What is the response to the Protestant belief that the Church is spiritual only?


#1

Protestants believe that the Church is a spiritual body only. What Biblical proof texts are there that the Church is indeed a physical body, the Catholic Church?


#2

The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. Composed of three divisions, we the living are fighting for our salvation therefore we are called the Church Militant, next is the Church Suffering, souls in Purgatory and finally the Church Triumphant the souls in heaven. We all help each other.

I think the reason the Protestants belief is different is simply because they omit this truth.


#3

Several texts, the point that Jesus stayed with His Apostles “40 days” after the resurrection to help them, teach them and establish His Church on earth. The fact that Jesus gave St Peter the keys to the kingdom. Gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins. Left us His Holy Spirit, we could go on, but i think that the point.


#4

Seems the Apostles were definitly a visible group. Peter being given the keys shows authority, and they proceeded to teach as Christ commanded. All this is far from being ‘spiritual and invisible’.

Kotton :slight_smile:


#5

The fact that the Church in the NT has officers, guidelines for the officers, and ordination of the officers cries out that the Church is visible (this is not to say that the Church does not have a spiritual nature also). Just as the human body has a visible/physical nature and an invisible/spiritual nature, so to Christ’s body (i.e. the Church).

Aug


#6

How about:
John 17:22-23
"The glory which thou hast given to me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me."
This passage refers to being visibly united for the world to see. Does Christianity seem united when viewed as so many divided denominations? And if we are to be one, as the Father and Son are One … do we believe that God can disagree within Himself on faith and morals?

also:
Mt. 18:15-18
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
What’s especially great about this passage is that a couple lines later it also says “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” which is a pet line for many Protestants, and yet in its context it works entirely against the claim that they want it to (disclaimer: I don’t mean every Protestant so distorts this passage).
The reason this is so great is because in the v15-18 Jesus talks about two or three people getting together in his name to resolve a dispute … and if in that group they cannot yet settle their quarrel they are then to bring the dispute to the church. Yes, Jesus was there amidst those who got together to try and solve a dispute, but might yet still have to refer to the church. Clearly, the presence of Christ in the midst of two or three believers a church does not make! The church is discussed here as a corporate entity, distinct from the invisible unity of believers.


#7

I’d be more interested in the Protestant proof texts that the Church is spiritual only.


#8

Good point. We sometimes fall for the premise that we always have to be on the defensive. Shouldn’t the burden of proof be sometimes be on those who say we are in error?


#9

Martin Luther invented the doctrine of the “invisible church of true believers” in the 16th century. There is no such doctrine in the historical record, until it appears in the Lutheran Confessions. Jesus and the Apostles did not teach it.

“…the Christian church, properly speaking, is nothing else than the assembly of all believers and saints…” Augsburg Confession, 1530.

The Church consists of the visible Church on earth (the Church Militant); and invisible (the Church Suffering in purgatory, the Church Triumphant in heaven). We are one Body, the Body of Christ.

A “dead” Christian is not dead, but alive in Christ. Death is the doorway to eternal life. Death does not separate the members of the Family of God.

Was St. Paul persecuting an invisible church? Read Acts 9:1-5:

Jesus speaks from heaven, where He had ascended to be with His Father:

“…Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

"And he [Saul] said to him, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ "

"And he [Jesus] replied, ’I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.' "

Saul was persecuting the first Church, the Catholic Church!


#10

Lord added to the Church daily . . .Acts 2:47.
Great fear came upon the whole Church . . .Acts 5:11
a great persecution arose against the Church. . .Acts 8:1
for a whole year, they met with the Church and taught . . .Acts 11:26
they appointed elders (priests) for them in every church…Acts 14:23
they gathered the Church together . . . Acts 14:27

Is that enough to prove the point? There’s plenty more.

The Church is a corporate body. Christ is its head, the Church is His Body.

Elder is the English translation of the Greek word presbyter.

Priest is the transliteraton of* presbyter.*


#11

then why take on flesh, why change bread and wine into flesh and blood, why spit into ,udd to heal a physicaly blind person…?

No Jesus meant for there to be a phisical church as well as a spiritual one…


#12

To be fair, the original Protestants (check their confessions), did believe in a “visible” church, but for them that is the “local” church throughout the world (of whatever denomination). The universal church is what is “spiritual” or invisible for them, but they do believe in local visible churches.

Here is a quote I’ve used in the past, from a book by an Evangelical scholar on the nature of the universal church:

The authors of the New Testament did not distinguish between the visible and invisible church. To them, the church that existed in the world was the only church there was…This visible church was the church…we do an injustice to the teaching of the New Testament authors if we impose this conception of an invisible church on the ideas they formulated. These authors were describing the concrete, historical, visible church that had come into existence in their day, and which was rapidly spreading throughout the Mediterranean world. It is this church that they chose to label the ecclesia.” (Craig Van Gelder, The Essence of the Church Baker, 2000 ], page 105,106)

Also, from the Geisler/Mackenzie book:

Protestants do not deny that there was a visible Christian church on earth that traces back to the apostles who exercised authority over it, including excommunication. What Protestants object to (and Catholics have not proven) is that [the] Roman Catholic jurisdiction is the sole heir to this original visible church that began with the apostles and will continue until Christ comes without the gates of hell destroying it.” (Geisler/MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals Baker, 1995 ], page 112, 276-277)

Phil P


#13

In addition to being a member of the Calvary Baptist Church, Southern, obviously visible, more importantly I belonged to the invisible church of true believers. That’s the REAL deal. Of course, only the “saved” from each denomination can belong. So there are Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, etc. etc., who all belong to this invisible church – but not unless they are “truly saved.” You can belong to your local, visible church, and think you are ‘saved,’ but you may never belong to the REAL one, because you’re not ‘truly saved.’

All Protestants know the church they attend each week isn’t invisible – but the one that really counts* is*.


#14

Fair enough on the original reformers, I have noticed a tendency on modern evanlelicals to want to highlight the spiritual and ignore the phisical side of worship, thus the rejetion of the sacraments and the likes…

As for the proof the the catholic church is the church founded upon Jesus, I think even a secular library will show this…until the reformation there were only 2 apostolic churches the Latin rite and the various orthodox rites (I say 2 for the sake of this discution)

and even the orthodox ritres recognized the bishop of Rome as succesor to Peter, they only disputed his level or authority…


#15

I find the words that people glom onto interesting.

With few exceptions, we live out our spirituality in the physical world (at least while we’re alive). You might as well say that there is an
intangible universal church of like-minded believers instead of an invisible one because the physical world there is where we get the teachings of Christ and his church. An invisible grace infuses our souls, but without love manifested in charity and piousness, the grace serves nothing.

That being said, if you don’t place side-by-side the beliefs of individual interpretations of scripture (which necessarily has to be done locally in the physical world), how can you know that any two people are really like-minded believers? When expanded to encompass the world of Protestantism, the characterization of
"an invisible union of like-minded believers" and the notion that “we all agree on the important stuff” falls apart, since you simply cannot support the claim without a physical instituion, organization, or medium to confirm it.


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