Harper, Metzger, Exploring Ecclesiology

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Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger, Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction. Brazos Press, 2009.

Referenced in: Ecclesiology

LifeandLeadership.com Summary

Theology of Mission and Ministry.

Summary: Harper and Metzger’s Exploring Ecclesiology is an excellent example of contextualized ecclesiology, exploring God’s intent for the church into a specific cultural setting, in our case Western society generally and North America particularly.

This is a balanced and responsibly written missional ecclesiology. The chapter development provides a rhythm of theology and application. The first chapter affirms the church as a Trinitarian community, and the second chapter uses this Trinitarian base to challenge the church’s appropriation of American individualism. Chapter three describes the church as an eschatological community, emphasizing our participation in the eventual redemption of the whole creation, and chapter four demonstrates how this should translate into the ecological stewardship of the creation (“creation care”). Chapter five discusses the church as a worshipping community, and chapter six suggests criteria by which the church may critique the culturally generated forms of worship it uses (e.g. music, drama, art) as to whether they represent God and the gospel with integrity (115-116). Chapter seven portrays the church as a sacramental community, and chapter eight elevates the sacraments as means of authentic communion with Christ, with emphasis on the Lord’s Supper. Here one finds a compelling plea that the Lord’s Supper be a deep and reflective celebration of the visible unity of the body of Christ, which has sociological and economical implications. One will also appreciate here the balance that is characteristic of the entire book, expressing evangelically conservative affirmations and ecumenically sensitive practice. Chapter 9 continues with teaching on the church as a serving community through which each person uses spiritual gifts as an instrument of God’s grace to others. It includes an excellent discussion of how spiritual gifts should be discovered, affirmed, and exercised. Chapter 10 builds on the idea of service by proposing that the church recapture the practice of church discipline as the “lost element of service.” This is one of the best summaries of biblical teaching on church discipline I have read. The authors handle several other subjects with the same balance and skill, such as ordainment, the role of women, the counter-cultural community of Jesus as presented in the Sermon on the Mount, and more.

Readers who are familiar with the current literature on church and culture will appreciate the fact that the authors draw from a wide diversity of scholars. Writers like David Wells and D. A. Carson are quoted alongside Stanley Hauerwas and Rodney Clapp. The writing is not overly technical, though it is sprinkled with language those unexposed to theology may find daunting. For the typical scholar-practitioner, however, the entire book is refreshingly accessible. Study questions appear at the end of each chapter. The back matter includes a helpful index and a list of recommended resources.

From the Publisher

In this introduction to ecclesiology, respected scholars Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger offer a solidly evangelical yet ecumenical survey of the church in mission and doctrine. Combining biblical, historical, and cultural analysis, this comprehensive text explores the church as a Trinitarian, eschatological, worshiping, sacramental, serving, ordered, cultural, and missional community. It also offers practical application, addressing contemporary church life issues such as women in ministry, evangelism, social action, consumerism in church growth trends, ecumenism, and the church in postmodern culture. The book will appeal to all who are interested in church doctrine, particularly undergraduates and seminarians.

Editorial Reviews

  • “A marvelous volume on ecclesiology in the contemporary setting. I have not read a better introduction to ecclesiology and hope that it becomes a standard textbook in college and seminary classes as well as finding a wide readership outside of the academy. It is a splendid example of theology in service to the church.”—John R. Franke, Biblical Seminary
  • “This is an important new book. Evangelicals have often emphasized individual faith in Christ at the expense of the corporate character of the Christian community. This book shows why that dichotomy is false by pointing us toward a more holistic ecclesiology—the church biblical, trinitarian, sacramental, missional, and eschatological. This book needs to be read and heeded!”—Timothy George, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; senior editor of Christianity Today
  • “Harper and Metzger provide evangelical Protestants an ideal entrée into what has been the long-neglected stepsister of systematic theology in North America. A must read for evangelicals who intuitively know that the church is not incidental or just instrumental to the Christian life.”—Barry Harvey, Baylor University
  • “Harper and Metzger have written an important evangelical and ecumenical introduction to ecclesiology. Being evangelicals themselves, they have managed to incorporate into their vision of the church important insights from both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox theology and tradition. I believe that this is a book from which Orthodox students, theologians, and pastors have much to learn.”—Rev. Dr. Demetrios Bathrellos, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge
  • “An evangelical ecclesiology that takes the counter-cultural notion of divine communio as its starting point merits reading. That this book also examines race, sacraments, and Christian art will really grab the attention of a serious and plentiful readership. Metzger and Harper deserve the highest praise for pushing the envelope.”—Peter Casarella, DePaul University

About the Authors

Brad Harper (PhD, St. Louis University) is professor of theology at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon. He is the college adviser for The Institute for Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and the book review editor for Cultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture. He has also worked as a pastor and church planter.

Paul Louis Metzger (PhD, King’s College London) is professor of Christian theology and theology of culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary and director of its Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. He is the editor of the journal Cultural Encounters and the author of Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church.

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