(from my old blog…)
I’m going to be doing some thinking about worship and mission (and ultimately ecclesiology) based around a few books I’m reading. These discussions will probably veer into heavier theological territory, just to give some fair warning. That said, I am a firm believer in committed Christians engaging thoughtfully and critically with difficult theological questions. So dive in, please. Ask questions if you need some clarification, and post your thoughts.
In the first chapter of Simon Chan’s Liturgical Theology, he asks the question of whether the church is to be primarily understood as the instrument through which God will accomplish his purpose in creation, or rather the expression of that purpose itself. Is the church here to work for the fulfillment of God’s purpose in creation, or is the church itself the fulfillment of God’s purpose in creation? If the church in the instrument of God’s purpose, then we understand it primarily in functional terms; what it does. But if we understand the church as itself the expression of God’s purpose, we look at the church in ontological terms; what it is.
It’s an important question, it would seem, and Chan comes down on the side of seeing the church as the expression, not the instrument of God’s purpose in creation. That begs a second question from me: how are we to understand all the talk about missional church? Mission implies action implies function. Is the church functional or ontological?
Now, I can’t say for sure yet because I haven’t read the rest of the book, but I am wondering if this is perhaps one of those false dichotomies: an either/or where there should be a both/and. What if the church is both the expression of AND the instrument of God’s purpose in creation?