The self-identity of the eschatological church: the Pauline theology of Albert Schweitzer and successors in the resurfacing of a missional ecclesiology
The Pauline Theology of Albert Schweitzer and the developments in this field of study a century on from him forms the core of this current Masters dissertation. The subject of the investigation is the extent to which Schweitzer was a catalyst in steering the conversation toward a self-identity of the Church which can be described as a participation with Christ in His mission. The motivation for this investigation is the growing interest and development in what has become known globally as, ‘Missional Ecclesiology’, with its claim to be a more faithful understanding of Paul and a true description of the nature and identity of the earliest Church. The dissertation concerns itself mainly with the work written in the early part of the 20th century by Albert Schweitzer called, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle. The present work attempts to highlight and briefly describe Schweitzer’s Pauline theology on key themes such as eschatology, Christ-mysticism, the law, justification, and more. It then takes a fair selection of New Testament scholars who have been more influential than most in this field and demonstrate how and where they have contributed to the main thesis – that of the selfunderstanding of the Christian, the Church and her mission. These include such scholars as: Rudolf Bultmann; CH Dodd; Oscar Cullman; WD Davies; EP Sanders; Lesslie Newbigin; NT Wright, and others. The investigation is set within the changing context from a Christendom to a post-Christendom environment in Europe with South Africa following close on the heals of these changes. We are introduced to the statistical data in South Africa with its present situation of change, focussing particularly on the Church of England in South Africa as the Author’s personal context at the time of writing. After the core work on Schweitzer and his successors is completed with sufficient evidence of Schweitzer’s influence especially in eschatology, the dissertation analyses the post-Christian environment of England and Scotland. It quite deliberately focuses on the theological responses of the two large National Churches of these countries - the Church of England and the Church of Scotland - and not on the smaller missional initiatives from newer, independent church groups in order to observe the sense of urgency for change despite the long and historical complexity of these organizations. The dissertation concludes with an attempt to determine any detectable similarities between the theological response of these national churches in a post-Christian environment and the Pauline conversation of Schweitzer and his successors over the preceding century. The conclusion shows an overall eschatological orientation in both as well as a similar emphases on a corporate participation in the mission of God in Christ that determines the shape and life of the Church as a foretaste of the Kingdom.