Question 1 – Church = Believers
In the section of your rebuttal titled, “A False Conclusion, an Attack on the Church,” you cite various Scriptures and the writings of Irenaeus. You apply those passages as if they were directed to your church (i.e. the church of Rome), and not as though they were directed to the church, defined as all believers (see WCF XXV:I “I. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all”).
Philip Schaff, in History of the Apostolic Church, states: “The wide view of the church as the total of believers, the whole kingdom of Christ on earth, is the original one; the narrower sense of the term, in which it denotes a particular local congregation, as the church of Corinth or of Rome, is the derived.” (Schaff, 1859 ed. p. 500)
Furthermore, we see that this is the same definition Irenaeus (who you quoted) used: “For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter XXIV, 1.
Likewise, Clement of Alexandria states: “Thus believing alone, and regeneration, is perfection in life; for God is never weak. For as His will is work, and this is named the world; so also His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church. He knows, therefore, whom He has called, and whom He has saved; and at one and the same time He called and saved them. “For ye are,” says the apostle, “taught of God.”” Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book I, Chapter VI
Tertullian likewise, in De Pœnit. 10 states, “Where one or two are, is the church, and the church is Christ,” and in another place states “For though you think heaven still shut, remember that the Lord left here to Peter and through him to the Church, the keys of it, which every one who has been here put to the question, and also made confession, will carry with him.” Tertullian, Scorpiace, Chapter X.
So also confesses Origen: “But that we may win over to the reception of our views those who are willing to accept the inferences which flow from our doctrines, and to be benefited thereby, we say that the holy Scriptures declare the body of Christ, animated by the Son of God, to be the whole Church of God, and the members of this body—considered as a whole—to consist of those who are believers; since, as a soul vivifies and moves the body, which of itself has not the natural power of motion like a living being, so the Word, arousing and moving the whole body, the Church, to befitting action, awakens, moreover, each individual member belonging to the Church, so that they do nothing apart from the Word.” Origen, Against Celsus, Book VI, Chapter xlviii.
And Lactantius says the same thing: “But the prophets spoke of Him who was then born after that David had slept with his fathers. Besides, the reign of Solomon was not everlasting; for he reigned forty years. In the next place, Solomon was never called the son of God, but the son of David; and the house which he built was not firmly established, as the Church, which is the true temple of God, which does not consist of walls, but of the heart and faith of the men who believe on Him, and are called faithful.” Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book IV, Chapter xiii.
Jerome similar writes: “The Church does not depend upon walls, but upon the truth of its doctrines. The Church is there, where the true faith is. But about fifteen or twenty years ago, heretics possessed all the walls of the Churches here. For, twenty years ago, heretics possessed all these Churches. But the true Church was there, where the true faith was,” Breviarium in Psalmos, Psalmus CXXXIII, PL 26:1223, and again writes that “The true Church, the true temple of Christ, is no other than the human soul. The Church of Christ is nothing other than the souls of those who believe in Christ.” FC, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 18.
Cyprian also writes: “Whence, moreover, nothing can separate the Church—that is, the people established in the Church, faithfully and firmly persevering in that which they have believed—from Christ, in such a way as to prevent their undivided love from always abiding and adhering.” Cyprian, Epistle LXII, to Cæcilius
Victorinus likewise testifies: “6. “And He made us a kingdom and priests unto God and His Father.” That is to say, a Church of all believers; as also the Apostle Peter says: “A holy nation, a royal priesthood.”” Commentary on Revelation, Chapter 1, vs. 6 Victorinus.
Finally, Ambrose cautions: “So the faith of the Church must be sought first and foremost; if Christ is to dwell therein, it is undoubtedly to be chosen. But lest an unbelieving people or heretical teacher disfigure its habitation, it is enjoined that the fellowship of heretics be avoided and the synagogue shunned. … Thus, any Church which rejects faith and does not possess the foundations of Apostolic preaching is to be abandoned, lest it be able to bespatter some stain of unbelief.” Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, Book VI, §68.
If space would permit we would add to these 2 Clement 14.
These definitions are not consistent with your claims that the church is essentially defined by communion with the pope. Why now do you feel justified in defining “the Church” in the self-serving way you define it, contrary (at least) to the WCF and the early churchmen quoted and cited above?
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Question 1 – Church = Believers