The Church

My previous post on this section of the Joint Statement is located here. I dealt with both sections on the church, since they need to be taken together. I still think that is necessary, since the main point concerns the visible/invisible church distinction. We must be careful on this point, since retractions are sometimes necessary.

That being said, these two sections are not above criticism. As I said before, although the visible/invisible church distinction is affirmed, the waters are muddied when he says, “the historical church generally corresponds to the visible church.” The matter would be much better put this way: the historical church consists of members of the visible and invisible church in time as they are on earth. My point I raised before about the eschatological church being fully visible is also helpful here. For members of the invisible church who are alive today are surely part of the historical church. That is why I find this statement unhelpful. To me, it still makes me think that the historical/eschatological is being confused with the visible/invisible. I do think the two distinctions are confused in RINE (see especially page 74 where Doug says that the historical/eschatology preserves the necessary distinction made by visible/invisible- it does no such thing!) and in Doug’s 2002 AAPC conference lectures where he talks of tipping over the visible/invisible distinction on its side so that it is temporal. The former distinction is diachronic, while the latter distinction is synchronic. Both distinctions are valid (is anyone denying the validity of the historical/eschatological distinction? If not, then why have a separate section denying such a denial?) and fully biblical. But they are different distinctions.

I would ask this question: is it legitimate in any way to say that members of the visible church who are not elect are not part of the church? How else can the visible church be described but as a church that seeks to measure up to the invisible church? Contrary to FV claims, this does not result either in denigration of the church, or in Baptistic thinking (unless the FV wants to take the unprecedented step of accusing non-paedo-communionists of being Baptistic). We do not believe in regenerate church membership for the visible church. That is the essence of Baptistic thinking. What is different about us is that we believe in regenerate membership of the invisible church.