Since some of the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox continue to post straw-man attacks on the Protestant doctrine of the invisible church, I thought I would post one last time on this topic before moving on.
When Christ and the apostles spoke of the “church”, almost always, they were referring to a group set called the “elect”, those who had been predestined unto eternal life from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:1-4, 2 Timothy 2:10, 1 Peter 1:1-2, Jude 1, etc.). The “invisible” church (which may be a bad term for it) at any one time consists of all those elect men and women who have come to a knowledge of the truth, repented, and are redeemed. It was to this “church” that the promises of the New Covenant were made in the Old Testament and to which the promises of Christ were made. This church is indestructible and will triumph in invading Satan’s dominion in its proclamation of the gospel of the grace of God (Matt. 16:18, 2 Cor. 4:3-4, 15). [Note: Matthew 16:18 will be exegeted later.]
The visible church is the congregate of the invisible church plus the unbelieving who may profess the faith with words but who are unregenerate (Matthew 13:24-30). This is indeed the “church” where the ordinances/sacraments are administered. However, since no such promise was made to the visible church as was made to the invisible church, out of all possible worlds (to use philosophical terminology), it is possible for the visible church to be taken over by the unregenerate or at least influence the doctrines of the body as a whole to a point where it is no longer a church at all but a “synagogue of Satan” (Matt. 24:24, Jude 4, Revelation 2:9, etc.). God will then send one or many of His servants to correct the error in the already existing visible church or to start a new visible church altogether using the same indestructible “invisible” church. This is what the Reformers were claiming. [Of course, this is not to say that none of those still in the false church are elect. Sometimes, there is enough truth still preached in that old structure so that one can come to a saving knowledge of the truth, repent, and be saved.]
The invisible church and the visible church are two different *kinds* of churches, and so, to say that Protestants believe that the invisible “replaced” the visible is to commit a straw-man that stems from a category error.
P.S. I noted in my post on 1 Tim. 3:15 that Dave likes to quote Protestant exegetes who agree with him as if “the scholars” are finally coming to an agreement that the Roman Church has been right all along. I then noted that this is false by pointing out that I could probably find as many or more modern Roman Catholic exegetical scholars who agree with me. I have recently found out that there are two such scholars, Monsignor Quinn and Luke Timothy Johnson, who give such an interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:15.
I do not have the money to go around purchasing these commentaries just for the sake of getting a couple quotes to post on the internet. So, if anyone has these commentaries or access to them, I would like to have a relatively short quote or two from each to add to my post on 1 Timothy 3:15.
I only do this so as to counter Dave’s argument from authority. Personally, I usually don’t like arguments from authority myself, but this is a point that needs to be made.
P.P.S. Here’s Dave’s attempted rebuttal. I would encourage everyone (who has the time!) to read my post, write down the specific points/arguments/counter-arguments that I made, read Dave’s post, and see if he actually responded meaningfully with anything I said. Good luck!
Voluminous writing tends to obscure the real issues, divert the topic elsewhere, and make one’s opponents look like they said something they didn’t.
Also, here is Turretinfan’s analysis of Dave’s ‘rebuttal’.