This book is a disciplined introduction to ecclesiology. With respect to the community which “the Lord purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28), parts one and two focus on a critical-exegetical presentation of the New Testament’s descriptions and themes, locating their treatment within two millennia of reflection, and appreciating the impact of those contexts on our understanding. From over ninety New Testament images, chapters four to ten identify and argue for three foundational concepts: ekklēsia (assembly); sōma Christou (the body of Christ); and koinōnia hagiōn (the communion of the saints). Continuing the conversation with Scripture and its history of interpretation, Robert Doyle then applies the determinative biblical themes to present practice, centering it on the churches of the Evangelical and Reformed traditions. Part four illuminates ecclesiology from other foundational Christian doctrines: the triune God of holy love; Christology, our ascended human high priest and king; and the doctrine of revelation, the church as “the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” The final part focuses on three possible points of transformation in ecclesial life and witness, both internally and outward to the world.
Robert Doyle has pastored churches in Australia and Scotland, and for four decades researched and taught systematic and historical theology at Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia, and George Whitefield College, Cape Town, South Africa.
Part I: Locating the Doctrine
1. Five Cautions, and Hope
2. Inside two millennia of reflection
3. And more recent context, postmodernism
Part II: Three Foundational New Testament Indicators
4. Ekklēsia: “assembly”
5. Challenge of Communication: Protestant debates over original use, local contexts, hermeneutics
6. Earthly assemblies and the heavenly assembly
7. Sōma Christou: “the body of Christ,” the Christ of the New Creation.
8. How to understand the “ontological relationship” between Christ and his church?
9. The question of continuity between intermittent gatherings
10. Koinōnia hagiōn: “the communion of the saints”
11. The communion of the saints is in the Spirit: the work of men and women, and the attributes of the church
Part III. Implications for Present Practice
12. Christ’s continued purposes for his church: double edification
13. Growth in Fellowship through Participation in Ministry
14. Wider theological foundations of ministry
15. Denominations, church law, and pastor pastorum
16. Sacramental behavior: how the bible has been used
17. Baptism and Lord’s Supper in the New Testament
Part IV: Illumination from Other Foundational Christian Doctrines
18. The triune God of holy love: his relation to the world and the sociality of the saints
19. Christology: our ascended human high priest and king
20. The Doctrine of Revelation: “the pillar and bulwark of the truth”
Part V: In Review - Three Points of Transformation
21. Living in the Church
Robert Doyle invites us into a deeply learned conversation both evangelical and ecumenical between biblical studies, church history, and systematic theology on central themes and contested issues of a doctrine of the Church and its mission. Readers will appreciate the multitude of well-chosen phrases and clear-eyed arguments in which the author interacts with ancient and contemporary commentators regarding Church order, sacraments, and recent cultural debates. Crucial to Doyle’s study is his conviction that the true understanding of the Church is found in its dynamic relation to the doctrines of Christ, Trinity, and revelation.
There are various reasons why Dr. Doyle’s outstanding new book should be widely read by both scholars and students alike. In our virtual media age, it is firstly a timely reminder to reflect afresh on the perennial importance of an authentic, gathering church. Secondly, whilst drawing from multiple theological traditions, it remains profoundly orthodox. Finally, drawing from a lifetime of teaching theology at various institutions in more than one continent, it is deeply erudite, didactically friendly, and pastorally sensitive. As such it is uniquely suited to serve as a text for students training for ministry.
A reflection on the multifaceted reality of the body of Christ, that heavenly gathering expressed in local assemblies all over the world. Brilliant in length, breadth, and depth: Ecclesiology explained in conversation with centuries of discussion; ranging across the spectrum of Christian thought set within its intellectual milieu; and profoundly anchored in Christology. From the New Testament assemblies to those of today’s confused and divided world, Christ has his people living under the grace of God and living out the love of God. Transformative! My ordinary gathering together with other ordinary believers just became extraordinary.
Here is a mature, fresh, and unashamedly Protestant account of the Christian church which is shaped by a deep confidence in the finished work of Christ, a delight in the Trinitarian foundation and pattern of Christian fellowship, a commendable determination to honour the inescapable simplicity of the New Testament witness, and a keen sense of its urgent and enduring relevance to ordinary Christian identity. Those committed to the biblical faithfulness of particular confessional or denominational traditions are unlikely to agree with everything in this book, and questions are likely to linger over what “good and necessary” consequences may be drawn from the teaching of Scripture on the church and related doctrines, whether Old Testament or New. But this only serves to make it a more stimulating and profitable read. It is my hope that this book will command a wide audience of readers who are marked by what Doyle aptly describes as an “evangelical humility, and gratitude,” which is unafraid to bring individual and collective “understanding and practice before the searching gaze of Scripture."
This book is first and foremost an attempt to hear what the Lord has to say to his church – who she is, how she should live and for what does she hope. Through a patient and careful re-reading of the New Testament texts in the company of the saints past and present, Doyle offers a disciplined and helpful introduction to ecclesiology. With a special eye to the ministry and mission of Protestant churches, this book provides essential conceptual tools for denominational pastors, church planters and mature laypeople together to love the Lord, the church, and the unsaved world.