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Free Churches and the Body of Christ: Authority, Unity, and Truthfulness

Free Churches and the Body of Christ: Authority, Unity, and Truthfulness

by Jeffrey W. Cary


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Those within the free church tradition have often appealed to the notion of the invisible church to account for the unity of the Body of Christ. A growing number of free church theologians, however, are giving increased attention to the importance of visible ecclesial unity, which immediately raises the perennial problem of the authorities by which unity is maintained. There is also a growing recognition among free church theologians of the need to recognize the authority of tradition in tandem with the authority of Scripture. In this book, Cary affirms these recent developments but then inquires whether a turn toward visible unity, together with an embrace of the authority of tradition, can eventually be coherent without also embracing the authority of an extra-congregational teaching office.

To guide his study, Cary engages the work of two theologians from outside the free church tradition: Robert Jenson and Rowan Williams. He then brings them into contact with the prominent free church theologian James McClendon in order to supplement some of the deficiencies Cary perceives in McClendon's groundbreaking work. Once these deficiencies are addressed, however, the question intensifies whether the free church tradition, as such, can remain a coherent ecclesial option over time.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610976374
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 02/07/2013
Series: Free Church, Catholic Tradition , #1
Pages: 230
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Jeff Cary is Assistant Professor of Theology at Lubbock Christian University in Lubbock, Texas.

Table of Contents

Series Preface ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiii

1 Introduction 1

2 Recent Developments within the Free Church Tradition 11

3 Robert W. Jenson on Unity and Authority 39

4 Rowan Williams on Unity and Authority 97

5 James Wm. McClendon Jr: Assessment and Critique 156

6 Conclusion 193

Bibliography 203

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This work inspires me as a Catholic and fills me with enormous gratitude for . . . [what] God is doing to heal Christian divisions of our own making. By drawing on theologians who ask similar catholic questions in other Christian communions, Cary is able to advance the Free Church tradition as one capable of conjoining the gift of freedom to the gift of being made one in Christ's body, the church. It is a feast of ecumenical hope."

—C. C. Pecknold, The Catholic University of America

"No advocate or critic of the current quest in the Free Church tradition for a fuller catholicity and deeper commitment to the visible unity of the church catholic should proceed further in reflecting on this movement without reading, marking, and inwardly digesting this agenda-setting book."

—Steven R. Harmon, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity

"Virtually unnoticed in the midst of our fragmented society and divided church is a group of younger theologians in the Free Church tradition . . . Cary stands out in this group as one whose love for and depth of insight into his own church heritage, together with a well-honed ability to analyze and incorporate the wisdom of the larger church, is truly remarkable . . . It deserves a wide and careful read, not just by Free Church scholars, but by all Christians who are wrestling with this question."

—Barry Harvey, Baylor University

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