The Church: Visible Or Invisible In A Fallen World? -- By: Samuiel Bâlc
JODT 16:48 (August 2012) p. 69
Visible Or Invisible In A Fallen World?
Samuiel Bâlc, Ph.D., pastor, Sibiu, Romania; and, professor, Baptist Theological Institute, Bucharest.
One of the most debated, ecclesiological topics is with regard to the visible or invisible character of the church. In this sense, understanding ecclesiology can provide edification and enthusiasm to believers, thereby encouraging spiritual life and ministry within the church, while ignorance of ecclesiology is a primary reason why many theologians claim false or bad practice. For the careful researcher, the study of church doctrine provides an opportunity to understand the body of believers and their thinking in a dynamic perspective. Today, when the testimony of the church is so compromised as a result of fragmentation and Christians are accused of mutual intolerance, the church’s involvement in a fallen world is hardly ever seen, and a genuine knowledge of the doctrine of the church is more necessary.
Church concepts can contribute to an understanding of the relationship of the believer with God—through Christ and the Holy Spirit—and the understanding of believers. As Hristu Andrutsos noted, “The doctrine of Church concentrates all dogmatic differences between churches and in the same time it is developing and growing from a single principle, the dogmatic systems of the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church and Protestantism.”1
The main thesis of the Protestant Reformers was that the true church is really invisible. What one sees is not the true church. Only those who have suffered an effective action of the divine Word in their soul, who truly believe, are members of the church. Only that faith which God created in the soul integrates someone in the church. Therefore, as they do not know each other, but only God knows them, the true church is invisible. The problem with regard to this church related concept is that, wishing to strengthen the churches founded by them and defend them in all sorts of sects dissolution, the Reformed had to establish some external criteria (as a means to be able to know the invisible church). In this way, however, the invisible church became visible, and the Reformer’s writings were marked
JODT 16:48 (August 2012) p. 70
by oscillation between the tendency to separate completely the invisible church from the visible church, or to bring it closer in order to identify it.
Although, in the beginning, Calvin also saw the church as all the elect of God (known only to God, so invisible), later he said, “We have to assume as elected and members of the Church those who professed Christian faith, prov...
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