Early on in my summer break I’ve been enjoying the writings of John Owen (a man of impeccable fashion sense). Chapter XXV of “The Greater Catechism” in volume one of his published works asks, “What is the communion of saints?” The prescribed response:
An holy conjunction between all God’s people, wrought by their participation in the same Spirit, whereby we are all made members of that one body whereof Christ is the head.
Interestingly, in a footnote attached to “conjunction,” Owen comments, “By virtue of this, we partake in all the good and evil of the people of God throughout the world.”
The statement is, I think, a compelling warning against distancing ourselves from the church in moments when we wish only to criticize it. For those of us immersed in the study of theology, it implies, among other things, that we’re not free to berate a perceived theological stupor in the church without acknowledging that we ourselves live and move in the sphere of God’s people. The real question, then, concerns how to help in the pursuit of theological maturity with and among the people to whom we are stubbornly (and blessedly!) linked.