The discussion of 13 theses on the church and the world, posted by Nathan Kerr et al, at Inhabitatio Dei, got my attention yesterday and today. I want to put something up here at home to keep me in mind of issues which seem compelling to me. One is the work of Johannes Christiaan Hoekendijk, whose book, Church Inside Out (ET 1965) is, I see, waiting for me at the seminary library. Kerr cites Hoekendijk as follows:
“World (kosmos/oikoumene) and Kingdom are correlated to each other; the world is conceived as a unity, the scene of God’s great acts: it is the world which has been reconciled (II Cor. 5:19), the world which God loves (John 3:16) and which he has overcome in his love (John (16:33); the world is the field in which the seeds of the Kingdom are sown (Matt. 13:38)—the world is consequently the scene for the proclamation of the Kingdom.” (pg. 41)
I have been looking for a chance to develop an idea of church and mission under categories of diplomacy – a divine embassy – wholly in the kingdom of this world, but here in the name of ‘he who reigns’ in the next or higher kingdom. The ‘mission’ is that of being envoys of peace to the whole world and everyone in it. The rationale is that, since Pentecost, every human being may (through faith) access the protection and ‘good offices’ of the Spirit as citizens and subjects of a spiritually transcendent realm. Hmm.
True, it’s a bit of a stretch from Hoekendijk – not to mention from Kerr and his friends. I’m just jotting some notes here. But here in Kerr’s “Thesis 2,” for example, I think I may find something to hang my hat on:
The church’s primary task is apostolic. The church exists as a function of Christ’s own singular apostolicity; that is, its existence is a matter of its participation in Christ as the “sent one” (Heb 3:1). “The church has no other existence than in actu Christi, that is, in actu Apostoli” (Hoekendijk). The church thereby exists to serve the ministerium Verbi incarnati (Barth)—the church’s share in the apostolicity of Christ consists in its being sent out by the power of the Spirit to proclaim the euangelion of Jesus Christ to the world. In this sense, the church’s “priority” with regards to the world is that of a distinctively apostolic precedence.
Apostles, ambassadors, messengers, envoys, heralds, missions, embassies – all these concepts I find applicable to the vocabularies of both the Church’s mission and to diplomatic endeavors. Whereas they do not resonate at all with the vocabularies of temple, army, school, cult, recruitment, confession, etc., etc.
To be continued.