1. ‘Being Surprised by God’ is a fundamental aspect of the Christian understanding of history. With a title of a book-length interview with Edward Schillebeeckx: ‘God is New Each Moment’. The documents of the Second Vatican Council give as background:
The People of God believes that it is led by the Lord’s Spirit, who fills the earth. Motivated by this faith, it labours to decipher authentic signs of God’s presence and purpose in the happenings, needs and desires in which this People has a part along with other human beings of our age. For faith throws a new light on everything, manifests God’s design for humanity’s total vocation, and thus directs the mind to solutions which are fully human (Gaudium et Spes, no. 11).
If the Church has the duty of ‘scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel’ (Gaudium et Spes, no. 4) and exists church by responding to them, the question where the Church truly is to be found cannot be answered by referring to static characteristics. Therefore it is necessary to rethink the notae ecclesiae and their place in ecclesiology.
The question should not simply be: is this possible manifestation of the Church one, holy, Catholic and apostolic? The question should be: how can the re-reading of the tradition in solidarity with ‘(t)he joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted’ by ‘the followers of Christ’ (cf. Gaudium et Spes, no. 1) actually become what is potentially is: an expression of the life of the Church.
2. Since its birth in the Nineteenth Century, one of the major problems in ecclesiology is the centrality of intention. In this understanding local Churches are planned and planted by Churches elsewhere, all the way back to Jesus and the apostles. To see mission as a large scale project of planting new instantiations of Church was the background of the encompassing missionary initiatives of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century. This lead eventually to the discovery that ‘inculturation’ and ‘contextualisation’ of faith were necessary to let the Church it get rooted in local situations.
This perspective is much too limited. The Second Vatican Council – Gaudium et Spes and Lumen Gentium – suggests that it is not ‘implementing’, but ‘responding’ that makes the Church present in new situations. Here, and not in the imitation of the methods applied, is the lesson that can be drawn from a Pentecostal understanding of new emergences of Church. The Church should indeed be seen as responding to the ever new activities of the Spirit. Pentecostal theology however tends to see the Spirit as acting from within the Church as it is. A true renewal of ecclesiology requires a Pneumatology in which the holy Spirit is understood as manifested and coming to us from Gods engagement with the world,
created and sustained by its Maker’s love, fallen indeed into the bondage of sin, yet emancipated now by Christ, Who was crucified and rose again to break the stranglehold of personified evil, so that the world might be fashioned anew according to God’s design and reach its fulfillment (Gaudium et Spes, no. 1).
A Pneumatological understanding of Church as such does not equal concentration on strong emotions. It indicates a proper place for the locally and historically concrete in our reflections on the Church: not as an afterthought, but as the very source from which manifestations of Church are born en reborn.