Food for Thought from Robert Jenson on the Domestication of the Church


Posted in Ecclesiology, Theology

2 comments on “Food for Thought from Robert Jenson on the Domestication of the Church

  1. Timothy Fountain says:

    Gregory the Great likened the church to Noah’s Ark. The largest part is filled with the creatures that God is preserving – they need constant tending but their spiritual growth is minimal. The next level up is Noah’s extended family – they do a lot of the tending and achieve spiritual growth as they serve. The upper room is Noah and his wife, representing the most advanced spiritually – the few who Jensen identifies as the ones most in touch with God and speaking His Word into the world.

  2. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Father Tim,

    Thanks for the apt reminder. Gregory the Great’s analogy is indeed fitting, but so is Martin Luther’s adaptation of it. He too compared the universal Church to Noah’s Ark, wryly adding, “[i]Sometimes the only reason you can stand the stench on the inside is because of the storm on the outside.[/i]” So true.

    But both Pope Gregory the Great around AD 600 and Martin Luther over 900 years later took for granted the alliance between Church and State that began with Constantine, and got progressively worse under later emperors like Theodosius, Justinian, and Charlemagne. What the early medieval pope and the great Protestant reformer couldn’t conceive of was the unthinkable possibility that this unholy alliance with the regnant powers-that-be of this world would someday end, with the State divorcing the Church. Yet it happened with the Communists in Russia, and with the Nazi’s in Germany, and it is now happening in more subtle form everywhere in the Global North. The Christendom era is over. It’s not coming back, no matter how much better we get at evangelism.

    One of the chief reasons why I chose the moniker New Reformation Advocate is precisely because I believe the great need of our era is for the Church of Jesus Christ to wake up and recognize that we are facing the most momentous challenge that the Church has faced in many centuries. We have to reinvent the whole way the Church operates, taking seriously the plain fact that the old Christendom approach is now obsolete and counter-productive. For the vast majority of Christians, not least including Anglicans, that will be extremely traumatic, because it means overcoming our long ingrained state church habits of thought and action. We have to relearn what our ancient forebears in the faith knew in the Age of the Martyrs (the Pre-Imperial Church era), which is how to stand against the world for the sake of the world, that the pagan, unChristian world (including the majority of North America and Europe) may be saved.

    Robert Jensen is right, however, in reminding us of the perpetual truth of Matthew 7:13-14: “[i]Enter by the narrow gate…[/i]”

    David Handy+