How are Particular Churches Members of the catholic Visible Church?

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Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
mhausam said:
However, the Reformed have also typically granted that this does not mean that there are no true Christians in the Roman church and no manifestation at all to any degree of the visible church in her. They did say that any true Christians in the Roman church are true Christians only to the extent that they reject the full implications of Rome's heresies in their own beliefs and lives.
Yes, as Richard noted, they were seen as a part of the catholic visible church (or the catholic visible church was within Rome). Does your term "de facto" refer to the catholic visible church that consists of professors and their children (that is, not an institutional or organizational church but existing within and beyond institutions and organizations), or do you not have room for such in your terminology (I notice that your original use of the term "de facto" includes some sort of organization for its essence)?

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armourbearer said:
One should beware of putting the church in the place of (anti) Christ.
I only just understood what you were saying. That's a good point. If a church must exist within a particular institution in order to exist as a part of the catholic visible church by right and not by fact only, then that certainly does seem to put the church in the place of Christ. And of course, if one made the catholic visible church an institution or at least believed that the only rightful catholic visible church was an institution, then one would not see that one is doing such.
 

mhausam

Puritan Board Freshman
"If a church must exist within a particular institution in order to exist as a part of the catholic visible church by right and not by fact only, then that certainly does seem to put the church in the place of Christ."

I don't see how. All I am saying is that the church ought to be formally visible in an institution, so far as that is practically possible, and that that formal institutionality, so far as it is practically possible, is to extend between congregations to the whole church in all the world. That is the biblical, historic presbyterian view, although it has always been odious to those influenced by independency.

It is always easy to make assertions, but they need to be backed up. For instance, some people would say that having a visible, formal church at all with a ruling session "puts the session in the place of Christ." Well, they can say so, but their saying so doesn't make it so. If the presbyterian idea of the church is biblical, then it is not replacing Christ--it is obedience to Christ.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
mhausam said:
As I use the terminology, the church de facto refers to any visible appearance of Christianity, Christians, the church, etc., in the world, whatever its organizational condition. So it would include denominations, and it would also include a group of Christians hanging around praying at Wal-Mart, etc.
So far as I am aware (and am using the term), the catholic visible church has no organization, not merely transcends it. So it would seem the term "de facto" is a bit wider, since it includes organized bodies rather than visible saints only (so far as I understand, all organized bodies are an expression of the catholic visible church, and they are either truly or falsely constituted as a church, depending on the "marks" of the church; I don't know how on this view one distinguishes between a private gathering such as you described and an actual church, though it may have something to do with the sacraments being lawfully administered and discipline, the other two "marks" of the church), which would explain how it seems to me an equivocation goes on in your argument on the term "body of Christ" (from not having an institution to having an institution as part of its essence)--though certainly, from your use of terminology, you would not see such as an equivocation.
 

mhausam

Puritan Board Freshman
"So far as I am aware (and am using the term), the catholic visible church has no organization, not merely transcends it."

According to biblical, presbyterian church government, the catholic visible church (speaking de jure) does indeed have, or at least ought to have, an organization. This is because the church is to be formally united throughout the world under mutually-binding councils.

"which would explain how it seems to me an equivocation goes on in your argument on the term "body of Christ" (from not having an institution to having an institution as part of its essence)"

There is no equivocation in saying that there are different aspects to the existence and nature of the church. Nothing I have said affirms and denies the same thing, which is what equivocation is. I affirm that the church has more than one non-contradictory aspect to its nature, and two of those aspects are the church de facto and the church de jure. Saying this is no more equivocating than to say that the church can exist both visibly and invisibly.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
mhausam said:
I don't see how. All I am saying is that the church ought to be formally visible in an institution, so far as that is practically possible, and that that formal institutionality, so far as it is practically possible, is to extend between congregations to the whole church in all the world. That is the biblical, historic presbyterian view, although it has always been odious to those influenced by independency.
So far as I understand (and Mr. Winzer can correct me if I'm wrong), it isn't being an institution that is the problem, but rather, that a particular church must belong to this or that institution. From what I understand, a church is rightly a part of the visible catholic church by being a part of Christ and does not need to be attached to a particular church body in order to be a part of the visible catholic church by right. By adding the requirement that a particular church can only rightly be a part of the catholic visible church by attaching itself to a particular institution means the church is taking the role of Christ in determining which churches are rightly part of the catholic visible church, those being a part of that particular church being those and those only that are rightly part of the catholic visible church. That is, instead of needing to be part of the body of Christ to rightly be a member of the catholic visible church, it is additionally needed that a particular church is a member of the body of some other particular church that is for one reason or another rightly in the catholic visible church, and so effectively and for all practical purposes, this particular church body has taken the place of Christ when it comes to determining whether a church is rightly in the catholic visible church.

And none disagree on what ought to be. So far as I can tell though, that is not all that you are saying. As you noted to me when I argued with you elsewhere (and the more I understand the more I agree such is true), you are making the "ought" an "is", namely, that there exists an institutional catholic visible church and from your argumentation, it seems you would also hold there always exists such a church, though such a church might not extend outside of a nation for some time. That church is what you would call the catholic visible church de jure. Hence making a particular institution of the essence of the catholic visible church (since it doesn't seem "de facto" exactly corresponds to the non-institutional catholic visible church that I've been describing; that is what I was trying to get clarified). So far as I understand anyway. I'd rather let those who understand these things better (like Rev. Winzer) argue with you; my posts were merely for the sake of clarifying what exactly it is you are saying (and by now, I have read your blog articles on this matter). And indeed, I've probably participated too much already, since the longer this thread gets, the less likely such people will have time to respond.

mhausam said:
According to biblical, presbyterian church government, the catholic visible church (speaking de jure) does indeed have, or at least ought to have, an organization. This is because the church is to be formally united throughout the world under mutually-binding councils.
So far as I'm aware, churches joined around the world in an ecumenical council, though called catholic, is actually a particular church, since it has been particularized through the oracles, ordinances, and ministry. That institutional, ecumenical church is then called catholic for obvious reasons. But the catholic visible church of what I was speaking has no external organization, being simply defined as the body of visible saints (per Hudson's definition), though such saints are understood to constitute the house and family and kingdom of God, as they are all under one government from the general Covenant of grace, ruled by the same rules (the Scriptures), and since having officers that are officers to the entire body (though not in a Romanist sense or as catholic pastors of the world) (edit: and yes, also because it has particularized, organized bodies as parts of it), also an organical body. But nevertheless, as far as I'm aware, this catholic visible church has no external organization.

mhausam said:
There is no equivocation in saying that there are different aspects to the existence and nature of the church. Nothing I have said affirms and denies the same thing, which is what equivocation is. I affirm that the church has more than one non-contradictory aspect to its nature, and two of those aspects are the church de facto and the church de jure. Saying this is no more equivocating than to say that the church can exist both visibly and invisibly.
Sorry for the misunderstanding. By "equivocation", I was referring to defining terms differently within the course of an argument (the extremely long argument in the blog post you made). Of course, on your view, and in the utmost technical sense, you would not be equivocating, because of the way you define terms. But it would subjectively seem to me you were equivocating not only subjectively, because you and I understand the terms differently, but also objectively and historically, because (so far as I'm aware) these terms are defined objectively and historically differently than the way you were using them.
 
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mhausam

Puritan Board Freshman
OK, I think I understand your concerns. Thank you for articulating them so clearly. Let me see if I can help to clarify what I am saying further.

In a presbyterian system, individual congregations have a right and an obligation to be united to each other under mutually-binding councils. The concentric circles of such councils go all the way up to the whole church in all the world (the ecumenical council). All of the church councils have authority to teach, to rule, to discipline, etc.

Churches have a moral obligation to be united to each other in such a formal structure as I've just described. If a church engages in schism, by teaching or engaging in false doctrines or practices (heresy), apostatizing from Christianity (apostasy), or simply by refusing to preserve its unity with the other churches (schism simpliciter), it is engaging in sin. Such a church can and ought to be disciplined by the rest of the body; and that discipline, if just, is binding, because God has given the authority of the keys of the kingdom to church courts acting legitimately.

As a matter of fact, in a presbyterian system, the very act of continuing separation among churches that could be united implies a charge of schism from each of the churches to the others and a mutual rejection of each others' de jure authority. For example, the FCC and the FPCS are separated from each other. As each claims to be presbyterian, this implies that each denomination rejects the claim to authority of the other and accuses the other of schism. Either one of them is right in doing this or the other is right, or both of them are wrong, but they cannot both be right. Now, if we have a proper respect for church courts legitimately exercising their power, if we think, say, that the FPCS is just and right in its continuing separation from the FCC, then we have a moral obligation (considering only these two denominations for the time being) to continue in communion with the FPCS and remove ourselves from communion with the FCC, if it is practically possible to do so, on the grounds that the FPCS church courts have legitimately rejected the FCC's authority. Since the FCC has no authority, we should not treat it as possessing such authority by continuing in membership with it, etc. We can still say that both the FPCS and the FCC are true churches de facto, meaning that they seem to be true manifestations of the presence of God's people in the world and God is working through them to save and preserve his people, but we cannot attribute de jure legitimacy and authority to the FCC.

So, if the FPCS has a just right to maintain a separate existence, we ought to recognize their de jure authority and refuse to recognize de jure authority in denominations they have rejected. In this sense, the catholic unity of the church requires particular churches, in order to retain their de jure status, to remain in full communion with the FPCS. This is not the same as saying that there is some divine infallibility or specialness granted to the FPCS as the FPCS. If the FPCS were to embrace doctrinal or practical error such that its members would have to split from it to maintain the duties of their consciences, and if then a branch broke off from the FPCS to continue its earlier testimony, at that point the FPCS would cease to have de jure authority as it would be transferred to the new branch. Or, alternatively, if no branch broke off the FPCS but members could not remain in it in good conscience, then I would say that the next-in-line denomination, all things considered, should be considered the proper de jure line at that point, so long as sin is not required to remain in it.

There is nothing in this that usurps Christ's place. It is Christ who has given the keys of governance and discipline to the church. Some would argue that when a church excommunicates an individual, it is usurping the place of Christ. Who is the church to determine who should be and who should not be in the church? What presumption! But we Presbyterians know that this is fallacious thinking. It is not a usurping of Christ's authority to excommunicate someone from the church, provided the excommunication is just. Christ himself gave this power to the church. Likewise, Christ gave the power of discipline to the larger councils of the church to exercise discipline over smaller groups of the church, and a legitimate presbytery or general assembly, for example, has the power to discipline a particular congregational church or even to cut it off and rescind the authority of its session.

So this is what I am saying, and it is completely in line with biblical and historic Presbyterian thinking about the nature of the church. In fact, it is required by both.

"So far as I'm aware, churches joined around the world in an ecumenical council, though called catholic, is actually a particular church, since it has been particularized through the oracles, ordinances, and ministry. That institutional, ecumenical church is then called catholic for obvious reasons. But the catholic visible church of what I was speaking has no external organization, being simply defined as the body of visible saints (per Hudson's definition), "

Sure, you can call the entire catholic church a particular church if you want, though you should keep in mind that that is not how Presbyterians have historically used the term. You are using "particular" to mean "actual" or "institutional," in the way that a particular peanut is an instantiation of the peanut-kind. But most people mean by a "particular church" a church that is a part of the larger catholic church in distinction from the whole catholic church.

The catholic visible church with no external organization, as you describe it, can be nothing other than what I call the church de facto in a presbyterian system. You should not have such a situation in a presbyterian system in a de jure sense, because the Bible requires legitimate de jure churches to maintain visible, organizational union with each other. Now, I do not deny that there can be practical situations in which it is not possible for the worldwide church to be in full visible unity. If a particular part of the church were lost in the Amazon rain forest, for example, or if we had a nuclear disaster that cut off communication across the world, it may be impossible for the church to be visibly unified. Heavy persecution might also create such a situation. But, in presbyterianism, legitimate churches have a moral duty to maintain visible, organizational unity with each other when possible. It is their right and their responsibility. The idea of a worldwide church in which particular churches recognize each others' de jure legitimacy but do not join together in larger presbyterian structures when it is possible to do so is not a presbyterian idea, but one influenced by independency or semi-independency.

"As you noted to me when I argued with you elsewhere (and the more I understand the more I agree such is true), you are making the "ought" an "is", namely, that there exists an institutional catholic visible church and from your argumentation, it seems you would also hold there always exists such a church, though such a church might not extend outside of a nation for some time."

As I just articulated, I do not hold that there will always be such a visibly-organized church. But I say that there should be such an organized unity unless it is practically impossible, because such is a moral requirement. Organizational disunity is not indifferent; it is a sin.

"But it would subjectively seem to me you were equivocating not only subjectively, because you and I understand the terms differently, but also objectively and historically, because (so far as I'm aware) these terms are defined objectively and historically differently than the way you were using them."

I don't think so, though I admit that I've had to bring in some terminology of my own to articulate the full nature of the church to my own satisfaction. The de jure/de facto distinction is implied in presbyterianism, unless we want to say that all outside the de jure church must be unregenerate and in no sense part of the Body of Christ, which I do not believe we have warrant to say.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
1. Does a "local church" exist when it is not meeting together in the context of gathered worship?

Yes; 1 Cor. 1:2, "To the church of God which is at Corinth." 1 Cor. 11:18, "When ye come together in the church." 1 Cor. 11:20, "When ye come together therefore into one place." 1 Cor. 14:23, "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place." The church is a distinct entity and the gathering is an action of that entity. This helps us to see that any group of Christians praying in a certain place is not on that account to be regarded as "the church."

2. Ought we to care more for those in our local congregation than for our brethren in other congregations?

It is not a matter of "caring" more, but of "showing" more care because of the responsibility and opportunity which nearness affords. Love thy "neighbour," is literally, Love the bower nigh you, or the person living near you.

3. Were the "Church at Jerusalem" the "Church at Ephesus," the "Church at Laodicea" each one big church that had the same elders?

As noted, Corinth is addressed as one church. In 14:34 the apostle says, "Let your women keep silence in the churches." It was one in government and order (or was to be one as a standard, since the apostle wrote to rectify their divisions), but contained various congregations.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
mhausam said:
OK, I think I understand your concerns. Thank you for articulating them so clearly. Let me see if I can help to clarify what I am saying further.
Thank you. I think I understand what you are saying better now. The de facto church is the catholic visible church of which I've been speaking, and the de jure church takes a relation to the de facto church with respect to the catholic visible church analogous (though differing in that this distinction is a matter of authority, legitimacy, and right to a separate governing existence) to what the "well-being" takes in relation to a church in "being" with respect to true churches. I'll leave the rest and the historical comments to those who understand these things better, unless/until I gain a better understanding of ecclesiology to engage them (though admittedly, I am tempted to reply and might be able to carry on a little more).
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Currious if you see the "RC" of today as being esentially the same at the time of the reformers? The reason I ask is because no doubt the WCF saw RC baptism being valid. Though I just do not undersatnd how they did so when in chapter 25 they saw them as being not a true church that can adminster baptism, especially with the view that the RC "church" baptism replaces faith as the instramental cause of salvation, which In my most humble opinion is why I got baptized in a protestant church years ago and gave testamony that it is faith in Christ alone that saves. The example of Rev 3:14 appears to me as The Lord considering them a true church even though they were "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" and He was about to discipline them. I do noy see this with the RC "church" today or when the reforamtion took place. (Of course hindsight is 20/20 here)

On your grounds of rejecting RC baptism one would have to include the "intention" of the minister in the validity of the ordinance. The Confession rejects this. Besides having no Scriptural warrant, "intention" makes it practically impossible to know who has actually been baptised.

The Confession calls the Pope the antichrist, i.e., arrogantly assumes the place of Christ as head of the church. The Pope can only do this because the Roman Catholic Church is a "church" holding certain fundamentals which are necessary for the form of a church. One of those fundamentals is Christian baptism. This is what distinguishes it from a cult.
 
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