Friday, November 11, 2011

Tradition-retrieving evangelicals and the problem of magisterium

Today Baker Academic released Evangelicals and Nicene Faith: Reclaiming the Apostolic Witness (ed. Timothy George), to which I contributed chapter 6, "The Nicene Faith and the Catholicity of the Church: Evangelical Retrieval and the Problem of Magisterium" (pp. 74-92). Here's a snippet from the midst of that chapter:

Even if unacknowledged or denied outright, there is a configuration of functional magisterial authority for Baptists and others who belong to the broader free church or believers’ church tradition—by which I mean those churches that emphasize the authority of the congregation of baptized believers gathered in a covenanted community under the lordship of Christ, which include Mennonites, the Disciples of Christ and Churches of Christ, Bible churches, a great many nondenominational churches, and numerous Pentecostal and charismatic communities, as well as Baptists. In my opinion this configuration, which for the sake of convenience we will call free church magisterium, embodies aspects of the strengths of both the Roman Catholic and magisterial Protestant paradigms, while in theory avoiding their susceptibilities to overly realized eschatologies of the church.... Perhaps unsurprisingly, I suggest that free church magisterial authority is located in the gathered congregation. Though this is a clumsy English coinage, we might call this the magisterium-hood of all believers—which I think is the implication of reading the Gospels as manuals of discipleship, which therefore means that all who become disciples of Christ are commissioned by him in Matthew 28:18–20 to participate in the church’s teaching office.

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