Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Howard Dean and Theology

I was just listening to the reports from NH regarding Dean's re-ascension in the polls in NH. Yeah! That's all I have to say on that.

Regarding clarity on some of our terms. I've heard the argument repeated numerous times that the words visible and revealed imply different categories. So, for those of us who still aren't privy to this discussion, I'll have at it. Basically, visible implies ontological and more Calvinist distinctions, whereas the term revealed/hidden implies more divine plan/Lutheran distinctions. Or so I have heard the critique stated. Most people, when they use either term, are referring to the same reality. Can we see and trust in the church there in front of us on this or that issue, is it revealed by God and therefore visible to us, or is it hidden and therefore invisible.

The issue comes into starker relief when we talk about the what of visibility. If we mean by the visible church the gathered church, those bodies who warm the church on Sunday mornings and serve vocationally as the church the rest of the week, then we are talking the life of the living church in its membership and parish life. If, on the other hand, we are talking the visible church as that in which we can trust, and have faith, namely the sacraments and the proclaimed word, then we are talking about christ in, with, and under the bread and wine, and the promises of God attached to such and the same.

So, the issue of visible church has to do with, indeed, ecclesiology (is the church the church dependent on how it is structured), anthropology (is the church the church as it is gathered and people), and sacrament (is the church gathered around the sacrament rightly administered and the word properly proclaimed)? We must distinguish between these things for the sake of clarity.

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