But fairly quickly he makes what I think is a problematic move:
It is the historically continuous community, which in this way began and perdures, that her own linguistic custom calls "the church." "Church" and "gospel" therefore mutually determine each other. Whether we are to say that God uses the gospel to gather the church for himself, or that God provides the church to carry the gospel to the world, depends entirely on the direction of thought in a context. (Jensen, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, pp. 4-5).Is this right? Does the church determine the gospel in the same way or even to the same degree that the gospel determines the church? To say yes would seem to lead to all kinds of problems, most obviously the problem that since the church is a continuous community and therefore a community spanning generations, centuries, and even millennia of cultural change, as the church inescapably changes with the times we would have to say that the gospel itself changes.
Of course, if in reaction to this we decide that gospel and church must be conceived so that the gospel is entirely free vis-a-vis the church, able to promote itself through other means just as easily as through the church, then we would have to hold out the possibility of multiple churches, multiple communities that the gospel calls into being with no underlying unity obligating them to work toward making that unity visible.
It would seem that the solution is to hold gospel and church inseparably together but in a consistently ordered way so that the gospel is the determinant of the church and not the other way around. What the gospel is is the message of Jesus Christ through which the Holy Spirit gathers a people together for God, while the church is the Spirit's servant chosen to continue that message, but always under a unilateral conditioning by the message, not mutually conditioning it. The gospel and the Church are bound together in inseparable unity, but as a unity of master and servant, not substance and container. The master has chosen this servant and carries out his work uniquely through this servant's service, but this service is always freely chosen by the master. Conceived as a relation of substance and container, we would have to say that though it is the value of the substance that determines the need and worth of the container, the container is what actually gives shape to the substance. However, conceived as master and servant, it is the master's command that determines the servants's service; the servant's service does not determine the master's command.