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Right Theology, Right Ecclesiology

I believe in . . . the Holy Catholic [universal, Christian] Church.

The Apostles’ Creed reminds us of a connection that spans geography and time, and places us in communion with saints past, future, and present. This communion seems unimportant to many in this individualistic, self-focused age, but it always has been, and always will be, central and vital to biblical Christianity. Communion in the church, both universal and local, is indispensable and inseparable from genuine Christian faith and practice.


The very first day I was a student at Southern Seminary, I sat down in a classroom to begin a course on church history. There I was, in Norton Hall 195, when Timothy George, a bearded church historian, entered the room. He was freshly minted with a doctorate from Harvard, and I was ready to learn church history. I wasn’t ready for what he said. He looked out at us, surveyed the room, and said, “My task is to inform you that there was someone between Jesus and your grandmother and then to convince you that it matters.” It struck me like a bullet, because he made the argument so unforgettably. Yes, there are so many believers and so many centuries between Jesus and my grandmother—and they do matter.

Contemporary Christianity often fails to grasp the depths of the creed’s affirmation and the importance of the long, unbroken line of communion Christians share as members of Christ’s church. The horizon of American Christianity continues to recede as it embraces the rugged ethos of American individualism. The ethic of personal autonomy shapes the minds, expectations, and worldviews of most Americans. This ethic, regrettably, permeates throughout many evangelical churches. We have no place in our thinking of what it means to believe in the church and the communion of saints. Indeed, the stereotypical American church has devolved into a voluntary association, no different from a local dub or service organization. American ecclesiology often capitulates to a spiritual “cafeteria” designed to meet preferential wants rather than gather together the people of God for Christ-exalting community and worship. The American church has been relegated to a consumer good rather than the body of the risen King of the universe.

The Apostles’ Creed, however, will not permit any deficient view of the church of Jesus Christ. The Apostles’ Creed enshrines a robust and biblical ecclesiology and places within its glorious confession an unshakable affirmation of the church. The wisdom of the church fathers continues to cascade throughout the creed as they insist upon a doctrine of the church alongside affirmations of the Trinity, the atonement, and the mysterious union of the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. For Christians, therefore, a right understanding of theology must include a clear and comprehensive ecclesiology—the doctrine of the church.

—Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 149–151.

Posted 2020·03·12 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Albert Mohler · Church History · Ecclesiology · Unity of Believers

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