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Introduction Hindsight reveals the tragic failure to encounter otherness in and through the cosmic redemptiveness of God’s work of making God’s people “friends,” involved in an entreaty for particularity, such as that found in Otto Dibelius’s intensive appeal in 1925 to responsibility for the local neighbor. The church, he claims, cannot be an international society of a Christian sort, but a community that builds itself up out of the nations, in which every national group comprehends Christian faith in its own way and stamps it with its own style. The commitment to love the neighbour makes the national community (Volkgemeinschaft) the obligation of everyone, since for us the brother in one’s own people is always the neighbour.1 In a statement that would demand consideration of Karl Barth’s account of election, Vladimir Lossky claims that “Only one nature exists, common to all men, although it appears to us fragmented by sin, parcelled out among many persons.”2 Keen, however, to disassociate this commonality that is expressive of the ontological grounding of all things redemptively in God’s gift of the Son and Spirit from any “abstract universality,” he speaks of a properly ordered 1. Cited in Robert T. Osborn, The Barmen Declaration as a Paradigm for a Theology of the American Church (Lewiston, ME: Edwin Mellen, 1991), 67. 2. Vladimir Lossky, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, trans. Ian Kesarcodi-Watson and Ihita Kesarcodi-Watson (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1978), 125. xxiii “complete harmony of catholic diversity.”3 It is in such a harmony of persons in “ontological irreducibility”—the reason that Barth, for instance, so opposed a glib ecumenical toleration of others’ differences that was not shaped by the covenantal work of God in Christ—that conversation operates, and it enacts a bearing forth of the likeness appropriate to creatureliness of the self-communicative presence of the plenitudinous one in whom all things have their being and end. Such an ecclesial performance for Barth demands at least three sensibility-determining conditions. In the first place, there has to be a sense of ecclesial fragility, weakness, and distortion that consequently requires intensive self-evaluation and criticism. So he claims in The Church and the Churches of 1937 that the church’s performance has itself been “a hindrance to the hearing of its message . . . a bewilderment to its less attentive hearers,” in such a fashion as to necessitate that one of the church’s tasks tasks “is to exercise selfcriticism , to purify itself from any element which is foreign to its origin and essence, and which . . . it ought not to tolerate.”4 The pressure for a more appropriately faithful witness to the truth that God is entails that certain things cannot be done or said, and the church has to perennially learn to be able to tell the difference.5 In the second place, he explains, while a concern for the one christic body is compelled because of the nature of the task of living as the body of Christ, the oneness appropriate to it is insufficiently considered in terms reducible to “unity in itself.”6 The oneness of the 3. Vladimir Lossky, In the Image and Likeness of God, trans. John H. Erickson and Thomas E. Bird (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), 179. 4. Karl Barth, The Church and the Churches (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 11, 12. 5. Barth is concerned that “any persons who think they possess, or are the Church, must look away from the array of the many Churches in a quest for the one Church” (The Church and the Churches, 17). The clear implication is that God’s unifying truth is something that the churches only very partially and fragilely, yet really in their “quest,” participate in. 6. Ibid., 18. CORRELATING SOBORNOST xxiv church is not that of simple numerical singularity or uniqueness, nor is it about “ethical and social ideals of uniformity, mental harmony and agreement.” Unsurprisingly, then, Barth opposes the adequacy of the notion of tolerance in and of itself for testifying to the witness of a Christ-founded difference-in-unity. “The concept of tolerance originates in political and philosophical principles which are not only alien but even opposed to the Gospel.”7 Instead, Barth’s vision of ecclesial unity is of a type of ecclesiological ecumenism that confesses Jesus Christ as “the oneness of the Church” that enables there to be a “unity within which there be a multiplicity of communities, of gifts...


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