Robert Muthiah’s The Priesthood of All Believers in the Twenty-First Century, reviewed by John Miller
Robert A. Muthiah, The Priesthood of All Believers in the Twenty-First Century: Living Faithfully as the Whole People of God in a Postmodern Context (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2009), 185 pages.
Robert Muthiah, professor of Practical Theology at Azusa Pacific University, differentiates independence from interdependence, which is held in theoretical tension with the concept of The Priesthood of All Believers. He develops his thesis by examining biblical evidences, trinitarian typology, church history, and the truth-claims of modernity; consequentially, he arrives at his postmodern conclusions. Muthiah argues that the New Testament does not provide for “the establishment of a separated ministerial priesthood” in order to illuminate the discrepancy in the hierarchal concepts of ecclesiology (17). Herein, he effectively illustrates common theories of pericoresis, making these abstract concepts readily understandable; thus, this parallel work compares with the “three color” concepts of Christian Schwarz (Natural Church Development, The Three Colors of Your Spirituality, The Three Colors of Ministry, The Three Colors of Love). Muthiah challenges long-held presuppositions of how-to-do church as he outlines significant theological and ecclesiastical considerations for the church in the twenty-first century.
Muthiah braids three strands into one thesis: the biblical conception of the Priesthood of All Believers from a Protestant perspective; the Anabaptist interpretation of ecclesiology; and the postmodern phenomena of individuality. Finding the common thread of independence in this gestalt of priesthood, ecclesial separatism, and postmodernism, Muthiah thus posited his counterbalancing corrective of responsible community. He finds that a healthy community to be the both the goal and the corrective to self-centered faith and action. Muthiah has written his book in a format that is academically logical and systematically cohesive, leading his reader step-by-step from his hypothesis to his conclusion. However, in the conclusion he confesses that there is much more pragmatic work to be done before the theory can become practice.
The book has the distinct cadence of an academic thesis, although I did not read or find written anywhere in the text or its introduction that it was indeed a dissertation. In this regard, the book is densely written in a few places, requiring determination to press through the weave of its own theories and the stitched together reviews of the theories of others. As a book reviewer, I emerged from the final pages of this book with a sense of interest, as to how the three strands of Muthiah’s thesis add a unique application biblical interpretation to the subject of the priesthood of all believers—applied to the postmodern context. However, I am not quite sure what to do with the information that Muthiah has woven together. The challenge of the Church is to embrace the perpetual renewing of the Spirit of God.
Reviewed by John R. Miller
Category: In Depth