The Marks of the Church as 'Gift and Task': A Paradigm for the Twenty-First Century Church

Marguerite Kappelhoff

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Across the globe the majority of Christians confess a shared belief in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. These four ‘marks’ have long served the church as identifying attributes through which church leaders and theologians could dispute heresies, accommodate diversity and articulate key convictions. However, to declare in the twenty-first century that the church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic is a perplexing statement that raises more questions than it answers. Further still, a closer look at the marks reveals that despite dogmatic declaration of the marks, engagement with and treatment of the marks can vary vastly amongst the ecclesial pool. For instance, while the marks are engaged with by creedal churches, they are presented on a divided front in which the marks are defined along preferred denominational and institutional lines. Regarding non-creedal churches, expression of or engagement with the marks is questionable, varying from institution to institution with no formalised or other outline.

Therefore, this presents a problem, since the marks stand as a challenge and a summons to the whole body of Christ. It is not sufficient within current ecclesiology to simply push away these disparities by suggesting that fulfilment of the marks is a matter solely left for the eschaton. Rather, the contemporary church must find a fresh way to engage with the historical marks in order to determine ‘best’ ecclesial praxis, lest it proceed with arrogance and ignorance by neglecting its historical lineage. This suggests the need for at the very least: (1) clearer understanding of the marks; (2) a review of the theological function of the marks; and (3) some form of self-examination amongst and across the ecclesial landscape.

To meet this tripartite need is in part the aim of this thesis – that the
marks might be historically understood, contextually assessed and
theologically reclaimed – with a view to offering a possible solution to the
perplexity surrounding the marks. This thesis will offer a fresh way to
engage with the marks by presenting a ‘gift and task’ paradigm that
incorporates communicative, analytical and theological elements through
which the marks can be viewed and understood. By developing a paradigm
for viewing the marks of the church as gift and task, this thesis offers the
contemporary church a way of honouring its gift of nature and of mission,
and of communicating its task across different contexts.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Thomson, Heather, Principal Supervisor
  • Douglas, Brian, Co-Supervisor
  • Pickard, Stephen, Co-Supervisor
Award date20 Oct 2015
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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