The Church as Sacrament of the Kingdom: A Reformed Commentary

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Abstract

One of the most promising aspects of the text of the third phase of the International Roman-Catholic-Reformed Dialogue might be the suggestion to reflect upon the idea of the church as 'sacrament of the kingdom' (no.231). In this contribution, I shall take up that suggestion and develop a fourfold approach of the sacraments in which the interconnectedness of church and kingdom plays a crucial role. I shall deal with the soteriological, the ecclesiological, the eschatological and the symbolic aspect respectively. Deliberately, I begin with the soteriological aspect because the first and main thing sacraments do is to point to our salvation. Salvation implies, however, a mediation of salvation and hence the ecclesiological aspect follows the soteriological aspect. The mediation of the church always points beyond itself to the kingdom of God. That is the eschatological aspect. And every reference to the eschaton always has the form of the symbol as the focal point of the 'already' and 'not yet' character of the kingdom of God. We label that as the symbolic aspect. My conclusion will be that the fruitfulness of the suggestion to speak about the church as 'sacrament of the kingdom' depends on the preparedness to reap the results of the ecumenical discussions since Vatican II.

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