Sunday, August 21, 2011
I remember James Forbes of Riverside Church saying once that finding good books are part of God's providence in our lives. He was referring to preaching and the ways pastors may "discover" that right book at the right time in sermon preparation. I think I know what he means because I know I have stumbled across those books on special occasions!
That's how I feel with Christopher Cocksworth book entitled Holding Together: Gospel, Church, and Spirit - The Essentials of Christian Identity. Cocksworth is the Bishop of Coventry and served for several years as Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He writes from a unique standpoint in the Anglican tradition, and brings together a wonderful combination of pastoral insight and theological rigour. Utilizing a key text from the Letter to Colossians (1:15-19), Cocksworth looks at how the confession of Christ as the "one in whom all things hold together" can help us to discern and keep in balance three aspects of the church's life that overtime in the church we have had a tendency to rent asunder: gospel, church, and Spirit. What Cockworths wants to develop and describe is a "catholic form of evangelicalism in the Spirit" (p. 11). He wants to keep in creative tension a strong focus on scripture (gospel), tradition (church), and the charismatic (Spirit). Throughout his work, he guides us into what this may look like in the wider catholic church today. Interestingly, Cocksworth draws heavily on John and Charles Wesley to make many of his points.
As I mentioned above, I ordered this book not knowing what it was fully about. However, it has been good to read again how we may understand the life of the church's mission in the world, realizing how "there is no gospel without the Spirit": Christ and his gospel come to us by the Spirit; and, of course, "there is no church without the Spirit." As Cocksworth goes on to state in a rather technical way: "Ignatius' Christological definition needs to be "held together" with Irenaeus' pneumatological version - 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the church and all grace'" (p. 12).
Cocksworth's study offers a balanced approach as to how God not only "holds us together" but how we are to live out our lives in Christ within the church, empowered and graced by the Spirit.