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Spring 1994 · Vol. 23 No. 1 · pp. 132–33 

Book Review

The Community of the Spirit: How the Church Is in the World

C. Norman Kraus. rev. ed.. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1993. 221 pages.

Reviewed by Hans Kasdorf

C. Norman Kraus, now retired, has devoted his entire life to serve the Mennonite Church as educator, theologian, missionary, author, and consultant. Kraus is author of Jesus Christ Our Lord (Herald, 1987 and 1990) and God Our Savior (Herald, 1991). His articles in Mennonite periodicals and his earlier version of The Community of the Spirit (Eerdmans, 1974) will be familiar to the reader of Direction. In the present revision the author has expanded each of the original six chapters, added two new ones, and included a Foreword by Alan Kreider, a Scripture Index, a Subject Index, and a useful Bibliography, making this edition twice as long as the first.

A listing of the chapter headings affords the reader a quick glimpse of the book’s content: (1) Pentecost and the Gospel; (2) The Individual-in-Community in the Bible; (3) Jesus and the Community; (4) The Apostolic Community; (5) The Saved and Saving Community; (6) The Gospel of Peace; (7) The Spirit of Love; (8) The Community’s Witness to Grace. In each of these chapters Kraus pursues one central theme, namely that the local congregation is itself a community of witness in the world.

His approach is refreshingly biblical, historical, and theological. He argues passionately that the Gospel differs “from doctrine, exhortation, theory, or belief.” It rather announces an event that has become reality in Jesus the Messiah. (a) Jesus is “the promised ‘power of God for salvation’ ” (Rom. 1:16); (b)Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom as the “new era in the rule of God”; (c) Jesus sent his Spirit at Pentecost “never again to be absent from his disciples”; and finally, (d) Jesus created a new community of witnesses of the Gospel whereby the Messiah accomplishes God’s will on earth until the culmination of the kingdom. While that culmination is certain, it is postponed to an unknown future.

Kraus contends that neither the church growth movement with its emphasis on the church as an expression of God’s kingdom, nor the charismatic movement with its focus on renewal and spiritual gifts is adequately cognizant that the local church is the witnessing and missionary community in the world. These movements, he believes, cannot offer a valid corrective to the New Age movement with its strong appeal to individualism, relativism, and self-fulfillment. Only the biblically-based community of the saved, Kraus maintains, has the resources needed to witness of grace, salvation, and peace in a fragmented society. {133}

The author’s thesis reinforces such older books as The Witnessing Community (Suzanne de Dietrich, 1958); Building Christian Communities (Stephen B. Clark, 1972); Committed Communities (Charles J. Mellis. 1976); Community and Commitment (John Driver, 1976); and Paul’s Idea of Community (Robert Banks, 1980). The Community of the Spirit is a helpful book for laypersons—including “baby boomers”—and all those who want to make a redeeming difference in today’s world.

Dr. Hans Kasdorf
Professor Emeritus of World Mission
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary
Fresno, California

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