Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is the Church earthly?

Over at the CREDO500 blog, Jason Loh's paper on "Calvin's View on the Cultural Mandate" has been published. While many many things can be said about the paper, the focus on this post will be with regards to the strange assertion that the Church "is a creation order" and that it has "an earthly institution[al]" aspect to it. Certainly, this is the first time I have seen such a strange position, which seems to run contrary to (and is contrary to) the teachings of Scripture.

In Loh's paper, the teaching that the Church has an earthly institutional aspect is based upon the fact that:

  1. The creation of Adam and Eve instituted the Church
  2. Adam and Eve worshipped God so therefore there is a Church there (Source)

It can be immediately seen that, even conceding the above two points, the idea of an earthly institutional aspect of the Church is not proved. It could instead be the Church has only a spiritual aspect that is formed at the creation of Adam and then Eve, with the physical aspect being the institution of the Family. The syllogism is therefore invalid. Nevertheless, let us assume for the sake of argument that the syllogism is valid. Are the premises true? In order to evaluate the question before us, we mus first define: What is the Church?

The word translated Church in Greek - ekklesia (εκκλησια) is made up of the parts ek-kaleo (εκ-καλεω) and means called-out [ones]. The Church by definition therefore is a spiritual body of people who are called out of the world unto God. Since they are "called out", therefore they must be called out of something. Throughout the Bible, the idea of calling always refer to being called out of the world and its idolatry to God, as seen in the examples of Noah, Abraham, Jacob and the Patriarchs, the entire nation of Israel, and finally the New Testament Church. Always, the focus is on the concept of redemption — that God calls men out unto salvation, be it physical salvation (as a type) like Noah and his family [1], or spiritual salvation which is explicitly seen in the New Testament Church.

The concept of the Church therefore is predicated upon the redemptive motif of Scripture. Redemption is what defines the Church, not worship, service, evangelism or anything else. With regards to worship, the angels in heaven worship God forever, yet they are most decidedly not part of the church, because the Church is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:32) and they the angles are not the bride of Christ but servants (Heb. 1:14). Worship therefore does not define the Church, and thus the second line of argument utilized by Loh is invalid and the premise false.

Developing this truth further, since the Church is defined by redemption, therefore pre-Fall Adam and Eve cannot be part of the church either. Being sinless, they do not need redemption before the Fall, for redemption is for sinners only. It is only after they sin that they require redemption, and thus the Church was instituted then after the Fall.

As it can be seen, the most fundamental problem with the entire idea of an earthly institutional church is that there is absolutely no Scriptural proof for the entire concept. Both lexically and redemptive-historically, the concept of the Church militates against the very idea of an "earthly institutional aspect" of the Church. The Church is and always will be one defined by redemption — the Gospel, and not Creation.


[1] This is not to say that Noah is only saved physically and not spiritually, but that the main concern of the Flood is physical salvation of the human race through Noah and family. Later, Ham and his son Canaan seemed to be a reprobate according to his despicable action (Gen. 9:21, 25), although we can not know for sure his eternal destiny.

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