“Can These Bones Live?”: The Question Before the Church

I hope to return in the very near future to posting audio from my book launch celebration, as well as to pick up where I left off in my series on Lesslie Newbigin’s “marks of the missional church.”  In the meantime, here is a penetrating assessment of the challenge placed before the contemporary church in North America by the “Catholic Baptist” theologian Barry Harvey:

“The church presently finds itself in circumstances similar to those suffered by the Jews in Ezekiel’s day. It was not war, however, that was responsible for the fragmentation of its life and witness. Instead, powerful political structures, economic forces, and social movements have severed the sinews that bound the members of the risen Christ’s earthly-historical body to one another and to the crucified and risen Lord. Stripped of its status as the body of Christ in the world, the Christian community has been reconstituted as a collegium pietatis, a social club for the cultivation of a privatized spirituality. Faith has likewise been reconfigured from its biblical specifications encompassing the whole of bodily life and concerns into a purely private, inward, and ‘spiritual’ matter, and the community of word, sacrament, and discipleship into a vendor of spiritual goods and services. The dry bones of the church are now beholden to ‘spirits’ to which, ironically, Christians helped give birth, and which now exercise a usurped authority over them that God had reserved for the work of the Holy Spirit. The question that left the prophet perplexed, ‘Can these bones live?’ is thus one posed to us as well.”1

  1. Barry Harvey, Can These Bones Live? A Catholic Baptist Engagement with Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics, and Social Theory (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008), 30.

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