21 March 2007

Is the Church Eternal? Then...

The Lutheran Symbols teach so: "By this preaching He gathers an eternal Church for Himself from the human race and works in people's hearts true repentance, knowledge of sins, and true faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ." FC SD II:50

But an eternal Church leads us to ponder the weight of 2 Corinthians 4:18: "For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

Let the reader understand...


Paul T. McCain said...

So, there is an invisible Church after all? Imagine that.

Or a Church hidden from our eyes, on this side of heaven?


Schütz said...

Cute argument, but it doesn't hold water, does it? Think of the book of Revelation: John describes (as is emphasised throughout the book) what he SEES. What does he see? Our Lord Jesus Christ, among other things. And the members of the Church, the saints, as well.
Where is he seeing this? In HEAVEN. What he is seeing is ETERNAL.

In the passage you cite, Paul is presenting his usual disjunction between the "things of the flesh" and "the things of the spirit" when he speaks of "seen" and "unseen". John's Gospel works with radically different categoriest (in the end, a different meaning of the word "sarx"), and says "The Word became Flesh and we have SEEN his glory, "What we proclaim to you we have SEEN and touched".

It is possible to "see God" (and even to touch him!) because Jesus is NOT the Invisibile Man. God the Son is incarnate and has a body.

If Christ is not the Invisible Man, how can you say that his Church, which is his Body, is invisible? Hidden, yes, I grant you, but not invisible. The Consecrated Host of the Eucharist is the body of Christ, in a hidden manner, and yet it is not invisible. Why then should you wish to argue that the Church, which indeed has a similar sort of "hiddenness" in this world--hidden that is under its human imperfections, is invisible?

William Weedon said...


Remember, you heard it here first. :)


I am really NOT going to bat for the term invisible, believe it or not. It's just a form of shorthand, but it is of course susceptible to gross misunderstanding. Marquart acknowledges as much in his little monograph, but still sees it as useful. I agree with him, but I do wonder sometimes if fighting off the misunderstandings are worth the effort.

For example, about our Lord, as you mention, of course He is not invisible per se, but that's not the point. He is not seen by us NOW. Think of 1 Peter. He WILL BE seen by us, of course, on the glorious day of His Appearing. And you know what else we'll get to see on that day? THE CHURCH! "When He appears we also shall appear with Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

So it's not a matter of "invisible" by nature, but "invisible" just meaning "not seen by the eye." And furthermore, not seen by the eye NOW. Not meaning not seen by the eye EVER. Hence, "I BELIEVE in one holy catholic and apostolic church" because no one can ever see it this age until the arrival of the "day without evening in the Kingdom of the Father."

By the way, I thought it was cute too!