Invisiable Church


I heard that there are some that beleive in an “Invisiable Church” and that denominations are good. Does anyone know what their arguments are for this and what is a good refutation of it? Thanks and God bless.


Since the early Christians as recorded in history by the church fathers are very much “Catholic”, protestants had to get around this, by asserting that there was an invisible Church, that was more protestant in thinking, such as “once saved, always saved”. That particular notion didn’t appear in recorded history until Luther’s time.

Anyway, this idea of an invisible church is not easy to prove.

Jesus said that if your brother sins, take it to the Church. Therefore, it must be a visible church.

That’s how I understand it anyway.



I talked to a Protestant friend of mine the other day about this. To me the idea lacks merit if for no other reason than even if in theory the Church was not meant to be particularly visible. For at least the 1000 years of Church history it was visible simply because there was one choice and one choice only. If that makes sense?

If one was a Christian they were part of the Apostolic and Catholic Church. That by default makes it visible. It called itself Catholic and it had a governmental structure.


John Martignoni of the Bible Christian Society lays it out pretty well.

To REALLY boil it down, the question is one that comes down to 1 of 3 possibilities:

1 - Jesus created multiple churches.
2 - Jesus instituted one “invisible” church, with different variations.
3 - Jesus instituted one, visible church.

There’s no rational way to claim #1 by the Bible.

If one claims #2 (one, “invisible” church), then this invisible church has to be able to have all kinds of branches with conflicting and contradictory doctrines. Since the Bible doesn’t support that, #2 has to be chucked as well.

That leaves #3, and John goes on in his talk showing how to know that the Catholic Church is the One, Visible, Apostolic church Jesus instituted.

If you’ve never heard any of his talks, you can download them for free from his website at



What is the name of that particular talk? I would like to hear it.

God bless!

#6 4:21-22

21 And he said to them: Doth a candle come in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? 22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be made manifest: neither was it made secret, but that it may come abroad.

In the same way, the Church is visible.


Fr. Peter Stravinskas gives a good explanation of this in his book “The Catholic Church and the Bible,” on page # 131.

  1. Regarding the nature of the Church:

"The Church is solely an invisible society. The Church consists only of those saved by the blood of Christ. But these are only those who believe that they are so saved (see number 3). However, belief or faith is invisible. Therefore, a visible hierarchy and also sacred images are contrary to the true faith, and the tendency is to see them as coming from the devil, with the visible (that is, Catholic) Church being seen as the Whore of Babylon and sacred images being as idols.

Naturally, this line of argument flies in the face of Paul’s careful delineation of the Church as the Body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12; CCC 771, 779) or the Lord’s own obvious intentions as recorded in Matthew 16:13-19. Hence in the final analysis, it is a repudiation of incarnational theology."

  1. Regarding the nature of salvation.

"Man is saved by faith alone (cf. CCC 161-162, 2010). The way you get the blood of Christ to cover your sins is by believing that it does. Whence comes Luther’s adage, ‘Sin strongly, but believe more strongly.’ When one breaks through the conviction that, despite his inability to change, one is absolved from all final responsibility, the ensuing exhilaration is the conversion experience, and the tendency is to teach that one is not saved unless one has this emotional high. Some Fundamentalists even deem one’s salvation lost if this state of excitement cannot be regularly repeated.

The notion that man is saved by faith alone also means that good works are unnecessary and merit is nonexistent, in spite of the clear teaching to the contrary in James 2.


That particular one is called, “One Church” :thumbsup:


That particular talk is called “One Church”.



The true Church and the visible church cannot be one and the same. If the Church is visible you should be able to point to someone and say whether or not they are part of the Church. Since nobody can know what someone truly believes it is impossible to say if someone belongs to the Church. You cannot guarantee that anyone at Mass on a Sunday truly believes and is part of the Body of Christ. If you cannot point out a single member, how can you say the Church is visible.

Augustine indicated that the Church contains those who will be with Jesus for eternity. Anyone who will be with Jesus in Heaven is in the Church, anyone who won’t be, isn’t.

  1. The second rule is about the twofold division of the body of the Lord; but this indeed is not a suitable name, for that is really no part of the body of Christ which will not be with Him in eternity. We ought, therefore, to say that the rule is about the true and the mixed body of the Lord, or the true and the counterfeit, or some such name; because, not to speak of eternity, hypocrites cannot even now be said to be in Him, although they seem to be in His Church. And hence this rule might be designated thus: Concerning the mixed Church. Now this rule requires the reader to be on his guard when Scripture, although it has now come to address or speak of a different set of persons, seems to be addressing or speaking of the same persons as before, just as if both sets constituted one body in consequence of their being for the time united in a common participation of the sacraments.- Augustine (On Christian Doctrine, 3:32)

But the enemies of this brotherly love, whether they are openly without, or appear to be within, are false Christians, and antichrists. For when they have found an opportunity, they go out, as it is written: “A man wishing to separate himself from his friends, seeks opportunities.” But even if occasions are wanting, while they seem to be within, they are severed from that invisible bond of love. Whence St. John says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for had they been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.” 1 John 2:19 He does not say that they ceased to be of us by going out, but that they went out because they were not of us.-Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, 3:19:26)


The Body of Christ here and now is visible. The Body of Christ will eventually be purified of its false members–as the parable of the wheat and the tares indicates (and yes, I know that the field is the world–we can discuss if you like why I think the parable applies to the Church). But meanwhile it includes them. There is of course a spiritual sense in which they are not “really” part of the Church. But that is not primarily the sense with which we have to do in this life–it’s up to God to sort out at the judgment, unless people make it clear that they do not believe in Christ and that they have no desire to follow Him.

Augustine indicated that the Church contains those who will be with Jesus for eternity. Anyone who will be with Jesus in Heaven is in the Church, anyone who won’t be, isn’t.

Augustine indicated that in the “truest” sense this was the case. I think he went too far and laid the groundwork for others to go much farther. Augustine’s theology generally tends to be overly spiritualized. However, there’s obviously a sense in which he is right. I will grant you that there is an “invisible Church” of sorts if you will grant that it’s basically none of our business as long as we are in this life (Augustine would, I think, have granted this).



I just found this website and think it great

Here are a few quotes regarding the invisable Church

Matt. 5:14 - Jesus says a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, and this is in reference to the Church. The Church is not an invisible, ethereal, atmospheric presence, but a single, visible and universal body through the Eucharist. The Church is an extension of the Incarnation.

Matt. 12:25; Mark 3:25; Luke 11:17 - Jesus says a kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and will not stand. This describes Protestantism and the many thousands of denominations that continue to multiply each year.

Matt. 16:18 - Jesus says, “I will build my ‘Church’ (not churches).” There is only one Church built upon one Rock with one teaching authority, not many different denominations, built upon various pastoral opinions and suggestions.

Matt. 16:19; 18:18 - Jesus gave the apostles binding and loosing authority. But this authority requires a visible Church because “binding and loosing” are visible acts. The Church cannot be invisible, or it cannot bind and loose.




A perfect society is subordinate to no other organization because it aims at a universal good and has all the means proper to realizing its ends. It is of faith that the end of the Church is Salvation - the same purpose which brought Christ to earth: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) The Church also has all the necessary means which are infallible doctrine, authority, and all the sacraments. Hence, on account of the sublime scope of its purpose and the adequacy of means at its disposal, the Church is independent of any human authority.

The Church is the messianic kingdom, the kingdom of God on earth. This kingdom is assuredly an internal union of men with God, as is clear from the doctrine of the Mystical Body. But it also a visible human organization. It is heresy to hold that the real Church is an invisible union of the saints or predestined, and that the external Church is purely human, subject to change and destruction. The real Church is external; that it consists of men with human weaknesses is clear from the parables of Christ. It will contain sinners and just, wise and foolish. Weeds of heresy will be sown in it. It will suffer schisms and scandals. Nevertheless it is divine in its origin, powers. purpose, and indestructibility; for by the promise of Christ it will last until His second coming.


Here is my problem.

If I were to grant the premises of your argument, the argument does not point to the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church only. The Orthodox could just as easily make the same argument as you do and claim it points to their Denomination.

So it leaves the question as to why I should take your premises seriously about your denomination being the one true visible church when the criteria you use can just as well apply to the Orthodox.


The difference is the Catholic Church has Peter and the Keys. :thumbsup:


The Orthodox make the same claims for themselves do they not.




You mean the Orthodox do not claim apostolic succession? That is news to me.


Oh, sorry. I was talking about Peter and the Keys, not apostolic succession. Yes, the Orthodox claim (and have) apostolic succession. What they do not affirm is the primacy of Peter.

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