Abingdon Press has released the third entry in their “Reframing New Testament Theology” series: Why the Church? by Robert W. Wall.
I started reading the first chapter and was caught by the heading which posed the question of today’s post. Here’s what Wall wrote.
“As important as it is to consider different reasons why people might question or defend their need for church, more pertinent is the theological question as to whether God needs the church, especially one whose failures are notorious! Isn’t even the suggestion that our omni-God should need anything outrageous? Still more ludicrous is that God should require the services of a stumbling, bumbling church that only gets in God’s way! And yet any student who prepares to study scripture’s conception of the church must face this challenging question: Why does God elect and bring a particular people into existence to love and treasure and to commission and call? After all, God, being an omni-God, doesn’t act without good reason. Why the church?
Three broad lines of argument may be useful in sketching an answer to this question: the church provides a home for a covenant-making God, the church actively participates with God in a shared mission to save the world, and the church bears passive witness to the gracious operations of a saving God.” (pp. 4-5)
“Why is the church necessary? Certainly God, being God, doesn’t need anyone or anything to do what God has promised to do according to scripture. But if the believer responds that God doesn’t need the church to accomplish the work of salvation, then one is allowed to cast suspicion on the continuing relevance of scripture, the sacraments, or any ecclesial practice that we might otherwise consider providential in the economy of God. Christianity would devolve into a spectator sport, awaiting God’s magical performances and nothing more.” (p. 6)
Why the Church? is a paperback with 200 pages and sells for $29.99.
Robert W. Wall is The Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.