Dan Treier on Scripture and Church, Institution and Charism

Daniel J. Treier, Virtue and the Voice of God: Towards Theology As Wisdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006), 87.
History bears out that neither “institution” nor “charism” is an unqualified good. However, at least one may claim that New Covenant fulfillment of OT expectations makes some space for personal judgment within the church: the Spirit speaking in Scripture to the church, an anointing that enlightens the eyes of believing hearts, must retain a certain extra nos character, outside the church as well as the individual.

This necessity arises soteriologically; because we do not have the will to love as we ought, institutional Christian practice must not become so routine and all-encompassing that no room is left for interruptive or freely justifying divine grace. Such interruptions need not preclude God’s commitment to church practices as prime means of grace, but there remains a practical necessity: divine transcendence can serve as a potent critical principle for theology, yet if Scripture simply becomes a storehouse of meanings ruled immanently by church interpretation, the force of that critical principle seems lost.

Likewise, loss or lack of dogma may have “helped generate the undisciplined disorder” of Protestantism, but giving up a careful version of sola scriptura may not be the solution; perhaps it is “the excessive uniformity sometimes imposed by Rome that has encouraged the rebelliousness of many theologians.” The very real danger, and sad reality, of Protestant individualism and fragmentation should be seen as a selective and mistaken appropriation of Luther and Calvin, rather than a necessary entailment of their basic position. Neither “institution” nor “charism” alone can guarantee the stability of a truly faithful Christian identity.
NB - Be sure to check out the Amazon list I have created to keep track of Treier's scholarship. You can access it on the right panel.


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