Visible vs Invisible Church - need resources

Hey All,

I need to write a research paper with the topic relating to theology of the church, and I would like to write something on how the church is understood visibly and invisibly (from both Catholic and Reformed sides).

Could some of you recommend a few good resources(books/articles/websites/audio) from a historical and scriptural perspective?

Thanks!

amazon.com/The-Church-Evolution-Catholicism/dp/0061245259

The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism
by Richard McBrien

Theology for Beginners: F. J. Sheed ~then~ Theology and Sanity: F. J. Sheed :thumbsup:

ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology1.iii.v.vii.html

That’s Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, section 7 of the 5th chapter in the introduction. As a resource that compares the two definitions of the Church it may prove useful.

thanks!

If you haven’t read the Catechism section on “Church”, I would say that is a must to get the proper understanding of Catholic theology about the Church - Paragraphs #748-975. The paragraphs begin at the below link.
vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P26.HTM

You might want to read all of the CCC paragraphs I referenced in Post 6 if you want the true, full Catholic understanding of “Church”.

Hodge doesn’t misrepresent the Catholic position at all. From the CCC you quoted, Paragraph 1:

752 In Christian usage, the word “church” designates the liturgical assembly, but also the local community or the whole universal community of believers. These three meanings are inseparable. “The Church” is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body.

(See also 770, 779) But in practice, as I’ve seen on another thread, no Catholic can - or even tries - to adhere to that doctrine. When it comes to discussing “separated brethren” or unbelievers within the RCC, these meanings of the Church come apart readily. And that’s because, as Hodge rightly points out, Catholicism substitutes the visible Church for the invisible. The attributes, prerogatives, and promises which belong to true believers alone cannot be applied to the RCC - or any local community - in which there may be many unbelievers. The visible and spiritual meanings of the Church are separable. The CCC is wrong.

But the OP wanted sources for a research paper. That part of Systematic Theology sets out the Protestant definition of the Church. That’s why I posted it. I don’t see how or why you would make the assumption I’m ignorant of the CCC, or how it could be relevant to the OP. :slight_smile: This thread is not about me.

He does misrepresent the Catholic position by not giving the full definition that Catholic teaching gives to the word “Church”.
Eg. Church is the Mystical Body of Christ; Church is the People of God;…
Hodge seems to know nothing about those aspects of the Catholic definition

I knew when I posted the CCC link how that first paragraph read; that is why I said “all” the paragraphs should be read. The concept of the Mystical Body of Christ (and all other “The Church is” parts) has to be understood and incorporated into any Catholic definition of “Church”. A few examples:

771 … a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men." The Church is at the same time:

  • a "society structured with hierarchical organs and** the mystical body of Christ**;
  • the visible society and the spiritual community;
  • the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches."
    These dimensions together constitute “one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element”:

779 The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept.

791 … Finally, the unity of the Mystical Body triumphs over all human divisions: "For **as many of you as were baptized into Christ **have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

798 The Holy Spirit … by Baptism, through which he forms Christ’s Body

804 One enters into the People of God by faith and Baptism

But the OP wanted sources for a research paper. That part of Systematic Theology sets out the Protestant definition of the Church. That’s why I posted it.

It was interesting to read what a Protestant scholar thinks Catholic teaching is.
And I agree it is a good source of the Protestant theology and meaning of “Church”.

I don’t see how or why you would make the assumption I’m ignorant of the CCC, or how it could be relevant to the OP. :slight_smile: This thread is not about me.

I apologize if you took my post as an insult; I certainly didn’t mean it that way. My assumption was that you accepted not only Hodge’s explanation of the Protestant position, but also accepted his explanation of Catholic teaching on “Church” as accurate, Thus I thought you might be interested to read the Catholic explanation and note the differences - how it is far more comprehensive than what he presents. I was not aware you were already familiar with that whole section of the CCC. Sorry.

The Church doesn’t substitute the visible Church for the invisible – it includes both in what can be included in the meaning of “Church”. The OP is specifically after “how the church is understood visibly and invisibly”.

(Catholicism has never taught that all those who are registered members of the visible Catholic Church are saved. The visible Church is not understood as an organization that contains only those people who will end up in the kingdom of God in heaven.)

For a Lutheran perspective (which may not be typical of protestants or evangelicals), there are plenty of sources online.

cyclopedia.lcms.org/display.asp?t1=c&word=CHURCH

And a lively discussion:
pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/2011/06/church-visible-and-invisible.html

Jon

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