Between Magisterium and Marketplace

What is the relationship of the church to theology? How does the church relate to the work of creative theological authorship, particularly when authors propose novel claims? Even more important, how do ecclesial models, particularly of ecclesial authority, underwrite or authorize how theology is done?

These are just some of the challenging and provocative questions taken up by Robert Saler, Research Fellow and Director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at CTS, in his new book ‘Between Magisterium and Marketplace: A Constructive Account of Theology and the Church’ available from Fortress Press as part of its ‘emerging scholars’ series.

Here, Saler effectively argues for a fresh ecclesiology of the church as ‘event,’ specifically as a diffusively spatialized event. He establishes this claim through fascinating historical encounters between thinkers like Thomas More and William Tyndale, and John Henry Newman and Friedrich Schleiermacher. In this way, the book provides a theological genealogy of modern ecclesiology, arguing that modern and contemporary ecclesiology is a theological contest not between Barth and Schleiermacher, but rather between Newman and Schleiermacher.

Saler then goes on to construct an alternative path, citing the works of a diverse array of past and present authors to argue for a humble, yet hopeful, view of the theological task in light of contemporary ecclesial opportunities. And, though this volume is a revision of his dissertation completed at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago under the supervision of Vítor Westhelle, Saler has gained the attention of his peers for his work.

“Saler makes a persuasive case for what he calls a ‘diffuse’ understanding of church. He brilliantly extends Joseph Sitler’s subversive ecological ecumenism, Vítor Westhelle’s church as ‘event,’ and even Karl Barth’s ecclesiology of hope, to offer a compelling alternative to authoritarian high magisterial ecclesiologies today. With eloquence and clarity, he shows that the task of theology is truth-telling about God’s redemptive work in surprising and unpredictable spaces in the world, both inside and outside the church.”
Barbara R. Rossing
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

“In this excellent and clearly written book, Robert Saler argues that theological creativity and the authority of the church are not at odds so long as the church is understood as an event of the gospel. Saler makes his case through an argument that touches on important historical moments, and decisive methodological concerns. This book is important for both those committed to a broad and energetic theological artistry and those who consider theology as a church practice.”
Gregory A. Walter
St. Olaf College

Saler has published widely in Pro Ecclesia, Dialog, Christian Century, American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, and Currents in Theology and Mission. In addition, he has contributed to recent editions of The Christological Controversy and The Trinitarian Controversy from Fortress Press. His newest work, ‘Between Magisterium and Marketplace: A Constructive Account of Theology and the Church,’ is currently available on and soon will be at the CTS Bookstore.

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