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Featured Is The Church Divided?

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by Tree of Life, Oct 20, 2018.

  1. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Reformed Catholic, Puritan

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    Is the Church of Jesus Christ truly divided?

    Catholics seem to be saying two things that I don't see how can be reconciled. They say:

    (1) The Church cannot be divided. It is gifted with unity and will always be one, visible institution. Anyone who does not acknowledge the primary authority of the bishop of Rome of who does not submit to Roman doctrine is a schismatic and is not a legitimate church, as there is only one legitimate church. So there is only one true church. This can be found in RCC 813-816.

    (2) But on the other hand, Catholics also say that Christians who profess the Christian faith and who have received baptism are legitimately justified and are legitimately Christians (RCC 818-819) and that Protestant Christians and EO Christians are in a "certain and imperfect communion with the Roman Catholic Church" (RCC 838).

    So Catholics say that there is only one church which cannot be divided. Yet they say that there are many Christians (about half) who are not Catholic.

    I don't think Catholics can have it both ways. Either there is one church which is truly undivided and all those outside of it are not in communion with it at all and should be rebaptized upon entry into Catholicism (a position that Catholics reject). Or the one church of Jesus Christ expresses itself in many denominations as the majority of Protestants have always maintained.
     
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  2. Maria Billingsley

    Maria Billingsley Member

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    Tree of life- You are correct, you can not have it both ways. As a Christian, I believe the Church are those who's names are written in the book of life and are part of the Kingdom of God. You will not find these people in one denomination, they are spread out among all believers of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. There may be one or two in this denomination or 200-300 in that denomination. So no denomination has them all.

    There is only one thing binding this group, Christ and Christ alone.
     
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  3. Shempster

    Shempster ImJustMe Supporter

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    The outward, visible church is divided thousands of ways.
    The "true church", which is sprinkled throughout the visible church is never divided because they obey Jesus commands to love one another....even those who cause divisions.
    This is the grand conundrum.
     
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  4. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Or both Catholics and Protestants are incorrect, but in different ways.

    Catholics are incorrect in saying (to the extent that they say this) that their Pope is the leader of all Christians and the sole successor to St. Peter, and hence it is a necessity that all be in union with him if they wish to be in communion with St. Peter, and Protestants are incorrect (again, to the extent that they say this) in saying that the Church has no concrete, earthly existence, but is instead some kind of cosmic/dematerialized communion not borne out in reality by the communion of churches united under their local bishops, and their bishops by their mutual recognition of one another at the synodal and patriarchal level.
     
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  5. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Reformed Catholic, Puritan

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    I've never heard a Protestant minister teach anything like this. Where are you getting this from?
     
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  6. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Lots of Protestants say this in various ways. See, e.g., post #3, directly above my reply. "The outward, visible Church X, but the true Church Y", etc.
     
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  7. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Reformed Catholic, Puritan

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    Protestants traditionally distinguish between the visible and invisible church - a Biblical distinction that the Roman Church has failed to grasp. But Protestants don't say that the church "has no concrete, earthly existence".
     
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  8. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    :scratch:

    You say it's invisible, and contrast what this invisible, true Church is doing with what the "outward, visible" Church is doing.

    I dunno. I don't get it.
     
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  9. Chris V++

    Chris V++ Free in Christ Supporter

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    10 Christians from 10 different denominations pass a begging, disabled, homeless shelter person on the street and each gives him a few bucks. Whose church responded? The 'invisible' church. God's people, God's church.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
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  10. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

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    Shempster was correct. The visible church(es) was not denied, but the true church (per his post #3), which is also known as the invisible church because its members are known only to God and it is not associated with any particular denomination, is composed of all true believers, wherever they are.
     
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  11. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Our Apostle Paul says who is qualified to be approved by God to be a pastor > 1 Timothy 3:1-10. It is clear to me that a number of groups do not obey this standard. So, they are not in the obedient succession from Jesus to now.

    However, still, individuals can become qualified and pastor wherever God makes a way for them. And even while there was much public conflict of groups, I think Jesus has always had His gentle and humble people who might not have been publicly known, might not be mentioned in our history books; they were busy with loving, personally caring for and sharing with people > they did not get tangled elsewhere > 2 Timothy 2:4.

    "rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." (1 Peter 3:4)

    How we are is what matters most. But various people in history have given much attention to what to think and do, but not much, it seems, to how to become in our nature because of the real Jesus growing in us (Galatians 4:19, 1 John 4:17).

    But in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus first talks about how to be. And pastors who are approved obey this >

    "nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:3)

    A Biblical example is a sample of how to be and relate, not only what to believe and do. This is why Paul gives us qualifications about how the qualified person is, in 1 Timothy 3:1-10, along with how he takes care of his home in our Father's family caring and sharing way so personal.

    Our Father is personal with each of us who are His children (Romans 5:5); and His examples care like this for us > 1 Thessalonians 2:7 & 2:11.
     
  12. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Yep. In other words, it's a cosmic/dematerialized version of Christian ecclesiology, not corresponding to who is actually in communion with whom, but instead subsisting in this idea that somehow outside of or above all that is a 'communion' of Christians in an 'invisible Church', which is something different than the physical/material unity of churches such as is found in the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the various High-Church forms of Protestantism that maintain closed communion, etc. That's what I claimed in my first post in this thread.

    So, yes, the visible Church is denied by this ecclesiology, in favor of an invisible one.

    I don't know about the rest of you, but i know who I am in communion with by virtue of who is operating under the auspices of bishops who are recognized as canonical within my communion, such that if I wanted to know where the Church is in my area, I could physically go there and make a tally of every single person within whatever particular parishes are within the diocese in which I reside. There may be people outside of these real, existing physical boundaries who will be in the Church in the hereafter, and these are known only to God. Similarly, there may be some who are within the Church here on earth who will not be among the believers in the hereafter, and these too are known only to God (as even the apostate's heart is known only to Him). The difference being that the two are never opposed to one another, unlike in the Protestant conception whereby the true Church is the invisible one, while the visible one is off doing whatever.

    This kind of Protestant Gnosticism (to call it by the name given to it by Presbyterian pastor and author Philip J. Lee) finds it ecclesiological expression in a similar sort of invisibility-privileging dualism which leads to schizophrenic notions of the Church wherein it can be set against itself, whereas in reality the Holy Spirit is teaching one thing, and hence the Church is one, not two (in 'visible' and 'invisible' varieties), or three, or ten, or ten thousand.

    Traditional Christian ecclesiology is not like the Predator, and hence we do not have to worry about tripping over an invisible Church that is nonetheless somehow still there. We can tell where the Church is in the actually existing physical world, and actually go there and commune within it (as in receive physically tangible communion from the hand of a real, actually existing priest), even if its canonical boundaries may not correspond to the membership of those who are within it in the afterlife. (To claim otherwise would be essentially to claim that God is restricted according to particular ecclesiological boundaries, which is not something that any Christian would claim, I would hope. Maybe there are some extreme forms of Calvinism that might claim something like that, but that is not within the mainstream of Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant thought as far as I have ever been told by adherents of any of the various varieties of these churches.)
     
  13. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Reformed Catholic, Puritan

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    No I wouldn't sharply contrast them as if they have no relationship to one another. There is a sense in which the church is visible and a sense in which the church is invisible.

    The visible church is a human society and institution which includes both the elect and non-elect, both true believers and unbelievers. A person may be a member of the institution and yet not really believe in Jesus and thus not really be united to him.

    The invisible church is the body of all people of all time who are united to Christ in faith. This is the body of the elect and those who will ultimately be saved.

    There's obviously a lot of overlap. Members of the invisible church will always be members of the visible church. But just cuz you a member of the visible church doesn't make you an heir of salvation and a member of Christ.

    It is, for whatever reason, a very difficult distinction for Roman Christians to wrap their minds around.
     
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  14. cobblestone

    cobblestone Under construction

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    Being a member or not of the visible church can also be distanced from those who would never deny Christ.
     
  15. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

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    The way you have worded it here, however, it doesn't appear to me to describe what I/we have been explaining to you.

    Not in the least.

    So also could I and the rest of us.

    I'm sorry that you cannot understand the concept of a visible church and also what is called the invisible church. I am confident that it is quite understandable, so perhaps I did an inadequate job of explaining it.
     
  16. Chris V++

    Chris V++ Free in Christ Supporter

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    Exactly! Sometimes we invisible church members can sort of recognize each other without speaking. I think C.S. Lewis said something to that effect.

    update
    “Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognisable: but others can be recognised. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognisable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’ which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. (We must get over wanting to be NEEDED: in some goodish people, specially women, that is the hardest of all temptations to resist.) They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognised one of them, you will recognise the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?) that they recognise one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun” C.S. Lewis
     
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  17. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Well maybe not you personally, OP, but plenty of others will, to the point of believing that membership in an actually existing, physical Church somehow gets in the way of being a member of His true Church, which is almost universally taken to be the 'invisible church' as something separate from the visible Church, by those whose ecclesiology depends on this distinction.

    Okay.

    And you know that you are united to Christ in faith how? How is that unity of faith visibly and physically manifested in the world? (or is it?)

    Will they, though? This is not my ecclesiology to begin with, but from talking with people who seem to hold to it, it seems that they will assert that they are members of the invisible Church, and yet never show up to liturgy, never celebrate the Church's fasts and feasts, never participate in the daily prayer cycle, never commemorate the Church's saints, etc. So what is someone supposed to do -- just take their word for it that they are one in faith with all the other Christians who do all of these things, even if it is not manifest in actually being together with them?

    This is what I mean by saying that they seem to privilege the invisible Church over and against the visible, and hence embrace a kind of Gnosticism: the second anything gets physical, they back off. Suddenly the true Church is something other than the physically existing church that you can go to and participate in liturgy with, get baptized into and serve, receive the sacraments in, etc.

    It's kinda strange, from that viewpoint. It would be like if someone were to swear up and down that they were married to you, but you'd never seen them or interacted with them before, they'd never so much as learned the location of your house, they didn't know anything about you, etc. You wouldn't believe them, and it would be hard to see how they could believe their own claim, since it's not backed up by anything that they could actually do to make clear that this belief had any concrete existence or reality outside of their own head, or that they even intended it to be manifest in reality in the first place.

    True enough.

    I don't know about that. Again, I wouldn't imagine that any Christian would want to limit how or where God can work. I'm neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant, but I think that would be just about the worst thing a person could do.
     
  18. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Put simply, if the Church is the Body of Christ -- and it is -- then it must exist not only in the sense of being of one mind spiritually (what I take you all to mean when you say "the invisible church"), but also be physically present in the world, as Christ our Lord was likewise physically present in the world. He was not a ghost, He was not invisible, and He did not flicker in and out of existence according to whatever was happening in any particular location (Rome, or anywhere else).

    In a weird way I think the Protestant insistence on the 'invisible' Church and its distinction from the visible Church kind of gives Rome a bit too much power, or at least more power in its ecclesiological claims than you'd likely actually feel that it has. It seems best to say "Okay, Rome claims X, but X wrong, so too bad for Rome", rather than crafting any kind of ecclesiology that places being in communion -- actual, physical/literal communion -- below whatever this other stuff is...where you're a part of the Church but that doesn't necessarily mean being part of a church (because you've wisely surmised that Rome goes too far in the opposite direction). It's not a matter of saying that there's a 1:1 correspondence of who is in the church building and who has acquired the mind and faith of the Church (we seem to agree that these are not one and the same thing), but rather that even solitary monastics will meet to celebrate the Eucharist together, because Christ said that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, He is among them. I don't recall there being any exceptions for people who would prefer to be off on their own, with some kind of notion that they are part of an 'invisible' church anyway, when they have very clear 'visible' options that would allow them to gather together, as is after the all the pattern of the Church as shown in the majority of St. Paul's epistles (written to whole communities of believers at Rome, Ephesus, Galatia, etc.), and the apostolic fathers such as St. Ignatius of Antioch, who exhorted the early Christian community to gather around the bishop, not around their own sense that they agree with the people who do that even if they themselves won't.
     
  19. Hazelelponi

    Hazelelponi Just someone with no business here

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    Just speaking for me personally, I never did anything to get saved in the first place. Jesus loved me and my life utterly changed, not by my own merits (although I did believe but not even that was my own work), but through His.

    So I'm not sure how anyone should expect me to "do" things for recognition from men.

    Of all the things God has required of me I have done. If you don't accept this then its just not my difficulty, in my estimation of things.

    I don't know who your churches saints even are.. all i know is that God called me Israel, and I have followed Him since. Its not to you to accept it or not, it's to God to see this work in me that He began through to the end..

    Yes I know.. you believe me a heretic. Seems a theme these days.
     
  20. cobblestone

    cobblestone Under construction

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    Can you expand on why you relate the 'invisible' church to Gnosticism, when it seems your merely saying it's heretical because you don't understand it.

    Gnosticism says that humans are divine souls trapped in the ordinary physical (or material) world. They say that the world was made by an imperfect spirit. The imperfect spirit is thought to be the same as the God of Abraham. ... Some Gnostic groups saw Jesus as sent by the supreme being, to bring gnosis to the Earth.


    What are the beliefs of Gnosticism?

    A highly controversial group in the history of the Christian church, the Gnostics believed our world was actually created by an evil being named Demiurge. They still believe in a pure and good God, but they believe he created a spiritual realm, including eight divine beings called Aeons.
     
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