Original Research

Symbolising salvation: A semiotic analysis of the church as a transformative communication system in the world

D. Andre van Rheede van Oudtshoorn
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 36, No 1 | a1370 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v36i1.1370 | © 2015 D. Andre van Rheede van Oudtshoorn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 July 2014 | Published: 22 June 2015

About the author(s)

D. Andre van Rheede van Oudtshoorn, Department of Practical Theology, Perth Bible College, Australia


This article considers the church from a semiotic and systems-theory perspective as a revelatory symbol of the salvation-historical acts of God for and in the world. The church,as a communicative field of encounter between God and humans as well as between humans amongst each other, creates space for symbols that may be utilised to realise further encounters. At the same time, the church also operates as a communicative symbol in her own right which may be ‘read’ and ‘interpreted’ by others. The church as an operational system is shown to generate revelatory symbols to the world through her separation from,engagement with and being directed towards the world. The church is shown to exist and operate in dynamic conflict with the world as well as with the Kingdom of God through the overcoming presence of the Holy Spirit within her. An operational communicative system model of the church indicates that the church is an alternating rather than alternative community, which ensures ideological relevance as well as theological difference between the church and the world.

Interdisciplinary and/or intradisciplinary implications: This article utilises insights from the fields of semiotics and systems theory within a practical-theological ecclesiology, there by providing new perspectives on the church. The article also interacts with aspects of systematic theological ecclesiology.


ecclesiology, semiotics, systems theory


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