Drawing upon the methodology developed in his Dynamics of Theology (1990) and exemplified in Jesus Symbol of God (1999), Roger Haight, in this magisterial work, achieves what he calls an historical ecclesiology, or ecclesiology from below. In contrast to traditional ecclesiology from above, which is abstract, idealist, and ahistorical, ecclesiology from below is concrete, realist, and historically conscious.
In this first of two volumes, Haight charts the history of the church's self-understandings from the origins of the church in the Jesus movement to the late Middle Ages. In volume 2 Haight develops a comparative ecclesiology based on the history and diverse theologies of the worldwide Christian movement from the Reformation to the present. While the ultimate focus of the work falls on the structure of the church and its theological self-understanding, it tries to be faithful to the historical, social, and political reality of the church in each period.