the weblog of Alan Knox

Ecclesiology and all those other -ologies…

Posted by on Aug 27, 2007 in definition | 12 comments

In my post from yesterday called “Look also to the interests of others…“, I made the following statement concerning Philippians 2:1-5 and the verses that followed that passage:

At first glance, these questions deal with the concepts of fellowship, community, and unity – very important concepts, but not as important as Christology. Right? Actually, I suggest that these concepts are directly related to our understanding of who Christ is, what Christ has done for us, what Christ is doing for us, and how Christ empowers us to interact with one another. In fact, I would suggest that when we get these things wrong – when we fail to live a life that demonstrates our love for one another – then all the facts that we know about Christ mean very little. Our Christology must be built on Philippians 2:1-5 as much as it is built on the verses that follow.

As I’ve been thinking about this, I realize how important this statement is. However, it goes beyond Christology. The way we treat one another – the way we interact with one another – the way we love one another (or do not love) – demonstrates more about our Christology (study of Christ), Pneumatology (study of the Holy Spirit), and Soteriology (study of salvation) than any creeds or words which we may claim to believe.

Do you agree with this? Do our actions demonstrate our beliefs more than our words? If so, why and how? If not, why not? Are there other “-ologies” that are demonstrated more by our actions than by our words?


12 Comments

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  1. 8-28-2007

    I think all of the -ologies you note (and others you did not) are ultimately all for naught unless we have a relationship with (know) the Living God. I believe this happens only after he first has revealed himself. It also only continues as we abide in the love He first loved us with. Being and doing are linked. In looking through John 14-16, I see all that we do and all that we are…that which should set us apart as Christians….our obedience to the Father, loving Him and others, bearing fruit for the Kingdom all happen due to who lives in and with us. It is not information but transformation. It is not head knowledge but a heartfelt relationship. These come through being and doing. They are not only commands, but first come as gifts.

  2. 8-28-2007

    Alan,

    My understanding of scripture is that any true follower of Christ is part of His Church. Also, followers of Christ will, by definition, bear fruit. Therefore, it seems that Christians will bear fruit within the church and without.

    I’ve said the above in order to make the point that how we live out our lives will not only affect the church, but will also be determined by how we view the church. If we have a proper understanding of the community that the church is, then we will serve one another within that community.

    Eric

  3. 8-28-2007

    I think one issue is that of church membership. Our churches often have drawn out processes before a member is officially considered a member. This is directly related to our Christology and ecclesiology. Do we really think that someone must have a letter from another church, be voted in, or answer a bunch of doctrinal questions before they are actually a member of the church? This praxis says a lot about what we really believe the gospel is.

  4. 8-28-2007

    There are some traditions that emphasize the incarnational nature of our faith. Thus, if Christ is “in” you, then you are going to live out a Christ-life. It works the other way as well, that we come to know Him more as we experience and demonstrate this Christ-life. I believe that this is what is meant by sharing in the fellowship of His suffering.

    And for anyone who says that this points to a “works-based” salvation, we must remember that the fellowship of His suffering is a grace that comes by faith in Him.

  5. 8-28-2007

    Regarding “-ologies,” C.S. Lewis had the analogy of looking at a beam of light coming through the cracks of a dusty shed. We can look at the beam, see the dust, describe what it shows. But only when we enter the beam of light can we look outside and see its source.

  6. 8-28-2007

    I absolutely agree with this. Words are easy. Signing off on a confession of faith is easy. Sitting in a pew week after week, listening to sermons, maybe taking some notes……..easy. Telling your brother or sister you will pray for them in their time of need……easy. Truly bearing one another’s burdens and loving one another for the glory of Christ……..costly.

    James tells us that if we are not doers of the word, but hearers only, then we deceive ourselves.

    Alan, I think you have touched on one of the root problems in the church. I don’t know exactly how to define it, but it looks, sounds, smells, walks, and talks like gnosticism. This was a thorn in the side of the 1st century church and is still alive and kicking today. It may be that today our gnosticism is more refined and subtle.

    Jon

  7. 8-28-2007

    Matthew,

    Perhaps a look into the 3 year process of the Early Church would reveal to you that we’re probably not nearly as stringent as we should be.

    Alan,

    I think words and actions should compliment one another; it is not an either or thing. What about a person who is disabled or bedridden and cannot “do” things but only say things? I would not suggest that becuase I can do things my faith is greater or better. Words and actions compliment one another; one is not better or greater than the other.

    Sandmanjdl,

    for the reasons above, I kind of disagree with you. Also, I don’t think words are easy. It is very hard for some people to confess faith in Christ; it is very hard for some to deem Christianity true; not all confessions or words are easy.

    http://www.michaelhalcomb.blogspot.com

  8. 8-28-2007

    Alan,

    I agree with you. Interpersonal relationships demonstrate very clearly whether we are “white-washed walls”, or truly spiritually reborn.

    As I read the responses to your post I was interested in how your words have been interpreted by those who have commented.

    The relationships which result within a group of people who are truly new creatures in Christ are the work of the Holy Spirit of God, and the interactions within those relationships are motivated by Him and will stand out as such.

    An individual may work hard, investing much effort, and be very successful in outwardly “being obedient” to what the sermon declared the Scriptures say. They may satisfy all of the denominational requirements for membership state, and remain lost for eternity.

    I received a shock one day in my early years of ministry when a deacon of 26 years, who was church secretary for most of those years, led Boys Brigade for as many years, was a supply preacher for denominational churches. He was appreciated and well regarded as one who “was seen to be whom he said he was” , a “doer” of all that your correspondents have indicated.

    He came to me one day and told me he had come to understand that he wasn’t a Christian, but now wanted to follow Christ.

    People who had known him for all of his life recognized immense change for the better, a change which affected more lives, mainly through the way he related to his brethren.

    We need to be careful not to arrive at our private “formulas” which will allow us to see someone as a genuine Christian or otherwise.

    I have seen far too much harm caused by judgments based on those “formulas” as genuine brethren have been deeply wounded because they didn’t conform.

  9. 8-28-2007

    Alan,

    I think the words which we claim to believe are demonstrated by our actions. In other words, the action by definition IS the demonstration of someone’s belief that they have stated with words, because that is what actions do, they demonstrate. Words, on the other hand, don’t demonstrate anything they just state what someone believes. So I think the way that you phrased the question has caused my brain to fry.;)

    Jeff

  10. 8-28-2007

    Inheritor,

    “It is not information but transformation”. Yes. The transformation of our lives is the indication that we have a “relationship with the Living God”.

    Eric,

    As you said, every follower of Christ is part of the church. I think this is true regardless of how they live their lives. However, I don’t think a follower of Christ – that is, one who is indwelled by the Spirit – will continue to live their lives in the same way. They will be “transformed”, to use the word from the previous comment. (By the way, I’m not saying that you disagree with this, or that I disagree with you. I’m simply expanding on this post and your comment.)

    Matthew,

    Good questions. I know how I would answer those… and my answers stem from my ecclesiology, but also my Christology, Pneumatology, and Soteriology. I don’t think we can separate these, can we?

    David,

    I agree. We’re not talking about a works based salvation, nor am I talking about works being required to keep or guard your salvation. I’m saying that someone who is saved – that is, someone indwelled by the Spirit and thus part of the church – will demonstrate their salvation in their life and by their works.

    Jon,

    I think the James quote is exactly what I’m getting at. Thank you!

    Michael,

    I don’t think we’re as far apart here as it may seem. I agree – and this is my point – our “words and actions should complement one another”.

    Aussie John,

    You always have the perfect story to illustrate my post. Thank you! Interestingly, in the case that you mentioned, the person even seemed to have “works”. But, there was no faith.

    Jeff,

    Fried your brain? From your comment I don’t think so. I think you stated my position very well.

    -Alan

  11. 9-2-2007

    Alan,

    I realize this comes in a little late but this is a story that unfolded recently. My eight year old daughter lost her cat. The cat is an indoor only cat. We searched the house and couldn’t find her anywhere. We assumed she escaped out the door when we weren’t looking.

    In our subdivision the houses are built 10 feet apart. There are about 200-300 houses around us. It just so happens that there is a “pastor” and his family that lives ten feet away from us. Our kids play with their kids all the time and we know them quite well. We keep an eye on their house and have fed their dog when they were on vacation.

    I printed up fliers and started searching for the cat around the entire neighborhood. My daughter was hysterical. She was crying like she never has before. Five of the neighbors close by insisted on helping us. One of those neighbors was not very friendly to us in the past but she loaded her 3 month old baby up in the stroller and started helping us search. It was a Friday night at 6:00. They helped us search that night for three hours straight. I don’t know if any of them are Christians, but the one that professed to be offered only a simple, “good luck, hope you find it.” I realize maybe they were busy or something, but that insignificant situation spoke volumes to me and my family, especially my daughter, about the hearts of our neighbors.

    Jeff

  12. 9-2-2007

    Jeff,

    Another great comment, and a great story! Thank you for illustrating this post perfectly.

    -Alan