(These topics are largely from Chapter 15 in: Christian Theology. An Introduction. Third Edition. Alister E. McGrath, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 2001
The doctrine of the church = ecclesiology (Greek ekklesia, "church")
Ecclesiology attempts to answer the questions:
During the first few centuries of the church:
Constantine's conversion and the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the empire caused leaders to think about the relationship between church and state:
Freed of persecution, early centers of Christianity grew and became rivals:
2.3. The Decline of the Ancient Christian Centers in Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria
In the Seventh and Eighth centuries, the armies of Islam conquered Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. These cities ceased to be important Christian centers.
2.4. The Rise in the Esteem of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope
By the end of the fourth century: Rome had acquired a position of special esteem
Roman emperor Diocletian (284-313) issued the Edict of February 303:
The persecution ended with the conversion of Emperor Constantine and the Edict of Milan, 313
Church leaders who had turned over books to be burned were known as traditores = "those who handed over" [their books]
Felix of Aptunga was a traditor who later consecrated Caecilian as Bishop of Carthage, North Africa in 311
Donatists in North Africa (leader was African Donatus) argued:
Donatists formed a separate church. Sociological issues complicated the theology:
By 388, when Augustine returned to North Africa from Rome, the Donatist Church was larger than the Catholic Church
In answering the Donatist, Augustine presented a radically different vision of the church:
"Augustinian" View of the Church:
In 1541 the Colloquy of Ratisbon failed.
Calvin made a distinction between the visible and the invisible church:
Believers should honor the Visible Church on account of the Invisible Church within it
To the question: "Which of the various Visible Churches contains the Invisible Church?" Calvin answered:
4.2.2. The Need for a Church
Why is there any need for a Church? Calvin justified the need for an institutional church by noting the parallel:
"You cannot have God as your father unless you have the church for your mother."
- Cyprian of Carthage
"For those to whom God is Father, the church shall also be their mother."
"There is no other way to life, unless this mother conceives us in her womb, nourishes us at her breast, and keeps us under her care and guidance."
The Anabaptists taught that the apostolic church had been compromised by its links to the state ever since Constantine
In addition, they went back to the views of the Donatist on the church, teaching that the Church was "an assembly of the righteous" (Menno Simons), not Augustine's mixed society. To secure this righteousness:
The need for discipline led to the "Ban:"
Schleitheim Confession, 1527:
"The ban shall be used in the case of all those who have given themselves to the Lord. . . yet who lapse on occasion, and inadvertently fall into error and sin. Such people shall be admonished twice in secret, and on the third occasion, they shall be disciplined publicly, or banned according to the command of Christ (Matthew 18)."
In practice, "the ban" was often used harshly, leading to "shunning," where the entire family of an accused sinner was isolated from the church community.
"wherever Christ is, there is also the catholic church"
- Ignatius Antioch
How is Christ present in the church?
A sacramental view of the world is based on the idea that the material world can be a "door" to the sacred and transcendent
Vatican II Lumen Gentium ("A Light to the Gentiles"):
"the church, in Christ, is a kind of sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all human beings."
Church is the "primordial sacrament," God's use of the material world to reveal the spiritual world
Church is the elongetur Christi -- prolongation of Christ in space and time (Hans Urs von Balthasar)
Church makes Christ present in historical, visible, and embodied form (Karl Rahner)
Implication of this view: institutional structures are not of defining importance: the Church must be free to use new structures to achieve its sacramental mission.
Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann taught that the Church is a kerygmatic community (Greek kerygma = "herald"). That is, the church should be thought of as an "event" that comes into being when the word is proclaimed and heard.
The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the beginning of the church
Christ is Lord over the church, and exercises his sovereignty by the presence of the Holy Spirit
The Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas:
Models and images of the Church include:
We have already talked about the first two models and images:
Church is a communion or fellowship involving the sharing of a common life
The Church is the new people of God, continuous with Israel
"The idea of the people of God is the oldest and most fundamental concept underlying the self-interpretation of the ekklesia. Images such as those of the body of Christ, the temple and so on, are secondary by comparison."
- Hans Küng
". . . emphasis is on walking by faith and not by sight, going out in answer to a call and not knowing where it will lead, sojourning in the land of promise, living in tents, being strangers and exiles in the earth, pressing on only in light of the promise of God, and looking to Jesus as the pioneer."
- Thomas & Wondra, Introduction to Theology. Third Edition, Morehouse, 2002
Church exists to be God's instrument in divine mission to the world
Every Sunday we declare in the Creed:
"I believe in:
7.2. The Church is One
Cyprian of Carthage 251: the church is the "seamless rob of Christ" which should not be divided
How can we today speak of "one" church, when it is so divided institutionally?
"The gospel in Anglicanism is, then, one facet in a vast mosaic. In its essentials, it corresponds to the gospel as it has been proclaimed and believed all over the world. Yet it is also characterized by its particularity as an experience of God's saving work in particular cultures, and is shaped by in insights and limitations of persons who were themselves seeking to live the gospel within a particular context."
- Louis Weil
"The unity of the church is a spiritual unity. It is one and the same God who gathers the scattered from all places and all ages and makes them into one people of God. It is one and same Christ who through his word and Spirit unites all together in the same bond of fellowship of the same body of Christ. . . the Church is one, and therefore should be one"
- Hans Küng
7.3. The Church is Holy
History has clearly documented the sinfulness of the Church and its members
How is the church then "holy"? Approaches:
Some quotes on the eschatological approach:
Whenever I have described the church as being without spot or wrinkle, I have not intended to imply that it was like this already, but that it should prepare itself to be like this, at the time when it too will appear in glory"
"That the church will be. . . without spot or wrinkle. . . will only be true in our eternal home, not on the way there. We would deceive ourselves if we were to say that we have no sin, as 1 John 1:8 reminds us."
- Thomas Aquinas
A fourth approach:
Aquinas: the Church is universal and general in the following senses:
Note the description of the Church as catholic carries no connotation of Roman Catholicism, just as speaking of someone as having "orthodox" views carries no connotation of Eastern Orthodoxy.
Three aspects of the "apostolic" (H. B. Swete, Cambridge Regius Professor of Divinity, 1890-1915):
"The Doctrine of the Church," Chapter 15 in: Christian Theology. An Introduction. Third Edition. Alister E. McGrath, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 2001
"Church" Chapter 17 in: Introduction to Theology. Third Edition. Owen C. Thomas, Ellen K. Wondra. Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, 2002