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A minor


Friday, April 20, 2007

Fackre on the Center (1)
Today I read the following (and more to come) and was stuck by it such that I had to type it up and blog it. I hope you like it as much as I did.

The first feature of the center is its role as a bridge over the chasm between right and left. [...] The church of the center as "span" entails providing a safe space where otherwise hostile partisans can cross culture-war boundaries and speak to one another.

[...] The rise of ecclesial tribalisms cries out for a witness to catholicity. Honor the diversity, but attend as well to the Pauline counsel: "the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'" (1 Cor 12:21). A bridge-building center constitutes a meeting ground for civil conversation among disputants. Here the diversity is understood as charisms reaching out to one another, seeking a fuller body of Christ.

The church of the center in its bridge-building role, while an alternative to ecclesial war-making, does not gloss over differences. Bridge talk includes mutual admonition as well as mutual affirmation, the formula ventured by the recent North American Lutheran-Reformed dialogue. [Note 16 here references Keith F. Nickel and Timothy F. Lull, eds., A Common Calling: The Witness of Our Reformation Churches in North America Today (Augsburg Fortress, 1993), p. 29-32, 66.] The eye has every right to remind the hand that "standing" alone, a hand is an odd-looking body. And vice versa. As such, the invitation to mutual fructification is a model of diversity juxtaposed to the currently popular "theological pluralism." In the latter case, a plea is made to recognize the equal legitimacy of alternative understandings of the Christian faith, in popular lingo, "different strokes for different folks...you do your thing and I'll do mine." Theological pluralism, so understood, is a justification of the status quo. Paul's Corinthian catholicity rejects this static view, demanding an interactive diversity, one in which the "variety of gifts" are engaged in a demanding mutual encounter, learning and growing into and as the body of Christ.

The center as span is grounded deeply in the classical theological commitments, especially in the doctrine of the Trinity. The triune God as Three-in-One affirms the diversity and distinctions of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a perichoretic unity. In this "coinherence," God is not just loving; God is Love - Mutuality, Community, Sociality, Life Together. [Note 17: "So stressed in the recent works on the Trinity, as in Jurgen Moltmann...; Wolfhart Pannenberg...; Thomas Torrance...; Colin Gunton...; Catherine Mowry LaCugna...; Leonardo Boff....] And who God is constitutes what God wills for the world: community, shalom, a life together in freedom and peace. The church, the body of Christ on earth, is thus called with is many parts to live and work in a mutually enriching ecclesial koinonia - a church of the center performing its "bridge-work."
From Gabriel Fackre, Restoring the Center: Essays Evangelical & Ecumenical (IVP, 1998), p. 32 ff. (Currently available from CBD for $3.99!)

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