The Divine-Human Communion
An Outline of Catholic Integral Ecclesiology
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- 1. What Ecclesiology? The Task, Method and Structure of the Study of the Church
- 1.1 Apologetics and its Defence of the Church
- 1.2 Dogmatic Ecclesiology and its Methods
- 1.3 Fundamental Ecclesiology as an authentication of the Church
- 1.4 Towards an Integral Ecclesiology
- 2. Ecclesiological Questions
- 2.1 Challenges and Opportunities
- 2.1.1 The socio-political context
- 2.1.2 The ecumenical and inter-faith context
- 2.1.3 The historical-ecclesiastical context
- 2.2 The Necessity of Faith in the Church
- 2.2.1 The Church as the subject of faith
- 2.2.2 The Church as the object of faith
- 2.2.3 The ecclesiality of faith and its ecclesial interpretation
- 3. Israel – The Chosen People of Yahweh’s Covenant
- 3.1 The Historical-Religious beginnings of Israel
- 3.2 Israel as the People of the Covenant
- 3.3 Israel’s Function as Mediator
- 3.4 God’s People – An Intermediary and Representative of Salvation
- 4. The Qāhāl of Israel as the Church of Christ?
- 4.1 The Jerusalem Temple
- 4.2 The Synagogue and its Functions
- 4.3 Temple Worship and Rabbinic Worship
- 4.4 A Schism among the Jews
- 4.5 The Jews who did not acknowledge the Messiah in Jesus
- 5. The Biblical Origins and Nature of the Church
- 5.1 The Church in the Divine Plan of Salvation
- 5.2 The Constitution of the People of God
- 5.3 The ‘Remnant’ through Grace
- 5.4 The Church of the Son of God – God’s People of the New Covenant
- 5.4.1 The earthly Jesus and His ecclesiogenic acts
- 5.4.2 Jesus’ call to imitation: discipleship
- 5.4.3 The words, deeds and miracles of Jesus
- 5.4.4 The Twelve
- 5.4.5 The primacy of Peter
- 5.4.6 The Last Supper
- 5.4.7 The mystery of the Cross
- 5.4.8 The passion and death of Jesus
- 5.4.9 The Resurrection
- 5.4.10 The Holy Spirit initiates the Church’s saving mission
- 5.4.11 The eschatological dimension
- 5.5 The Kingdom of God and the Church
- 5.5.1 The Kingdom of God in the Old Testament
- 5.5.2 Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- 5.5.3 The Church is already and not yet the Kingdom of God
- 5.6 New Testament Ecclesiology
- 5.6.1 The Biblical-theological notions of the Church
- 126.96.36.199 The people of God
- 188.8.131.52 The body of Christ
- 184.108.40.206 The temple of the Holy Spirit
- 220.127.116.11 The household of God
- 18.104.22.168 The community
- 5.6.2 Some inspired biblical images of the Church
- 22.214.171.124 The boat: longing for boundlessness
- 126.96.36.199 The sheepfold: following the shepherd
- 188.8.131.52 The olive tree: bearing fruit
- 184.108.40.206 The vineyard (cultivated land): drinking the wine of joy
- 220.127.116.11 The edifice (temple): erecting a city on a rock
- 18.104.22.168 The bride: yielding to love
- 22.214.171.124 The peregrine: proceeding in the pilgrimage
- 6. A Historical-Dogmatic outline of the Development of thought about the Church
- 6.1 The Charismatic structure of the first Centuries
- 6.1.1 A historical framework
- 6.1.2 The loci of ecclesial self-awareness
- 126.96.36.199 Serving God
- 188.8.131.52 Preaching
- 184.108.40.206 Intellectual disputes
- 220.127.116.11 The rise of Christian monasticism
- 6.2 The Church as God’s Empire in the Early Middle Ages (Fifth to Tenth Centuries)
- 6.3 Between Regnum and Sacerdotium: The Gregorian Reform (Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries)
- 6.4 A Church of Hierarchs or Charismatics? (The Thirteenth Century)
- 6.5 Between Institutionalism and Conciliarism in the Late Middle Ages
- 6.6 The ‘Invisible Church’ in the teaching of the Protestant Reformers
- 6.7 Societas Perfecta: The Council of Trent (1545–1563)
- 6.8 The ‘National’ Church of the age of Enlightenment
- 6.9 Nineteenth Century theological developments
- 6.10 Breakthrough in Institutional Ecclesiology: The First Vatican Council, 1869–1870
- 6.11 People of God or Communio? The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965)
- 7. Systematic Ecclesiology
- 7.1 What and Who is the Church?
- 7.1.1 The Church: a community of believers in the Holy Trinity
- 7.1.2 The Church: a gift and a challenge
- 7.1.3 The Church: A divine-human reality
- 7.2 Theological categories of the Church
- 7.2.1 God’s people – equality in diversity
- 7.2.2 The mystical Body of Christ – unity in plurality
- 7.2.3 The Temple of the Holy Spirit – a wealth of charismas for the common good
- 7.2.4 God’s household – the order of the office, liturgy and doctrine
- 7.2.5 Communio – contact of God with man and of people with one another
- 7.2.6 The Sacrament of salvation – a visible sign of an invisible effective grace
- 18.104.22.168 The origin of the term sacrament in the New Testament
- 22.214.171.124 Christ – the Pre-sacrament
- 126.96.36.199 The Church – the basic sacrament
- 188.8.131.52 The Church as a sign of creation, redemption and completion
- 184.108.40.206 The Church – the universal sacrament of salvation
- 7.2.7 The Church – the sacrament of the Holy Spirit
- 7.3 The basic Realisation of the Church
- 7.3.1 The whole Church as a subject
- 7.3.2 Charism and office
- 7.3.3 The office of ordination
- 7.3.4 The Magisterium of the Church
- 7.3.5 Hierarchical structure
- 220.127.116.11 St Peter’s successor
- 18.104.22.168.1 Primacy
- 22.214.171.124.2 Infallibility
- 126.96.36.199 Bishop – pastor of the diocese
- 188.8.131.52 Presbyter
- 184.108.40.206 Deacon
- 220.127.116.11 Laity
- 7.3.6 Triple self-realisation in the multiplicity of Church activities
- 18.104.22.168 Preaching and testimony (μαρτυρία)
- 22.214.171.124 Divine service, sacraments and prayer (λειτουργία)
- 126.96.36.199 Charity service and community (διακονία)
- 7.4 The Hallmarks of the Church
- 7.4.1 Unity
- 188.8.131.52 Unity of love
- 184.108.40.206 Confessional unity
- 220.127.116.11 Interdenominational unity
- 18.104.22.168 Judaism and the Church in dialogue
- 22.214.171.124 Non-Christian religions and Christianity
- 126.96.36.199 Service for the unity of the Church
- 7.4.2 Holiness
- 188.8.131.52 Holiness and sin in the Church
- 184.108.40.206 Indestructibility and infallibility of the Church
- 220.127.116.11 Realisation of holiness
- 18.104.22.168 Communion with the saints
- 7.4.3 Catholicity
- 22.214.171.124 The universality of the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament
- 126.96.36.199 The universality of the Church in Jesus’ teaching
- 188.8.131.52 Evolution of the understanding of universality throughout the history of the Church
- 184.108.40.206 Belief in God as the basis of Catholicity
- 220.127.116.11 Catholicity as a whole and fullness
- 18.104.22.168 Mission as a realisation of catholicity
- 22.214.171.124 Belonging to the Roman Catholic Church
- 126.96.36.199 Is there no salvation outside the Church?
- 7.4.4 Apostolicity
- 188.8.131.52 Apostolicity as a historical instance of legitimacy
- 184.108.40.206 Office of the Apostle and the apostolic mission
- 220.127.116.11 Institutions of apostolicity
- 18.104.22.168 Apostolic succession of bishops
- 7.4.5 Marianity
- 22.214.171.124 Jesus and women
- 126.96.36.199 Raising the status of the feminine in the world and the Church
- 188.8.131.52 Mary as a beautiful figure of the Church
- 184.108.40.206 The Petrine and Marian principles
- 7.5 The Principal Forms of the Church. The Growing Communio
- 7.5.1 The Universal Church
- 7.5.2 The universal Church and its particular Churches
- 7.5.3 The Church as a community of Churches and ecclesial communities
- 7.5.4 Different forms of communities. The appearing communio
- 220.127.116.11 Early-Church domestic community
- 18.104.22.168 Monastic personal community of the first centuries
- 22.214.171.124 Latin-American base communities
- 126.96.36.199 Small African communities
- 188.8.131.52 Small communities in Asia
- 184.108.40.206 The family as a domestic Church
- 220.127.116.11 The parish
- 18.104.22.168 The diocese
- 22.214.171.124 New movements and communities of ecclesial renewal
- 126.96.36.199 Religious orders and communities of consecrated life: the gift of chastity, poverty and obedience
Understanding the mystery of the Church as a divine-human communion is no simply matter. The Church is certainly not just a social entity of one sort or another, nor yet is it a military, economic or political one, even though this is how it has often been categorised, not least by Christians themselves. The Church is no opposition to modernity, neither is it the upholder of a particular political order. Nor is it the Church’s purpose to preserve papal or episcopal institutionalism, or to be the general guardian of morality or the focus of cultural life.
Similarly, the systematic reflection put forward in these pages – essentially a methodologically-ordered fundamental, dogmatic study of the Church – lays no claim to be an exhaustive overview. Every honest scientific pursuit, with the intellectual demands placed upon it, discovers its limits and realises its inadequacies.
The Church, in essence a communion of God and man, in order to be even partly understandable, must be subjected to an integral examination by reason and by faith. There is so much misunderstanding of the essence and mission of the Church, especially among those who approach the matter insufficiently by using either one or the other element of ratio et fides without integrating them. Faith unsupported by reason is uncompromising and generates fear, and reason without faith is a ‘soul-less totalitarianism’. Rationalism alone leads man to disaster; fideism blinds him.
Let us turn to the words of a humble French nun who fathomed the mysterium Ecclesiae. In her autobiography, St Thérèse of Lisieux made the following admission: ‘When I wondered about the mystic body of the Church, I could not find myself among any of its members described by Paul, or rather I wished to be included in them all. And then love showed itself to me as the essence of my vocation. I understood that if the Church is a body made up of many members, it does not lack the most noble and necessary one. I realised that the Church has a heart and that that heart burns with an ardent love. I realised that it was only love that moved the Church’s members and if it died out, the Apostles would no longer spread the Gospel and the martyrs would no longer shed their blood. I saw and understood that love contains in itself all the vocations, that love is everything, comprises all times and places. In a word, that love is eternal.’
Discovering a credible Church means first getting to know the Jesus of history in order to cross the threshold of personal and social faith in Christ. Put another way, it is allowing myself to be guided by the Church which will liberate in me a faith in Jesus as the Christ which I will experience in a community of sisters and ← 13 | 14 → brothers. In no other space will I discover more of Christ than in the Church. This is not to say that in the Church I will discover him completely. No! But in the Church the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Divine Redeemer, is held in a most complete way. Questions about the Church are questions about Jesus’ intentions. Did Jesus of Nazareth want a Church? If so, what kind of Church? Is the present form of the Church the one that Jesus wanted? If it is not, then what needs to change? And if it is, why do I question what the Church passes on to me as Jesus’ legacy?
What then if the most credible and complete access to the person of the Son of God is indeed available to me within the space that is the Church? Is it not all too frequently overlooked that the Church is in a pilgrimage process, and in its sacraments and institutions must possess the transient forms of this world, and therefore is entitled to admit mistakes in the way it expresses supernatural truths? And is there not an additional tension because so much of modern philosophical thinking is not prepared to take into account the metaphysical dimension of truth? Maybe the time has come for me to revise my infantile images of God and his concrete ways of involvement in the history of salvation, in which also my own life is included.
The first and only task of the Church is to unite humanity with God. The ecclesial communion exists for humanity. Despite a whole series of misunderstandings and prejudices, it is the Church which is man’s greatest defender. Such an attitude towards the mysterium Ecclesiae was shared by John Paul II when he wrote in his first encyclical: ‘The Church, penetrating the depth of this mystery, its full and universal significance, experiences thereby most deeply its own essence and mission. It is not for nothing that the Apostle called the Church the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 6, 15; 11, 3; 12, 12f; Eph 1, 22f; 2, 15f; 4, 4f; 5, 30; Col 1, 18; 3, 15; Rom 12, 4f; Gal 3, 28). If this mystical body of Christ is – as in turn is taught in connection with the whole biblical and patristic tradition by the Council – God’s people, that means that everyone within it is somehow embraced by this breath of life which comes from Christ. In this way also the turn towards man, his real problems, his hopes and sufferings, achievements and failures ensures that the Church itself as a body, an organism, a social unity experiences those impulses of God, those lights and powers of the Spirit which come from the crucified and resurrected Christ – and it is through this that it lives its own life. The Church has no other life than the one it is given by its Lord and Bridegroom. That is why it has to be so thoroughly united with every man if it was with it (the Church) that Christ was united in the mystery of the Redemption’1. ← 14 | 15 →
Obviously, this book would not have come into fruition without support of a number of friendly people, who accompanied its existence in English. First I am very grateful to Jerzy Warakomski for his enormous translation effort, for his honesty and subtlety. I would also like to thank Anthony Stuart Foster and Siôn Pennar, who took on a critical revision of its translation. I am also pleased to thank Anna Jaroch (New Jersey), who was engaged in its publishing matters. My special gratitude goes to Maria Nowak, MSc and Wiesław Nowak, MSc (Novmar, Kraków) as well as to Dr. Marian Król (Poznań) for their financial support in printing.
Discovering the mysterium Ecclesiae means ultimately fathoming the mystery of the cross, or crucified wisdom. ‘We talk of a wisdom, not, it is true, a philosophy of this age or of the rulers of this age, who will not last long now. It is of the mysterious wisdom of God that we talk, the wisdom that was hidden, which God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. None of the rulers of the age recognised it; for if they had recognised it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory’ (1 Cor 2, 6–8). I also beg the reader’s indulgence. May the exploration of the Revelation of Jesus of Nazareth bring us all to a greater communion with God, the Father, and the richness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit! ← 15 | 16 →
1 RH 18.
Until the end of the Middle Ages, Catholic theology did not provide any systematic treatise on the Church. It was only the struggle with the debates raised by the Reformers and the emergence of Protestantism in its various forms that made it necessary for the Catholic Church to investigate and expound its own ecclesiology. The task, part of a broader demonstratio catholica, of addressing such questions as the foundation and legitimacy of the Church, fell to the apologeticists or fundamental theologians, with their particular competency in analysing the idea of the Church, its essence, form and mission.
If fundamental theology is seen as a basic discipline within the structure of theology as a whole, then the primary issues relating to God, Christ and the Church must necessarily fall within its sphere of study. In this respect it finds itself commonly confronted by some major questions. For instance, what has the nature of God to tell us about the nature of the world as it is perceived to be developing today? Perhaps its secular character is not a departure from God, but a quest for a new and purer form of the historic Judaeo-Christian revelation? Perhaps it is necessary even to reach back beyond the origins of Judaism and re-discover the form and manner of God’s revelation in the primitive religion of ancient Babylon.
Why not draw upon the culture of the inhabitants of the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris, the locus of the biblical paradise, to enrich our understanding of the Judaeo-Christian revelation? It was in south-west Asia that the first traces of homo erectus were found, dating from about 1.4 million years ago. It was in those areas that human settlement first developed and animals were domesticated: the breakthrough from hunter-gathering to land cultivation and animal husbandry. The first towns appeared about 6500 years ago in the Euphrates and Tigris valleys. So those areas witnessed the most groundbreaking events in the history of human civilisation: the ‘straightening’ of man (erectus), the application of fire, the invention of the wheel. It seems that theology still underestimates that locus and in general draws insufficiently upon natural revelation. Maybe the time has come also to re-discover the Aramaic dialect2, the everyday language of ← 17 | 18 → Jesus still used today in the Christian liturgy of the Assyrian rite in the area of modern Iraq3.
So what possible evidence is there regarding divine providence in the mystery of his God’s revelation to humankind, and how does the Church function as a sign and instrument of this? To what extent is the Church the subject and the intermediary of the divine revelation in Jesus Christ, and can it be held credible in its communication of Jesus of Nazareth and his gift of salvation? The particular point at issue here is the determination and description of the place and manner in which the God of history specifically provides himself to man in this day and age.
Without doubt the general progress of science has been assisted by philosophy and theology. Theology, based on the data of revelation contained in scripture and tradition explored over the centuries, continually seeks to extend our knowledge concerning those truths which the God of the Judaeo-Christian dispensation desires to convey to the whole world. One such element is the very existence and nature of the Church, and it seems a natural thing that our understanding of the Ecclesia changes over time. But more than that, the image of the Church must change. Let us take a simple example from the history of natural science. Over the course of civilisation, man has measured time in different ways, depending on his stage of knowledge. From antiquity, time was calculated from the movement of the sun, by use of the gnomon or sundial. Its application spread widely, when pope Sabinian (604–606) recommended placing sundials on churches: very simple in construction, a length of rod casting a shadow on calibrated marks which corresponded to individual ‘canonical hours’. When the shadow reached a mark, bells were rung and their sound regulated everyday life, calling to prayer and to work. In ancient times there was also the clepsydra or water clock, measuring time from the regulated flow of water. Medieval monks ← 18 | 19 → determined the rhythm of their daily work by the rate of burning of a tallow candle; then in the fourteenth century the hourglass was introduced. With the fifteenth century came mechanical clocks: at first with just one hand, then two, and eventually a third to show the seconds. Since the publication of Einstein’s general theory of relativity in 1915, time-keeping has become even more precise. We now know not only the speed of light which as an electromagnetic wave travels at almost 300,000 km/sec, but we can also determine the time of other galaxies outside our solar system. In just the same way as these natural scientific achievements and the changes in our knowledge and perception of the universe, our approach towards the ecclesial reality also changes.
Significant progress in biblical, philological, philosophical, historical, psychological, sociological and theological studies all facilitate the presentation of a new image of the Church in the present day. There is also new data from archaeological discoveries. The analysis of Old and New Testament, Qumran, Rabbinic and Patristic sources makes it possible and indeed necessary for us to look more deeply at a number of issues which previously were either ignored or seemed irrelevant or simply in no need of solution. The advancement of science, coupled with the grace of faith, opens up before us new interpretational perspectives and thus enables us to see a different Church, a Church that proclaims Jesus Christ’s message of salvation in a manner apprehensible by modern humanity. And the Church cannot but change: after the experiences of the Gulag, Katyń, the slaughter in Volhynia, after Auschwitz, Dresden and Hiroshima, after Srebrenica and the American Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, old images of hell-fire handed down in the folk imagination seem simply out of place and not terribly enlightening. On the other hand, images of the joys of paradise – observes Tomáš Halík, a Czech Catholic priest – contrasted with the affluence and attractions of today’s globalised and virtualised world, appear simply boring. What we need is not only a new ecclesiology but also a new eschatology! Yet surely the sudden growth of globalisation is a wonderful opportunity for the Church to introduce Christianity to the world or indeed again to Europe, and we are not preparing sufficiently for this challenge. The place to start should be the shaping of one’s own cultural identity: ecclesiology must be preceded by a proper anthropology. The greatest battle which Europe must now fight is the battle for culture: faced with the conditions of contemporary globalisation only culturally firmly-rooted persons will somehow manage to stand their ground. It is a pity this fact is so poorly apprehended by the Church authorities and governments of the member countries of the European Union.
Dogmatic and fundamental theologians today have divided between them the task of ecclesiology. Fundamental theology faces the task of demonstrating the ← 19 | 20 → Church’s authenticity, its credibility for Christians and for the world. Dogmatic theology, on the other hand, has made the subject of its consideration the Church as an item of the content of faith (credo Ecclesiam). It delivers therefore a systematic schema of the understanding of the faith of the Church, while fundamental theology remains with the transcendental theological question: to what extent is the Church the subject and transmitter of God’s revelation in Christ?
The question nevertheless must be asked, whether in talking about the Church it is proper, ultimately, to distinguish between fundamental and dogmatic theology. In the ecclesiological reflection contained in the present work we shall take a view of the Church which sees the two as complementary. Thus we shall attempt to integrate them in a single holistic approach. The Church will therefore not only be discussed from the outside, as it were, but also as the subject and object of faith.
Such an approach arises from a perceived need for unity at all levels, whether social, economic, political, cultural or ecclesial – not an artificially contrived unification, but a communion held in creative tension, a reconciled oneness, a unity in diversity. Its underlying premises are, on the one hand the ambivalent processes of economic globalisation, and on the other hand initiatives in favour of ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue. It also seeks to dissociate itself from the pernicious and unacceptable division which prevailed (and in part still prevails) in Europe particularly acutely in the two generations following the Second World War than at any other time in the last two hundred years. Where the division has existed in the Catholic Church, it has not been caused, as some argue, by the post-Vatican II substitution of national vernaculars for the universal use of Latin in liturgy and theology. It has arisen much more from the effects of those two monstrous totalitarianisms: Communism in the form of Soviet Stalinism and Fascism embodied especially in German Hitlerism. This strange division persists not only in textbooks on economics4, but also in the writings of many West European theologians. With a characteristic bias, and not infrequently a measure of arrogance, they identify the world exclusively with their part of the continent, as if the world from the Elbe to the western shores of the Pacific did not count and was immersed in some kind of spiritual and material oblivion. The consequences of such an attitude are constantly being shown, in that many still identify Europe only with its western cultural and economic area. ← 20 | 21 →
2 The Jews took over Aramaic during their Babylon captivity when they had to use the language during their exile. However, after returning to Israel, at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, they did not abandon the language entirely, but began to use it in their homeland. At that time many prayers were composed which were later included in the prayer canon used in Jewish liturgy.
3 The oldest Church in the area of modern Iraq is the Assyrian Church, which after the Ephesus Council (431) became Nestorian and the West Syrian Church, which after the Chalcedon Council (451) adopted the so-called monophysitism (one should take into account here the ecumenical agreements of the recent times). At the moment the largest Christian group in Iraq are Catholics – Chaldeans. This Church stems from the tradition of the Assyrian Church. At present the number of Chaldeans reaches 500,000 faithful in ten dioceses. The second largest Catholic Church in Iraq is the Syrian Catholic Church, numbering over 60,000 faithful, and the third largest the Armenian Catholic Church with 3,000 faithful and the Melchic Catholic Church with about 500 faithful. The Roman Catholic Church has since 1632 its own bishopric in Baghdad (cf. J. KRAJEWSKI, Mozaika Kościołów chrześcijańskich w Iraku [The mosaic of Christian Churches in Iraq]).
4 From an economic standpoint the issue is interestingly addressed by G. KOŁODKO in his book Wędrujący świat [The wandering world] (Warszawa 2008). It is a pity that when he talks about the whole of human life, ‘the cultural, social and political reality’ on page 93, he does not mention the spiritual or religious dimension.
1. What Ecclesiology? The Task, Method and Structure of the Study of the Church
The ecclesiology proposed here feels obliged to pass on the depositum fidei in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Its aim is therefore to put forward the received tradition together with modernity. Put differently, it seeks to present what the Church communicates about itself today, but with a critical consideration of the content and manner of that communication, as well as of the claims of those (not always prepared) who are its recipients. Today, almost half a century since the Council ended, many issues arising from it still retain their relevance, and also, it must be said, their difficulties. Many hopes awakened by Vatican II turned out to be illusory, many were forgotten, some were never developed, and in other cases old ruts seem to have been revisited. The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910), one of the most eminent representatives of realism in European literature, used to say that most of his problems were in consequence of the fact that his imagination was more vivid than other people’s imaginations. This is a problem that many must surely share. Yet it is a problem worth having, since it inspires one to think critically and therefore creatively.
To begin with, however, I would like to draw attention to an issue of particular importance, which is the hermeneutics of cultivating reflection about the Church. Ecclesiology requires spirituality. Today one can see an enormous polarisation of attitudes towards a number of things happening in the Church, and the clear ignorance of the parties most often bidding for the floor – not at all the result of ill will, but of a glaring lack of competence. This fails to be appreciated not only by believers, lay and clerical, but also by non-Christians. Nevertheless the Church, in its structure and ethos, cannot be understood without spirituality. The spirituality needed assumes identification with the Church, and it has to be said that many baptised persons still have not made the journey towards that fundamental point of identification.
Systematic ecclesiology carries with it a number of risks. One of the greater dangers is the question of methodology or, to be more accurate, the lack of it. At the outset, therefore, we need to identify the branches of theology that traditionally deal with ecclesial subjects, and briefly outline their methods. This is a critical point of departure in determining the way towards constructing an ecclesiology which as far as it is possible will try to present an integral picture of the Church.
We will therefore look at apologetics and the ecclesiology worked out by both dogmatic and fundamental theology. In many theological departments across ← 21 | 22 → the world, in universities, higher seminaries and theological institutes, apologetics and dogmatic ecclesiology have tended to be side-lined in favour of fundamental ecclesiology. Before Vatican II, ecclesiology was treated within dogmatics, then more recently it was extended to fundamental theology. Now it seems to have disappeared completely from the former.
1.1 Apologetics and its Defence of the Church
The main aim of apologetics (Latin apologeticum, from the Greek απoλoγία) is the defence of the Christian faith from the arguments of its adversaries, and the justification of its basic truths. The first Christian apologists wanted to put right erroneous opinions, explain the Christian position, critically evaluate the position of the Jews for their failure to recognise the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as undertake missionary or evangelising initiatives. They used historical and rational argument supported by biblical texts. Apologetics goes back to the very earliest days of Christianity, faced with it challenges from Judaism and the pagan world; and by the second century, in the post-apostolic period, there was already a significant apologetic output. Not discounting Jesus himself and the apostle Paul, early representatives included Pseudo-Barnabas, Quadratus of Athens, Melito of Sardis, Justin, Athenagoras of Athens, Minutius Felix, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Aristides of Athens and Theophilus of Antioch. In modern times Christian apologetics has been associated with such names as Blaise Pascal, John Henry Newman, Maurice Blondel, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, André Frossard, Charles Péguy and Pope John Paul II5.
In recalling the historical development of apologetics and its emergence with a distinctive modern role, one should note the meritable contribution of that eminent Florentine, G. Savonarola (1452–1498). In his work Triumphus crucis sive de veritate fidei of 1497, Savanorola arrived at the conclusion that the rational element constitutes a essential condition for the study of Christianity, rendering possible a proper critical dialogue with opponents of the Christian view. In The Triumph of the Cross we find both Christological and ecclesiastical theses. The thesis on Christ is presented historically. The Church, in its turn, is shown as an ongoing demonstration of the credibility of Christianity, where the present is a key to understanding the past. Thus, in Savanorola’s work the rational aspect ← 22 | 23 → became a characteristic feature of apologetics in the modern world and for a long time dominated the way it was done6.
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- 2015 (September)
- Dogmatic theology Fundamental theology Judeo-Christian revelation
- Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 423 pp.