Jenson points out ( Systematic Theology: Volume 1: The Triune God , 25) that, though the church’s witness is carried on and received by institutions and traditions, “no structures of historical continuity merely as such can assure the integrity of witness to reality that is other than the transmitting group, at least if that witness is such as to require hermeneutical reflection. Thus neither Scripture nor creed nor liturgy nor teaching office, nor yet their ensemble, can as historical structures guarantee the fidelity of our proclamation and prayer to the apostolic witness. Affirmation that the church is still the church pledges the certainty of a historical continuity that no structures of historical continuity can make certain.”

This doesn’t leave the church without confidence that it is in continuity with the apostles. It only locates that confidence where it belongs, where it always belongs - in God: “This affirmation therefore reaches beyond its immediate object to be faith that God uses the church’s communal structures to preserve the gospel’s temporal self-identity and so also the temporal self-identity of the gospel’s community.”

When the church speaks of this activity of God, Jenson says, she “speaks of the Spirit “: “Faith that the church is still the church is faith in the Spirit’s presence and rule in and by the structures of the church’s historical continuity.”