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The Church (Contours of Christian Theology) Paperback – November 24, 1995
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"This series has been around for over a decade now and has established itself as providing learned yet accessible treatments of key topics in systematic theology. The authors are not only fine theological thinkers, they are also passionate churchmen with a love for God's people and a desire to see the church grow in her knowledge of grace. Each volume blends exegesis, theological synthesis and judicious dialogue with the history of theology to provide an excellent treatment of the chosen topic. Highly recommended for thoughtful Christians who want to deepen their knowledge of Christian theology." (Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary)
"Read everything in the IVP Contours of Theology series. Pure gold." (Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan)
"For several years evangelicals have lacked a satisfactory textbook on ecclesiology. Clowney . . . has filled that gap with this fine survey volume . . . . The evangelical church will profit greatly from careful attention to the fruits of his labor." (Bibliotheca Sacra)
About the Author
Edmund P. Clowney (1917-2005) received his B.A. from Wheaton College in 1939, a Th.B. from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1942, an S.T.M. from Yale University Divinity School in 1944 and a D.D. from Wheaton College in 1966. Ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he served as pastor of several churches from 1942 to 1946 and was then invited to become assistant professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1952. He became that institution's first president in 1966, and he remained there until 1984, when he took a post as theologian-in-residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1990, Clowney moved to Escondido, California, where he served as adjunct professor at Westminster Seminary California. In 2001, he took a full-time position as associate pastor at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Houston, Texas. After two years, he returned to Charlottesville, where he resumed part-time the post of theologian-in-residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church. He remained in this role until his death. Clowney was instrumental in the birth or growth of such ministries as the Reformed Theological Seminary in Aix-en-Provence, France; Westminster Seminary California; Trinity Church, Charlottesville; the Lausanne Conference; InterVarsity ministries, both in the United States and in England; and "The Westminster Ministerial Institute," an inner-city training program for pastors in Philadelphia, out of which was grown the Center for Urban Theological Studies. Clowney is remembered by many as a preacher, perhaps the most gifted proponent and practitioner of redemptive-historical preaching of this generation. His writing also displays the great theme of his life, namely Christ's presence in the whole of Scripture and his present work in the church. His books include Preaching and Biblical Theology, Called to the Ministry, Christian Meditation, Doctrine and the Church, The Message of 1 Peter, The Unfolding Mystery and Preaching Christ in All of Scripture. Clowney left a legacy not only of written book and articles, but also a great number of sermons and lectures, as well as magazine columns such as the humorous "Eutychus and His Pin" for Christianity Today and Bible studies for Tabletalk.
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Top Customer Reviews
"If [the church] is to stand against the gates of hell, it must know its own divine charter, its bond to Jesus Christ, and the 'Holy Spiritual' power of its calling. For the church to be the church in the year 2000, it must be more than 'seeker-friendly'; it must be 'Seeker-sent', thrust forth by the Lord to bear his gospel of the cross to the peoples." (from the preface).
Dr. Clowney deals with both the theological foundations of the church, and many issues that are controversial in Christendom today. But his arguments are Biblical, and his tone is gracious. Give this book a chance, and let the Lord use it to give you a greater love for the bride of Christ, his body- the church!
Recently a very good friend of mine left the Protestant church and joined the Roman Catholic church. In my discussions with him over the years he mulled over his decision, the beauty of the Church seemed to take precedence in his mind. In his final decision, the Roman Catholic church best represented the beauty and doctrine found in the Bible. Before he converted, he mentioned some discussions he had in a class with a well known Protestant church leader. He requested the Protestant definition of the church. In the end, he was not satisfied with the answer. I wish he had read this book before he switched as I think he would have seen a representation of the church that was both true and beautiful.
One of the things my friend did not do will with, in my estimation, is dealing with the polemics between Protestants and Catholics. He did not like polemical arguments, tended to avoid them, and when he did engage them, he found that popular Protestant arguments did not accurately represent true Roman Catholic doctrine. As a result, he would often defend the Roman Catholic perspective.
One reason I like this book is that Clowney deals with a number of controversial topics without (for the most part) using polemical arguments. It makes for an attractive and positive presentation of the Protestant doctrine of the church. He deals with issues such as whether Peter is "the rock", whether women should be deacons, and other "hot topics", with clarity, conviction, and charity. Clowney bears his sword and deals with error, but does not malign his opponents before doing battle. As I reader, I found I was in awe of the way he wielded the sword, and hardly even noticed that he left his opponent in tatters. The one striking exception to this non-polemic presentation is his discussion on the doctrine of his former student and friend Wayne Grudem in a discussion of the continued relvance of prophecy today.
Overall, Clowney's "The Church" is an excellent theological book that motivates his readers to work for the the unity and purity of the church. Not overwhelming or unnecessarily negative, it helps Christians who love the Church to see the magnificent bride God is preparing for His Son. It helps to keep us on track for the most important things in this world.
Clowney's work is not incredibly detailed, but references a great many other works. For the seminarian or pastor, it is sufficient to grasp a basic understanding of what the church is, what it should be, and where it has fallen into error or misunderstanding. It is also suitable for the lay person (in fact, I would recommend it).
The binding is, of course, paperback, and seems sturdy and of good quality. My copy shows very little wear after its first thorough reading. I found only one glaring typographical error (bottom of pg. 283). I understand the economics of paperback publishing, but this work deserves a hard cover.