Blog Template Theology of the Body: Avery Dulles: Models of the Church

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Avery Dulles: Models of the Church

As most of you know, I get ANTSY over the following things: boring movies, militant femminism, cliches, bad Mexican food, cheap coffee, anti-ecumenical slurs, belated thank-you notes.

Most of all, however, I worry about sloppy modern ecclesiology. Most Christians haven't got a clue about what to do with such language as I Timothy's reference to "the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," or Ephesian's lauding of the ontological Bride awaiting her Bridegroom's consummation (blush), nor for that matter, C.S. Lewis' descriptions of "that impenetrable band throughout the ages, terrible as an army with banners"(- from The Screwtape Letters- that, folks, was off the top of my head). Etc.

Far too often, we moderns hear these shocking references and then duck back into familiar, stilted ways of thinking about what it means to be part of Christ's chosen people; we get muddled in that unique three-ring circus of our modern millieu that so eagerly offers to substitute our own precious self-identity, or the tidy Christian family, or the suburban USA for the Bride of Christ. Sorry, folks. None of these entities are going to Heaven.

Cardinal Dulles speaks into this modern muddle. His is hardly the barbaric yawp that's needed, but he does his fair share to clarify our language and delineate the origins of popular metaphors for the Church. Dulles deals with such metaphors as the Church as institution, the Church as sacrament, the Church as community, etc. More here. My favorite section deals with the Church as sacrament- the Church as a visible sign of Christ's commitment to the world, an efficacious link between God and His creatures that continually calls others to join in.

However, I think there is something missing in Dulle's book- why do we not hear more about the Church as the new Israel? Is this not PC? I think such references would be terribly helpful in modern thinking about the Church. Not only do we have plenty of New Testament warrant for such a connection, but the allusion would also clarify so much of the traditional understanding of the Church as a pilgrim people among the nations, as the locus of God's covenanting with His people, as witness, as harbinger, etc. etc.

What do you think?