Saturday, December 06, 2008

All We Need is Just a Little Patience

As the previous thread of comments aptly demonstrates, Reformed theology is all about faith now and sight later (or to employ Luther’s famous distinction, our present theology is one “of the cross,” while a “theology of glory” is relegated to the future).

Michael Horton applies this eschatological tension between the already and the not yet to ecclesiology, and to the church’s unity and catholicity in particular. “No ecclesiology is adequate,” he writes in People and Place, “that fails to acknowledge the mystery and reality of ongoing sin in the believer and also in the church.”

… our confession of “one holy catholic and apostolic church” remains significantly an article of faith that, like our justification, is not always experienced. [Quoting Oswald Bayer]: “Our age is not short on experiences, but on faith. But only faith creates a genuine experience of the church.”
The church, like the individual, is simultaneously justified and sinful and constantly stands in need of being constituted the people of God by means of covenant renewal. Thus “the visible church is always put in the position of having to receive its identity from outside of itself.”

… the church as it is in this age already participates in the eschatological kingdom. Despite the church’s compromised, ambiguous, schismatic, and sinful character, the covenant of redemption ensures that our unfaithfulness will not have the last word…. In the resurrection of the dead, the so-called invisible church—the communion known only to God—will become fully visible. The totus Christus is affirmed, therefore, but in covenantal rather than Platonic terms. Its frame of reference is treaties of peace rather than ladders of being.
The real question for the Reformed believer (and the amillennialist in particular) is how much we are willing to presently forego. Can we patiently endure the seemingly inglorious and ignoble failure of the church to look to our eyes the way Jesus says she looks to his? Can we walk by faith instead of by sight?