Posted on: November 17th, 2007 _Catholicism_ (IV): The Church as the Body of Christ

The key word in this section is the word “analogy.” I once heard RC Sproul say that “theology is the making of distinctions.” As important as distinctions are, however, I would argue, and de Lubac and others would agree, that to think theologically is to think analogically. The analogies which help us understand what the church is proliferate:

First, the church is like the human body. That is to say, the church is decidedly eschatological in its nature. Just as the human body which I now am will one day be transformed into a more glorious resurrection body (analogous, by the way, to the body of the man Jesus Christ) so also the visible, embodied church of today will one day be transformed and transfigured into something far more glorious, in full consummation with Jesus Christ. In this connection, de Lubac stresses that the church is not merely a vestibule of the Heavenly city / church, any more than the tabernacle was a mere vestibule of the temple of the old covenant of Israel. Augustine: “The church of today is the kingdom of Christ and the heavenly kingdom.” (Is this, perhaps, included in what BB Warfield rejected when he described Calvinism as “the triumph of Augustine’s soteriology over his ecclesiology?” I suspect that it is.)

Second, the church is like Christ. In Christology we reject, on the one hand, the monophysite tendency to merge or to confuse the two natures of Christ that form the duality of his person, and on the other hand the Nestorian tendency to separate those two natures thereby destroying the unity of the person of Christ. In precisely the same way, in ecclesiology we reject the tendency, on one hand, to separate the visible, embodied church from its eschatological fulfillment as well as its mystical divinity (not to mention its eschatological fulfillment, present in an “already / not-yet” way), and on the other hand to simply identify the visible, embodied church with its mystical divinity. There is some kind of hypostatic union going on here just as in the person of Christ. De Lubac suggests that these two reductionistic tendencies, being the two halves of a false dichotomy, include one another, and that Protestant theology / ecclesiology is guilty of both of them.

Finally, the church is (like) a sacrament. Christ is the sacrament of God, and the church is the sacrament of Christ, making him fully present in the world. “She not only carries on his work, but is his very continuation, in a sense far more real than in which it can be said that any human institution is its founder’s continuation.” (p 76)

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