The Invisible Church of All True Believers


#1

This is a spin-off from another thread, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ric said the church he was referring to in that thread was the church of all believers, which prompted my question:

What verse or verses do Protestants rely upon for this concept of “church,” since their beliefs are limited to Scripture (as Luther defined it)? The invisible church of all true believers does not make an appearance in the historical record until the 16th century when it was written into the Augsburg (Lutheran) Confession by Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s co-conspirator in the Deformation (that’s an editorial comment:p) .

As I understood this concept when I was Protestant is that some, but not all, Christians belong to two churches – their own denomination and this “invisible church of all true believers.” The canard is that is that there is no way to know if one is a “true believer” (though one may certainly believe that one is included among the “true believers”) until one dies and wakes up in heaven. All of these “true believers” adhere to conflicting and competing doctrines in their various denominations, so what is “truth”?

Comments, please?


#2

as former evangelical protestant, my resopnse. The invisible church thing is not based in reason. Its based in faith. one cannot understand all the things of God. So when it comes to the mystery of all the conflicting doctrines the most plausible response is we are all differnt types of people and that stimulates differences in doctrine and its simply a holy mystery why God allows the differences we must learn to disagee and allow is to sharpen us in our own beliefs. Other types of arguements are used to avoid the main problem. It cant be one church cause it would have to be catholic. Everybody knows it cant be the catholic church They have embraced herisy like worsiping mary and canibalism.
When one is steeped in prejudice reason must be set aside or wallowing in unknown ignorance like the worshiping mary thing.


#3

Katholikos,

I jumped over to this thread after I read Ric’s post. Thanks for starting this one.

I like to remind people that Christ did not say “Upon this rock I build my churches.” He said “church” …singular! And if you have a problem “…take it to the church…” Well, how do you do that if your church is invisible?? And if you believe in two churches, a brick-n-mortar one and an invisible one which brick-n-mortar church do you go to when there’s a different one on every block, each happily willing to give you a different answer??

Whew! I feel better now. Just needed to vent. :twocents:

Thanks


#4

Great insight! I was waiting for ric to respond to me so I could tell him that. maybe he will pick up this thread. Unfortunately he did not find a verse to support the invisible church. My other favorite besides matt 18 ( take it to the church…) is 1 tim 3:15 …the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. Then 1tim 4:16 “Pay close attention to your teaching persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear.” That sounds like Jesus–" Just Jesus and me might be leaving one in a possible prediciment one cannot be assured of salvation without TRUTH. Whos truth! see 1tim 3


#5

[quote=Katholikos]This is a spin-off from another thread, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ric said the church he was referring to in that thread was the church of all believers, which prompted my question:

What verse or verses do Protestants rely upon for this concept of “church,” since their beliefs are limited to Scripture (as Luther defined it)? The invisible church of all true believers does not make an appearance in the historical record until the 16th century when it was written into the Augsburg (Lutheran) Confession by Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s co-conspirator in the Deformation (that’s an editorial comment:p) .

As I understood this concept when I was Protestant is that some, but not all, Christians belong to two churches – their own denomination and this “invisible church of all true believers.” The canard is that is that there is no way to know if one is a “true believer” (though one may certainly believe that one is included among the “true believers”) until one dies and wakes up in heaven. All of these “true believers” adhere to conflicting and competing doctrines in their various denominations, so what is “truth”?

Comments, please?
[/quote]

Good Day,

Was not the the invisible church, a teaching of Augustine in the City of God?

Peace to u,
BBAS


#6

[quote=bbas 64]Good Day,

Was not the the invisible church, a teaching of Augustine in the City of God?Peace to u,
BBAS
[/quote]

Hi there:
Good question…!

Also, Isnt there a dimension of the Church which is invisible? How about the Church in Heaven or Purgatory…surely that dimension of the Church cannot be seen?. How about the Christians who God sees as part of His body but do not belong to your particular Church?..certainly their union to the Church is “invisible”. Since you do not see the heart or the faith of anyone, even church attenders, there is a certain dimension in which the “Church” can be seen only to God.

Blessings

Serafin


#7

[quote=bbas 64]Good Day,

Was not the the invisible church, a teaching of Augustine in the City of God?

Peace to u,
BBAS
[/quote]

There is within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (1) the Church Militant – the Family of God on earth; (2) the Church Suffering – the Family of God in Purgatory; and the Church Triumphant – the Family of God in heaven. The One True Church has both a visible and an invisible dimension. But we are all members of the same family sharing One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism (Eph 4:5), and one Eucharist (1 Cor 10:17). None of us are dead. Those who have left the earth have passed through the door called death to eternal life in Christ Jesus. We pray for one another.

This is altogether different than an invisible church of all true believers, which was unheard of before the 16th century. Such a church is not found in the Bible nor in Sacred Apostolic Tradition. Jesus and the Apostles didn’t teach it. It was Martin Luther who first taught it and many other Protestants have followed Luther.

Thanks for your post.

Ave Cor Mariae, Jay


#8

[quote=soldonsacramnts]Great insight! I was waiting for ric to respond to me so I could tell him that. maybe he will pick up this thread. Unfortunately he did not find a verse to support the invisible church. My other favorite besides matt 18 ( take it to the church…) is 1 tim 3:15 …the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. Then 1tim 4:16 “Pay close attention to your teaching persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear.” That sounds like Jesus–" Just Jesus and me might be leaving one in a possible prediciment one cannot be assured of salvation without TRUTH. Whos truth! see 1tim 3
[/quote]

You know … I would not be surprised if they did come up with something which they will claim supports that belief. They have come up with ‘support’ for all the other beliefs … so why not this one?

That’s just it - This is precisely what Sola Scriptura allows.

I do not see the Reformation ending any time soon … so I figure we ought to just get used to the way they think. It seems so illogical to us, but it makes sense to them:banghead: - it is obvious that any change of heart will have to come from God.

All we can do is pray :gopray2: and try show them how the RCC thinks and not get too riled up in the process. :crying:

Peace … oh yah, and good luck!:smiley:


#9

Catholicism affirms that there are both visible and invisible aspects to the Church that Christ founded. Too often in Protestantism, the Church is either visible or invisible.

This points to that general distinction between these understandings of the Christian faith: the “both/and” perspective (Catholicism), and the “either/or” perspective (Protestantism).

The former affirms the presence of mystery in the faith that, while it can be partially understood by reason, is ultimately beyond it.

The latter seeks to put all aspects of the faith within the realm of reason alone. But since the faith cannot be limited in this way, their understanding of it ultimately has incoherencies.

Here is an excerpt from Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which explains, in an authoritative way, the relationship between the visible and invisible aspects of the one Church that Christ established:

But, the society [Christ’s Church] *structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element…

…This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.*

–paragraph 8

There were many, many words that came out of Vatican II. The words found above are arguably the most pregnant with meaning.


#10

[quote=Katholikos]There is within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (1) the Church Militant – the Family of God on earth; (2) the Church Suffering – the Family of God in Purgatory; and the Church Triumphant – the Family of God in heaven. The One True Church has both a visible and an invisible dimension. But we are all members of the same family sharing One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism (Eph 4:5), and one Eucharist (1 Cor 10:17). None of us are dead. Those who have left the earth have passed through the door called death to eternal life in Christ Jesus. We pray for one another.

This is altogether different than an invisible church of all true believers, which was unheard of before the 16th century. Such a church is not found in the Bible nor in Sacred Apostolic Tradition. Jesus and the Apostles didn’t teach it. It was Martin Luther who first taught it and many other Protestants have followed Luther.

Thanks for your post.

Ave Cor Mariae, Jay
[/quote]

Good Day, Jay

You set a interesting comparision here, the teaching of the invisible church is rooted in Augustine The city of God, great read if you have not already.

“In the West … that dualism was actively brought back in a powerful theoretical form, in St Augustine’s far-reaching distinction between the mundus intelligibilis and the mundus sensibilis, reinforced by a somewhat Neo-platonic and Ptolemaic outlook upon the universe, which came to be built into the whole fabric of Western thought. …it also had the effect of bifurcating [dividing into two parts] the religious wholeness of the Judaeo-Christian tradition into a dualism of visible and invisible, outward and inward spheres of experience, which then needed to be coordinated through a system of sacramental causal connections. …the religious consciousness fostered by the monastic orders (especially Augustinian and Franciscan), had the effect of widening the dualism within the Roman Catholic Church as community of believers and the Church as identified with the ecclesiastical ruling class.” T. F. Torrance, Theology in Reconciliation: Essays Toward Evangelical and Catholic Unity In East and West, (Grand Rapids, MI., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975) pp. 31, 37, 38"

The teaching of the Augustine was carried on thought out the 6-11th century in the writings of both the Augustinians and Franciscans. Seeing that Luther was an Augustinian, it is not supprizing to see the idea in his writings or the writing of any Augustinian.

Peace to u,

BBAS


#11

[quote=Serafin]Hi there:
Good question…!

Also, Isnt there a dimension of the Church which is invisible? How about the Church in Heaven or Purgatory…surely that dimension of the Church cannot be seen?. How about the Christians who God sees as part of His body but do not belong to your particular Church?..certainly their union to the Church is “invisible”. Since you do not see the heart or the faith of anyone, even church attenders, there is a certain dimension in which the “Church” can be seen only to God.

Blessings

Serafin
[/quote]

Good Day, Serafin

From your point of view here in the 21 st century you may see that comparision I would say that is fair. The question is IMHO was it allways seen that way?

Augustine – The Church is the realm of Christ, His mystical body and His bride, the Mother of Christians. He also speaks of an inner and outer church, and the difficulty of telling from appearances who are members of this true church (the "enclosed garden spring shut up, fountain sealed, the paradise with the fruit of apples) who are the elect, and belong to the “invisible fellowship of love” (as opposed to the outer, historical Catholic Church).

JND Kelley.

Have you reade the city of God by Augustine? How about his work on Predestination?
Peace to u,

BBAS
[indent][indent][indent]
[/indent][/indent][/indent]


#12

BBAS,

I suggest that you read and understand the WHOLE of St. Augustine’s writings, not just what you like to quote and use it as an argument with Catholic belief. What you are doing is what we call as “cafeteria catholicism.”

Just to be honest and just with the saint that you are quoting, he is 100% Catholic, and using some of his writings and twist its meaning is unfair to him and the whole Church.
:blessyou:

Pio


#13

If you want to know what the Church teaches about herself, go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Look it up in the index. One thing is certain: The “invisible church of all true believers” is TOTALLY OTHER than the church St. Augustine was speculating about.

I’m not an expert on Augustine. All I know is that the Church did not accept everything he wrote. Whether the theology of the Church concerning herself is compatible with the writings of St. Augustine or not I cannot say, not having studied Augustinian thought. Augustine was writing about only one Church – the Catholic Church. Luther’s “invisible church of all true believers” made up of members of competing and conflicting denominations was certainly not within St. Augustine’s purview.

Protestants have “hijacked” St. Augustine and use him as “proof” of their position on any number of issues. They “proof text” the saint’s writings the same way they do the Bible, twisting the words to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16).

The Catholic Church is not built on St. Augustine – nor on the Bible. She is the mother, not the daughter, of the Bible, having written the New Testament. She joined the newly canonized NT to the OT she had inherited from Jesus and the Apostles and formed the Bible when she was nearly 400 years old.

JMJ Jay


#14

Something I notice about many Protestant churches is that they do not have a lot of religious art around…most Protestants do not have much religious art in their houses either.

Also many of the Protestants I know hold that the facts of doctrine and morality of their religious life are private and don’t have to agree with the morality and doctrines of other members of their denomenations…

Lacking displays of religious art and a lack of doctrinal agreement with other Protestants…I think these ideas come from having an “invisible” church…but from my perspective, God and the worship of God are the most important things in the world…why the insistance on having an invisible church and private interpretation of scripture? Don’t they lead, in fact, to a marginilization of the religious life? A secularization of one’s religious life?

Having a visible Church with visible art and known and shared moral and doctrinal beliefs and practices seem a lot more substantial…than a belief in “invisible” churches.

My:twocents: take it for what it is worth: if your church is invisible–then where is it other than in your mind?

May the peace of Christ be with you all.


#15

[quote=hlgomez]BBAS,

I suggest that you read and understand the WHOLE of St. Augustine’s writings, not just what you like to quote and use it as an argument with Catholic belief. What you are doing is what we call as “cafeteria catholicism.”

Just to be honest and just with the saint that you are quoting, he is 100% Catholic, and using some of his writings and twist its meaning is unfair to him and the whole Church.
:blessyou:

Pio
[/quote]

Good Day, hlgomez

I have not suggested that I have read all of Augustine’s work. The OP was about the invisible church and asserted that this thought did not start untill the 16 th century, which is not true. Now you may disagree with Augustine on this issue , that is fine.

But to say it did not exsist is another thing. I am not trying to be unfair to Augutine here only representing his work on the issue. I am not being un fair to the church as a whole it is well documented that the current RCC does not believe in some of the things that Augustine taught to the church in his day, that is fine also they have the right to do so if they choose.

Augustine’s commentary on Romans is now out in print for english readers should be a good read.

Peace to u,

bbas


#16

[quote=Katholikos]If you want to know what the Church teaches about herself, go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Look it up in the index. One thing is certain: The “invisible church of all true believers” is TOTALLY OTHER than the church St. Augustine was speculating about.
[/quote]

Good Day, Katholikos

I Have read some of the current views held by the church here in the 21 st century. I have yet to find a version in the historical times of the 4-5 century, and Augustine " in all I have read" does not referance such a thing by the standards of today. I would say the tone of the work does not convey speculation, nor do his sermons in which this is preached about.

[font=Arial]

I’m not an expert on Augustine. All I know is that the Church did not accept everything he wrote. Whether the theology of the Church concerning herself is compatible with the writings of St. Augustine or not I cannot say, not having studied Augustinian thought. Augustine was writing about only one Church – the Catholic Church. [/font]Luther’s “invisible church of all true believers” made up of members of competing and conflicting denominations was certainly not within St. Augustine’s purview.

You have misrepresented the historical facts here. It is ture the RCC does not hold some of Augustine’s views. The teaching of this invisible church is found in Augustine’s writings. Did you read the historical referance I gave you?

[font=Arial]

Protestants have “hijacked” St. Augustine and use him as “proof” of their position on any number of issues. They “proof text” the saint’s writings the same way they do the Bible, twisting the words to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16).[/font]

The Catholic Church is not built on St. Augustine – nor on the Bible. She is the mother, not the daughter, of the Bible, having written the New Testament. She joined the newly canonized NT to the OT she had inherited from Jesus and the Apostles and formed the Bible when she was nearly 400 years old.

JMJ Jay

I really do not see how any of this is relevant to the topic. I will say this there is no dobut that for years and years the effect of Augutine on early christian thought was huge, to deny that is sad. Whether or not you agree with him or not is not the issue, but the issue is based on the ideas he taught to the early beleivers and how their thinking was formed.

Peace to u,

bbas


#17

[quote=Serafin]Hi there:
Good question…!

Also, Isnt there a dimension of the Church which is invisible? How about the Church in Heaven or Purgatory…surely that dimension of the Church cannot be seen?. How about the Christians who God sees as part of His body but do not belong to your particular Church?..certainly their union to the Church is “invisible”. Since you do not see the heart or the faith of anyone, even church attenders, there is a certain dimension in which the “Church” can be seen only to God.

Blessings

Serafin
[/quote]

Good Day, Serafin

In the writing of The city of God Auygustine does not account for much of these ideas when he talked about the invisible church. I do understand how you come to this conclusion given the current teachings of the RCC. I will attempt to paraphase Augustine here,

The church is made up of both sinners and elect belivers, the belives are tuly part of an invisible “church” which is the body of the Lord which is not seen or visible, but none the less alive. Only Christ knows of them that are elect we can not know and lack the abilty to identify those who are part of the bride of Christ.

Peace to u,

bbas


#18

[quote=Katholikos]As I understood this concept when I was Protestant is that some, but not all, Christians belong to two churches – their own denomination and this “invisible church of all true believers.” The canard is that is that there is no way to know if one is a “true believer” (though one may certainly believe that one is included among the “true believers”) until one dies and wakes up in heaven. All of these “true believers” adhere to conflicting and competing doctrines in their various denominations, so what is “truth”?

[/quote]

I’m surprised no one has made reference to the Westminster Standards:

Chapter XXV

Of the Church

I. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all. (1)

II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; (2) and of their children, (3) and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, (4) the house and family of God, (5) out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. (6)

III. Unto this catholic visible Church Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and does, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto. (7)

IV. This catholic Church has been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. (8) And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them. (9)

V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; (10) and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. (11) Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will. (12)

VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. (13)


[1] EPH 1:10-23; 5:23-32; COL 1:18
[2] 1CO 1:2, 1CO 12:12-13; PSA 2:8; REV 7:9; ROM 15:9-12
[3] 1CO 7:14; ACT 2:39; EZE 16:20-21; ROM 11:16; GEN 3:15; GEN17:7
[4] MAT 13:47
[5] EPH 2:19, EPH 3:15
[6] ACT 2:47
[7] 1CO 12:28; EPH 4:11-13; MAT 28:19-20; ISA 59:21
[8] ROM 11:3-4; REV 12:6, 14.
[9] REV 2-3; 1CO 5:6-7
[10] 1CO 13:12; MAT 13:24-30, 47
[11] REV 18:2; ROM 11:18-22
[12] MAT 16:18; PSA 72:17, 102:28; MAT 28:19-20
[13] COL 1:18; EPH 1:22


#19

[quote=Calvin]I’m surprised no one has made reference to the Westminster Standards:

Chapter XXV

Of the Church

I. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one,

II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion;

IV. . (8) And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them. (9)

V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error;

VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. (13)

[/quote]

This seems to say that there is one Church, but also many churches.

It also says that even the purest Churches will have error in them.

So the church is “invisible” and has no earthly or “visible” chief or leader, and even the purest **one church **within the one Church will contain error…I’m not sure this helps me to understand the concept of an “invisible” Church…of course maybe because it’s 11:30 at night, but I don’t understand this.

Two points that I have: 1) since religion and the worship of God is so important to God and to us, why would God establish an “invisible” church…an “invisible” church would seem to be very prone to error and misunderstandings. Also–why would the most important feature of life be so “invisible”…it seems to lead to secularization and a minimalist church if anything.

  1. respectfully, but it seems to me (and this could be the hour of night speaking), but it seems to me that the concept of an “invisible” church might just be a reformation idea that allows for people to form their own churches with their own ideas (because true Christians (the elect?) will always share those “invisible” bonds after all) and not have to submit to the legitimate moral and faith authority of the (visible) Catholic Church. It seems very convenient and (to me) not very theologically sound.:confused: --but maybe I’m mistaken.

any thoughts on these two points?


#20

I heard someone once say regarding the whole "visible/invisible " thing. I can show you where the church is (the visible catholic one), but I cannot show you where it is not. The chruch is a gift and a blessing to be a part. Being a part of the invisible church is great. I once saw a bumper sticker “its really great to be a Christian” . Everybody who is one would agree. We all need to remember christianity is invitation not legislation. We as catholics who (hopefully) enjoy all that the visible church has to offer cannot legislate the blessings and benefits therein. We can however (as Jesus does) invite othrers to join in to the fullness of what Christ offers us. That is why we as catholics need to be prepared to give a good answer to those in the exclusively invisible church. Every true christian wants more Jesus! Lets learn how to show them how to get more with the visible church! Take my word for it as a convert!


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