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Essays by KT
The Six Models of the Church
Affirming Diversity
Which Way Home
Mis experiencias con español
La figura de la madre
La redención
Manifestations of the Divine Brahma
The Six Models of the Church
Affirmative Action
A Friend Is
A persuadir
Aprovecha el día
Armas de fuego
Asperger's Disorder
ASDs: Autism
Black Friday
Book Intro
Big Boys Dont Cry?
Cancion del pirata
Cell Phones
Cathedral Within
Change the World
Child Care
Civil Society
Christian Family
Organ Donation
Deanne Bray
Drug Testing
Faith in Narnia
Fast Food?
Guns and Games
Grenz Review
The Odyssey
I Am
Jesus the Christ
Keep the Laws!
La ciencia
La inmigración
Louis Braille
Marriage Reflection
Mi lugar de refugio
My Life (Erikson)
My Special Place
Reflection -Marriage
Romance sonámbulo
Public-service values
Semana Santa
Spe Salvi
Teen Suicide
Un Santo legendario
Better World
The Four Loves
"Jesus Freak" Picture
Mona Lupe
Mother of Jesus
Holy Eucharist
Religión en Niebla
The U.S. Economy
Todo es regalo
Trip to NY ...
True Friends
Una lección
Unlikeliest Friends
Santo legendario
Vs. and Verses
What's the Diff?
Walsh Review
Means to be Human
Million dollars

September 10, 2011

TY 345

            The Church is somewhat of mystery, not fully known to man. It is not easily defined, due to the “richness of the Church itself” (17). It is a visible and invisible reality. It is both internal and external. It extends beyond time and culture, but is present in both. Thus, definitions of Church must reflect the “experience of the faithful” in whatever culture or era they find themselves (21). The models of the Church can be very beneficial because they provide at least a vague idea of the mysterious Church by using concepts that are more familiar, such as institution and sacrament. These models provide insight into what Church is; but they are not exclusive. No model should be used exclusively to define the Church or the model becomes worthless. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses. They complement each other, working together to better define Church. In an ever-changing world, the models seek to define Church to the era and culture in which it finds itself, making Church more accessible to the mind’s comprehension.

The first model Dulles mentions is the Church as Institution. This model shows the Church as an establishment of Christ, going back into history, with “a set of rules, a governing body, and a set of actual members who accept this constitution and these rules as binding on them” (34). This model can be beneficial in recognizing the Church’s historical foundation and how it is still applicable today. It is important to know ones roots. This is especially true when it comes to the Church; otherwise its people can lose track of its mission. The institutional model is most visible in the Church when one looks at the structure of the offices and in the hierarchy of the Church; this hierarchy and the Church’s doctrines have been carried down throughout Christian history. This organizational aspect of the institutional model is necessary in an ever-changing world with such a wide variety of people; otherwise the Church would change rapidly and drastically with every passing ideology. The institution provides some sort of stability in such an unstable world. It also helps to give participants in the Church a better sense of identity and mission. However, the institutional model can be taken to a dangerous extreme. “Jesus [himself] was highly critical of the institutional religion of his day” (44). The institution must be open to the calling of the Spirit otherwise human constructions within the Church become overbearing and fruitless laws. An overemphasis of this model is especially problematic in a culture and era in which institutions are viewed skeptically. Another limitation of this model is that it can be understood to emphasize visible membership and underemphasize the possibility of “invisible membership” (41). It can be easy to see membership within the walls of the institution; but if one is outside of the institution, their membership may not be clear. Also, one’s visible membership does not necessarily mean they’re heart is in the right place.

            The second model Dulles points out is the Church as Mystical Communion. This model views the Church as more of a family than an institution. It focuses on the relationships within the Church: the relationships of the members to each other and to Christ. It is more than just about the good relationship between people; it also deals with the people’s relationship with the divine. This connection with the divine is what binds the members into a deeper communion. The realization of a community within the Church reflects what God has designed us for: a relationship with himself and others. The idea of communion goes far back into the history of the Church; it can be seen especially in the early Christian communities. This model emphasizes the importance of unity, and of being in harmony with one another as well as with God. Too much of an emphasis on this model however can lead to an overlooking of the importance of the stability and hierarchy of the Church. While being in communion with Christ, the Church needs to be open to the calling of his Spirit. However, one must be careful in discerning God’s will. There are forces in opposition to the Church; and to disregard centuries of tradition that has been understood to be the calling of the Spirit would be absurd. Another limitation of this model is its inability “to give Christians a very clear sense of their identity or mission” (60).

            Dulles’ third model is the Church as Sacrament. She is to be a visible sign of the unity between her members, Christ, and the rest of humanity. “Man comes into the world as a member of a family, a race, a people. He comes to maturity through encounter with his fellow men. Sacraments therefore have a dialogic structure” (67). By participating in relationships, which we were created for, we come to know more about ourselves, others, and God. These relationships are visible signs of the presence of God’s grace. The sacraments of the Church are signs of God’s grace that Jesus instituted. These sacraments make up the Church which is sacrament itself, meaning it is a visible sign of God’s grace and the presence of Christ himself. Jesus unites us through the sacraments of the Church as well as through the Church itself. This unity is an essential goal of the sacrament because the uniting factor is Christ himself. Therefore, unity in our expression of God’s grace leads others to follow the same signs toward the origin of that grace. “The Church never fully achieves itself as Church” in that it is never a perfect expression of God’s grace (71). However, it realizes this imperfection and continually seeks to follow the one who is perfect, namely Jesus Christ. Another objection to this model is its lack of biblical foundation.

            The model Dulles mentions fourthly is that of the Church as Herald. This model focuses primarily on God’s word and secondly on our mission to carry it on. A herald is one who receives a message with the understanding that he has been called to pass the message along. He is the one who has been called to reveal something to another. The Church is Christ’s herald; she is to present Christ to the world and to pass on his message. God has called us to be his herald, giving the Church the authority to proclaim his good news. This gives the Church “a clear sense of identity and mission” (84). However, the mission must not be overemphasized and the importance of the relationship forgotten about. Passing on the message of Christ without maintaining a relationship with him or others belittles the fact that “the Word has been made flesh” (85). Another difficulty with this model is that, if used alone, it can focus too much on the preaching of the message. In doing so, the action in accordance with the message can be undermined. This model is beneficial in helping one realize man’s “infinite distance” from God (84). We are to be his herald; this means we are not divinity itself. Being his herald also means we must have a relationship with him. This model of herald can cause us to maintain a deeper relationship with Christ and reliance upon him as his messengers. Christ is able to be more present in the world because of our relationship with him and our response to this relationship as his herald.

            The fifth model of the Church Dulles talks about is the Church as Servant. This model calls to attention the Church’s mission to serve others. This is “carrying on the mission of Christ,” who came “not to be served but to serve” (91). We are called to help one another, to suffer for one another, and to be available for one another. This model shows that the Church does not exist for itself only; it exists for others. It places men on the same level, as a sort of team, working with each other and for each other toward the same goal. The servant model is beneficial in its call to give up selfish desires for the love of all. It calls us to reconciliation with God and the rest of humanity. Only when we recognize and come to terms with our differences can we truly have a servant’s heart. This model gives the Church a sense of mission that is more specifically capable of changing based on the era and culture in which the Church finds itself. However, if the Church focuses too much on its mission as a servant, it can lose track of the reason for this mission and become just another do good organization. It can also become egocentric and overly “concerned with its own internal affairs”, unnecessarily separating itself from the people of the world (98). The Church is supposed to be different from the world, providing more to the world than the world can provide for itself; however, it should not become alienated from the world. The Church should be Servant in that it becomes less concerned with selfish desires and more concerned with the needs of mankind. The Church should not be Servant, however, in that she becomes the “world’s servant” (99). She is to be God’s servant, obeying God, not the world. This mission must not be lost, so as to lose the entire mission of the service.

The final model mentioned by Dulles is the Church as Community of Disciples. It recognizes the importance of community as does the previously mentioned communion model. This model, however, recognizes that “[t]he external mission of the Church can never be separated from its inner life” (222). The community exists because of God’s calling. Therefore, constant relationship between the Church and Christ is essential to her continuation, because it is God’s grace that keeps the Church alive. The discipleship part of this model highlights our calling to imitate Christ in our personal lives as well as in communion with others. The call to discipleship can be a challenging one; however, each Christian is called to this discipleship in a slightly different way.

The model I find to best show the essence of the Church is the sacramental model. I like that the essence of this model calls the Church beyond the confines of the model itself toward the inclusion of other models; it calls the Church beyond the confines of any model toward a look at what the Church is in its essence. The Church is a sign of Christ’s presence within her. Therefore, in order to be a true mark of grace, there must be some system of values to uphold and some stability throughout history. Thus, the sacramental model partially includes the image of the Church as Institution. Being a sacrament also calls us to communion with one another because our God is a relational God; in order to be a true sacrament, we must reflect this tendency toward relationship. Therefore, the communion model is present in the model of the Church as Sacrament. Similarly, Christ is servant. Therefore, to be a true sacrament, the Church must also be of service. This sacramental model also includes the idea of the Church as Herald. In order for the Church to be a visible sign of God’s activity in our lives, she must proclaim his good news, thus leading people to “Christ as the bearer of God’s redemptive grace” (198). I like how this model calls the Church beyond itself. It points to Christ as the Church’s center; and she is to be the sign of his grace. The Church strives to be a sacrament, however, it falls short. It is not perfect; rather, it is called to lead to the one who is perfect. As long as this is kept in mind, the sacramental model can be a beneficial model. However, if it loses track of Christ as its center, it can become egotistical and, therefore, against its nature. Just like the other five models Dulles presents, the Church as Sacrament model has its strengths and its weaknesses. Using one model isolated from the rest can lead to misinterpretation of and loss of the real meaning of the Church. The models should reflect both the historical aspect of the Church as well as its present culture. No single model is perfect, but each model complements the others, providing a more complete idea of what the Church is.


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