Gesell- oder Gemeinschaft?

Barth and Bonhoeffer both use Gemeinde, but following Tonnies, and reading the WCC statements on nature, I'm wondering to what extent different groups desire that the church should be more gesellschaftlich or more gemeinschaftlich in its mixture of the two normal types.

The emphasis on mission from the first commentary period on Nature and Purpose have led to a Nature and Mission text that hits koinonia and mission much harder. To the extent that we might agree that its nature in Christ and in God as a whole is Gemeinde, and that the church is a Gemeinschaft, its nature on the human side (in via, as the text says) is different. If we try to talk about the one church and the many churches, there is much about the situation that leans to the looseness of Gesellschaft, and to its orientation about a common purpose -- or at least a shared one, motivating separate entities toward ideally like goals. I'm obliged to look at the WCC and Faith and Order especially as Gesellschaften, collaborative but loosely bound together, and oriented around a purpose and an idea more than their organic ties. The idea on which that society works happens to be community, which may be one of the great ironies of sin.

Perhaps that is what it means that the job of Faith and Order is to get out of the way of Life and Work.

In this work of ecclesiology, we are describing what we must think of in the ideal as resembling the house churches of the Pauline era, or the synoptic recollections of apostolic community around and after Jesus. Gemeinde. What we must also think of in the ideal according to its official beliefs (often the ecumenical councils, and therefore the creeds, and therefore the marks), and in many cases in terms of the contentious clarifications of those by later groups (the satis est of the Augustana, or Luther's much later seven marks). Or, as Bonhoeffer begins in Sanctorum Communio, in terms of sociology and what we know of community, and what we know of humanity and human existence, reflected into dogmatics. Or, as Zizioulas, in terms of patristic theological notions of personhood and community.

Kind of gives the lie to "must" -- how must we think of the church?


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