Ephraim Radner on Church Unity

Ephraim Radner on the unity of the Church

“To live is to give up and give away parts of ourselves. This is not just a comment about the social character of our lives. Giving up parts of ourselves fuels our very being as persons: it is how we learn, it is how we think, it is how we grow, it is how we make decisions, it is how we love. In giving up, of course, we are also gaining something new, although that is not always obvious, just as it is not always clear what we are losing as we live, at least not until the very end of this or that process. To live is to give up parts of ourselves, and to live fully is to give ourselves away fully. This is the simple Christian corollary of the fundamental character of human living, and it is not a novel claim in the least; ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ […]

“These elements of giving up and of fulfilling at once … all pertain to the Christian Church; they describe who she is and thus finally they describe what it means, given who she is, to be ‘one’ Church, the united Church that so eludes her members and whose lack so subverts her life and purpose. To be ‘one Church’ is to be joined to the unity of the Son to the Father, who, in the Spirit, gives himself away, not in some general flourish of self-denial, but to and for the sake of his enemies, the ‘godless,’ for their life. Not that the Church in fact does this. She does not, and hence she is not one, and finally therefore she is not who she is meant to be. But though she is faithless, yet ‘he remains faithful.’ The woefulness of Christian witness in this world is measured by the distance between these two realities; so too is measured the mercy of God.”

from A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church, (Baylor University Press, 2012), 1-2.

Robert Jenson on theology and ecumenism

Robert Jenson on theology and ecumenism

“It is becoming increasingly clear that reestablishment of ecclesial fellowship between East and West and within the West across the divisions begun at the Reformation will not occur by any straightforward continuation of [the efforts of modern ecumenism]. It increasingly appears that no degree of theological convergence can by itself suffice to reestablish communion once broken. An act of God is needed.

“Nor need this be a pessimistic prediction. The church must regard waiting as the most creative of activities, since she apprehends fullness of being only in the coming Kingdom. And God may act tomorrow. In the meantime, it is a great blessing specifically to theology that we need not wait for the church to be undivided to do theology for and even of the undivided church. For theology is itself a form of the waiting we must practice.”

from Systematic Theology: The Triune God, Vol 1., (OUP, 1997.), viii.