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Models of the Church – Avery Dulles

June 25, 2015

MOCSince the last two popes, many of the insights of this book have been forgotten. Many of its ideas shaped me but when I talk about tem to modern catholics, I am treated as some sort of heretic.

In defence of his title, the author quotes Ewert Cousins: Theology is concerned with the ultimate level of religious mystery, which is even less accessible than the mystery of the physical universe. Hence our reli­gious language and symbols should be looked upon as models because, even more than the concepts of sci­ence, they only approximate the object they are re­flecting. . . .To use the concept of model in theology, then, breaks the illusion that we are actually encompassing the infinite within our finite structures of language. It prevents concepts and symbols from becoming idols and opens theology to variety and development just as the model method has done for science. Yet there is a danger that it will not go far enough, for it may not take sufficiently into account the level of religious experience. The theologian may copy the sciences too closely. He may take the scientific method as a normative model. . . . In so doing the theologian may not take into account the subjective element at the core of religion. The religious experi­ence has a depth that has no correlate in our experi­ence of the physical universe. The religious experi­ence touches the innermost part of the person.

The analogy will never be perfect because the Church, as a mystery of grace, has properties not paralleled by anything knowable outside of faith…. Pursued alone, any single model will lead to distortions….As a model succeeds in dealing with a number of different problems, it becomes an object of confidence, sometimes to such an extent that theologians almost cease to question its appropriateness for almost any problem that may arise. In the Scholasticism of the Counter Reformation period, the Church was so exclusively presented on the analogy of the secular state that this model became, for practical purposes, the only one in Roman Catholic theological currency…… None…….should be interpreted in an exclusivistic sense, so as to negate what the other approved models have to teach us. The New Testament, for example, combines the im­ages of Temple and Body of Christ in logically incoherent but theologically apposite ways. In 1 Pet. 2:5 we are told that Christians are a Temple built of living stones, whereas Paul in Eph. 4:16 says that the Body of Christ is still under construc­tion. This “profuse mixing of metaphors,” Paul Minear re­minds us, “reflects not logical confusion but theological vital­ity.”

First up is the Church as institution. Bellarmine af­firmed that the Church is a society “as visible and palpable as The community of the Roman people, or the Kingdom of France, or the Republic of Venice.” The Church is here de­scribed by analogies taken from political society.

After all, the Church of Christ could not perform its mission without some stable organizational features. It could not unite men of many nations into a well-knit community of conviction, commitment, and hope, and could not minister effectively to the needs of mankind, unless it had responsible officers and properly approved procedures….. It does not necessarily imply institutional­ism, any more than papacy implies papalism, or law implies legalism, or dogma implies dogmatism…. The primary notions of the Church, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, are those of mystery, sacrament, Body of Christ, and People of God. Only after two chapters devoted to these general themes does the Constitution, in its third chapter, pro­ceed to discuss the formal structures of ecclesiastical govern­ment. By setting the juridical organization of the Church in the context of a fuller and broader theological consideration of the inner nature of the Church, Vatican II, in my opinion, avoided the pitfalls of juridicism.

In the institutionalist ecclesiology the powers and functions of the Church are generally divided into three: teaching, sanc­tifying, and governing.

From the point of view of its teaching function, it resembles a school in which the masters, as sacred teachers, hand down the doctrine of Christ. Because the bishops are considered to possess a special “charism of truth” (the phrase is from St. Irenaeus, but the meaning has undergone a change since his time), it is held that the faithful are in conscience bound to believe what the bishops declare. The Church is therefore a unique type of school—one in which the teachers have the power to impose their doctrine with juridical and spiritual sanctions. Thus teaching is juridicized and institutionalized.

The same is true of the second function, that of sanctifying. Some authors speak almost as though sanctity were a kind of substance inherent in the Church. The pope and bishops, as­sisted by priests and deacons, are described somewhat as if they were engineers opening and shutting the valves of grace. The third function, government, is likewise in the hands of the hierarchy. There is one difference, however. Whereas in teaching and sanctifying, the hierarchy have a merely ministe­rial function, transmitting the doctrine and grace of Christ himself, ruling is something that they do in their own name. They govern the flock with pastoral authority, and as Christ’s viceregents impose new laws and precepts under pain of sin.

A characteristic of the institutional model of the Church, in the forms we are considering, is the hierarchical conception of authority. The Church is not conceived as a democratic or representative society, but as one in which the fullness of power is concentrated in the hands of a ruling class that per­petuates itself by cooption.

As it became increasingly clear that scholarly criticism could not demonstrate that all these offices, beliefs, and rites were instituted by Christ, theologians were urged to study the origi­nal sources using what is called the “regressive method”— i.e., utilizing the latest teaching of the magisterium as an indi­cation of what must have been present from the beginning, since the Church at this period disclaimed any power of innovation in its teaching of revelation.

The beneficiaries of the Church, in the institutional model, are its own members. The Church is the school that instructs them regarding the truths they need to know for the sake of their eternal salvation. It is the refectory or inn where they are nourished from the life-giving streams of grace, which flows especially through the sacraments. It is the hospital where they are healed of their illnesses, the shelter where they are pro­tected against the assaults of the enemy of their souls. Thanks to the governing authority of the shepherds, the faithful are kept from wandering into the desert and are led to the green pastures. From all this it is clear what the Church does for its benefi­ciaries: It gives them eternal life. The Church is compared to a loving mother who nourishes her infants at the breast, or, more impersonally, to the boat of Peter, which carries the faithful to the farther shore of heaven, provided they remain on board.

From 1550 to 1950, the Church tended to become a total institution—one that ex­ists for its own sake and serves others only by aggrandizing itself. Strong institutionalism is a strong endorsement in official Church documents of the past few centuries and provides im­portant links between an uncertain present and an esteemed religious past. In a time when many are suffering from future shock, it is no small asset for the Church to be able to provide a zone of stability in a world that gyrates madly from extreme to extreme. . The Church had clear goals for mis­sionary action, and was vexed by a minimum of internal dis­sent. Other Christians frequently envied Catholics for their esprit de corps.

On the other hand, the institutional theory labours under several major liabilities. The case against it may be summa­rized as follows. In the first place, the theory has a compara­tively meagre basis in Scripture and in early Church tradition. It can claim support only from a very few New Testament texts, and even these must be interpreted in a particular pre­scribed way. In point of fact, Scripture does not portray the Church as a single tightly knit society. As we shall see in later chapters, Paul’s models of the Church tend to be more or­ganic, more communitarian, more mystical.

Secondly, the institutional model leads to some unfortunate consequences in Christian life, both personal and corporate. While some virtues, such as obedience, are strongly accented, others are not,

But clericalism tends to reduce the laity to a condition of passivity, and to make their apostolate a mere appendage of the apostolate of the hierarchy—a view endorsed by Pius XI and Pius XII in their descriptions of “Catholic action.” Juridicism tends to exaggerate the role of human authority and thus to turn the gospel into a new law. Catholics in the Counter Reformation period became overly concerned with fulfilling ecclesiastical obligations and insufficiently atten­tive, at times, to fulfilling the law of charity.

After all, the Church of Christ could not perform its mission without some stable organizational features. It could not unite men of many nations into a well-knit community of conviction, commitment, and hope, and could not minister effectively to the needs of mankind, unless it had responsible officers and properly approved procedures….. It does not necessarily imply institutional­ism, any more than papacy implies papalism, or law implies legalism, or dogma implies dogmatism…. The primary notions of the Church, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, are those of mystery, sacrament, Body of Christ, and People of God. Only after two chapters devoted to these general themes does the Constitution, in its third chapter, pro­ceed to discuss the formal structures of ecclesiastical govern­ment. By setting the juridical organization of the Church in the context of a fuller and broader theological consideration of the inner nature of the Church, Vatican II, in my opinion, avoided the pitfalls of juridicism.

The institutional model raises obstacles to a creative and fruitful theology. According to some critics it binds theology too exclusively to the defence of currently official positions, and thus diminishes critical and exploratory thinking.

In some presentations of this ecclesiology it seems enormously difficult to admit the salvation of non-Roman Catholics—and yet the idea that most of mankind would be eternally damned for not being Catholics is incredible and theologically intolerable. Ec­umenically, this ecclesiology is sterile.

In an age when all large institutions are re­garded with suspicion or aversion, this ecclesiology is out of phase with the demands of the times. In an age of dialogue, ecumenism, and interest in world religions, the monopolistic tendencies of this model are unacceptable.

The next model is the Church as mystical communion. This reacts against the aridity of the institutional models, they popularized the notion of the Church as a supernatural organism vivified by the Holy Spirit, a fellowship sustained by the outpouring of divine grace. The image of the Body of Christ is organic, rather than sociological. After a period of strong institutionalism in ecclesiology, the theology of the Church as Mystical Body began to revive in the middle of the nineteenth century. Vatican II in Lumen gentium distinguishes be­tween the Church as hierarchical society and as Body Christ, and asserts that the two are related to each other in way comparable to the human and divine natures of Christ. The term “People of God,” when used as a synonym for the Church, strikes many as egotistical and monopolistic. How can any particular group of men affirm that they, and they alone, are God’s own people? Actually, the Bible itself testifies (Gen. 8-9) that God has entered into a covenant-relationship with all mankind, and thus that all men are in some sort members of the People of God. The Church, or the Christian commu­nity, might better be designated as the “People of God of the New Covenant”—a covenant that completes and makes ex­plicit the relationship of fidelity and love into which God has entered with mankind thanks to his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Christians are set apart by their explicit recognition of the new and everlasting Covenant, but they are not uniquely the Peo­ple of God.

One difficulty in this model is that it tends to exalt and divinize the Church beyond its due. If People of God is viewed as coterminous with the Christian Church, when efforts are being made to enter into respectful dialogue with other faiths, these claims are often felt to be an embarrassment. This type of ecclesiology also fails to give Christians a very clear sense of their identity or mission. Since we cannot take it for granted that evangelization, baptism, or church membership coincides with the bestowal of the Holy Spirit the motivation for Christian mission is left obscure.

How does ‘the church as sacrament’ work? Rahner gives an example: The experience of sacramen­tal confession and absolution itself transforms the attitude of the sinner so that his initial aversion from sin becomes a sor­row motivated purely by the love of God. Thanks to the sign, the reality signified achieves an existential depth; emerges into solid, tangible existence.

The sacrament of redemption is not complete in Jesus as a single individual. In order to become the kind of sign he must be, he must appear as the sign of God’s redemptive love ex­tended toward all mankind, and of the response of all mankind to that redemptive love. The Church therefore is in the first instance a sign. It must signify in a historically tangible form the redeeming grace of Christ. It signifies that grace as relevantly given to men of every age, race, kind, and condition. Hence the church must incarnate itself in every human culture. . Furthermore, it is important that links should connect the Church of today with the Church of apostolic times. Otherwise the Church could not appear as sign of our redemption in and through the historical Christ. On the other hand, the institutional or structural aspect is never sufficient to constitute the Church. The offices and ritu­als of the Church must palpably appear as the actual express­ signs of the faith, hope, and love of living men. Otherwise the Church would be a dead body rather than a living Christian community. It would be an inauthentic sign—a sign of some­thing not really present, and therefore not a sacrament.

The Church never fully realises itself as Church, at least not in the conditions of this It is true Church to the extent that it is tending to e more truly Church.

MOC2This model has proved highly attractive to professional theologians and is especially useful in relating the idea of the Church as institution, our first model, with that of the Church as a mysti­cal communion of grace. The sacramental ecclesiology supports the best features of the previous two models while solving problems that prove intractable on either of these other two, such as the relationship between the visible institution and the communion of grace. A particular advantage of this model is that it can, without neglecting the importance of the visible Church, give ample scope to the workings of divine grace beyond the limits of the institutional Church. Also pleasing to theologians is the ability of this model to integrate ecclesiology with other traditional theological themes. The doctrine of symbolic, or sacramental, causality brings Christology, ecclesiology, and sacramentology into a sin­gle, overarching unity. This ecclesiology does not encourage any deification of the actual form of the Church’s life, for it acknowledges that the symbolic expressions of grace are never adequate to the life of grace itself. The Church is continually called to become a better sign of Christ than it has been. However, one might object that it has com­paratively little warrant in Scripture and in the early tradition of the Church, but this objection is certainly not fatal. When Paul speaks of marriage as a mystery or sacrament “in Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:32) he seems to imply that the Church, like marriage, only more fundamentally, is a sign or loving unity in Christ.

The next model is kerygmatic, for it looks upon the Church as a herald—one who receives an official message with the commis­sion to pass it on. The basic image is that of the herald of a king who comes to proclaim a royal decree in a public square. The chief proponent of this type of ecclesiology in the twen­tieth century is Karl Barth, who draws abundantly on Paul, Luther, and others. In his Church Dogmatics Barth has a long discussion of the word of God and its relationship to the Church. He warns the Church against so domesticating the Bible that it would cease to be ruled by the Bible. The relative distance between the Bible and the Church, he says, makes it possible for the Bible to testify against the Church. For the Church to be a place in which the word of God is truly heard, it is necessary that the word should never be imprisoned or bracketed by the Church. The word of God is not a substance immanent in the Church, but rather an event that takes place as often as God addresses his people and is believed.

Barth’s view that the Church is essentially a herald of Christ’s Lordship and of the future Kingdom is closely paralleled in Roman Catholic theology by Hans Kung, who beau his theological career with a doctoral dissertation on Barth. In his book, The Church, Kung has a very characteristic sect entitled, “The Eschatological Community of Salvation.’ He finds that the biblical term ekklesia means those summon: a herald, those who have been called out (ek-kletoi). Characteristic of this model, as contrasted with the three previously considered, is a sharp distinction it makes between the Church in its terrestrial form and the Kingdom of God, considered as an eschatological reality. Kling stresses that the. Church neither is the Kingdom of God, nor does it build the Kingdom, or extend it on earth, or work for its realization. “It is the reign of God which the Church hopes for, bears witness to, proclaims. It is not the bringer or the bearer of the reign of God which is to come and is at the same time already present, but its voice, its announcer, its herald. God alone can bring his reign; the Church is devoted entirely to its service.”

The form of Church order in this ecclesiology is characteris­tically congregational. The Church is regarded as complete in a single local congregation (as the quotations from Kung in this chapter make clear); hence the Church is not dependent fix its existence on any worldwide structure. Structural links between local congregations may, however, be desirable to pro­mote mutual interaction and mutual admonition.

It has a good biblical foundation in the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament. Paul, and elsewhere. It gives a sense of identity and mission to the Church—especially local church—as a congregation that heralds the good nevi Jesus Christ and sets its face against all idolatry. It is conducive to a spirituality that focuses on God’s sovereignty and on man’s infinite distance from him. This ecclesiology leads to obedience, humility, and readiness for repentance and reform. Finally, this theory, as propounded by Barth and the dialectical school, gives rise to a very rich theology of the word. The word is rightly seen as far more than a representation of ideas, more than a source of information, more than an explanation of what is antecedently real, but as expression of the person, as address, as a bond of communion between persons in dialogue.

Vatican II attempted to capitalize on various themes de­rived from the Barthian theology of the word, but it was not satisfied with a merely prophetic understanding of the word. In the Constitution on the Liturgy, for instance, we read that Christ “is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the church. He is present, finally, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: ‘When two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the midst of them’ (Mt. 18:20).” But in the same paragraph the Council spoke of Christ’s presence in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist. The Constitution on Divine Revelation begins on a mark­edly kerygmatic note, with the phrase “hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it confidently.”

The Kingdom is totally a work of God, pro­duced entirely and exclusively at his initiative. The posture of man is one of humble acceptance and patient expectation.

All the models thus far considered give a primary or privileged position to the Church with respect to the world. In the herald model, the Church takes on an authoritarian role, proclaiming the gospel as a divine message to which the odd must humbly listen. Since the dawn of modern times, and especially since the Enlightenment, the world has become increasingly active and independent of the Church.

The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the most novel and distinctive contribution of Vatican II, outlines a completely new understanding of the relationship between the Church and the world of our day. It recognizes the “legitimate autonomy” of human culture and especially of the sciences; it calls upon the Church to update itself—in­cluding its doctrine and institutional structures?—so as to ap­propriate the best achievements of modern secular life. It af­firms that the Church must respect the accomplishments of the world and learn from them, lest it fall behind the times and become incapable of effectively heralding the gospel. Fi­nally, it asserts that the Church should consider itself as part of the total human family, sharing the same concerns as the rest of men.

So we get the Church as servant model. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the most novel and distinctive contribution of Vatican II, outlines a completely new understanding of the relationship between the Church and the world of our day. It recognizes the “legitimate autonomy” of human culture and especially of the sciences; it calls upon the Church to update itself—in­cluding its doctrine and institutional structures?—so as to ap­propriate the best achievements of modern secular life. It af­firms that the Church must respect the accomplishments of the world and learn from them, lest it fall behind the times and become incapable of effectively heralding the gospe1. Fi­nally, it asserts that the Church should consider itself as part of the total human family, sharing the same concerns as the rest of men.

The new secular thrust in ecclesiology was prepared by the thought of a number of twen­tieth-century theologians, two of whom may be selected for special mention: Teilhard de Chardin and Dietrich Bonhoef­fer. Teilhard wrestled all his life to achieve a reconciliation be­tween his two great loyalties—the one toward science and the other toward the Church. His double vocation as anthropolo­gist and as priest made him feel that he must not be pulled apart. There must be an ultimate unity, he felt, between theol­ogy and science, between religion and technology, between the Church and the world.

According to Teilhard, the Church is necessary to prevent the vital energies of the world from be­coming uselessly dissipated. On the other hand, the world is necessary to the Church, lest the Church should “wither like a flower out of water.” In substance, then, Teilhard taught that the Church is divinely called to be a progressive society, the spearhead of the axis of evolution, and that, in order to fulfill this vocation, it must be open to everything good that emerges from the dynamism of the human spirit as found in science and technology. His view is still moderately ecclesiocentric, but he finds evidences of a thrust toward Omega in the movement of the world even beyond the borders of the Church.

As regards Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we have already seen that in his early works, especially The Communion of Saints, he places a heavy emphasis on the nature of the Church as a communion of men drawn together by Christ. Subsequently in his Ethics, he moves toward a more kerygmatic position., corresponding to our fourth type of ecclesiology. “The inten­tion of the preacher,” he writes, “is not to improve the work: but to summon it to belief in Jesus Christ and to bear witness to the reconciliation which has been accomplished thro Him and His dominion.”

Gibson Winter, in his The New Creation as Metropolis, calls for a “servant Church”—one that is “no longer an institutional structure of salvation alongside the worldly structures of restraint” but one that is “that commu­nity within the worldly structures of historical responsibility which recognizes and acknowledges God’s gracious work for all mankind. The servant Church is the community who confirm mankind in its freedom to fashion its future, protesting the pretensions to ultimacy in any human structures and suffering with men in the struggle against the powers of evil.” He proposes that the apostolate of the servant Church should not be primarily one of confessional proclamation or of cultic cele­bration, but rather discerning refection on God’s promise and presence in the midst of our own history.

Bishop John A. T. Robinson, in The New Reformation?, ar­gued that the Church is in drastic need of a stripping down of its structures, which can be an obstacle to its mission. To be of service the Church must work within the structures of the world rather than build parallel structures. “The house of God is not the Church but the world. The Church is the servant. and the first characteristic of a servant is that he lives in some­one else’s house, not his own.”

Eugene Bianchi, in his Reconcilation: The Function of the Church, maintains that the fundamental mission of the Church is that of reconciliation the overcoming of the various alienations that vex humans today. This calls for “a humble and servant approach to world already touched by redemption.”

What are the bonds of union? Who are the beneficiaries? What is the goal or purpose of the Church? The bonds of union, according to secular ecclesiologists, are not so much the tradi­tional bonds of doctrine and sacramental communion, but ‘rather the sense of mutual brotherhood that springs up among those who join in Christian service toward the world. Some assert that these bonds cut right through the traditional denominational divisions and forge a new communion among those who had been ecclesiastically estranged from one another.

The Church’s mission, in the perspectives of this theology, is not primarily to gain new recruits for its own ranks, but rather to be of help to all men, wherever they are. The special competence of the Church is to keep alive the hope and aspi­ration of men for the Kingdom of God and its values. Service can include prophetic criticism of social institutions, and help to transform human society into the image of the promised Kingdom. Like Jesus, we are called to wash one another’s feet. The term diakonia is certainly one of the most important New Testament terms applied to the Church. The term applies to all types of ministry—including the ministry of the word, of sacraments, and of temporal help. It may not be out of place to speak of an “indirect foundation.” The so-called Servant Songs in Isaiah are applicable to the Church as well as to Christ.

Kung contends that the Kingdom of God is viewed in the New Testament as work, not man’s. Still less does the New Testament envisage other agencies than the Church as heralds or catalysts of the Kingdom. Scripture scholars such as Gerald O’ Collins say that they cannot find anywhere in the New Testament that there are people called to the Kingdom without also being called to the Church. This seems to be a modern development, and if it can be justified at all, the justification will have to be on grounds other than biblical.

In the Old Testament the Kingdom as a reign of peace and justice among men, with an abundance of material blessings for all. In the name of the kingdom—or, preferably, kingship—of God, the prophets condemn rulers who are violent and oppressive. On this analalogy one might be able to work out a biblical argument in favour of a sociopolitical role for the Church. But the argument could be indirect, for in the New Testament, where the notion of the Church is explicitly addressed, salvation is individual and spiritualized. The emphasis is apocalyptic rather than prophetic.

The Christian believes that anyone who committed to the Kingdom of God is in some sense, at least, implicitly, committed to Jesus Christ. Acknowledging Jesus as Lord of all, the Christian wishes, so far as possible, to Jesus known to all men. The notion of the Kingdom of which is rightly used by secular theologians to point up the dimension of social responsibility, should not be separate from the preaching of Jesus as Lord. The servant notion of Kingdom, therefore, goes astray if it seeks to set itself up in opposition to the kerygmatic.

How about the Church and eschatology? Pannenberg maintains that “Christ points the Church toward the Kingdom of God that is beyond the Church–a thesis he attempts to establish with the help of some biblical references.The term ekklesia as used in the New Testament is an eschatological term. It means an assembly or convocation and more specifi­cally the convocation of the saints that will be realized to the full at the eschaton.

Nothing suggests that the community of the disciples will be dissolved in heaven, when the twelve sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

In the Pauline letters, the Church is the Temple that will be completed and consecrated at the end of history.

In the later Middle Ages this distinction was hardened into something ap­proaching a division. The ecclesia militans was frequently contasted with the ecclesia triumphans, but the term ecclesia was considered to apply more perfectly to the latter than to the former.

Lumen gentium devotes an entire chapter to the theme, “The Eschatological Nature of the Pilgrim Church and Her Union with the Heavenly Church.” This chapter directly declares that the Church will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven.?

Rosemary Ruether has been considerably influenced by Martin Werner, but she herself leans toward a futurist escha­tology as Werner did not. She holds that while in some sense Jesus was the Messiah (Christ), in another sense he was not. At least he is not yet fully the Christ. Therefore the Jews are some sense correct when they continue to affirm that the lessiah is still to come. To insist with Pannenberg that the end of history has already come with the resurrection of Jesus is, she asserts, to raise many difficulties. In Pannenberg’s theol­ogy, she contends, Christianity threatens to become a closed ideological universe, in which the Jews “become the type of reprobate and superseded humanity.”

According to C. H. Dodd: While however, the New Testament affirms with full seriousness that the great divine event has happened, there remains a residue of eschatology which is not exhausted in the “realized eschatology” of the gospel, namely, the element of sheer finality. While history still goes on, a view of the world, which, like the prophetic and Christian view, insists that history is a unity, must necessarily represent it as having an end as well as a beginning.

A. T. Robinson’s position is basically similar to Dodd’s except that he uses the term “inaugurated eschatology” rather than “realized eschatology.” He denies the parousia as a sepa­rate and distinct future event, but he does not exclude the element of futurity in Christian hope. He holds that the King­dom is still to come to completion; it has only been inaugurated.

The goal exists in the future. The world and man are in movement toward it. The Church is a kind of cable car or sacred chariot that takes men to their destination, lifting them over the abyss. If men stay aboard and avoid serious miscon­duct unbecoming a passenger, they may be confident of reach­ing their destination.

Since the Church, in this theory, appears simply as a means of grace, there is no real place for the Church in the final consummation. Heaven is understood as a face-to-face vision of the divine essence, with no social dimension. Because man’s social life, in this model, is fully institutionalized, the disap­pearance of the institution at the end of man’s earthly pilgrim­age involves the termination of social life. Each individual, equipped with his own pair of opera glasses (lumen gloriae), gazes on the divine essence without being conscious of who is in the next box.

The Church on earth, according to this ecclesiology, is not merely a promise or pledge of the heavenly Church, but is an anticipation of it. The Holy Spirit, the eschatological gift, has already been poured forth on the Christian community. Paul describes the Holy Spirit as the first fruits (aparche, Rom.8:23), the earnest or down payment (arrabon, 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5) of the fullness. Throughout the Patristic period, Christian preachers and theologians looked upon the Church as the communion of saints that exists imperfectly here on earth and perfectly in the blessed in heaven.

A similar dynamic vision of the Church animates the Con­stitution on Divine Revelation. “As the centuries succeed one another,” says this decree, “the Church constantly moves for­ward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.” The foundations have been laid, but the building is still incomplete. The Con­stitution on the Liturgy reflects the same point of view. It quotes Ephesians to the effect that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” In him “the whole structure is ioined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place for God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20-22). Christians, in other words, are the living stones of a temple that is still under construction.

The Church on earth must continually labor to ‘become a credible sign of the future glory to which it points. It must be a source of hope to all who look upon it. Otherwise it would lose its savor; it would cease to be the eschatological sign that it must be as Church.

Regarding the Church in the role of herald, heralding is in several respects eschatological. First, it an­nounces the arrival of the last times. As analyzed by C. H. Dodd, the Christian kerygma has as its central theme the an­nouncement that in Jesus the time of fulfilment has come, and that men are to dispose themselves by repentance to re­ceive the eschatological gift. The apostles make the claim to be the authorized witnesses of Jesus’ exaltation as heavenly Lord and of the sending of the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, the kerygma is eschatological because it announces that the final consummation is at hand. Jesus will come in glory to judge all men, bringing history to a close. The witnessing activity of the Church is eschatolog­ical because it helps to prepare for the final consummation. This eschatological understanding of the process of Chris­tian mission is not exclusively Protestant. Vatican II’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church speaks in tones simi­lar to Cullmann: “And so the time for missionary activity ex­tends between the first coming of the Lord and the second. The gospel, in this view, is not simply a word about God, but the word of God. The genitive is taken as subjective. The human preacher, like the Bible, is seen as an instrument caught up in the act of God himself coming to his people.

The concept of the Church as servant might seem to be less eschatological than the views already discussed. Would not the Church best serve the human family by becoming totally en­gaged in making this world a better place to live in, regardless of any possible eschatological future? Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution, Article 39:

Earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ’s kingdom. Nevertheless, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital con­cern to the kingdom of God.

For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dig­nity, brotherhood, and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and trans­figured. This will be so when Christ hands over to the Father a kingdom eternal and universal: “a king­dom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of jus­tice, love, and peace.” On this earth that kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower.

Notable in this passage is the stress on the continuity be­tween the values of human dignity, brotherhood, and freedom_ to be realized within history, and their fulfillment in the firms Kingdom. The world is seen as the arena where these are to be realized, and the hope of the Kingdom is brought as a motive for seeking justice and peace on earth.

Pannenberg holds that in Jesus the ultimate future has already appeared, and that the Church is “an eschatologi­cal community pioneering the future of all mankind.”

The Church is true to its vocation only if it antici­pates and represents the destiny of all mankind, the goal of history. . . . Any narrowing of the universal vocation of the Church, any deviation from its char­acter as an eschatological community, results in de­priving the Church of its social significance.

Moltmann likewise interprets the mission of the Church as servant in terms of his eschatological understanding of the Church.

The Christian Church has not to serve mankind in order that this world may remain what it is, or may be preserved in the state in which it is, but in order that it may transform itself and become what it is promised to be. For this reason “Church for the world” can mean nothing else but “Church for the kingdom of God” and the renewing of the world.

This means in practice that Christianity takes up mankind—or to put it concretely, the Church takes up the society with which it lives—into its own hori­zon of expectation of the eschatological fulfilment of justice, life, humanity, and sociability, and com­municates in its own decisions in history its openness and readiness for this future and its elasticity towards it. . . . The whole body of Christians is engaged in the apostolate of hope for the world and finds therein its essence—namely that which makes it the Church of God. It is not in itself the salvation of the world, so that the “churchifying” of the world would mean the latter’s salvation, but it serves the coming salvation of the world and is like an arrow sent out into the world to point to the future.

The Church, says Metz, is “necessary as the institution of the critical liberty of faith. ” Its task is not to elaborate a positive system of social doctrine, but to be a wellspring of prophetic, liberating criticism.

To the annoyance of many of us, the Roman Catholic Church claims to be ‘the one true church.’ So it’s heartening to read: the Church will not fully be itself until the eschaton. Thus its participation in the attributes by which it is defined remains partial and tendential until the end of history. The attributes are seen more as a task for every Christian community than as the exclusive property of one society. Yet the Church is present in existing Christian bodies, and for this very reason these bodies are called to become more perfectly the Church. The Church must aspire to be ever more fully one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

To specify the criteria of the true Church in terms of the servant model of the Church would be a stimulating task. The four notes, presumably, would be interpreted as characteristics of the new creation or of the Kingdom of God, rather than directly and immediately of the Church. The Kingdom of God is regarded as regime of universal brotherhood, embracing in intention all men and indeed the whole of creation. Thus it would be one and catholic. The Kingdom, moreover, would be holy in the sense that it is the gift of God, and that it unites men to God. In a certain sense the Kingdom of God might be called apostolic, if apostolicity means continuity with what God began in Jesus Christ. Since the Kingdom came into its own in the risen Christ, who himself became the first fruits of the new creation, every extension of the Kingdom is seen as an extension of the Lordship of Christ.

The Church, as servant of the Kingdom, would have a cer­tain unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity of its own. Its unity would be that of a team collaborating for the realization of the Kingdom. It would be holy insofar as it effectively dedi­cates itself to the realization of the Kingdom. Rather than the place where holiness is found, the Church would be seen as a catalyst of holiness in the larger human community. The ser­vant Church would seek to break down estrangement and alienation, to reconcile men with themselves, with their broth­ers, and with God. Last, the Church would be apostolic insofar as it continues to labour for the extension of that which proleptically appeared in the glorified Jesus.

What about the ‘separated brethren’?: Lewis S. Mudge, another Presbyterian proponent of secular ecumenism, says that the presence of Christ is found “at the point where Christians, under the compulsion of the gospel, find that they can become creatively involved in the world’s struggles, and hence have a presence to celebrate. . . . The presence of Christ in the secular environment is a presence ‘in, with and under’ outward structures and events. It is detected not by dispassionate analysis but by personal involvement, which, with the recognition of the brother, can become eucharistic.”

Corresponding to the servant view of the Church, therefore, a more cosmic revelation theology has emerged. Influenced by Teilhard de Chardin, some representatives of this school see Christ as the Omega force working throughout creation, pres­ent as an operative energy in the universe. Besides Christians, adherents of other religions and ideologies participate in this divine energy, and in that sense revelation is at work in and through them. Revelation is viewed on the analogy of an evo­lutionary force whereby higher states of consciousness emerge from lower states. In Christ, it is believed, creation took an immense step forward to its ultimate goal. His resurrection is seen as an anticipation of the ultimate transformation of man and the universe. Until the parousia, Christ is secretly at work in all creation, drawing it forward to himself. The content of revelation, therefore, is the inbreaking of the divine into his­tory—the self-manifestation, so to speak, of the Kingdom of God.

Something of this theology of revelation is to be found in Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Mod­ern World, which declares that “all believers of whatever reli­gion have always heard His [God’s] revealing voice in the dis­course of creatures.” As for the central place of Christ, it is repeatedly affirmed in passages such as the following:

For God’s Word, by whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh so that as perfect man He might save all men and sum up all things in Himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the centre of the human race, the joy of every heart, and the answer to all its yearnings. .

The Lord Himself speaks: “Behold I come quickly! And my reward is with me, to n each one according to his works. I am the Al Omega, the first and the last, the beginning end” (Apoc. 22:12-13).”

The role of the Church in this cosmic theology is not simply to proclaim the biblical message to the world rather to enter into dialogue with all men of good will, to discern the signs of the times, and to interpret the of our age, judging them in the light of the divine word.

The value of revelation, in this cosmic outlook, to bring the individual believer to his eternal salt’ contribute to the realization in the world of the kingdom of God: justice, freedom, plenty, brotherhood and the like. The Church, according to the Pastoral Constitution seeks to consolidate the human community according to divine revelation. As Christ was the “man for others”, so the Church become fully altruistic.

The strengths and weaknesses of this fifth approach are just the opposite of the fourth. Its strength is that communion with all men everywhere, and eliminates the barriers that have made communication difficult. Its weakness is that it may tend to dissolve too much of what is distinctive to Christianity.

One of the five models, I believe, cannot properly be taken as primary—and this is the institutional model. Of their very nature, I believe, institutions are subordinate to persons, struc­tures are subordinate to life. “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”

One final caution may be in order. Theologians often tend to assume that the essence of the Church somehow exists, like a dark continent, ready-made and awaiting only to be mapped. The Church, as a sociological entity, may be more correctly viewed as a “social construct.”

The current he Church, especially in Roman Catholicism, bear a very strong imprint of the past social structures of Western European society. In particular, the idea of an “unequal society ­which certain members are set on a higher plane and invulnerable to criticism and pressure from below, savours too much of earlier oligarchic regimes to be at home in the contemporary world. In its stead, modern society is adopting a more functional approach to authority.

The present denominational divi­sions among the Churches, in great part, no longer correspond with the real issues that respectively unite and divide Chris­tians of our day. The debates that separated the churches in 1054 and 1520, while they may be revived in contemporary controversy, are no longer the really burning issues.

Pluralism is already very great, per­haps too great, in some of the Protestant churches, but it has been slow to assert itself in Roman Catholicism. The strong centralization in modern Catholicism is due to historical acci­dents. It has been shaped in part by the homogeneous culture of medieval Europe and by the dominance of Rome, with its rich heritage of classical culture and legal organization. In the Counter Reformation this uniformity was increased by an al­most military posture of resistance to the inroads of alien sys­tems of thought such as Protestantism and deistic rationalism. The decentralization of the future will involve a certain mea­sure of de-Romanization. There is little reason today why Ro­man law, the Roman language, Roman conceptual scheme and Roman liturgical forms should continue to be normative for the worldwide Church. With increasing decentralization, the Catholic Church in various regions will be able to enter more vitally into the life of different peoples and to relate itself more positively to the traditions of other Christian denomina­tions.

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