An increasing number of theologians believe that the Western world has moved from an era of Christendom to an era of post-Christendom. This book goes to the heart of the debate related to this shift, asking, How are we to understand the distinctive identity of the church with special reference to its role in a post-Christendom society? It then presents an analysis of the work of the English Reformed theologian Lesslie Newbigin and the American Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder, both of whom reflect on how we should understand this important question.
At the end of The Distinctive Identity of the Church, the charge of sectarianism is discussed. It is argued that a missionary God sends the church to the world and, consequently, this sending should fundamentally determine its existence in the world. The book argues that the task that lies before the church in the Western world is not to bypass its distinctiveness with accusations of sectarianism, but to recapitulate an understanding of its own distinctiveness that should be seen as a precondition for its engagement in society. Such an ecclesiological position holds important potential for an understanding of the role of the church in pluralistic Western cultures.