Home > Christianity, Ecclesiology, Quotations, Theology > Packer on Evangelical Churchliness

Packer on Evangelical Churchliness

Confessionally and conceptually, evangelical ecclesiology is full and strong. Consider, for instance, the account of the church given by the Amsterdam Declaration, representing the common mind of some 11,000 evangelists and church leaders gathered together in the opening year of the third millennium:

The church is the people of God, the body and bride of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. The one, universal church is a transnational, transcultural, transdenominational and multi-ethnic family, the household of faith. In the widest sense the church includes all the redeemed of all the ages, being the one body of Christ extended throughout time as well as space. Here in the world, the church becomes visible in all local congregations that meet to do together the things that according to Scripture the church does. Christ is the head of the Church. Everyone who is personally united to Christ by faith belongs to his body and by the Spirit is united with every other true believer in Jesus.

The classic exponents of Reformation ecclesiology, John Calvin of Geneva and Richard Hooker of England, would have nothing major to add to that. Yet, as was said, observers will feel there is cognitive dissonance here: Evangelicals who subscribe to such statements do not seem in practice to rate churchliness a factor in full-orbed Christian discipleship, and rarely do they display a personal formation that is fully churchly. Strong individuality within an equally strong frame of corporateness is indisputably the New Testament ideal for Christian living; why then do evangelicals, strong as they are on individuality in Christ, appear weak when it comes to the corporate awareness that should flow from seeing the church as central in the plan of God? What is the problem here?

J.I. Packer, “A Stunted Ecclesiology”

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