25 August 2009

Lectio Divina

Two sons of David; two temples. One of stone; one of living stones, of people.

Why is it wrong to say that the Church is invisible? For the same reason it is wrong to say it is visible!

We can only see part of it. The part where we are. The other living stones to whom our lives are connected. We can partially glimpse down the structure to see where the Lord has joined other living stones and we can see that vast foundation of the Apostles and Prophets with Our Lord being the cornerstone. We can't glimpse up and out and all around. Not yet. [And it is rather silly to imagine that the wall as I know it is the whole of the building! No, the building will finally consist of all those in whom the Holy Spirit has wrought the saving faith that connected them to the Lord Jesus and who persevered in that gift by God's grace to the end.] But for the duration of this age, our vision is always rather limited.

That's okay. When comes the Last Day, we shall see the New Jerusalem for the first time in her wholeness and fullness - with such glory as never dared to dream or imagine! Until then, THE Son of David is busy at work building His temple, a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. Just to be a living stone and part of it - that is glory beyond words.

"The Lord has sanctified us in the true faith! O come, let us worship Him!"


Carl Vehse said...

“Why is it wrong to say that the Church is invisible? For the same reason it is wrong to say it is visible!”

No, the question and answer for Lutherans rightly are: “Why is it wrong to say that the Church is visible? Because the Church, in the proper sense of the word, is invisible!"

This was all previously noted in my two comments in your September 27, 2007, "Old Lutheran Quote of the Day" (from Quenstedt).

While Scripture does not use the word "invisible", Scripture does make it clear that the true holy Christian Church is made up of all true believers and is hidden, or invisible, to all but known by God (e.g., Luke 17: 20,21; John 10:14; Rom.10:9,10; 1 Cor. 4:5; Col. 3:3,4; 2 Tim. 2:19).

As for the Lutheran Confessions, Bjarne W. Teigen, in “The Church in the New Testament, Luther, and the Lutheran Confessions” (Concordia Theological Quarterly, Vol. 42:4, Oct. 1978, p.389) states: "[I]t may be quickly discerned that the terms 'invisible' and 'visible' are not used in the Book of Concord, but they are found among the later dogmaticians. It is the position of this paper that the dogmaticians, the Book of Concord, and the Luther are in doctrinal agreement on this point despite differing terminology."

From early in its beginning (if not all the way back to Dr. Carl Vehse's 1839 Protestation document, or C.F.W. Walther's 1841 Altenburg Debate Theses), the Missouri Synod has made its doctrinal understanding of the "invisible Church" known with Theses III - VII, IX, concerning the Church (C.F.W. Walther, Church and Ministry, trans. by J.T. Mueller, CPH, St. Louis, 1987, pp. 38-158).

Between 1851 and 2001, the Missouri Synod in convention has passed fifteen doctrinal resolutions that specifically refer to the church as invisible, deny that the church is visible, or adopted theses or statements that make the same statements about the Church.

In their "Chapter IX: Four Decades of Expansion 1920 - 1060" (Moving Frontiers, edited by Carl S. Meyer, CPH, 1964), Thomas Coates and Erwin L. Lueker also point out that in 1929, the Missouri Synod rejected as a basis for union with the Ohio, Iowa, and Buffalo Synods theses whose language "enables the opponents to retain their old doctrine of a visible side of the Church." [p.417]

John Theodore Mueller discussed the "invisible Church" in his Christian Dogmatics (CPH, St. Louis, 1934), in the chapter on "The Doctrine of the Christian Church": A. The Church Universal (pp. 541-562), and in particular, Section 3. The Properties of the Christian Church (pp. 547-549). Mueller states: "All who affirm that the Church is either wholly (papists) or partly (modern Lutheran theologians) visible destroy the Scriptural concept of the Church and change it from a communion of believers to an 'outward polity of the good and the wicked'."

The Church is hidden because it is invisible; it is impossible to be seen by us. The Church is NOT revealed by the marks of the Church, though the marks indicate the presence of the Church.

William Weedon said...

Somehow, I knew you'd say that, Dr. Strickert!

Carl Vehse said...

Well, to be honest, it wasn't me, but others who said that, including: Luke, John, Paul, Luther (and, according to him, even a seven-year-old-child), Chemnitz, Gerhard, Meisner, Mentzer, Huelsemann, Dannhauer, Calov, Quenstedt, Vehse, Walther, Loehe, Pieper, Teigen, Barry, my father, the preparers of the "Explanation of the Small Catechism", and 150 years worth of pastoral and lay delegates at Missouri Synod conventions who passed 15 doctrinal resolutions.

I was just kidding about Loehe. ;-)

Nathan said...

"a seven-year-old-child"

Right. So we think that a seven year old child - when considering the concrete persons that he knows who hear and follow the voice of a Shepherd - is going to first of all speak of a doctrine of the invisible Church?

Or that he will think of the Church primarily in terms of words and forms (pure Word and Sac) as distinct from the persons who profess and offer these things?

"Where the Word is purely preached and the Sacraments are rightly administered" is a good, and I think necessary, way of speaking. But if we are insistent that this is the only right way of speaking about the Church - namely in a way which focuses on words, things, functions, or actions apart from those performing them (or using the material things: the water, bread and wine), I think the eyes of the seven year old are probably going to glaze over...

Nathan said...

Smalcald on the church ends:

"For the children pray thus: I believe in one holy [catholic or] Christian Church. 3] This holiness does not consist in albs, tonsures, long gowns, and other of their ceremonies devised by them beyond Holy Scripture, but in the Word of God and true faith."

Notice that in these articles, where Lutherans refuse to concede that Rome is the true church, they end by talking about how the holiness of the Church. Holiness reveals where the true Church is, and that is where there is the World of God and true faith. Note that here we do not see "the Word purely preached and the Sacraments faithfully administered" alone, but true faith. With "true faith" also, you need to have actual concrete persons, right?

I agree that "The Church is NOT revealed by the marks of the Church, though the marks indicate the presence of the Church",

but where the presence of the Church is, there are concrete persons? Or what does this mean instead?

And what about faith like a child?