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A Thought on Catholicity

The term ‘catholic’ means something akin to ‘according to’ (kata-) ‘the whole’ (holos).  Usually this is taken to mean ‘universal’ in that a church is ‘catholic’ if it is connected to ‘the whole’, i.e. the one universal people of God.  However, I wonder about another possible way of understanding the term.  Perhaps it means not merely diachronic connection to the whole people of God, but also refers to the church’s bearing the wholeness, the fullness, the abundance of God’s gifts.  If that’s the case, perhaps we should consider catholicity to be a way of talking about shalom.  Shalom is relational and communal wholeness.  So, if the church is catholic (partakes of the whole abundance of God’s gifts), then to speak of the catholicity of the church is to speak of it as the reality of shalom made present throughout the world.  If that’s true then to claim that the church is catholic is not merely to proclaim that it is one, but that the quality of the church’s existence is one of peace, wholeness, and reconciliation in which all the gifts of God to the world in Christ are present.  In short, the claim to catholicity (and the frequent failure of the church to be faithfully catholic in this sense) is not merely a theological statement about the unity of the church, but an ethical statement about the quality of the church’s life.

One Comment

  1. freder1ck wrote:

    Yes! You’re onto something here…

    Thursday, July 26, 2007 at 10:57 am | Permalink

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