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Dogmatic Ecclesiology, Volume 1

The Priestly Catholicity of the Church

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Ecclesiology is a key issue for the present age of church history. This groundbreaking work by one of today's leading theologians offers a major Protestant ecclesiology for the church catholic. This volume, the first of three, considers the priesthood of the church in light of the priesthood of Christ. Tom Greggs shows the connection between Christ's work as high priest and the universal church's role in salvation. All together, the three volumes will offer a major statement on the doctrine of the church for Christians from a variety of backgrounds.

How to Read This Book
Preface: A Brief Prospective Theological Prolegomena to Ecclesiology
Why the Church?

"I Will Be Their God, and They Will Be My People": Issues of Method, Approach, and Dogmatic Topography
Which Church?
The Church of the Spirit, Not the Spirit of the Church
Chart of Prospective Chapter Topics
Abbreviated Chapter Theses for Volume 1
1. The Spirit: The Lord of and the Giver of Life to the Church
The Church as Creature of the Spirit: An Act of Divine Grace

A Reformation Church: An Event of God's Act
A Truly Pentecostal Church Whose Life Comes from the Living Holy Spirit
Pneumatologically Actualistic Ecclesiology
The Mediation of the Spirit: God's Vertical Act in the Horizontal Axis of the Medium of Creaturely Space-Time
"To Your Advantage That I Go Away": The Spirit's Continuing Work of Salvation in the Horizontal Axis of Creaturely Existence
The Love of the Other in Her Givenness as a Salvific Event of the Spirit's Act
The Essential Given Variety with the Church in Its Life of Love
2. The High Priesthood of Christ: The Essential Hierarchy of the Church (1)
The Rule of the Only Priest: The Lordship of Christ over the Church

The Priesthood of Christ in Hebrews
The Gospel Form of Christ's Priesthood
The Modality of Christ's Priesthood
3. Participative Ontology and the Church's Internal Priesthood: The Essential Hierarchy of the Church (2)
The Uniqueness of Christ, Who Is Head of His Body

Participation in Christ by the Spirit
The Church as an Active Participation in Christ's Spirit-Filled Humanity
The Church as Participating in Christ's Priesthood in Its Internal Sociality: Priesthood Internal to the Church
Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus Est?
4. The Priestly Ontology and the Church's Life for the World: The Essential Hierarchy of the Church (3)
The Corporate Priesthood of the Church in the World

Challenging Traditional Accounts of Essential Hierarchy
A Clergy That Demarcates Church from (and Not for) the World: The Damned for the Sake of the Saved
A Priestly Church for the World
A Boundary Fundamentally for the Sake of the World
Orders Exist for the Sake of Church
Intensity of the Church's Priesthood Is Its Fringe
5. Baptism: Entry into the Priesthood of the Church
A Note on the Genus "Sacrament"

A Note on the Language of "Means of Grace"
Sacrament, Sign, and Semiosis
Baptism as a Sign
Baptism as Entry into Corporate Priesthood
Subsistent Identity in Christ: The Internal Priestly Dynamics of the Community of the Baptized
The Positive Challenge of the New Identity in the Quotidian Givenness of the World
Infant or Adult Baptism?
The Worldliness of Water: One Baptism
6. Holy Communion
A Semiotic Commemoration
A "High" Memorialist Interpretation of Zwingli
The Question of Agency
No Further Sacrifice
The Temporal Semiotics of Participation
Participation in the Body: Bound to One Another in Space-Time
Bound to One Another in Holy Communion for the World
Celebrating Holy Communion Together in the Givenness of a Church Service
7. The Communion of Saints
The Provisionality of the Passing Church in Time
The Everlasting and Universal Communion of Saints
Subsisting in the Communion of Saints: A Protestant Account of the Tradition of the Church
8. Intercessory Prayer
Prayer in Christ the Unique High Priest
The Internal Priestly Act of Prayer within and for the Church
Intercessory Prayer as an Expression of Salvation in the Horizontal Sphere of Spatiotemporality
Intercessionary Prayer as a Priestly Act for the World
9. Thanksgiving and Praise: Participating Graciously in Grace
"Less Quid Pro Quo Than Overflow"
Creator-Creature Distinction and Relation: A Creation of Sheer Grace
Caught Up in God's Movement: Living Thankfully in the Divine Willing for the Other
Justification by Grace Alone: No Works, Only Gratitude for Divine Mercy
The Forms of Gratitude for Grace in the Church
10. Congregation: Priestly Polity
The Congregation as Foundational

The Givenness of the Community in Space and Time
The Congregation, the Great Congregation, and the All in All
Priestly Congregating
11. Sanctification
Sanctification as an Act of the Grace of God
Sanctification in Christ by the Spirit
The Non-interior Form of Sanctification
Communal and Corporate Sanctification for the World
12. Love
Love as a Participation in God's Love, Both Economically and in God's Internal Life
Love as the Concrete Form of the Sanctified Life
The Individual Exists for the Sake of Love
Church Exists for the Sake of the World
13. Priestly Catholicity
Why Do Priesthood and Catholicity Belong Together?
A Catholicity of the Spirit and the Son's Unique and Universal Dynamics
Active, Loving, and Dynamic Catholicity
Principles of the Forms of Priestly Catholicity
14. Coda: The Church as One
Oneness and Catholicity

One Irreducible Narrative
Oneness of God


"Tom Greggs is a wise and trusted guide in providing urgently needed reflections on ecclesiology from a Protestant perspective. Wide-ranging and deep, this volume repays careful study and reflection. A remarkable achievement."

L. Gregory Jones, Williams Distinguished Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry and Dean of Duke Divinity School

"There is a great need for a substantial, lively, and wise Protestant theology of the church, and Greggs is producing it. And he gives us even more: a beautiful architecture that works for this first volume and yet is open to the next two; daring, liberating insights and verdicts on major issues; and a profound, prophetic vision of what the church--local, regional, and international--is called to be in the twenty-first century. Whatever denomination you are in, and indeed if you are not attached to any, this is a book in which to immerse yourself and then to take as a companion as you let it shape and inspire your imagination, thought, prayer, and love."

David F. Ford, University of Cambridge

"Contemporary accounts of the church tend to describe a body either so indistinct from the world as to be indistinguishable from it or so separated as to be sectarian. Neither pattern has been persuasive. Earlier accounts have tended to take either a liturgical approach (the Eucharist makes the church) or one based on polity (personal episcopacy is of the bene esse of the church). These are equally self-favoring. Tom Greggs instead grounds his ecclesiology on the classically understood three offices of Christ--Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King--seeing the church's proclaiming, healing, and sacrificial aspects held together in a series of fractals rather than a set of deductive statements of dogma. It's a work of practice, belief, and passionate vision. Were my father, T. F. Torrance, still alive, I know how delighted he would be."

Iain R. Torrance, president emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary

"This is an intellectual tour de force from one of our leading contemporary theologians and will undoubtedly be a lasting reference point for ecclesiology. Greggs develops a distinctively Protestant account of the church that is also thoroughly ecumenical in tone and approach--informed by deep and perceptive readings of Scripture and tradition, consistently focused on the core theological questions, and communicated with clarity and grace. His rigorous attention to what the church is, rather than what the church does, enables him to develop a hospitable ecclesiology that can speak across contexts and traditions."

Rachel Muers, professor of theology, School of Philosophy, Religion, and the History of Science, University of Leeds

"Tom Greggs has produced one of the most substantial accounts of the church in recent times. In offering a theologically rich ecclesiology, he nevertheless remains alert to the complexity of Christian communities in their different forms and styles. While deeply influenced by Protestant theology, Greggs describes a church that is properly catholic, ecumenical, and extrovert in its relation to the world. The first in a trilogy, this volume will shape future discussion."

David Fergusson, professor of divinity, University of Edinburgh

"Tom Greggs refuses the temptation to make ecclesiology about the usual second-order things of polity and institution. He offers instead a resoundingly theological account of the place of the church within the work of God. Clear-eyed about the state we are in, he renders more exciting an understanding of what the Holy Spirit is doing in creating a church. The result is a timely contribution to the church, which is (as he reminds us) a priestly church, a church for the world. This is a truly exhilarating read, with many 'Ah, of course' moments, a generosity towards his sources, and a searing clarity of argument. It brings so much to the ecumenical table, of the very fullest expression of church."

Susan Durber, moderator of the World Council of Churches' Commission on Faith and Order

The Author

  1. Tom Greggs

    Tom Greggs

    Tom Greggs, FRSE (PhD, Cambridge University), is head of divinity and holds the Marischal Chair of Divinity at the University of Aberdeen in Aberdeen, Scotland, and is a founding codirector of the Aberdeen Centre for Protestant Theology. He previously taught...

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