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- Language: English
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“I believe that the doctrine of the church will be the most urgent locus of theological reflection over the next generation. In Sojourners and Strangers, Gregg Allison clears the ground by presenting a thoroughly biblical ecclesiology, at once comprehensive in scope and sensitive to nuance. A welcome addition to an important series.”
―Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; General Editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture
“The doctrine of the church is one that continues to divide Christians, and especially Protestants, from one another. Dr. Gregg Allison has grasped this thorny nettle and produced a book that presents both the basic principles that unite us and the controversies that continue to produce different ecclesial formations. He maintains his own conservative, Reformed Baptist convictions while being fair to those who hold other views, making his book a valuable contribution to our understanding of this vitally important subject.”
―Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity, History, and Doctrine, Beeson Divinity School; author, God Is Love and God Has Spoken
“I am a full-time pastor, and therefore I must be a full-time theologian. As a pastor, my highest calling is to honor Jesus by shepherding his flock. As a theologian, my highest calling is to laud Jesus publically as the hope of the world. Quite frankly, I need help as I deal with real life difficulties that I could not fictionally create. Dr. Allison’s work in Sojourners and Strangers is the most helpful, theologically driven manual for leading in the church. If you buy it, you’ll wear it out.”
―Tyler Jones, Lead Pastor, Vintage Church, Raleigh, North Carolina; Founder, Advance the Church
“Gregg Allison’s Sojourners and Strangers is historically informed, exegetically driven, and theological precise. Even more, this timely tour-de-force ecclesiology displays a love for the church and is written for the church!”
―Christopher W. Morgan, Dean and Professor of Theology, California Baptist University; editor, The Kingdom of God and The Glory of God; contributor, ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible
“No longer can one regard ‘evangelical ecclesiology’ as a contradiction in terms. Among the many recent evangelical volumes on the doctrine of the church, Allison’s will undoubtedly prove to be the standard treatment for years to come. This excellent book is biblically faithful, historically informed, and pastorally relevant. One need not agree with Allison on every point of interpretation to profit immensely from his insights. I struggle to think of another volume on the subject that combines both theological depth and practical wisdom in such readable fashion as does Allison. I cannot recommend it too highly.”
―Sam Storms, Senior Pastor, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
“Dr. Gregg Allison has done a masterful job of writing a thorough yet practical analysis of the church. This volume is a ‘must read’ for any serious pastor or theologian who desires to look into the heart of evangelical ecclesiology. As a conservative Christian and pastor of a local church I am too quick to recommend or make decisions regarding the ‘practice’ of the local church with little thought of accountability or connectedness to the church both universal or historical. Allison brings such breadth and depth to the beauty of the church by tracing every section through the early church, Catholic Church, Reformation, and into our contemporary culture and times. I especially appreciated Gregg’s willingness to address prominent issues churches are currently struggling with―such as church governance or the ‘multisite’ movement. This book fills the void that has long existed in most evangelicals’ libraries!”
―Jeffrey T. Gilmore, Executive Teaching Pastor, Parkview Evangelical Free Church, Iowa City, Iowa
“Writing an evangelical ecclesiology is a difficult task, due to the fact that evangelicals differ on many aspects of ecclesiology. All will not agree with the positions taken by Gregg Allison in Sojourners and Strangers, but all will profit from his detailed study. He is especially thorough in his treatment of polity and the ordinances, and goes down some seldom-explored paths in his opening sections. At points, his arguments require careful reading, but often open up new perspectives. I commend it to students of ecclesiology.”
―John S. Hammett, Associate Dean for Theological Studies, Professor of Theology, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; author Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches
“In this comprehensive treatment of the doctrine of the church, Gregg Allison brings a depth of doctrinal reflection, scriptural understanding, and practical wisdom to bear. Interacting with various ecclesiological perspectives throughout church history and today, he provides a balanced, biblical, and up-to-date treatment of topics from the characteristics of the church, to church government, to church ministry―all informed by his understanding of the paradoxical nature of the church as both part of the world and yet looking to another Kingdom. This work will make a major theological contribution to the expanding literature on the doctrine of the church.”
―Justin S. Holcomb, Episcopal Priest; Professor, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; coauthor, Rid of My Disgrace and God Made All of Me; editor, Christian Theologies of Scripture
“Gregg Allison has done evangelicals a great service with a true theology of the church. In the endless stream of books and blogs on technique and pragmatics of doing church, Sojourners and Strangers gives an answer to the question ‘what is a church?’ that is superbly written, soundly biblical, theologically coherent, and practically applicable. His expertise in historical theology and his experience in leadership in a variety of types of churches enrich his profound biblical insights. It is a must read for all who are serious about leadership in the church of Jesus Christ.”
―Gerry Breshears, Professor of Theology and Chair of the Center for Biblical and Theological Studies, Western Seminary; coauthor, Death by Love: Letters from the Cross
About the Author
Gregg R. Allison (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is secretary of the Evangelical Theological Society, a book review editor for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, an elder at Sojourn Community Church, and a theological strategist for Sojourn Network. Allison has taught at several colleges and seminaries, including Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and is the author of numerous books, including Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church, and Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment.
John S. Feinberg (PhD, University of Chicago) is department chair and professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of Ethics for a Brave New World (with Paul D. Feinberg) and is general editor of Crossway’s Foundations of Evangelical Theology series.
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Six majors themes form the skeletal structure of Sojourners and Strangers.
Part One: Foundational Issues
Allison introduces the subject of ecclesiology and underscores his presuppositions at the outset: "I firmly maintain that the source - the sole source - and the starting point of our theology is Scripture, the Word of God. He presents the basic idea of the church, which is "the people of God ... the communion of the saints ... and is composed of particular people: 'sojourners and strangers.'"
The author presents his methodology for ecclesiology. Realizing that one's approach in this area has broad implications, Allison contrasts theological methods that embrace continuity and discontinuity between the testaments. He stands somewhere in the middle of this debate by describing himself as one who embraces a moderate discontinuity, what some have described as progressive dispensationalism. His conviction has a bearing on his view that concerns the origin of the church and the relationship between the church, Israel, and the ordinance of baptism. This hermeneutical criteria is a helpful backdrop that serves the rest of the book well.
Part Two: The Biblical Vision - Characteristics of the Church
Here the author studies the inception of the church and her relationship to Israel and the kingdom of God. Allison makes his position clear: "Because of the identity of the new covenant partners - God and Christ-followers - I draw the conclusion that the church began at Pentecost and did not exist prior to that monumental event." While writing from a Reformed framework, the "line in the sand is drawn" by distinguishing himself from main stream Covenant theology. The argument is straightforward: "But these faithful and obedient followers of Jehovah, these people of God, did not constitute the church. Yes, God's work of redemption began with Adam. Yes, God's promise to bless all human beings through a particular nation was made to Abraham. Yes, God's covenant with the particular people of Israel was given specific expression on Mount Sinai with Moses. But the people of God post-Adamic covenant, post-Abrahamic covenant, and post-old/Mosaic covenant - up to the new covenant - did not constitute the church."
Allison's hermeutical presuppositions are refreshing to be sure because while on one had he distinguishes himself from the covenantal framework, he also distinguishes himself from classical dispensationalism, i.e. "the church stands in both continuity and discontinuity with the people of God in the past." Near as I can tell, he is an agreement with the essence of the proposal but forth by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum in their excellent work, Kingdom Through Covenant.
Additionally, the orientation of the church is established in part two by examining seven characteristics of the church.
1. The Church is Doxological - oriented to the glory of God.
2. The Church is Logocentric - focused on the Word of God.
3. The Church is Pneumadynamic - empowered by the Holy Spirit.
4. The Church is Covenantal - with God and in covenant community with one another.
5. The Church is Confessional - united by a common Christian confession or creed.
6. The Church is Missional - called to proclaim the gospel and advance the kingdom of God.
7. The Church is Spatio-Temporal/Eschatological - a historical reality with a grand future.
Allison explains each characteristic in great detail and suggests practical suggestions for abiding by the biblical model.
Part Three: The Vision Actualized - The Growth of the Church
Part three demonstrates how the vision set forth in the previous section will be fostered and protected. This vision will be actualized by maintaining the purity and unity of the church. Additionally, the commitment to church discipline plays a key role. Church discipline is defined as "an anticipatory and declarative sign of the divine eschatological judgment, meted out by Jesus Christ through the church against its sinful members and sinful situations." Churches who neglect or reject church discipline do great harm to its members and the testimony of God's people.
Part Four: The Government of the Church
In this critical section, Dr. Allison unpacks the offices of the church. First, he examines the office of apostle which is "no longer operative" in the author's view. He continues to explore the office of elder and deacon, noting the biblical qualifications and responsibilities of each.
The subject of church government is set forth in a clear and understandable way. Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, and Congregationalism are explained in their historical context. The author presents his proposal for the governance of congregational churches - a model that is elder-led and congregationally affirmed - which appears to be the biblical model.
Part Five: The Ordinances of the Church
The various views of baptism and the Lord's supper are presented in light of church history. Disagreements that the author has with other views are set forth with charity and graciousness.
Part Six: The Ministries of the Church
Finally, Allison overviews the various spiritual gifts, a biblical theology of worship, and various ministries that emerge in the local church context. The church should be "for the world and against (the sinful corruption) of the world.
I cannot recommend Allison's work highly enough. His treatment of ecclesiology should be applauded for its depth and breath. And it should be celebrated for its gracious approach to disputable matters. Readers will be remiss to find a shred of compromise or capitulation; yet his gentle approach weaves throughout the fabric of the book. Sojourners and Strangers should be required reading for every Ecclesiology class for Bible College students and Seminarians alike. This book will not only instruct and educate; it will help stem the tide of errors and mis-steps that have so characterized the last several years of church history, especially the blunders that have come out of the emergent and seeker-sensitive church. I would also refer readers to his excellent work, Historical Theology for a superb look at the development of Christian theology in church history.
This book takes a Scripture-centric approach, first formulating theology and then deriving praxis from there. That's how it ought to be.
Worthy read. Helpful at many points. Well thought through. Clear and fair presentation of various viewpoints. Loved it.