What is the church?

Phil Hefner, in the Braaten/Jenson Dogmatics, goes through the classical steps:
- the church is related to the doctrine of God (Father, Son, and Spirit)
- the church is what it confesses (unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity)
- the church is that organization that bears the notae ecclesiae ("ministry, liturgy and sacraments, preaching and teaching, care of souls, mission, and church order")

Of course, Luther (and he cites this) calls the notae "the Word, baptism, the Lord's Supper, the keys, the ministry, prayer, suffering, and "others.""

Hefner also talks about the images of the church. Leaving Avery Dulles aside for later reference, he uses two images, the "People of God" and the "Body of Christ."

This is a great overview, but here's the thing. All of these can be taken in a variety of directions. I suppose that's part of what makes it a great overview. If you're going to claim catholicity in your understanding of the church, which is my impression of Hefner here, these would seem to be unarguable topoi. So, I'm going to do just that, take these perfectly good topoi in a different direction.


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