An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Historical, Global, and Interreligious Perspectives

This volume arrived some weeks ago for review.

Ecclesiology—the doctrine of the church—has risen to the center of theological interest in recent decades. In this text, theologian Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen provides a wide-ranging survey of the rich field of ecclesiology in the midst of rapid developments and new horizons. Drawing on Kärkkäinen’s international experience and comprehensive research on the church, this revised and expanded edition is thoroughly updated to incorporate recent literature and trends. This unique primer not only orients readers to biblical, historical, and contemporary ecclesiologies but also highlights contextual and global perspectives and includes an entirely new section on interfaith comparative theology. An Introduction to Ecclesiology surveys

  • major theological traditions, including Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Reformed, and Pentecostal
  • ecclesiological insights from Latin American, Africa, and Asia
  • distinct perspectives from women, African Americans, and recent trends in the United States
  • key elements of the church such as mission, governance, worship, and sacraments
  • interreligious comparison with Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist communities

As the church today encounters challenges and opportunities related to rapid growth in the Majority World, new congregational forms, ecumenical movements, interfaith relations, and more, Christians need a robust ecclesiology that makes room for both unity and diversity. In An Introduction to Ecclesiology students, pastors, and laypeople will find an essential resource for understanding how the church can live out its calling as Christ’s community on earth.

This extremely important contribution to ecclesiology is the very best book published on the topic since Emil Brunner’s ‘The Misunderstanding of the Church’.

The grotesque lack of understanding of ecclesiology so common among American Christians, pastors, and academics calls for correction, and V-MK’s work achieves precisely that.

He begins by outlining the chief ecclesiological traditions of Christianity, including Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Free Church, and Pentecostal/Charismatic.  Completing the task of highlighting those forms of being Church, he next moves to a very fine description of Ecclesiology as found in Africa, South America, and Asia and he includes treatments of the church as envisioned by women, and in America.

The next portion of the volume focuses on the mission of the Church: it’s tasks, governance, liturgy, ordinances, and interdependency with other denominations.

The volume concludes with what is unique among ecclesiologies:  a look at the Church in relationship with the Synagogue, the Islamic Ummah, Hiduism, and Buddhism.

This, as a quick glance at its themes demonstrates, is a full and fulsome volume whose task of informing readers of a proper ecclesiology is magisterially achieved.

In an epilogue, V-MK looks towards the future, asking where Ecclesiology is headed in the 3rd Millennium.  An author index and a subject index round out the volume.

Readers may be familiar with the earlier edition of this work.  It first appeared in 2002.  If so, the work in hand is a different book altogether.  It was rewritten, expanded, restructured, and thoroughly updated.  There are footnotes, but not so many as to be bothersome.

This important work needs to be read.  By everyone involved in thinking about the Church and its mission.  The author has done all the hard work by cultivating the ground, planting the seed, and harvesting the growth.  Now you have the opportunity of enjoying the feast.  Take, eat… this has to do with Christ’s body.  And that matters, or at least should matter, to every Christian.