Friday, March 04, 2011

Contra the Joint FV Profession: The Church (part 2)

[contined from here and here]

The Visible and Invisible Church

We affirm that there is only one true Church, and that this Church can legitimately be considered under various descriptions, including the aspects of visible and invisible. We further affirm that the visible Church is the true Church of Christ, and not an "approximate" Church.

We deny that such a distinction excludes other helpful distinctions, such as the historical church and eschatological church. The historical Church generally corresponds to the visible Church—all those who profess the true religion, together with their children—and the eschatological Church should be understood as the full number of God's chosen as they will be seen on the day of resurrection.

We have seen that the FV idea of objective membership results in salvation by faith and works. By collapsing the visible and invisible church distinction, all members in the church are to be considered Christians as they are members in a "visible and objective" covenant community.

Yet the FV advocates insist they believe in the visible/ invisible church distinction. What are we to make of their assertion in this regard?

It is in this light that we come to the very next section in the Joint FV Profession that supposedly deals with the very topic. Putting what is stated in this section together with that in the previous section, we can see how the FV advocates understand the Visible/ Invisible Church distinction.

The FV advocates understand the Visible Church as being co-extensive with the Local and Universal Church, which is fine. Their view of the Invisible Church however is a mere concept which is an acknowledgment that not all in the visible church may be saved. Therefore, for them the invisible church refers to the groups of true believers that will remain faithful to the end, of which we do not yet know who they are.

This distinction is diffracted by the slits of the objectivization of the covenant. Since all church members are truly saved now, therefore the "invisible church" does not really exist as a concrete reality. It is a mere phantom that only becomes actualized at the end of the age when those who are faithful will be seen as the invisible church.

The FV idea of the visible/invisible church distinction therefore should be better termed the historic/eschatological church distinction. That is because a virtual entity at present ("invisible church") should not be considered as a real entity now. The elect in such a scheme are known by the mind of God but they are not presented as being real in God's sight.

Over and against the FV distortion of the visible/ invisible church distinction, the historic Reformed definition is that both the "visible church" and the "invisible church" are concrete realities now. The elect while hidden (invisible) are discernible by God from the unelect even now; the elect have God's Spirit in them while the unelect do not have the Spirit in them.

So does the FV deny the Visible/ Invisible Church distinction? If the distinction is used as redefined by the FVists, then no. However, if we are using terms the way they have been historically used, then yes.

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