The people of God have faced several major threats. In fact, I'm quite sure that the church has faced many more than that. But there has been several poignant moments in the history of the church where God's people have actually had to stop, look around and try and discern what the church should look like. Whether it be in the face of national failure and social collapse, or pure apostasy from the ecclesiastical hierarchy, these moments have all been significant in that they have determined the course of church identity for centuries. Indeed, it may well prove that much of the theology that started as an attempt to answer the question 'What is the Church?'.
I believe this to be in the case in the several moments I have in mind: Israel, Paul, the Late Roman Empire, Reformation, and the mid twentieth century. Not that this is an exhaustive list - they have been many other crisis moments in the church when people have to ask the question 'What is the Church?' For instance, I'm sure some insightful people were asking this question at the end of the 'English' troubles in the 17th Century, when one third of England's clergy were cast out of the Church of England (including the Wesley brothers both grandfathers).
However, I intend to look at some of the greatest minds that have ever been apart of the people of God - Israeli Prophets, St Paul, Augustine, Luther, Barth - and so discover how they responded to this challenge.
As always, there is more to say. Next post: Church in Crisis: The Chaldean Dilema.