Monday, September 24, 2007

Some Questions On Church

Is there one true Church on earth? (Yes or no)

If "no," then did the gates of Hades overcome it? ("And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Matt. 16:18)

If "yes," then which Church is the one true Church on earth?

Are you then willing to say that every other organization is not the Church?

If the Church you believe is the one true Church was formed sometime after Pentecost, what did those people previously belong to? What were they doing?

If you have in mind some grouping of people who are known to God but may be scattered around, then I ask if that is really an ecclesia or an idea.

6 comments :

  1. William Weedon said...

    Well, I suppose that what this really gets at is whether or not the Apology was correct in asserting that the Church, properly speaking, is an association of the Holy Spirit and faith in hearts. Such an association is no idea, of course, but a great reality in the world, and I firmly believe that the gates of hell will never prevail against it. But was such an assertion correct in the first place? In other words, the question that is at issue behind the questions you raise is simply: what IS the church?

  2. Mike Baker said...

    Here is how I would answer:

    Yes, there is one true church on earth. It is the Church Militant which can be found in those places where you find the gospel. Apart from Christ there can be no church.

    The church offers the only hope for lost sinners. All organizations which lack the gospel or obscure it with false doctrine offer no hope and cannot be the church.

    The one true church is lead by Christ. It is not defined by any outward organization but by inner Faith. It worships in Spirit and Truth (John 4:22-26). It has a circumcision of the heart that is made by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7). You cannot see it in an outward sense by way of rule and structure but you get a glimpse of it through those who believe by Faith and purely proclaim the gospel (Rom 2:27-29).

    Since Christ is King of it is a heavenly kingdom, the church of truth is neither an earthly ecclesia in the narrow sense nor is it merely an idea in any sense (John 18:33-37). It is a mystical body comprised of all who believe in -- and follow -- Jesus Christ (Matt 18:20, Rom 12:4-5). Christ is the head of this living church which is nourished by the Sacraments and strengthened by the Word (John 6:53-57). Defining it any other way would sever some who are true believers from a body which has no division (1 Cor 12:11-13).

    God's people have always been in the word, but not of it. Attempting to define this spiritual body in simple, earthly terms is like grabbing at the air with a butterfly net. We do not define God and His ways. He reveals the truth to us and we follow it. The true temple was not our earthly building in Jerusalem and the “official” religion of the Pharisees. Christ was the temple that was torn down and rebuilt in three days (John 2:19-22). The true temple, Christ, is where the church meets. Christ is why Hell could never prevail against the church (1 Cor 15:50-57).

  3. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Mike, Thanks for reading and posting comments here...and for reading through the re-created archives.

    I'll wait for some more discussion before I pipe in, but thanks again for commenting!

  4. Doorman-Priest said...

    I liked the question, but I think it leads us in the wrong direction.

    Surely the "one true church" consists not of institutions made by religious leaders, contemporary or historical, but the sum of all Christians, past, present and to come.

    I know that sounds abstract and a bit impractical, but it seems to me that if more of us thought like that, outside the boundaries of our denominational labels, than we might have a clearer sense of the disparate, varied and ever changing nature of the church.

    If we don't think this way we remain inward looking and unable always to celebrate that which is different in other denominational families. I am a Lutheran by choice and baptism: does that make me anything other than different to my Anglican wife? Different, not better nor worse. We believe the same essential things and choose to put subtle emphasis on the peripherals.

    Pax
    D.P. (4.12 pm GMT)

  5. Dixie said...

    From my perspective it comes down to Communion--definitely not an institution.

    While we may agree that one "shouldn't" attempt to divide the Cup, my priest goes even further saying one "can't" take the Cup and start a different fellowship somewhere else. The Cup cannot be divided. Which, of course, helps explains the Orthodox understanding of Church.

    I don't know anything about Anglicanism and how close or far it may be from Lutheranism...so I can't comment on why these denominations should or should not be in communion although I am betting some of the frequent commenters here may have a thing or two to say about that! ;)

  6. Christopher Orr said...

    The idea that one is or is not part of the Church based on what one believes seems to smack of ecclesiological receptionism. Baptism and the Cup are what create the Body of Christ, and it is dangerous to be a part of that Body unrepentant - holiness burns - which is why the Cup is denied to some (excommunication). The fact that returning apostates are not rebaptized is proof that they remain, in some way, a part of that Body even in their apostasy as the nail marks, imperfections and sins, in Christ. The issue becomes recognizing the true administers of these Mysteries and what degree of fullness in form is required for the Sacraments to remain sacramental, not to mention the degree to which the exceptions prove the rule rather than become a new rule.