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During the past several years, ecclesiastical marketing has become the prevailing trend within most denominations. In an attempt to become “seeker”-sensitive, many congregations have become Biblically and theologically challenged. The primary concern of these congregations is not the means by which they get people into their dens, but simply to get them in and make them feel as comfortable as pigs in mud on a hot day. But Dr. Edmund P. Clowney, writing in his book The Church, says such wallowing can be avoided if it is “made clear that it is to Christ and not to ourselves that we witness.”
Considering the awkward predicament in which the twenty-first-century church finds itself, grossly neglecting the doctrine of its own nature, Clowney has written a timely volume that addresses many pertinent matters. In dealing with particularly delicate issues such as the ordination of women and the exercise of the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit, Clowney, a former president of Westminster Theological Seminary, graciously interacts with those whose views he has determined to be contradicted by the Biblical evidence. The manner of criticism in which he engages is neither personal nor confrontational but exegetical, and the clear locus of his effort is the pre-eminence of Christ in the church. “To be sure,” he writes, “if the church rather than Christ becomes the center of our devotion, spiritual decay has begun. A doctrine of the church that does not center on Christ is self-defeating and false.”
The primary draw of Clowney’s book is its clarity and simplicity. Nevertheless, the book is not without depth, for it offers the necessary theological insights for an adequate understanding of such a wonderfully rich doctrine. The book has even become a required text for many seminary courses in systematic and practical theology. The community of Christ’s kingdom would do well to read this fine work, which is published by Inter Varsity Press.