What is the Church?
God’s Church cannot be fully comprehended with the human intellect. Although I’ve been raised Catholic, the word Church is vague and mysterious. However, a lecture given by my theology teacher has filled up the gap between my knowledges about what the Church is. During the lecture, I was introduced to Avery Cardinal Dulles, who wrote the Models of the Church. Dulles provides five different models of the Church that come together to help Christians understand the Church more deeply.
First of all, the Church as an Institution focuses on its visible structures as a tangible community rather than the Spiritual aspect of the Church. For example, the Church contains a hierarchical structure such as the Pope, Deacon, Bishop and the Priests. Although this model is useful in focusing on the organization and unity of the Church, it loses sight of the spiritual, and mystical communion.
Second of all, the Church as a Mystical Communion focuses on the spiritual community: those bound together in Christ. As opposition to the Church as an Institution, its main focus is on common prayer and the spiritual community. Although this model is useful in portraying that the Church is united under strong beliefs, it loses sight of authority and guidance.
Third of all, the Church as a Herald portrays the Church as someone who receives an official message. Every day interactions with the Gospels such as theology classes and sermons provide an example of this model. A strength of this model is that it is rooted from a reliable source- the Gospels, however it ignores the tradition and practices that were delivered by the early Christians.
Fourth of all, The Church as a servant portrays that the Church exists to serve others, especially those in need. For example, the corporal works of mercy and various service organization the Church provides exist to serve others. Although this model glorifies getting good work done and the inclusion of all people, it loses track of the spiritual aspects of the Church.
Fifth of all, the Church as a Sacrament portrays the Church as a visible sign of invisible reality. For example, it is common that Catholics hold hands to pray the Our Father at a mass. This model helps us connect with God in a spiritual manner, however contains little presence of Scripture and loses sight of serving others.
All five of the models have its strength and weaknesses in defining the Church. The Church is so complex that even all five of the models together do not fully explain its meaning. However, each model helps us to understand the others more deeply and provides an overview on what the Church is.
Leave a Reply.