Avery Cardinal Dulles applies the concept of model to the Church in his book "Models of the Church".

I want to understand where this principle originates from. As far as I understand, this requires finding answers to the following questions:

  1. Did anybody try to apply the concept of scientific model to any theological notion before Dulles, or he was the first who did so?
  2. What was the situation in the philosophy of science in 1950s and 1960s, and how did Catholic theologians absorb it then?
  3. Did any Protestant theologians of that time (before 1960s) try to do the same step as Dulles did?

It would be great if anybody was able to clarify any of above questions.

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    Can you explain what it is that Dulles says in his book? Without knowing that it's hard to know who might have applied it before. – DJClayworth May 1 '19 at 18:07
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    Also you might want to remove the word 'scientific'. I doubt that Dulles thought of any of his church models as scientific. – DJClayworth May 1 '19 at 18:23
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    Yes it would be great if you summarize what exactly Dulles did because I'm not sure what it means exactly to "apply the concept of model to the Church." What type of model? – Alex Strasser May 1 '19 at 23:06

Where does the principle of applying the concept of model ... come from?

I think your question is caused by a misunderstanding of English language.

I speak German (not English) and work in the field of electrical engineering. In the university we were told what the German word "Modell" (English: "model") means:

A model is a simplification of something, which contains all important aspects of the thing which is described but which does not contain any unimportant aspects.

If someone asks you what the Russian Orthodox Church is, you might answer: "This Church has about 250 million members. One of them is Jekaterina A. She is not very interested in the mass. Sometimes she even begins sleeping during the mass. Then there is Dimitrij B. He prays very often and often attends the mass early in the morning ..."

The person having asked you will of course not be interested in that. Therefore you will not answer this way but your answer will only cover the important aspects of what the Russian Orthodox Church is.

(In an answer that completely describes the Russian Orthodox Church you would have to describe all 250 million members!)

However, because you left out all of these unimportant aspects in your answer, your answer will be a "model" according to the definition we learned in university.

... ModelS of ...

Of course when answering different questions, different aspects may be important or unimportant:

Answering a question about theological differences between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church, and another question about the number of members of these Churches, completely different aspects will be "important aspects".

So for different questions different "models" exist.

Did anybody try to apply the concept of scientific model to any theological notion before Dulles, or he was the first who did so?

I don't know who was the first one that used the word "model" in this context.

However, we find early descriptions about what "the Church" is in the letters of St. Paul in the Bible.

So using "models" to describe the Church is as old as the Church itself.

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