on April 11, 2000
With the publication of Everett Ferguson's book on ecclesiology, another milestone has been reached in the scholarly presentation of the distinctive theological perspective of Churches of Christ. The book is divided into six chapters, each roughly sixty to seventy pages in length. Within each chapter, Ferguson neatly and systematically outlines his thoughts and arguments. The first chapter, entitled "The People and the Messiah: History and Eschatology," deals mainly with background issues. It examines the Old Testament teaching on the importance of covenant and the meaning of the phrase "kingdom of God" in its relationship to an and distinction from the church. Ferguson enters into the New Testament and ecclesiology proper via a consideration of Jesus as Messiah, including a careful exegesis of Matt. 16:13-23, where he concludes that the "rock" of Matt. 16:18 is not Peter, but the fact of Jesus' Messiahship. Ferguson's analysis of Matt. 16:13-23 is insightful and carefully articulated. Within this section, he gives attention to "the gates of Hades will not prevail" and concludes with some interesting yet encouraging insight. In the second chapter, "The Church and Her Lord: The Nature of the Church," Ferguson deals with and focuses on three images, "people of God," "body of Christ," and "community of the Spirit." A peculiar feature in this chapter is placing the discussion of the word ekklesia last rather than first. The latter would seem more appropriate and would seem to set the stage for the chapter, especially for a work of biblical ecclesiology. This great section will open the eyes of the reader and renew his focus of church. That is to say, this chapter correctly puts Christ as the head of the church and gives Him His appropriate place. The third chapter concentrates on, "The Church and Her Savior: Salvation and Church Membership." Essentially this section covers soteriology, which determines ecclesiology, but it is not ecclesiology itself. His full treatment of the nature of sin, the meaning of the cross, and the human response to God's saving work is only loosely linked to his topic of ecclesiology. This is not to say that this section is uninteresting or uninformative because it is quite helpful for a fuller understanding of these matters. Far more important is the content of Ferguson's soteriology. Ferguson is strong when it comes to the necessity of baptism. A few statements will give the reader an idea of his position: "Baptism is the time at which one is incorporated into Christ and so becomes a child of God" (pg. 170); "Baptism is a `calling on the name' of the Lord" (pg. 180); and, "Baptism is the appointed time at which God pronounces forgiveness" (pg. 183). He concludes: There must be an objective necessity about baptism, or New Testament writers could not speak of baptism in the way they do" (pg. 185). How refreshing! In our world of relativity and ecumenism, people need to hear Ferguson's words, especially those in Churches of Christ. The last three chapters move into a more familiar territory for a treatise on the church. Chapter four, "The Church and Her High Priest: Worship and Assembly" is a great section for anyone interested in the dynamics of worship. Here, Ferguson begins with a type of etymology as a way of introduction, concentrating on both the Greek and English words. This introduction to the subject sets the stage for the entire chapter. Worship is a hot topic today, thus chapter four is rather applicable for our day with all the differing views. This section is multitudinously faceted and exhaustive. "The Church and Her Bishop: The Continuing Ministry" is appropriately the title for the fifth chapter. In this section, Ferguson again touches on some hot topics in the church. It is unfortunate however that he only briefly deals with the debates on miraculous gifts and women's roles. Ferguson advocates a cessasionist position on miraculous gifts and a complementarian position on women's roles, but leaves the reader thirsting for more information and a more comprehensive treatment of the issues. In a day where these two in particular issues are so widely discussed and debated, one would think that they might have received a little concentration. Again, this is not to eradicate what was accomplished in this chapter because it was insightful and obliging, especially given the fact that his discussion on deaconesses was amazingly insightful and well balanced. In chapter six Ferguson adequately covers, "The Church and Her Teacher: The New Way of Life." In this section, he includes an unusually prominent consideration of ethics and a very healthy discussion of the importance of Christian fellowship and its concomitant, church discipline. One last thing that must be mentioned about this chapter is Ferguson's section on unity. Although this section is brief, it is significant and insightful. Ferguson lays out the various aspects of unity and does so in just a few short pages. It serves as an excellent conclusion to a monumental work. Of course, any reader is free to take issue with some of Ferguson's conclusions. For example, the distinction that is made between the temporary and permanent endowments of the Spirit still awaits additional clarification, and there will be those who will score Ferguson, despite his disclaimer, for his synchronic rather than diachronic approach to the New Testament writings. This is a courageous book. Its Reformed-Restorationist slant that the proper doctrine of the church entails a return to the faith and practice of the apostolic church is unmistakable. There are numerous nuggets of exegesis and important points of emphases that make this book worth reading. It is astounding that Ferguson deals with so many facets of ecclesiology in a one-volume work. Not only that, but he also includes a helpful subject index as well as a number of bibliographies. Just a glance at his copious footnotes and it is clear that this book is well researched and well documented. This book should be one that every minister, church leader, and ministry student is required to read and ponder.
on April 1, 2016
Some books you read because you are required to and some because you need to. I re-read the book because I was required to for a graduate class. I will be recommending the book going forward because people need to.
In some ways it serves as "reference" material and in some other ways as an extensive discussion of the church.
The book is well researched. Maybe, sometimes I had the feeling that the footnotes were larger than the text itself, but it well worth it. I highly respect well researched books. To me it seems like the author is saying, here is what I say, and this is why.
on June 9, 2014
Everett Ferguson is one of the world's most respected authorities concerning the beliefs, practices and development of the early church of Christ in the first three centuries. The topics on Christian ecclesiology are comprehensive and engaging. They are woven masterly into a flowing narrative that is also well indexed for further study. I was an M.Div. student of Dr. Ferguson and can picture him teaching this material as I read it. I have already purchased five copies of this book and three of them to church leaders in order to increase their faith, hope and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Well done, Dr. Ferguson! Well done!