Church Necessarily: Allison Discusses His New Book
EDITOR’S NOTE: In what follows, Southern Seminary Magazine writer Craig Sanders talks with Gregg Allison, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, about his new book, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Crossway 2012).
CS: Of all the topics in systematic theology, what made you want to write about ecclesiology?
Gregg Allison (GA): One of the distinctives of Baptist theology is its ecclesiology, so being part of Southern Seminary and area churches has re-emphasized for me the importance of this doctrine. I know there are a lot of good writers in other areas like the doctrine of God, but it seems like there’s been a lack of attention among evangelicals to ecclesiology other than in pragmatically oriented books. I thought this would be a really good project to present a biblical and theological ecclesiology.
CS: We have a Baptist Faith and Message as a denomination, but are you suggesting that local and individual churches seem to be lacking strength in confession?
GA: Yes. The Baptist Faith and Message (2000) is a wonderful statement of our confession. In our Southern Baptist churches, if we would read and even summarize it on a regular basis among our members, people would know what we believe and our members know what is expected of them. It provides a way to prepare for church discipline, if people deny Jesus Christ, for example. It brings unity as it helps our people read the Bible with the proper theological framework. So it has a lot of benefits to this confessional element and I think the BF&M is a wonderful framework for what we believe.
CS: What kind of legacy do you hope to leave with this work?
GA: A church that has all the seven characteristics that I list. (1) It’s doxological, oriented to the glory of God; (2) the church is logocentric, centered on the incarnate word, Jesus Christ, and the inspired word of God, Scripture; (3) it is pneumodynamic, empowered, gifted, guided and directed by the Holy Spirit; (4) the church is covenantal, existing in this new covenant relationship with God and displaying strong covenantal relationships between its members; (5) it’s confessional — each person is a regenerate member or has a personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ. And on a regular basis the church confesses the faith — what we believe in the BF&M, for example; (6) it’s missional: we’re called by God and sent out by God to be on mission and that’s not just an activity, it’s an identity of the church; and (7) then the church is spatial temporal eschatological, it is a reality that exists now. It has a building most likely and it’s in a space in time reality and flourishing but it sees itself as a penultimate reality. It’s always looking for that which is to come.