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Models of the Church (Image Classics) Paperback – August 1, 1991


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Models of the Church (Image Classics) + The Gift of the Church: A Textbook on Ecclesiology (Theology) + Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today
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Product Details

  • Series: Image Classics
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Image; Exp Rei edition (August 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385133685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385133685
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

One of America's leading theologians defines the basic functions of the Church, assesses its mission on Earth, and explores its many different roles in the lives of believers.

From the Inside Flap

One of America's leading theologians defines the basic functions of the Church, assesses its mission on Earth, and explores its many different roles in the lives of believers.

Customer Reviews

Dulles is an extraordinarily clear thinker and writer.
Jeremy Garber
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants an honest look at a variety of valid means for imaging the Church.
Jean E. Pouliot
I found it to be a hopeful book regarding the possibility of overcoming the divisions among the churches.
John Kosinski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Mark Kolakowski on April 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ecclesiology is the study and theory of what the Christian Church constitutes. Dulles presents several "models" which illustrate various aspects of the what Church is like. In one sense, it's an earthly institution, a formal organization of people with specific roles and responsibilities, lay and clergy. Complicating this picture is the reality that Christianity has fractured over the centuries into a variety of denominations, institutionally separate from each other.
In another sense, the Church is a mystical communion or fellowship of people with shared beliefs. In this model, the institution takes a secondary role, being formed to provide shape and support to this body of people. According to a third model, the Church is a sacrament, an instrument bridging the gap between earthly and divine, a conduit for divine grace to humanity. In a fourth model, the Church is a herald, charged with proclaiming the Christian message to the world, and reinforcing it among believers. In a fifth model, the Church is a servant, responsible for encouraging good works and helping those in need. Dulles says that many more models can be discussed, but he sees these as the most basic ones.
Dulles does not claim to write for the lay (in the sense of non-academic, rather than non-clergy) reader, but this book actually is in clear, concise, non-technical prose that nearly anyone should grasp. While Dulles himself is a Roman Catholic, he gives the perspectives of Protestant and Orthodox Christians a full and fair hearing; this book definitely is not a defense of an "official" Roman Catholic viewpoint. In fact, he points out how Rome's "official" views became increasingly more nuanced, even in the years befor Vatican II.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jean E. Pouliot on November 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Just based on the number of sentences I've underlined, "Models of the Church" is one of the most logical and readable books about Catholic ecclesiology that I have every read. Cardinal Avery Dulles lays out the pros and cons for 5 model of the Church -- Church as Institution, Mystical Communion, Sacrament, Herald and Servant. Later he looks at the Church as a Community of Disciples. The models are evaluated on their basis in Scripture, their link to Catholic traditional teaching (including Vatican II) and their resonance with the modern world. Dulles' presentation is thoroughly sane and "unchurchy", describing the pros and cons of each model fairly and honestly. Dulles also examines each model in light of its approach to eschatology, revelation and its ecumenical fitness.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants an honest look at a variety of valid means for imaging the Church. Dulles is the kind of Catholic churchman who is certain enough of his faith that he is willing to judge his Church dispassionately, letting let the chips fall where they may.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen VINE VOICE on May 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
For those of you who have an interest in theology, but have little formal training in the discipline, I am your reviewer. "Models of the Church" provides the general reader with a work which is thought provoking but, with some effort, understandable.

Cardinal Dulles begins this book with an outline of five models of the Church: Institution; Mystical Communion; Sacrament; Herald; and Servant. The Institution Model emphasizes the visible structure of the Church. The Mystical Union emphasizes its unity as the People of God joined together in Him. The Sacrament emphasizes the Church's role as a mediator of grace. As Herald, the Church proclaims the Word of God. As Servant, it exists to serve God's people. In each section the model is explained and the strengths and weaknesses are examined.

After explaining the models, Cardinal Dulles how each shape the view of the Church's relationship to Eschatology, other Churches, the Ministry, Revelation and the discernment of the True Church. He then wraps it all up in his model as the Church as the Community of Disciples.

I think that this book will help me understand the Church and its different aspects. As I contemplate the mystery of the Church, I will have some guidance in how to go about it. It can do the same for you.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By magmckinnon@juno.com on November 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
Dulles' book offers keen insights into the various models of Church. It gives the reader permission to have a particular starting point and then assists the reader into broadening one's horizon. Excellent text for course work on the Church. Lay people should be able to comprehend much of the material. Excellent text for discussions on what it means to be church.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Garber on July 22, 2014
Format: Paperback
Roman Catholic theologian Avery Dulles provides a helpful and easily comprehended system of models to help understand the church’s purpose and mission. Although some might argue that Dulles’ work is outdated merely by virtue of its year of publication, this typology still proves stimulating toward working toward one’s own conception of what the church does and how that conception compares with others. Dulles carefully realizes the utility and the limitation of models, and within that careful limitation provides a five-point typology based on comprehensive scriptural, historical, and theological research.

Dulles broadly divides the book into two sections. The first outlines each of the five models of church, and the second half compares the models to each other in relation to other theological categories. His five models are: 1) the institutional model, which equates the church directly with its leaders and governance; 2) the communal model, which sees the church primarily as a collection of persons who have experienced God’s grace; 3) the sacramental model, which sees the visible and institutional church as a human container of invisible grace (Dulles’ most Roman Catholic and philosophically abstruse model); 4) the kerygmatic model derived from Barth and Bultmann, which sees the church as the primary location for preaching the Word; and 5) the servant model, which sees the church as a motivating force for providing service to the world. Dulles provides Scriptural support for each model, details the history of the model throughout the church, and then explores each model by observing how that model explains 1) what unifies the Church, 2) who the beneficiaries are, and 3) the nature of those benefits.
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Models of the Church (Image Classics)
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