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What If the Church Really is the Body of Christ?


  • Craig L. Nessan

    1. Craig L. Nessan is Academic Dean and Professor of Contextual Theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. He is the author of Shalom Church: The Body of Christ as Ministering Community (Fortress Press, 2010), upon which book this article is based.
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Abstract What does it mean to claim that the church is the body of Christ? Following the lead of the New Testament, Bonhoeffer, Jenson, and Hauerwas, this article articulates how the church becomes the body of Christ through the narrative of Scripture and the practices of worship. As Jesus Christ has a distinctive character, so also the body of Christ has a distinctive character. This character is described through the four classical marks of the church—one, holy, catholic, apostolic. These notae ecclesiae are to be interpreted not only in relation to the inner constitution of the church but ethically in relation to the church's calling to be “shalom church” for the life of the world in peacemaking, doing justice, caring for creation, and defending human dignity. Particular communal practices that embody this character are proposed for the life of the church.

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