Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pannenberg on the Church and the Kingdom


Christ points the Church toward the Kingdom of God that is beyond the Church. To the degree that the Church follows his pointing and heeds his reminder, the Kingdom of God will manifest itself through the Church. But note that this is quite different from attributing to the Church in its established structures the dignity of being the Kingdom of Christ. The rule of Christ is effected wherever man becomes aware of the coming Kingdom of God and lives in accord with that awareness. This may happen in the Church. It should be expected to happen in the Church. But the rule of Christ cannot be identified with the Church’s existence as a organized community in the world. The theological identification of the Church with the Kingdom of Christ has all too often served the purposes of ecclesiastical officials who are not attuned to the Kingdom of God. Many Christians, especially church leaders, like to think they are in procession of the truth, or at least that they possess the ultimate criterion of the truth. Because they feel themselves to be indispensably related to the very Kingdom of Christ, they fail to recognize the provisional character of all ecclesiastical organizations. They are unable to stand humbly before the coming Kingdom of God that is going to bring about the final future of the world. They are blinded to the ways in which even now, proleptically, the future manifests itself in the world (and not just in the Church, nor even always through the Church). Precisely because the Church mistakes herself for the present form of the Kingdom, God’s rule has often had to manifest itself in the secular world outside, and frequently against, the Church. - Theology and the Kingdom of God (77-78)

1 comment:

Coach_Zee said...

I like this. I got some sour looks from a couple people in my seminar last summer when arguing that the church does not have a monopoly on God's redemptive work. We were talking about Deutero-Isaiah and the hymn to Cyrus of Persia.

God frequently has to use agents outside of the church to redeem her.