52 Jurist 525 (1992)
Catholicity of Two or Three: Free Church Reflections on the Catholicity of the Local Church

handle is hein.journals/juristcu52 and id is 531 raw text is: THE JUIUST 52 (1992) 525-546

CATHOLICITY OF TWO OR THREE:
FREE CHURCH REFLECTIONS ON THE
CATHOLICITY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
MIRASLAV VOLF*
Every church wants to be catholic, but only in its own way. Such is
the paradox of catholicity on this side of God's new creation: it signifies
a totality (holos), but it always exists as a particularity. No church is
catholic purely and simply; each one is catholic in a particular manner.
This is how there can be a controversy over catholicity.
1. The Question of Catholicity
In the controversy over catholicity episcopal churches and free
churches have stood at opposite extremes. Free churches have always
been considered, by the Catholic Church as well as by the Orthodox
Church, as quintessentially non-Catholic. Because catholicity qualifies
all the other attributes of the Church, all the ecclesiological capital sins
of free churches can be understood as offenses against catholicity. The
way free churches understand unity, holiness and apostolicity is prob-
lematic precisely because it is uncatholic. The unity of free churches is
uncatholic because within it concrete forms of communion with all the
other churches-with the whole Church-are lacking. Their holiness is
uncatholic because it is exclusive: according to the free church idea, all
those who do not have a conscious faith and a life which responds
appropriately to it must remain excluded from the Church. The apos-
tolicity of free churches is uncatholic because it lacks the connection to
the whole Church in its history, which is assured by apostolic succes-
sion. Moreover, the ecclesiological specificity of free churches consists
precisely in their understanding of the Church's unity, holiness and
apostolicity. If they want to become Catholic they must renounce their
own identity. A free Catholic Church is a contradiction in terms-it
* Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pas-
adena, CA, and at the Evangelical Theological Faculty, Osijek, Croatia.

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