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An Ecclesiological Exploration of the Four Marks of the Church

An Eccumenical Option for the Church in Nigeria


Philip Chika Omenukwa

The vibrancy of faith and the fast growth of different churches in Nigeria seem to obscure the reality of some precarious historical challenges that call for crucial and genuine ecclesiological inquiry. The Nigerian Church’s unique history loaded with various facets of indoctrination and the peculiarities of her constituents demands an urgent ecclesial and theological attention. Following an exploratory, analytical, critical and historical methodology, this book finds Francis Alfred Sullivan’s explication of the intricate nuances of the Four Marks of the Church as a fitting ecumenical model for the Nigerian ecclesial situation. It delves into this model and presents the findings through a catechetical prism as an alternative for effective and sustainable de-indoctrination. The author also finds dialogue as a probable effective tool for de-indoctrination, but also acknowledges that legitimate ecclesiological dialogue does not rule out difficulties in the process. He therefore argues that the consciousness of the ecumenical worth of the Four Marks of the Church as well as faithfulness to the principles of dialogue will lead to the resolution of much of these differences.
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General Introduction


The fourfold description of the Church as is found in the Constantinopolitan Creed dates back to the time of the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, and was reaffirmed at Ephesus (431 AD) and Chalcedon (451 AD) respectively.1 This Creed subsequently has become commonly functional in the Christian Churches of both East and the West. Apparently, this creed presents a picture suggestive of uniformity of doctrine among these Churches, which when not properly considered, may conceal differences inherent in the ecclesiology of each of the Churches. Being therefore article of faith, it has to be taught and learnt, and in learning it, a process is inaugurated. This inauguration is of course a formation/an indoctrination, which involves of necessity a process of de-indoctrination. This is because, in every construction which indoctrination upholds, a deconstruction cannot but be effected as a matter of necessity, a legitimate expression of de-indoctrination. It is in this process that peculiar doctrinal tenets characteristic of each Church are furthered. It is also in this that the distinguishing quality of each Church is maintained.

Interestingly, Sullivan observes that there was a time when theological elaboration of the four marks of the Church consisted of an apologetic demonstration of the full possession of these marks by the Catholic Church as well as other Churches. An attitude of this kind, according to him, created an atmosphere of both suspicion and tension among Churches, since most Churches proudly laid claim to the possession of these marks as...

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