Saturday, January 30, 2010

Vanhoozer on Evangelical Catholic or Catholic Evangelical

After shifts in my understanding of church and sacraments, I decided that I would henceforth describe myself as an "Evangelical Catholic" (I'd like to add the label "Reformed" as well, but I'll just assume that it's embedded in "Evangelical"). But the question that plagues me is which should be the adjective and which should be the main noun. Does "evangelical" modify "catholic" or should "catholic" modify "evangelical"? Towards that end, Kevin Vanhoozer writes:

"'Catholicity' signifies the church as the whole people of God, spread out over space, across cultures, and through time. 'We believe in one ... catholic church.' The evangelical unity of the church is compatible with a catholic diversity. To say that theology must be catholic, then, is to affirm the necessity of involving the whole church in the project of theology. No single denomination 'owns' catholicity: catholicity is no more the exclusive domain of the Roman Church than the gospel is the private domain of evangelicals. Catholic and Evangelical belong together. To be precise 'catholic' qualifies 'evangelical'. The gospel designated a determinate word; catholicity, the scope of its reception. 'Evangelical' is the central notion, but 'catholic' adds a crucial antireductionist qualifier that prohibits any one reception of the gospel from becoming paramount" (Drama of Doctrine, 27).

For this quote I am going to award big Kev the "Clever Little Bunny Award" (the flip side of my "Soggy Fish Award"). For writing a good book that is helping me prepare my lectures on Systematic Theology!


Tyler said...

thank you for this.

Eddie said...

nice bunny rabbit

theologist said...

The proper response is that neither word is a noun, and the noun they both qualify is 'Christian' - that's our basic identity and adjectives like 'catholic' and 'evangelical' attempt to describe the kind of Christian we each are.

dakotaduck said...

What does the word "catholic" mean? Does it mean universal, sophisticated and accepting of nearly everything for the sake of physical unity? If so, was Paul catholic? Was Jude? Or Second Peter? Or does "catholic" express what a whole council has confessed in contrast to other opinions. The Athenasian Creed, when it declares what is catholic, does not speak of being broadminded and flexiable in all matters of doctrine. (Nor does it speak of bishops or popes) But it states, "Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being."