphasis on numeric growth, and so on.

He then traces how developments in evangelical thinking in a number of different fields have challenged the revivalistic assumptions which characterized much of 20th century evangelicalism.  New ideas in biblical studies, new approaches to religious experience, ecumenical influences, the changing face of global Christianity, and an increased interest in learning from Christian history have all combined to undermine the revivalist understanding of conversion.

Increasingly, there is appreciation that conversion is a complex experience by which a person is initiated into a common life with the people of God who together seek the in-breaking of the kingdom, both in this life and in the world to come. This experience is mediated by the church and thus necessarily includes baptism as a rite of initiation. The power or energy of this experience is one of immediate encounter with the risen Christ—rather than principles or laws—and this experience is choreographed by the Spirit rather than evangelistic techniques. Evangelicals are reappropriating the heritage of the Reformation with its emphasis on the means of grace, and thereby affirming the priority of the Spirit’s work in religious experience.

The excerpt ends with Smith pointing to the deeper issues that this sea-change will raise for evangelical thinking about the church.

The only question that remains, then, is whether evangelicals will trust these instincts and devote themselves to Christ-centered worship and kingdom-oriented mission. Will this be evident in deep trust that God will do God’s work in God’s time? To trust the work of God is to trust the Spirit and this necessarily means that the church trusts the Word—the Scriptures preached—as the essential means of grace and conversion.

This begs the question of what it means to be the church. The evangelical tradition is at a fork in the road and, given this sea change in the understanding of conversion and redemption, the most crucial issue at stake is what it means to be a congregation. Evangelicals will only be able to navigate these waters if they can formulate a dynamic theology of the church that reflects the Triune character of God, the means of grace—Spirit and Word—and a radical orientation in mission toward the kingdom of God.

The article is well worth a read.   I think it helpfully draws together and summarizes some of the important developments that are taking place in contemporary evangelical thinking.  While revivalism’s legacy includes many positive things, some aspects of revivalist thinking are deeply suspect, and a critical re-evaluation of its influence is most certainly needed.   This was, in part, what I was trying to do in my article “Five Ways to Improve SA Worship” –  I was highlighting the way in which Salvationist worship has been shaped by a kind of “routinized revivalism,” and arguing that there are aspects of this heritage that need to be jettisoned.  The same kind of thing is happening on a much larger scale, and in relation to a broad range of topics.  It is hard to say where any of this is going to end up, but I think this change in thinking about conversion certainly has potential to bear fruit in a genuine renewal of evangelical mission and theology.

Fourth Annual Wesley Studies Symposium at Tyndale

On March 13, Tyndale Seminary will be hosting its Fourth Annual Wesley Studies Symposium, organized by Dr. Howard Snyder, Chair of Wesley Studies at Tyndale.

I’ve been privileged to be a part of the previous three events, and it has been exciting to see the Symposium grow from about a dozen participants in 2009 to well over 50 in 2011.   We’ve had some great presentations from established scholars, practitioners, and graduate students.

Most importantly, it has provided an opportunity for networking among people who are interested in Wesleyan history and theology.  The Wesley Chair is an interesting partnership between five Canadian denominations and Tyndale: the Brethren in Christ, the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, The Salvation Army, and the Wesleyan Church.  It has been wonderful to build connections, share resources, and encourage one another across denominational lines via these events.

This year’s program looks very interesting, and covers a wide variety of disciplines and topics (detailed schedule available here).  The papers to be presented are:

  • “Statistical Profile of the Wesleyan Community in Canada,” by Rick Hiemstra (Director of Research and Media Relations, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada)
  • “Graced Practices of the Salvation Army,” by Major Wendy Swan (ExL Program Director and Asst. Professor of Theology, Booth University College; PhD student, King’s College, London)
  • “Herbert E. Randall: From Canadian Holiness Missionary to Pentecostal Leader,” by  Dan Sheffield (Director, Intercultural and Global Ministries, Free Methodist Church in Canada)
  • “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley”by Dr. Jeffrey McPherson (Asst. Professor of Theology, Roberts Wesleyan College)
  • “Toward a Wesleyan Holiness Homiletic,” by Mark Schnell (Ph.D. student, Emmanuel College, Toronto School of Theology)

In the evening, we’ll have a keynote lecture by Dr. Victor Shepherd, on the topic “Wesley as Theologian and Leader in the Universal Church.”  Dr. Shepherd is Professor of Theology at Tyndale Seminary, and was the first occupant of the Bastian Chair of Wesley Studies at Tyndale.

The Symposium will be held in the auditorium of Tyndale’s new Bayview Campus.  If you’re in the area and interested in Wesley Studies, please consider coming, and register here.   The event is free but we do need people to register so we can plan for meals.

Hope to see some of you there.

John Wesley and the Mission of God, part 1: The Image of God

Wesley's tomb at Wesley Chapel, City Road, LondonToday I am beginning a series of posts on aspects of Wesley’s theology as they relate to the theology of the mission of God.  In recent years, evangelical theology has thoroughly embraced the missio dei concept as a way of re-framing the question of Christian mission.   By beginning the discussion of mission with the mission of God, we make it clear that Christian mission is not primarily the Church’s mission, but God’s mission, which includes the church.

John Wesley’s theology is rich with themes that could be developed into a theology of the mission of God.   Howard Snyder has written an excellent essay on this topic in his recent book Yes In Christ: Welseyan Reflections on Gospel, Mission, and Culture (Clements Academic, 2011).   My series takes its inspiration from Howard’s essay in that volume, entitled “Toward a Wesleyan Theology of Mission” (pp. 69-98), though I’ll be discussing some themes he doesn’t address.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Wesley does theology primarily from a salvation history perspective, rather than a “systematic” perspective.  So it is fitting to begin this series by discussing the topic that Wesley often begins his sermons with – the image of God.

The following quote, from Wesley’s 1760 sermon, “The New Birth,” represents the heart of Wesley’s perspective on the image of God:

“And God,” the three-one God, “said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him:” (Gen. 1:26, 27:) — Not barely in his natural image, a picture of his own immortality; a spiritual being, endued with understanding, freedom of will, and various affections; — nor merely in his political image, the governor of this lower world, having “dominion over the fishes of the sea, and over all the earth;” — but chiefly in his moral image; which, according to the Apostle, is “righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. 4:24.) in this image of God was man made. “God is love:” Accordingly, man at his creation was full of love; which was the sole principle of all his tempers, thoughts, words, and actions. God is full of justice, mercy, and truth; so was man as he came from the hands of his Creator. God is spotless purity; and so man was in the beginning pure from every sinful blot; otherwise God could not have pronounced him, as well as all the other work of his hands, “very good” (Gen. 1:31.) (Sermon 45, “The New Birth,” §I.1)

Notice that Wesley speaks of the image of God as threefold

1. The NATURAL IMAGE consists of those endowments given to the creature which make us capable of entering into conscious relation with God (notably, understanding, will, and freedom).  The natural image has been lost in part after the fall, such that all of these faculties have been impaired.  Our understanding does not function properly, so we make mistakes.  Our will does not function properly, because we have lost our freedom and are now in bondage to sin.  But God intervenes by his prevenient grace to restore a measure of freedom to fallen humanity (more on this in the next post).

2. The POLITICAL IMAGE consists of God’s endowment of the creature with faculties of leadership and management, making us stewards of creation.  Though this is expressed as “dominion” over creation, note that because this is an aspect of the image of God, human dominion over creation is to reflect God’s love.  In other words, we image God politically insofar as God’s benevolence is reflected in our stewardship of creation.

3. The MORAL IMAGE is not a capacity or a function but a relationship, marked by love.  In other words, the moral image is not, in the first instance, about a kind of legal status.  It is about being filled with love, as God is filled with love, and having our capacities and functions directed by love.  Because God is love, we are to reflect God’s love, continually receiving it and reflecting it back to him in love, obedience, prayer, praise, works of mercy, and so on.

Wesley's House, City Road, London-1What does all of this have to do with mission?

It means, first of all, that the story of God’s mission begins with good news. All people are created in God’s image, and were therefore created “capable of God.”  Though the image has been compromised by sin, the fact remains that all people were created to bear God’s image, and therefore all are called to experience God’s restoring grace.

If you read Wesley’s sermons, you will notice that he often begins his sermons with a description of the image of God before the fall.  That is, he does not begin with the problem of sin, but with God’s intention for all of humanity, and the dignity that all human beings bear by virtue of their original creation in the image of God.

Secondly, we see that, from the very beginning, then, the mission of God is universal in scope, not for an elect few.  All people were created in God’s image, therefore God’s love extends to all, and his redemption is open to all.  God’s intention, after the fall, continues to be that all human beings should be filled with love, and that this love should direct all their thoughts, words, and deeds.

Pentecost as a Firstfruits Festival

The Pauline teaching on charisms comes, canonically speaking, after the story of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, which occupies a key place in the biblical narrative, marking the fulfilment of the promise given by Christ (Acts 1:8, Luke 12:2; John 14-16), and harkening back explicitly to the prophesied eschatological outpouring of the Spirit in Joel 2:28-32.  Pentecost signifies the dawning of the age of the church, a new era in which the Spirit’s gifts, previously limited to particular people and situations, are distributed liberally to all the people of God, young and old, male and female, slave and free.

Lest one take this Lukan theme of “fullness” in too far, the canonical significance of the feast of Pentecost as an Israelite festival must not be forgotten.  I am indebted to Howard Snyder for pointing out the significance of Pentecost as a feast of first fruits.  You can find his discussion of this theme in his chapter on “The Pentecostal Renewal of the Church” in the forthcoming book, Yes in Christ: Wesleyan Reflections on Gospel, Mission, and Culture, Tyndale Studies in Wesleyan History and Theology 2 (Toronto: Clements Academic, 2011). Pentecost, or the Festival of Weeks, was one of the three great festivals in Israelite worship, coming between Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, and in Jesus day it remained one of the three festivals which included pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Pentecost concluded the Feast of Weeks, which began with a day for the offering of first fruits on the first Sabbath after Passover (Lev. 23:10-11), and ended fifty days later, with what came to be known as the primary celebration of firstfruits (Num. 28:26, Lev. 23:17).  Firstfruits were offered both as a thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God in the past, a celebration of God’s provision in the present, and as a promising sign of the future harvest which was to come.

While the New Testament writers do not explicitly link Pentecost with a harvest of first fruits, it is difficult not to see the significance of interpreting it as such.  First of all, there is the important eschatological harvest imagery which runs throughout the New Testament, and is particularly strong in the teaching of Christ concerning the final judgment.

Secondly, though the Feast of Weeks per se does not feature prominently in the New Testament, the concept of firstfruits is used a number of times. Paul refers to the resurrection of Christ itself as the first fruits of the coming general resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23. In Romans 8 he speaks of Christians having “the first fruits of the Spirit” (8:23) and thus joining with all creation in groaning for the fullness of the coming bodily redemption.  James 1:18 identifies those who have experienced the new birth as “a kind of first fruits” of God’s creatures, and Revelation 14:4 identifies the 144,000 as those who “have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and for the Lamb.”

Finally, recalling the Johannine identification of the cross with the feast of Passover (John 13:1), Pentecost, as the first fruits festival which caps off fifty days of firstfruits celebration, evokes a sense of anticipatory harvest, looking toward the final reaping which is to come at the eschaton.  Christ’s resurrection, then, coming on the first Sunday after Passover, is the initial offering of first fruits, to be followed by the main celebration of firstfruits on the day of Pentecost fifty days later, when the firstfruits of the new creation are harvested in the outpouring of the Spirit.  As Ephraim Radner notes, the traditional Jewish understanding of this time in their liturgical calendar was that the fifty days in the Feast of Weeks marked the wanderings of the people in the desert, and the day of Pentecost was seen as the entry into the promised land, “where all that is enjoyed is given by God” (Leviticus, 247).

We see in Pentecost, the culmination of the Feast of Weeks, the celebration of the first fruits of the great and wonderful day of the Lord, prophesied in Joel 2:28-30.  The outpouring of the Spirit, then, on this day of first fruits, should be seen, not as a complete “fullness” of the Spirit, but as an anticipatory offering of young fruit which is to mature and yield a much greater harvest in the promised future.  The pneumatic firstfruits of Pentecost are a proleptic anticipation of the complete fulfillment of Joel 2, in which the Church experiences in itself the outpouring upon “all flesh,” which is to come, at the “great and terrible day of the Lord” (Joel 2:28, 31).

It is important to stress, then, that the charisms, as first fruits of the Spirit, are not to be seen merely as divine acts of “mercy” and “life,” bestowing blessings upon their recipients, but also as anticipatory acts of “judgment.”  This is consistent with Jesus own description of the work of the Spirit as convicting the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment – each of which finds its meaning in the saving work of Christ (John 16:8-12).  Divine mercy and judgment cannot be separated from one another, and this two-sided character of the Spirit’s work as seen in the Church in history ought to be a fundamental theme in the theology of charisms. For if the Spirit participates in God’s acts of judgment as well as God’s acts of mercy, then the Church, as people among whom the kingdom is already breaking in to the present age by the Spirit’s work, will manifest the eschatological judgment just as surely as they will manifest eschatological life and renewal. Judgment begins with the house of God (1 Peter. 4:7).

Typology of Views on Charismatic Movements: Conclusion

To recap, I’ve been presenting a series of posts on charismatic movements, outlining a typology of views, as follows:

  • Charismatic more fundamental than institutional (Leonardo Boff).

While this survey shows that there is a significant body of literature on the theology of charisms and charismatic movements (and a wide divergence of viewpoints), I would argue that numerous questions remain which need to be addressed.

Significantly, for the most part, the literature on charisms has not been significantly incorporated into discussions of unity and diversity.   Of course, Cullman’s argument attempts to do this, but I would argue that he has disassociated the biblical idea of charisms from its original vocational context and applied it too liberally to all confessions, thereby inappropriately justifying continued separation across the board.  Also, it is apparent throughout his argument that his major concerns are with the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and magisterial protestant traditions, but he offers no criteria by which we should distinguish these separations as “legitimate” as compared with more recent protestant schisms.  Would he support, for example, the continual splintering of pentecostal and independent charismatic churches on the grounds of protecting their particular charism?

Further, his model suggests that there is a charismatic gift at the root of all church divisions.  While I believe there are many confessions or denominations in the Church today that began with such a misapprehension of charisms, this is certainly not the case in every situation.  It seems nonsensical to speak of the English reformation, for example, being rooted an unrecognized charism.  We might speak of Anglican charisms that developed in the subsequent history of Anglicanism, but if the separation of the Church of England from Rome was not rooted in a charism, we must question the validity of using such post-division gifts as a reason for continued structural separation.

Other uses of the idea of “gifts” as a way of discussing diversity in ecumenical documents have not delved into the biblical theology of charisms, nor asked questions about the appropriateness of applying the term to traditions / denominations / confessions.  Though the idea of “complementary gifts” has been a helpful way to build ecumenical bridges, it should not be used to construct a positive vision for ecclesial unity which justifies continued “separation.”

Where the idea of charisms has been incorporated in a more sustained way into a vision of the unity of the Church is in Catholic literature on the religious life, but little work has been done in attempting to apply the insights of this perspective to protestant reform movements. The comparison has sometimes been made, but not explored in much theological depth (See, for example, Outler’s remarks on Methodism as an “order,” in That the World may Believe, 54).

The weakness of some Catholic approaches, especially those which stress the complementarity of charism and institution, is that they are not helpful in interpreting the divisive history of renewal and reform movements in the life of the Church.  The question is of paramount importance, particularly for the many evangelical protestant denominations which began as reform, renewal, or missionary movements, with no intention of starting new “churches.”  In evangelical circles, partly because of the prevalence of free church ecclesiology, the tendency has been to emphasize the significance of the movements and downplay the importance of historical continuity.

All this is to say that I think significant work needs to be done on the topic of  “group” charisms, and how this concept  fits into the larger discussion about the limits of legitimate diversity in the Church.

Typology of Views of Charismatic Movements, Part 5: Charismatic Enlivens Institutional

A number of interpretations of charismatic movements centre around the idea of the enlivening effect of charisms on the institutional elements of the Church.  Such perspectives view both the established structures of the Church and the continued emergence of new reforming movements as normal and part of the Spirit’s work in the Church.

Along these lines, Howard Snyder attempts to provide what he calls a “mediating perspective” of church renewal, incorporating both the institutional and charismatic aspects of the Church.  Noting that institutional and charismatic views of the Church individually have their limitations, Snyder argues for a “a theory of church life and renewal which combines insights from both the institutional and charismatic views,” not seeking a middle ground but attempting to “incorporate the truth of both.” In his view both stable institutional structures and dynamic renewal movements are legitimate and in some sense normal aspects of the Church’s life in history, although the merits and faithfulness of individual movements and institutions could be debated” (Signs of the Spirit, 274-275).

The reform movements spring up within the institutional church, bringing new life and growth, analogous to a new sprout growing out of a stump which appears dead.  Snyder then offers what he considers to be the “marks” of this mediating model, which is based upon the idea of authentic reform coming through ecclesiolae in ecclesia – radical and more intimate expressions of the church which exist in the Church, for the good of the whole Church, maintaining some form of institutional ties with the larger body (Signs of the Spirit, 276-280).

Francis Sullivan, a Roman Catholic reflecting on the charismatic renewal movement in Catholicism, offers a similar view of the Church and the place of renewal movements in the Church’s life.  Sullivan speaks of the official sacramental ministries and charismatic movements as two “equally important” ways in which the Spirit gives life to the Church.

There are two distinct, but equally important, ways that the Holy Spirit breathes life into the body of Christ: on the one hand, by his covenant relationship with the church, guaranteeing the effectiveness of its sacraments and official ministries, and on the other, by his unpredictable and often surprising charismatic interventions (Charisms and Charismatic Renewal, 47).

The official ministries of the Church exist to safeguard and pass on the tradition, but charismatic movements are given “for the purpose of shaking the church out of the complacency and mediocrity that inevitably creep into any institution” (47).  Sullivan is comfortable speaking of the official structures of the Church as institutional, and of ascribing an inevitable stultifying character to those institutions, which puts him closer to someone like Snyder than to Rahner or Ratzinger.

In addition to Catholic religious orders, Sullivan also suggests that many movements that ended up becoming sects or separate church bodies began as charismatic movements within the Church.  Their separation indicates a failure to renew the Church, but it need not indicate that the separated movements were not in fact the work of the Spirit, because blame for separation often lies on both sides, and at times has been due to a resistance to reform on the part of the Church.

I certainly do not think that the fact of separation by itself is proof that the movement in question could never have been an authentic work of the Holy Spirit, because there is also the possibility that it was rather the refusal of the Church at that time to admit its need of reform and accept renewal that led to the alienation and eventual separation (49).

Without going into detail, Sullivan suggests that “the history of Western Christianity in the last four hundred years has been profoundly marked by alienations of this kind, whether from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, or from various Protestant bodies in the following centuries” (49).

Sullivan also notes that, while for much of this period, Catholics simply denied that the Holy Spirit was at work protestant bodies, Vatican II affirmed that the Spirit works not only in individuals but also through churches and ecclesial bodies outside of Catholicism. On this see Unitatis Redintegratio §§3 and 4.

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ (§3).

…Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren. It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood…Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church (§4).

I’ll continue the discussion of this perspective with another post on Catholic literature about charisms and the religious life (religious orders, etc.).

Charismatic Movements in the Church

I’m introducing a new series of blog posts on the topic of “charismatic movements” in the Church.  When I speak of ” charismatic” movements,  I don’t necessarily mean pentecostal movements, but those movements of renewal and reform which rise up spontaneously in the Church, and centre around particularly gifted individuals, who operate outside existing authority structures.  Such movements have existed throughout the history of the Church, and have always had a rocky relationship with the established Church authorities.

I developed this rough timeline as a teaching tool for a course I was TAing earlier this year.  We could debate whether some of these movements are “charismatic,” but I would argue that they were all charismatic in origin, meaning that they sprung up around individuals who were perceived to be specially gifted (the basic meaning of “charism” being “gift”).   The timeline gets really selective when it comes to the modern era, because at that point I had to be selective.  I’m not claiming the timeline is exhaustive at that point, but I hope it is representative.  My main purpose in creating the timeline this way was to contrast “catholic” movements (meaning those who were eventually accepted by Church authorities as legitimate) with “non-catholic.”

I should add also that I’m not addressing the issue of “heresy” here, as some of the movements in question were definitely preaching a message which was outside the boundaries of historic Christian orthodoxy. I think most people would agree that the Bogomils and Cathars were heretical, but assessing the orthodoxy of other individual movements on the list would require more of a discussion than I want to get into.

One of the questions I’m studying for my dissertation concerns how we account for these movements theologically.  How do we know if a charismatic movement is truly of God?  What do these movements represent? A return to the primitive purity of the Church?  A form of fanaticism?  A revitalizing force?

I’ve developed a typology of positions on the question of the place of charismatic movements in the Church, and this typology will form the basis for my series of posts, each of which will discuss one or two representative theologians:

  • Charismatic opposed to institutional. Here the work of Rudolph Söhm and early 20th century scholars such as Adolf von Harnack is important.  The theory of these writers is that the church was originally charismatic, but this was stifled by emerging catholicism (institutionalism in his mind) in the 2nd century.  The emergence of stable authority structures was therefore a failure on the part of early Christianity.
  • Charismatic more fundamental than institutional. I’d summarize Leonardo Boff’s work in Church, Charism, and Power along these lines.  Charism is more fundamental than institution, because it gives rise to the institution and keeps it alive. Therefore the charismatic gifts of the Spirit should be the structuring principle of the church.
  • Charismatic in tension with institutional. Karl Rahner tries to hold the two structures in tension by arguing that there are both institutional and non-institutional charismata. A Legitimate opposition of forces in the life of the Church is inevitable and should be accepted.  Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s “christological constellation” also fits under this category.
  • Charismatic complementary to institutional. More recent ecumenical work has attempted to overcome the duality of charismatic movements and institutional structures by stressing the complementarity of the two.  Joseph Ratzinger also wrote along these lines in his discussion of lay movements in the Church, even going so far as to reject the dichotomy of charism/institution as inappropriate for ecclesiology.
  • Charismatic enlivens institutional. Others stress the role of charismatic movements as enlivening forces for the institutional church.  So Howard Snyder argues that both institutional structures and charismatic movements can be seen as normal and valid in the Church’s history.  I’ll also discuss Catholic theologies of “the religious life” (religious orders, etc.) under this category.
  • Institutional over charismatic. It’s hard to find anyone who actually argues for this theologically, but it is common on a practical level, so I’ll still attempt a post on this perspective.
  • Charismatic gifts as justification for separation. Oscar Cullmann’s book Unity Through Diversity makes the argument that different the “confessions” in the Church have their own unique charisms, which need to be preserved.  Therefore he argues that continued structural separation of the churches is justified, so that these diverse gifts can be preserved.  Many denominationalist theologies proceed on similar assumptions.

While the work I’ll be discussing is scholarly, the issue of finding a place for charismatic movements in the Church has immense practical implications, and I’ll attempt to draw these out.  This has been a perennial issue for the Church, and it remains an important problem today.  Think of the controversy surrounding “emergent” and whether it is a legitimate movement of reform or a heretical offshoot of genuine Christianity.  How are these “new expressions” of church related to the established Churches?

It is also an important question for people of evangelical heritage, because move evangelical denominations began as charismatic reform movements (not as denominations or “churches”).  Does that have implications for our understanding of the Church and the place of “denominations” as they now exist?  I think it does, and I’m hopeful that reflection on the history of charismatic movements, as well as theological reflection on the nature of the Church and where they fit, can provide some direction for our life together as we seek to give faithful witness in the post-Christendom context.