Invisible Church: Why?


#1

I am hoping that Protestants will come here and shed some light for me on why they believe that Jesus created an invisible Church as opposed to a visible one.

Now, I DO NOT want Bible verses. I have nothing against Bible verses, but I’ve heard them already. What I want is an explanation in your own words of what you believe about this and why. The logical reasons.

I look forward to hearing the answers. :slight_smile:


#2

As an ex-Protestant? It’s easier on the mind to believe in an invisible church. Ignorance is very blissful indeed.


#3

I understand the reasoning behind the idea of the invisible church to be such that; Man cannot see into the heart of another man. Only God knows who has true faith and who does not. The Lord knows who are his.


#4

I don’t believe in an invisible Church as opposed to a visible one. It’s true that many Protestants do, but they learned the idea from Catholics. It seems to me that an “invisible Church” is intrinsic to Catholicism. After all, you are the ones who say that when the leaders of the Church, acting in the Church’s name, do something bad, the Church is not doing anything bad. Therefore, your Church must be invisible, because the visible Church clearly does do bad things. When Catholics say “the Church” they are rarely speaking of the actual, visible company of people. They are speaking of a mystical abstraction.

So the real question is, why do you believe in an invisible Church? And why do you try to cover up the fact?

Edwin


#5

I’m afraid your assertion is not correct. The visible Church is a structure, an institution that has the guidance of the Holy Spirit and it is made up of men. However, the sins of men are their own responsibility, not the Church’s. For instance, would you say I believe in an invisible presidency because I do not fault the executive system with the mistakes of individual men who held the position?

As my good and dear friend John Sheridan once said, “There is a difference between the position and the person who occupies it.” Or something to that effect. :wink:

Of course there is an invisible aspect of the Church. I believe it is called the Church Triumphant? The visible earthly aspect being the Church Militant. So no, protestants didn’t invent the spiritual aspects of the Church. The question is why did they get rid of the physical aspects.


#6

Your statements are correct. However, I don’t quite follow what they have to do with the Church.


#7

Actually, it seems to me it would be harder to believe in an invisible Church. It’s easy to believe in something you can see. Perhaps that is part of it. Protestants feel they are being more faithful by believing only in the spiritual?


#8

But the Church isn’t an office. It’s a company of people. The proper analogy is not between the Church and the presidency, but between the Church and the U.S. And if the President and/or Congress do something in their capacity as leaders of the country, we do say that the “United States” is doing it. Even if this doesn’t take the form of (say) a constitutional amendment.

Of course there is an invisible aspect of the Church. I believe it is called the Church Triumphant? The visible earthly aspect being the Church Militant. So no, protestants didn’t invent the spiritual aspects of the Church. The question is why did they get rid of the physical aspects.

But they didn’t. Read Calvin’s Institutes, Bk. 4, chap. 1. He insists on the necessity of the visible Church. We cannot graduate from her, he says, until we have spent our whole lives as her students. (Calvin liked to think of the Church as a school–this explains a lot about Calvinism.)

The problem I have with Catholicism is that it engages in a bait-and-switch, identifying “the Church” with the visible organization when it comes to authoritative teaching, but not when it comes to sins and errors (and I’m talking about sins and errors committed officially in the name of the Church, not about individual popes or bishops having mistresses or something like that).

Edwin


#9

The invisible church is a way of uniting people across the world who believe in the same Lord and Christ. :smiley:


#10

But Catholics across the globe manage to be united visibly. Far more so it seems than the majority of protestants.

Like I said in a previous post, there certainly is an invisble, spiritual aspect of the Church, but why to many protestants claim that’s ALL there is? Why reject the visible?


#11

I couldn’t care less about Calvin. I want to know why protestants today reject the visible Church. If you don’t, good. But there are many who do and I want their reasons.

The problem I have with Catholicism is that it engages in a bait-and-switch, identifying “the Church” with the visible organization when it comes to authoritative teaching, but not when it comes to sins and errors (and I’m talking about sins and errors committed officially in the name of the Church, not about individual popes or bishops having mistresses or something like that).

Edwin

Which sins and errors do you mean then?

First of all, it’s my understanding that the Church has apologized for many of these. Second, no one said the visible Church would be perfect. It is guided into truth, but not perfect.


#12

Johann von Dollinger

Historically nothing is more incorrect than the assertion that the Reformation was a movement in favour of intellectual freedom. The exact contary is the truth. For themselves, it is true, Lutherans and Calvinists claimed liberty of conscience . . . but to grant it to others never occurred to them so long as they were the stronger side. The complete extirpation of the Catholic Church, and in fact of everything that stood in their way, was regarded by the reformers as something entirely natural.
(Grisar, VI, 268-269; Dollinger: Kirche und Kirchen, 1861, 68)

Hartmann Grisar
At Zurich, Zwingli’s State-Church grew up much as Luther’s did . . . Oecolampadius at Basle and Zwingli’s successor, Bullinger, were strong compulsionists. Calvin’s name is even more closely bound up with the idea of religious absolutism, while the task of handing down to posterity his harsh doctrine of religious compulsion was undertaken by Beza in his notorious work, On the Duty of Civil Magistrates to Punish Heretics. The annals of the Established Church of England were likewise at the outset written in blood.
(Grisar, VI, 278)

Will Durant (S)

Calvin was as thorough as any pope in rejecting individualism of belief; this greatest legislator of Protestantism completely repudiated that principle of private judgment with which the new religion had begun. He had seen the fragmentation of the Reformation into a hundred sects, and foresaw more; in Geneva he would have none of them.
(Durant, 473)

ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ247.HTM


#13

**How can they be invisible church, is like a Christian who don’t go church, or a human don’t eat food. They must be visible church, as a protestant (not speaking for all) we need church and leadership to guide us, well all i can say protestant are very much move in spirit in all the thing we do, but we cannot say we are more faithful believing only in spirit, we still need God’s words to renew our mind and faith. I don’t know how others feel when they miss their Sunday service, as for me i will feel very very empty and uncomfort if i fail to go for Service, this feeling is just unexplainable, so if they is not church for me probably i will die:p **


#14

But then how do you justify not being unified with the rest of Christians? Shouldn’t a visible Church be a visibly unified Church? “Perfected in unity”, as Christ prayed?


#15

I’m not really sure what this has to do with anything. As I said, I’m not concerned about what the reformers believed. I want to know what today’s protestants believe and why. Many today reject the idea of a visible Church. (My mother among them.) Those people I want to hear from.


#16

I don’t put a lot of stock in him either (though I think his ecclesiology is one of his strong points). But he’s certainly a mainstream Protestant figure, and a claim about historic Protestantism that is false of Calvin is a rather dubious claim.

Which sins and errors do you mean then?

The usual litany–persecution of heretics, restriction of lay access to Scripture, adoption of many of the methods of the Roman Empire, failure to recognize the positive aspects of the Protestant Reformers’ ideas. . . .

First of all, it’s my understanding that the Church has apologized for many of these.

The Pope apologized/repented, yes, and I admire him for doing so. But he made a point of repenting for actions by members of the Church, avoiding the phrase "the Church has done . . . " Ecclesiologically, he had to speak this way. I don’t fault him personally. But I do see it as an example of the Catholic acceptance of an “invisible Church.”

Second, no one said the visible Church would be perfect. It is guided into truth, but not perfect.

Well, check this with knowledgeable Catholics. But my understanding is that Catholics do say, when speaking strictly and simply, that the Church is perfect and sinless. That indicates that the primary sense of the Church for you is not what most of us mean by the “visible Church.”

Edwin


#17

You will never get an answer to your question if you do not care about what the Reformers believed because taht is where it comes from.
Wesley’s thought was based on an Arminian interpretation of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church Wesley discarded many tenets of the Church of England, including the doctrine of the apostolic succession (the maintenance of an unbroken line of succession of bishops of the Christian church beginning with St. Peter),

Schleiermacher has been accused of making religion invulnerable at the expense of turning it into a purely subjective experience, but this criticism is contested on the grounds that it misinterprets the term feeling. The influential neoorthodox movement of early-20th-century theology, particularly as represented by Karl Barth


#18

Speaking for myself, I don’t justify it. How do you justify it? You aren’t united with the rest of Christians either. The difference isn’t that you take unity seriously and I don’t, but that you think the answer is for everyone to submit to Rome, and I don’t think it’s that simple.

My church (the Episcopal Church) admits to communion anyone baptized in the name of the Trinity who regularly receives communion in a Christian church. So how are we the ones justifying disunity?

Edwin


#19

It’s not so much that He created an invisible church.

He created The Church.

The Church has a visible aspect: buildings, congregations, Word and Sacrament, etc. It includes all those who have been baptized and who attend the services of God in the church, whether they believe or not. This is the sense in which we speak of the visible church. It’s not bad or wrong or not what Christ intended or anything like that, it is just what the world sees when it encounters the Church.

The Church also has an invisible aspect; that is, in a very real sense, the only true church is the made up of those people who really believe the Gospel. Only God knows who these people are.

So, it’s not that the visible church is the false church and the invisible church is the real church so much as that the invisble church is the church to God and the visible church is the church to the world.

The field contains both wheat and tares, the evil one having sown the latter. They will be separated at the eschaton.


#20

Individual Christians make up the body of Christ, the church. Only God knows our hearts and who is His. Only God knows who belongs to his church. Thus it the idea of the “invisible church”.

Ephesians 5:23
… as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.


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