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Christian Theology

In completion of McGrath’s Christian Theology, he discusses the doctrine of the church and the sacraments, Christianity against the backdrop of world religions, and eschatology.

First, McGrath presents the populations of the church through the ages.  Isidore states the church is “‘the assembly of saints joined together by correct faith and an excellent manner of life’” (377).  Donatus expresses that the church is a body of “holy” believers “contingent upon the purity of the church and its minsters” (380) and that schism is “totally and absolutely unjustified” (379).  Conversely, Augustine posits it is a “mix of saints and sinners” (379) in a “hospital” for healing and “renewal” (381).  Calvin distinguishes the visible church (community of believers both “elect and reprobate”) and invisible (pure elect known by God) (383).  Reformers such as Simons echo Isidore viewing the church as righteous (384).  McGrath discusses Christ’s presence in the church (385-388) and illustrates the work of the church through the Nicene Creed: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic (391-399).

Next, McGrath discusses the sacraments: what constitutes sacrament, why celebrate it, and what does that celebration do for the believer?  Augustine states “that sacraments do not merely signify grace; in some way, they evoke or enable what they signify” (401).  McGrath submits Hugh’s criteria of sacrament: a “material” component, a “likeness” to the referent, “authorization to signify,” and ability of the sacrament to benefit the participant (403).  Ultimately, the sacraments must offer grace, strengthen faith, unify the church body, and inspire God’s love to the believer (407-411).  Discussion and debate ensued regarding the presence of Christ at the Eucharist (414-420) and similar discussion regarding the age of baptism, triggering the underlying discussion of original sin and, according to Augustine, its guilt and disease (421).

McGrath reviews religion in society (necessary or irrelevant) and where Christianity resides alongside other religions.  Religious consideration can be either through a detached or a committed approach (426).  McGrath states “religions show a marked tendency to depend on the particular purposes and prejudices of individual scholars” (427).  He illustrates purposes of religion: Feuerbach’s “divine predicates are thus recognized as human predicates” (428), Marx’s “‘religion is the self-consciousness…of people who either have not found themselves or who have already lost themselves again’” (429), Freud’s “religion arises through inner psychological pressures” (431), Barth’s criticism of religion as a human institution (433), and Bonhoeffer who argues for “‘religionless Christianity’” (433).  McGrath concludes the chapter identifying salvation through exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism with other religions (435-443).

McGrath completes the text discussing eschatology.  Joachim posits three ages: Father (Old Testament), Son (New Testament), and Spirit (renewal of the church) (448).  McGrath illustrates the positions of eschatology: the Enlightenment, Bultmann, Moltmann, Thielicke, dispensationalism, and Benedict XVI (451-456).  He also discusses the “places” of the end of days: hell, heaven, purgatory.  He also offers the theories of the millennium: amillennialism, premillennialsim, and postmillenialism (457-462).  He concludes by addressing the Christian resurrection body: in earthly form or in spiritual form (462).

Ultimately, McGrath offers evaluation of the body of Christ, how that body corresponds to the faiths, and non-faiths, of the world, and the hope that the body awaits.

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