It was the conviction of various Protestant theologians “that the period of dogmatic development that is beginning anew in our own time will have its special assignment in the doctrine of the Church.” Within all the denominations, many heirs of the nineteenth century would come to believe that it had bequethed this “special assignment” to the twentieth century. which some of them therefore came to call “the age of the church.” (Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, pg. 281)

Before this passage Pelikan mentioned that it has become a common idea to say that particular periods in church history have their own doctrines of focus, for the early church it was the Trinity, for the medieval church it was the sacraments, for the reformation it was salvation, and now for us today it is the doctrine of the church.

If you recall what we discussed in our last post, doctrinal development needs to avoid two error’s if its to be a healthy growth, that of the traditionalist mentality of only looking back and that of the ‘novelty-mongers’ of only looking forward. As we navigate this ‘age of the church’ we must thoughtfully deconstruct our inherited ecclesiologies in a way that has a deep and equal grasp on the nature of ecclesiology in each of the era’s of church history and we must with newness of spirit exegete the cultural horizons of the world today as we reconstruct our ecclesiologies. In my mind the emerging churches are attempting to do just that. Are we?

What will be the questions that shape our ecclesiologies today: the place of mission in the life of the Church? the social location of a local community in a global village? the presence of the ‘religious other’ all around us? the upsurge of a new Christendom from the two thirds world? the presence of a new epistemological air that our populus’s are breathing? These are all appropriate questions, but we need to as well be looking into the past and asking ourselves how she dealt with similar matters, similar transitions, and similar temptations.