I, in being a convert to the Catholic faith, have noticed how much the church needs a type of institutional element in its structure. This was something that was lacking in the protestant dynamic. The models contained in the protestant church seem to lack structure and don’t have this good sense of an institutional element weaved into it. This I contend is an important element that really is essential in a Christian’s spiritual growth and identity.
However, with saying I am not pushing the institutional model of the church, but how churches need an institutional element. Intuitionalism differs from the element of institutionalism. The institutional model focuses more on the different powers and less on the people, membership and how it is affected, and how virtues and spiritual growth happens.
The church as the institutional model focuses more on how those in authority have the ruling power and the teachers have the power over the students. The higher positions are not set up with the idea of service toward the people below their position. With this concept of them having power it is almost seen as the pope and bishops are able to open valves and shut them for the flow of grace and that they have control over it. This is contrary to what is taught. In addition, the ruling that the superiors do is done in their own name and in Christ’s name and they make new rulings on things (Dulles 30).
Another aspect that is important in institutional model than as compared to the institutional element is the fact that membership has to be visible (Dulles 33). Therefore the theory of invisible membership is rejected. However, this can also serve to give the church a strong sense of identity. The members know exactly what their beliefs are. This sense of understanding what they exactly stand for also comes as a result of the institutional element as well. This idea that they have a strong identity really means they know what they are to follow and stand for in society. In addition, this also meant the members knew when they were failing in their beliefs and when they were following well to their beliefs. It is noted during the institutional model of the church when it was in place in the past, the members were also very loyal to church and took what the church said on teachings seriously (Dulles 35). This strength of identity can also come about from the intuitional element as well.
A major weakness to the institutional model is that it can’t be found strongly in scripture nor early church tradition. However, one can find teh institutional element in scripture about the church. The Institutional element describes the church as having an institutional structure, however it does not maintain that it is a single society. The institutional model supports that the church would basically be one society of tightly knit people. The institutional element give direction but the model of institutionalism places emphasis on obedience. The fact that the model focuses alot on obedience is good, but it cannot allow other important virtues to develop within a person in spiritual growth (Dulles 35). The element of institutionalism, like stated before, gives direction and structure, but does not cause these occurrences of complication.
The most important aspect between the element of institutionalism and the model of it is the way power is seen. The laity are deemed not really important. Where as, the institutional element gives tehm some duty and a sense of a part to play and that they can help spread the good news too not just the priests. In addition, the model focuses more on people attending to the higher levels of the church than in doing things in charity and for God. The side with the element of institutionalism does not create this dysfunction. This is because it does not derive everything from the institutional features it has if we look at the church with only an institutional element (Dulles 37).
What is the key defining factor in the difference between the model and the element is that the element has justifiable ways in strengthening the church. The qualities it can strengthen have to be as a community of life, witness, and service (Dulles 38). Under the theory of the model it makes the church more inward centered than outward centered. The church needs institutional elements, but it does it need to have a strict model of institutionalism.
In conclusion, some of the ways institutional model and element differ are the way power is seen, authority, membership and how it is affected, and how a person’s spiritual growth and virtues develop. The institutional model is way too much and is too rigid and not organic and mystical like it should be. The elements help give structure and keep it together, but does not detract from the church members and their growth, nor on how people’s attitudes are. The institutional element will give structure and a strong identity to the people. It is something I feel the protestant church is really lacking. This can be in the lack of cohesiveness of their followers, because of the lack of structure their church models contains and it’s authority it provides as what really their beliefs are.
Dulles, Avery. Models of the Church. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974. Print.