Saturday, August 06, 2005

In/Visible Church - Musings

Upon reflection, the concept of the Church having two aspects, both visible and invisible, is becoming further entrenched in my mind.
The fact that the Church has both of these facets is inescapable.
Beyond this, it is so apt.
Beginning at the beginning, in Genesis, and continuing on throughout the OT, we see that God has revealed that he has two people: the people of promise (the remnant), and his set aside people (the Israelite nation). The Law, and the Promise. The seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent. Jacob, and Esau. The spiritual reality within the physical appearance is a [the?] major theme running through the OT.
When we get to the NT, Jesus and the Apostles go on to explain and dogmatize the concept.
God's ways are higher than our ways.
We cannot see into the secret counsel of God.
We cannot judge the state, never mind the future state of men's hearts in relation to God.
The Shepherd knows His sheep, and His sheep hear His voice; but the Church can only know the profession (and conduct) of the sheep, and have to act and react based only on those criterea.
More later...

Monday, August 01, 2005

This Present Perrone Persuasion

In regards to the last post:

Who said this?
James Bannerman, in his remarkable The Church of Christ, is discussing the popish conception of the Church. Specifically, he was addressing her position on the in/visibility of the Church.

To whom was he referring?
Bannerman was referring to Giovanni Perrone, a contemporary Jesuit Professor of Theology in Rome. After both explaining the Protestant position on the in/visibility of the Church and the popish historical position of only affirming the visible Church, he presents Perrone's compromise, or third way, in response to some of the persuasive Protestant arguments.

In regards to the contemporary similitude:
Perrone proposed that the invisible Church was made up of all those "who had ever received grace through the ordinances and communion of the Church." Moreover, he further explained that "even though they [ie: some] should afterwards fall away and become [ie: prove themselves to be] reprobate, [they] are nevertheless to be accounted true members of the invisible Church of Christ."
Today, we witness the Federal Vision/Auburn Avenue Theology [FV] group expounding (basically) the same thing.
Steve Wilkins, for example, writes that if one partakes of all the blessings - esp. means of grace like the ordinance of baptism - one is in union with Christ and, further, if one should fall away (prove apostate/unregenerate), "they would perish like Israel of old. All their priveleges and blessings would become like so many anchors to sink them into the lake of fire." (See The Federal Vision, Monroe: Athanasius, 2004, p.60.)
Numerous examples - as explicit as this, or deduced by good and necessary consequence (See lines 245,246) - can confirm this position, the forbear of which Bannerman strenuously opposes as unorthodox. is not difficult to trace the one ruling and predominating idea which runs through the whole of the Popish system, - namely, the necessity and virtue of the outward grace communicated by the Church, instead of the inward call and election of God.
We see it, in like manner, in their ascription of the title and right of members of the invisible Church to those not chosen and not elected by God, but only joined to the visible Church, and sharing in its outward grace, notwithstanding that they shall afterwards fall away, and prove themselves to be reprobate.

With the apparent similarities (observable even more clearly upon investigation and reflection) so obvious, can we not say with Bannerman, "In both [Perrone & FV] cases it is the grace given or denied by the Church to the sinner, that confers or withholds the title of a member of the invisible Church of Christ, and not rather the purpose and election of God, calling him to the adoption and privileges of a son"?

The modern papist view is slightly modified from Perrone's day. It is, however, clear that by curent standards the papists still accede to some form of invisibility (see the case of people who apparently partake of grace yet remain outside the communion and dominion of the Papal See, here at section IX).