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Many people experience the church and have ideas about it who many find it harder to express themselves on more central aspects of Christian belief. And in the church's official life, issues concerning the church and its structures often loom larger and stir more powerful passions than beliefs about God, Christ or human salvation. Preoccupation with the church, in one form or another, has marked Christianity from the start. There have always been problems to solve relating to the nature and standing of the Christian community, and this necessity has always prompted attempts at self-understanding within the life of the community. Sometimes, these attempts have been closely integrated with deeper matters of faith; sometimes, they have generated almost of a life of their own. Origins often display a certain clarity which aids reflection in our own day, however great the differences between then and now. This book lays out some of the leading ways in which the early Christians thought about their community and outlines the ways in which this reflection contributed to their solving of some of the probems that confronted them. Not surprisingly, the subject is not without present-day echoes; and a reading of te New Testament on this topic may stimulate encouragement. J. L. Houlden is Emeritus Professor of Theology at King's College, London
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