Ed Clowney’s “The Church” is a thoroughly helpful, biblical, theological portrait of the Christian church. The book helps you understand questions like, ‘What is the Church? Why is it relevant today? What is the mission of the church? What is the relation of the church to Israel?’ Although written nearly twenty years ago (1995), the book is just as relevant today and is immensely edifying and enriching for all who seek to get a better understanding of the nature of the church. He writes a lay-level (leaving the scholarly discussion in the end-notes), and his perspective is thoroughly evangelical, Reformed, Cessationist, and Complementarian. The book clocks in at 291 pages (plus 35 pages of end-notes), which makes it reasonably manageable for most.
Clowney begins by putting the question of the church into the context of various debates and questions people pose about the church. Then he makes his presentation of the church as the people of God, church of Christ, and temple of the Holy Spirit (13-60)–a body of believers that is the people of God (true Israel). Clowney spends the rest of the book addressing various topics about the church (Marks of the Church, Church and culture, mission of the church, Structure of the church, women in leadership), topics which any thinking christian ought to consider and have some articulate-able opinion about.
I recommend this book to all who interested in getting a better understanding of what the church is and what it is not. It brings a great dose of reason and biblical beauty to the mess of the ‘seeker-sensitive church movement.’ The most helpful chapters are the ones in which he address more of the recent controversial issues in the church (women in leadership and charismatic gifts). However, since the book is written in 1995, it does not address issues which have come up since then (multi-site churches, translation issues of “The Son of Man” in Muslim cultures). Yet this does not diminish the book’s value, and I heartily recommend it.
In the next couple posts I’ll be showing sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book.