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Ecclesiology Dissertations: Volf and Bonhoeffer on thinking theologically about the church

Miroslav Volf's book After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (originally published in German in 1996) was "a dissertation required for a postdoctoral degree" (p. xi) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book Sanctorum Communio was his doctoral dissertation that was submitted in 1927. 

In the quotes below, both note a surge of interest in the church and both insist on the importance of better theological reflection on the church. 

With seminar papers under my belt on Rowan Williams, John Howard Yoder, the New Testament witness, Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians, David Bosch, Lesslie Newbigin and Bonhoeffer; and now Volf, Gregory the Great, and sociology of congregations; I am building conversation partners; but I will never touch the erudition of Volf and Bonhoeffer. 

Volf:
Without an ecumenical agreement of what the church is, one can either allow the diverging understandings of office to stand unreconciled next to one another, or one can try to cloak them with merely verbal convergences.  Either way, unity is feigned rather than genuinely attained.  This is why in recent years the question of the character of the church, especially of the understanding of the church as communion, has moved into the center of ecumenical dialogue.  Reflection on the ecclesial structures obviously presupposes reflection on the church.  If the structures of the church really are to be the structures of the church rather than structures over the church, then the church must take precedence over the structures.  (p. 222).

After Our Likeness: The Church As the Image of the Trinity (Sacra Doctrina) by Miroslav Volf (Paperback - Oct 30, 1997)

Bonhoeffer:
In this study social philosophy and sociology are employed in the service of theology.  Only through such an approach, it appears, can we gain a systematic understanding of the community-structure of the Christian church.  This work belongs not to the discipline of sociology of religion, but to theology.  The issue of a Christian social philosophy and sociology is a genuinely theological one, because it can be answered only on the basis of an understanding of the church. (p. 21) . . . To be sure, there rarely has been as much talk about community and church as in the last few years.  Yet it seems to me that such thinking has lacked the thoroughness of theological reflection (p. 23) 

Sanctorum Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Clifford J. Green, and Nancy Lukens (Hardcover - Nov 1998)

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