Ecclesiology

Ecclesiology

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Today, ecclesiology usually refers to the theological
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

 study of the Christian church. However when the word was coined in the late 1830s, it was defined as the science of the building and decoration of churches and it is still, though rarely, used in this sense.

In its theological sense, ecclesiology deals with the church's origin
Origins of Christianity
For centuries, the traditional understanding has been that Judaism came before Christianity and that Christianity separated from Judaism some time after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE....

, its relationship to Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, its role in salvation
Salvation
Within religion salvation is the phenomenon of being saved from the undesirable condition of bondage or suffering experienced by the psyche or soul that has arisen as a result of unskillful or immoral actions generically referred to as sins. Salvation may also be called "deliverance" or...

, its discipline
Church discipline
Church discipline comes in two types: formative and corrective. Formative discipline, or discipleship, seeks to help form the character and life of the believer. In this sense, every church disciplines it members. Jonathan Leeman has noted that "every church disciplines its members formally...

, its destiny
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

, and its leadership
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

. Since different ecclesiologies give shape to very different institutions, the word may also refer to a particular church or denomination’s character, self-described or otherwise – hence phrases such as Roman Catholic ecclesiology, Lutheran ecclesiology, and ecumenical ecclesiology.

Etymology


The roots of the word ecclesiology come from the Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 , ekklēsiā (Latin ecclesia
Ecclesia
-Ecclesia:* the Christian Church**See Church militant and church triumphant for ecclesia militans, ecclesia penitens, ecclesia triumphans* Congregation among many English-speaking Christadelphians....

) meaning "congregation, church
Church (disambiguation)
-Religion:* Church * Church service, a formalized period of communal worship* Church music written for performance in church* Christian Church, the worldwide body of Christians** Any of several more specific Christian denominations...

"; and , -logia
-logy
-logy is a suffix in the English language, used with words originally adapted from Ancient Greek language ending in -λογία...

, meaning "words", "knowledge", or "logic", a combining term used in the names of sciences or bodies of knowledge.

Its first appearance in print, as ecclesialogy, was in the quarterly journal The British Critic in 1837, in an article written by an anonymous contributor who defined it thus:

However in volume 4 of the Cambridge Camden Society
Cambridge Camden Society
The Cambridge Camden Society, later known as the Ecclesiological Society from 1845 when it moved to London, was a learned architectural society founded in 1839 by undergraduates at Cambridge University to promote "the study of Gothic Architecture, and of Ecclesiastical Antiques." Its activities...

's journal The Ecclesiologist, published in January 1845 that society (the CCS) claimed that they had invented the word ecclesiology:

The Ecclesiologist was first published in October 1841 and dealt with the study of the building and decoration of churches. It particularly encouraged the restoration of Anglican churches back to their supposed Gothic splendour and it was at the centre of the wave of Victorian restoration
Victorian restoration
Victorian restoration is the term commonly used to refer to the widespread and extensive refurbishment and rebuilding of Church of England churches and cathedrals that took place in England and Wales during the 19th-century reign of Queen Victoria...

 that spread across England and Wales in the second half of the 19th century. Its successor Ecclesiology Today is still, as of 2011, being published by The Ecclesiological Society (successor to the CCS, now a registered charity).

The situation regarding the etymology is summed up by the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought: "'Ecclesiology' is a term that has changed its meaning in recent theology. Formerly the science of the building and decoration of churches, promoted by the Cambridge Camden Society, the Ecclesiological Society and the journal The Ecclesiologist, ecclesiology now stands for the study of the nature of the Christian church."

Issues addressed by ecclesiology

  • Who is the Church? Is it a visible or earthly corporation
    Corporation
    A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

     or a unified, visible society—a "church" in the sense of a specific denomination or institution, for instance? Or is it the body of all believing Christians
    Christianity
    Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

     (see invisible church
    Invisible church
    The invisible church or church invisible is a theological concept of an "invisible" body of the elect who are known only to God, in contrast to the "visible church"—that is, the institutional body on earth which preaches the gospel and administers the sacraments...

    ) regardless of their denominational
    Religious denomination
    A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion that operates under a common name, tradition, and identity.The term describes various Christian denominations...

     differences and disunity? What is the relationship between living Christians and departed
    Saint
    A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

     Christians (the "cloud of witnesses") -- do they (those on Earth and those in Heaven) constitute together the Church?

  • What is the relationship between a believer and the Church? That is, what is the role of corporate worship
    Worship
    Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

     in the spiritual lives of believers? Is it in fact necessary? Can salvation be found outside of formal membership in a given faith community, and what constitutes "membership?" (Baptism
    Baptism
    In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

    ? Formal acceptance of a creed
    Creed
    A creed is a statement of belief—usually a statement of faith that describes the beliefs shared by a religious community—and is often recited as part of a religious service. When the statement of faith is longer and polemical, as well as didactic, it is not called a creed but a Confession of faith...

    ? Regular participation?)

  • What is the authority
    Authority
    The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

     of the Church?
    Who gets to interpret the doctrines of the Church? Is the organizational structure itself, either in a single corporate body, or generally within the range of formal church structures, an independent vehicle of revelation
    Revelation
    In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

     or of God
    God
    God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

    's grace
    Divine grace
    In Christian theology, grace is God’s gift of God’s self to humankind. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" - that takes the form of divine favour, love and clemency. It is an attribute of God that is most...

    ? Or is the Church's authority instead dependent on and derivative of a separate and prior divine revelation external to the organization, with individual institutions being "the Church" only to the extent that they teach this message? For example, is the Bible
    Bible
    The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

     a written part of a wider revelation entrusted to the Church as faith community, and therefore to be interpreted within that context? Or is the Bible the revelation itself, and the Church is to be defined as a group of people who claim adherence to it?

  • What does the Church do? What are the sacrament
    Sacrament
    A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

    s, divine ordinances, and liturgies
    Liturgy
    Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

    , in the context of the Church, and are they part of the Church's mission to preach the Gospel
    Gospel
    A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

    ? What is the comparative emphasis and relationship between worship
    Worship
    Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

     service, spiritual formation
    Spiritual formation
    Spiritual formation is the growth and development of the whole person by an intentional focus on one’s* spiritual and interior life* interactions with others in ordinary life...

    , and mission
    Mission (Christian)
    Christian missionary activities often involve sending individuals and groups , to foreign countries and to places in their own homeland. This has frequently involved not only evangelization , but also humanitarian work, especially among the poor and disadvantaged...

    , and is the Church's role to create disciple
    Disciple (Christianity)
    In Christianity, the disciples were the students of Jesus during his ministry. While Jesus attracted a large following, the term disciple is commonly used to refer specifically to "the Twelve", an inner circle of men whose number perhaps represented the twelve tribes of Israel...

    s of Christ
    Christ
    Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

     or some other function? Is the Eucharist the defining element of the rest of the sacramental system and the Church itself, or is it secondary to the act of preaching? Is the Church to be understood as the vehicle for salvation, or the salvific presence in the world, or as a community of those already "saved?"

  • How should the Church be governed? What was the mission and authority of the Apostles, and is this handed down through the sacraments today? What are the proper methods of choosing clergy
    Clergy
    Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

     such as bishop
    Bishop
    A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

    s and priest
    Priest
    A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

    s, and what is their role within the context of the Church? Is an ordained
    Holy Orders
    The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

     clergy necessary? Who are the leaders of a church? Must there be a policy-making board of "leaders" within a church and what are the qualifications for this position, and by what process do these members become official, ordained
    Holy Orders
    The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

     "leaders"? Must leaders and clergy be "ordained," and is this possible only by those who have been ordained by others
    Apostolic Succession
    Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

    ?

  • What are the roles of 'spiritual gift
    Spiritual gift
    In Christianity, spiritual gifts are endowments given by the Holy Spirit. These are the supernatural graces which individual Christians need to fulfill the mission of the church. They are described in the New Testament, primarily in , , and . also touches on the spiritual gifts...

    s
    ' in the life of the church?

  • How does the Church's New Covenant
    New Covenant
    The New Covenant is a concept originally derived from the Hebrew Bible. The term "New Covenant" is used in the Bible to refer to an epochal relationship of restoration and peace following a period of trial and judgment...

     relate to the covenants
    Covenant (biblical)
    A biblical covenant is an agreement found in the Bible between God and His people in which God makes specific promises and demands. It is the customary word used to translate the Hebrew word berith. It it is used in the Tanakh 286 times . All Abrahamic religions consider the Biblical covenant...

    expressed in scripture
    Bible
    The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

     with God's chosen people
    Chosen people
    Throughout history and even today various groups of people have considered themselves as chosen by a deity for some purpose such as to act as the deity's agent on earth. In monotheistic faiths, like Abrahamic religions, references to God are used in constructs such as "God's Chosen People"...

    , the Jewish people?

  • What is the ultimate destiny of the Church in Christian eschatology
    Christian eschatology
    Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology. Eschatology, from two Greek words meaning last and study , is the study of the end of things, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, or the end of the world...

    ?

Roman Catholic ecclesiology


Roman Catholic ecclesiology today has a plurality of models and views, as with all Roman Catholic Theology since the acceptance of scholarly Biblical criticism that began in the early to mid 20th century. This shift is most clearly marked by the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu
Divino Afflante Spiritu
Divino Afflante Spiritu is an encyclical letter issued by Pope Pius XII on September 30, 1943. It inaugurated the modern period of Roman Catholic Bible studies by permitting the limited use of modern methods of biblical criticism. The Catholic bible scholar Raymond E...

 in 1943. Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. contributed greatly to the use of models in understanding ecclesiology. In his work Models of the Church, he defines four basic models of Church that have been prevalent throughout the history of the Catholic Church. These include models of the Church as institution, as mystical communion, as herald, and as servant.

The ecclesiological model of Church as an Institution holds that the Catholic Church alone is the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church", and is the only Church of divine and apostolic origin. This view of the Church is dogmatically defined Catholic doctrine, and is therefore de fide
De fide
De fide is a "theological note" or "theological qualification" that indicates that some religious doctrine is an essential part of Catholic faith and that denial of it is heresy....

. In this view, the Catholic Church— composed of all baptized, professing Catholics, both clergy and laity— is the unified, visible society founded by Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 himself, and its hierarchy derives its spiritual authority through the centuries, via apostolic succession
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

 of its bishops, most especially through the bishop of Rome (the Pope) whose successorship comes from St. Peter the Apostle, whom Christ gave "the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven". Thus, the Popes, in the Catholic view, have a God-ordained universal jurisdiction over the whole Church on earth. The Catholic Church is considered Christ's mystical body, and the universal sacrament of salvation, whereby Christ enables men to receive sanctifying grace.

The model of Church as Mystical Communion draws on two major Biblical images, the first of the "Mystical Body of Christ" (as developed in Paul's Epistles) and the second of the "People of God." This ecclesiological model draws upon sociology and articulations of two types of social relationships: a formally organized or structured society (Gesellschaft) and an informal or interpersonal community (Gemeinschaft). The Roman Catholic theologian Arnold Rademacher maintained that the Church in its inner core is community (Gemeinschaft) and in its outer core society (Gesellschaft). Here, the interpersonal aspect of the Church is given primacy and that the structured Church is the result of a real community of believers. Similarly, Yves Congar
Yves Congar
Yves Marie Joseph Congar was a French Dominican cardinal and theologian.-Early life:Born in Sedan, in northeast France, in 1904, Congar's home was occupied by the Germans for much of World War I...

 argued that the ultimate reality of the Church is a fellowship of persons. This ecclesiology opens itself to ecumenism and was the prevailing model used by the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

 (itself considered by Roman Catholics an ecumenical council). The Council, using this model, recognized in its document Lumen Gentium that the Body of Christ subsists in a visible society governed by the Successor of Peter
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure.

Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology


From the Orthodox perspective, the Church is one, even though She is manifested in many places. Orthodox ecclesiology operates with a plurality in unity and a unity in plurality. For Orthodoxy there is no ‘either / or’ between the one and the many. No attempt is made, or should be made, to subordinate the many to the one (the Roman Catholic model), nor the one to the many (the Protestant model). It is both canonically and theologically correct to speak of the Church and the churches, and vice versa.3

Magisterial Reformation ecclesiology


Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

 argued that because the Catholic Church had "lost sight of the doctrine of grace", it had "lost its claim to be considered as the authentic Christian church." ; this argument was open to the counter-criticism from Catholics that he was thus guilty of schism
Schism
- Religion :* Schism , a division or a split, usually between people belonging to an organization or movement, most frequently applied to a break of communion between two sections of Christianity that were previously a single body...

 and the heresy of Donatism, and in both cases therefore opposing central teachings of the early Church and most especially the Church father St. Augustine of Hippo. It also challeged the Catholic doctrine that the Catholic Church was indefectible and infallible in its dogmatic teachings.

Radical Reformation ecclesiology


There is no single "Radical Reformation Ecclesiology". A variety of views is expressed among the various "Radical Reformation" participants.

A key "Radical Reformer" was Menno Simons
Menno Simons
Menno Simons was an Anabaptist religious leader from the Friesland region of the Low Countries. Simons was a contemporary of the Protestant Reformers and his followers became known as Mennonites...

, known as an "Anabaptist
Anabaptist
Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites....

". He wrote:
They verily are not the true congregation of Christ who merely boast of his name. But they are the true congregation of Christ who are truly converted, who are born from above of God, who are of a regenerate mind by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the hearing of the divine Word, and have become the children of God, have entered into obedience to him, and live unblamably in his holy commandments, and according to his holy will with all their days, or from the moment of their call.


This was in direct contrast to the hierarchical, sacramental
Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

 ecclesiology that characterised the incumbent Roman Catholic tradition as well as the new Lutheran and other prominent Protestant movements of the Reformation
Reformation
- Movements :* Protestant Reformation, an attempt by Martin Luther to reform the Roman Catholic Church that resulted in a schism, and grew into a wider movement...

.

Some other Radical Reformation ecclesiology holds that "the true church [is] in heaven, and no institution of any kind on earth merit[s] the name 'church of God.'"

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