This essay aims to explain what Aquinas does and does not mean when using the word ‘God’. It also tries to explain why Aquinas thinks it reasonable to conclude that God exists and how Aquinas can be compared and contrasted with certain thinkers both agreeing and disagreeing with this conclusion. The essay places emphasis on Aquinas’s notion of esse and on the fact that he consistently asserts that we do not know what God is.
Michael A. Sells
This chapter, which looks at the actual or alleged cases of apocalypticism within contemporary Iranian Shi'ite, Saudi Sunni, and American Christian circles, evaluates the issue of contemporary militant apocalypticism, emphasizing the competition between its American Christian and Islamic versions. The hadith collections present contradictory reports regarding the end-time struggle between the Messiah Jesus and Dajjal. Militant near-term apocalypticism summons the power of religion, imagination, and personal conviction against any serious peace endeavor; demonizes those who work toward such endeavors; and sanctifies those who, once the tribulation or endtimes conflict is underway, kill the peacemakers. The apocalyptic messianism of American dispensationalists, and of the Salafi Sunni figures Safar al-Hawali and Ali al-Timimi, feature scenarios of Middle Eastern and global carnage ending with messianic triumph and theologically grounded rejection of Middle East peacemaking.
Scott W. Sunquist
Asian ecumenism began as a pragmatic concern of Western mission agencies, but was catalysed under the pressure of Japanese imperialism early in the twentieth century. National ecumenical organizations were promoted in the wake of the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, but with the dismantling of imperialism in Asia after the Pacific War, national and regional cooperation became the sole work of younger Asian leaders. Organic church unions occurred between the 1930s and 1960s, but this has not been a major theme of ecumenism in Asia. China is unique in the ecumenical movement in Asia because of the formation of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement as a way to negotiate a new place for the church in Chinese society. Ecumenism has once again become more pragmatic, and major ecumenical bodies (e.g. the Christian Conference of Asia) have become more focused on issues such as public health, disaster relief, and the environment.
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all claim that God has given humans a revelation. Divine revelation may be either of God, or by God of propositional truth. Traditionally Christianity has claimed that the Christian revelation has involved both of these. God revealed himself in his acts in history; for example in the miracles by which he preserved the people of ancient Israel, and above all by becoming incarnate (that is human) as Jesus Christ, who was crucified and rose from the dead. And God also revealed to us propositional truths by the teaching of Jesus and his church. Some modern theologians have denied that Christianity involves any propositional revelation, but there can be little doubt that from the second century until the eighteenth century, Christians and non-Christians were virtually unanimous in supposing that it claimed to have such a revelation, and so it is worthwhile investigating its traditional claim. This article is concerned with the Christian claim to have a propositional revelation. The first section describes the process by which Christians of past centuries have come to believe that certain propositions have been revealed. The second assesses alternative philosophical accounts of what constitutes a belief that such-and-such propositions have been revealed, being a ‘justified’ belief (or a ‘warranted’ or ‘rational’ one).
Susan K. Wood SCL
This chapter surveys commonalities and divergences with regard to the theology and practice of baptism that are reflected in the World Council of Churches convergence document on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, and considers in particular the Anabaptist, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Quaker, and Reformed traditions. Major topics treated include: the role of faith with regard to baptism, interconnections between baptism, faith, and justification; the relationship between baptism and patterns of initiation in various traditions; and elements of the ancient catechumenate in contemporary rites. The chapter argues that in the expansive theology of baptism in the catechumenal tradition baptism is understood to be transformative and regenerative, eucharistic in orientation and meaning, eschatological in orientation, and ecclesial in context. The chapter finally summarizes the achievements of ecumenical dialogue and identifies remaining issues.
The chapter traces the history of bilateral dialogues and considers the experience and results of dialogue. It discusses the particular nature of bilateral dialogues in contrast with multilateral ecumenism, and the goals of such dialogue, which take different forms, e.g. identifying differences and achieving agreements, removing mistrust and beginning a mutual acquaintance, and the ‘reconciliation of memories’, depending on the partners involved. Attention is given to various problems of bilateral dialogues, for example, their correspondence with the actual reality of the churches involved, the coherence between multiple dialogues in which a given church may be involved, the reception of their results, and their effectiveness in changing perspectives. Reception is required not just at the level of church leadership, but also in the everyday lives of the churches, where bilateral dialogues are nowadays often perceived as being far removed from the life of local congregations.
This chapter begins by noting the contribution of British ecumenists to the ecumenical movement and then proceeds to survey the ecumenical scene in Britain and Ireland against the political and constitutional background of the United Kingdom—comprising England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland—and the separate jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland. It notes the favourable ecumenical climate in England and Wales and goes on to outline local ecumenical relationships, including Local Ecumenical Partnerships, the ecumenical instruments for each nation and for all four, and various forms of cooperation at the national level. The chapter then turns to examples of theological dialogue, proposals for closer unity, and the problems of their reception and implementation, with a particular focus on the Anglican-Methodist Covenant.
This chapter discusses charismatic renewal within Anglicanism. It begins with a brief description of charismatic Christian spirituality and its roots. The charismatic renewal movements of the 1960s and their Pentecostal origins, in the US and Britain, and their impact on Episcopal and Anglican churches are reviewed. Tensions between those within these renewal movements and the established churches are discussed. The chapter includes an overview of charismatic Christianity around the globe, and of the forms of worship and theology generally associated with charismatic renewal.
Traditional Christianity makes some radical claims about God and creation. The God of Christianity is not a god of some finite region who has limited power and knowledge but the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent creator of all. Moreover, the redeemer in Christianity is not simply an inspired prophet or priest; rather, Jesus Christ is believed to be the unique incarnation of God. Persons are to find salvation by dying to selfish and sinful life and by being united with Jesus Christ, whose birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection bring about an atonement (or at-onement) with God. In light of these extraordinary claims, the question arises as to whether the existence of diverse, alternative religions, as well as the existence of diverse secular cultures, is a problem. It might be thought that diversity is not at all surprising given the history of the Judaism from which Christianity emerged. This article examines religious diversity from a Christian perspective, universal creation and redemption, and Christian alternatives to diversity.
Ralph G. Del Colle
In espousing a communion ecclesiology in which members of the church participate in the life of the Trinity through the work of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, most ecumenical dialogue has presumed Trinitarian and Christological belief in accord with the early councils of the church. Few dialogues have explicitly addressed the topic of Christology, but highly significant results have been achieved in those dialogues. This chapter analyses a number of decisive agreements reached between Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian (Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian) churches, and several agreed statements between Reformation churches which, while accepting the Chalcedonian definition, have traditionally held different understandings of the communicatio idiomatum between the two natures of Christ and his divine person, with consequently varying understandings of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The chapter traces developments in ecclesiology through the twentieth century, as the ecumenical movement unfolded, and raises questions about the relationship between the church and the communion of the Persons of the Trinity, and about the nature of the Church as eucharistic and sacramental. Further more practical questions about authority, primacy, and synodality (or conciliarity) are also examined in light of the work of multilateral ecumenical dialogues (especially within the World Council of Churches), and bilateral dialogues, particularly the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and the international Roman Catholic–Orthodox theological dialogue. Considerable progress has been made on all these questions, but new issues have recently arisen, and these are briefly treated, including questions of imperfect communion, of the ordination of women and of those in same-sex relationships, and questions of geographical scope relative to jurisdiction and canonical territory.
Thomas F. Best
The ecumenical movement exists to make the unity of Christ’s church more visible and effective in the churches’ own lives, and in their common witness and service to the world. Since 1990 it has made remarkable progress in such areas as ecclesiology, worship, mission, prophetic witness, and service in global, regional, national, and local contexts. Not least, it has broadened its scope as new partners have come to the table. Churches, councils of churches, bilateral discussions, united and uniting churches, and church aid and development agencies have all contributed to this success. But while ecumenism is now embedded in the lives of many churches, it faces challenges posed by the churches’ declining resources, their growing focus on internal issues, and the general societal distrust of organizations beyond the local level. Notions such as mutual accountability may help the churches live out their ecumenical vocation.
This chapter explores the notion of covenant as an instrument which may facilitate closer and more binding relationships between or among churches wanting to commit to each other in a further step on the road to complete unity. The history of the term is outlined, noting its origin with the World Council of Churches. Several recent covenant relationships in different parts of the world are examined, with comments on their development and documentation. It is observed that a leading motivation in the establishment of covenants has been that of mission, while a significant challenge has been varying theologies of ministry. Particular note is taken of the covenant between the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland (Anglican), in which these churches are formulating legislation to facilitate interchangeability of ministries.
David M. Freidenreich
This survey of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic dietary law finds no recognition within pre-modern sources of the biblical or familial affinities implied by the contemporary term Abrahamic. The profound diversity of norms regarding animal species, blood, meat and dairy, and alcohol demonstrates that it is misleading to focus on the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are rooted in a common scripture. Pre-modern sources about the food of religious foreigners, moreover, do not express a sense of Abrahamic kinship among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. These sources instead employ classificatory methods that reinforce ideas particular to each tradition’s approach to claiming superiority over foreigners. The term Abrahamic offers a convenient label for the juxtaposition of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sources that bypasses the diverse and ideologically driven categories native to these traditions; the more one focuses on the term’s meaning, however, the less useful it becomes.
The chapter gives an account of the roots of the modern ecumenical movement, of the latter’s social and ecclesial context, and of its first organizational manifestations leading up to the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh 1910. This predominantly Protestant movement developed in a setting marked by the climax of modernity and increasing secularization in northern societies, colonization and missionary enterprises in the south, polarization in theology, and denominationalism in church life. It drew from diverse sources, such as the YMCA/YWCA, the WSCF, the Evangelical Alliance and the missionary movement, and from the commitment of individuals such as John R. Mott. Its key aim was to promote cooperation in mission, to prevent the export of denominational divisions to the south, and to call the churches to unity. The movement facilitated a growing shift from confessionalism to ecumenicity.
Kevin W. Irwin
The chapter surveys the statements and initiatives on ecology developed within and issued by the World Council of Churches, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Roman Catholic Church. It finds care for creation to be a concern to which churches have responded both through individual initiatives and by ecumenical dialogue. It identifies 1989–1990 as a watershed when statements and initiatives began to develop ecological teachings centred on the creative activity of the Trinity, the responsibility of members of the church as stewards and priests of creation, and the centrality of prayer and liturgy—especially the Eucharist—in care for creation. Finally, it indicates avenues for further ecumenical dialogue and offers suggestions for action, focusing in particular on sacramentality and a sacramental view of the world, and highlighting the ecclesiological importance of contributions, initiatives, and statements from local churches.
After noting convergences regarding the Eucharist between the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the views of the 1963 Faith and Order conference, this chapter surveys a wide range of bilateral and multilateral ecumenical agreed statements on the Eucharist achieved in recent decades. It finds broad progress in them regarding three specific aspects of the Eucharist, namely, the links between the Eucharist and the Church, the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit, and the Eucharist and the future (or eschatology), respectively. It identifies outstanding issues, especially regarding the Eucharist as sacrament and sacrifice, and suggests how the progress provides a new context for tackling those issues. The relationship between baptismal and eucharistic ecclesiologies is then considered, and also ways in which the Eucharist has been recognized in ecumenical dialogue as influencing the structure of the Church. Attention is finally given to ecological implications of the Eucharist.
Generically, ‘faith and order’ designates the contents of doctrinal belief and the patterns of social and governmental structure that mark the historically varied communities that claim the name and status of ‘church’. Concern with these closely connected areas has been central to the worldwide ecumenical movement since the early twentieth century. The chapter focuses on the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, which has the overall aim of calling the churches to the goal of visible unity in order that the world may believe. It considers the activities and organization of the Commission, and various fruits of its work across a range of issues, including the apostolic faith, anthropological and moral issues, tradition, and ecclesiology. It particularly highlights the consensus document on ‘Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry’ (1982), and the process culminating in the report: ‘The Church: Towards a Common Vision’ (2013).
Robert Gribben and Larry Miller
Among the trends of world Christianity is the growth of ‘new churches’, mostly evangelical or Pentecostal in character. Few of these have any real contact with historic Protestant traditions, let alone with other members of the World Council of Churches. The question for the ecumenical movement, in which most of the historic churches are engaged, is: how to invite these new bodies into the global conversation? How might they contribute to the political, ethical, and community concerns facing people of faith? One answer has been the development, through the Global Christian Forum, of an ‘open space’ in which emerging churches might judge for themselves their need for and degree of participation with other Christians in facing realities such as discrimination and persecution, and in addressing issues in mission such as proselytism. This chapter traces the development of the Forum and considers its nature and its working principles.
Paul D. Murray
This chapter explores ecumenical methodology. It is organized in six sections. The first reflects on ecumenism as a ‘method’, a ‘way’, variously understood, about which there is a second-order methodological discourse concerning how it is best pursued. The second reflects on the variant approaches of ‘Life and Work’ ecumenism and ‘Faith and Order’ ecumenism. The third assesses some of the strategies which have hitherto been important in bilateral dialogue and identifies the need now for an ecumenical gear-change. The fourth section pursues this idea by focusing on a strategy which has come to be referred to as ‘receptive ecumenism’. Following an exploration of the methodological implications of this strategy in relation to bilateral dialogues in the fifth section, the sixth section finally explores its implications at the level of the local church.