In chapters 1, 2, and 3, Radmacher lays out the historical context for his discussion of the nature of church. Tracing the contemporary setting (1960s and 1970s), the development of ecclesiology across the centuries, and the varying Catholic and Protestant ecclesiologies, he constructs an ever-deepening picture of what one might construe as Radmacher’s Box (my small homage to the Chalcedonian Box; see B2 in the outline)
Radmacher discusses two intersecting loci: the locus of existence and the locus of authority. Over the centuries the theological pendulum has swung—sometimes wildly—across these loci.
The locus of existence places the church on the continuum of universal to local. Over the centuries, theologies have placed this locus at varying points along the continuum—often outside the box. When the locus is placed outside the box, another theology arises to swing the pendulum to the other extreme. Some theologies have so emphasized the universal church that the local congregation is neglected and demoted. Here unity is primary, even to the point of forced conformity. Other theologies have so emphasized the local congregation that the universal church is neglected and demoted. Here cultural context is primary, even to the point of theological emptiness. The true nature of church exists along the continuum and inside the box. Achieving proper balance is necessary and difficult.
The locus of authority places the church on the continuum of eternal to temporal. When the locus is deemed to be only temporal, human authority outstrips divine authority and idolatry (putting anything in the place of God) becomes an easy temptation. When the locus is deemed to be only eternal, divine authority can become a matter of perspective and relativity is a temptation. The true nature of church exists along the continuum and inside the box. As with the universal-local continuum, achieving balance is necessary and difficult.
In the next few weeks I will summarize and interact with Radmacher’s solution to the swinging pendulum.