Sunday, April 20, 2008

PCA Elder on Church as Family

I happened upon this post at "Butterfly House" from a few months ago, which touches on some issues recently discussed here, like church visible, election, infants in the family of God, and the like. It is written by a PCA (Reformed) ruling elder.

Here's a taste:

"In the New Covenant, the promised Holy Spirit helps to better define the boundaries of the Church, but He has not (apparently) chosen to make those boundaries crystal clear. Our knowledge of the Church, as with many things, is "through a glass, darkly.""

Would that the Lord could help me see how He has constituted His Church!

12 comments:

Tim A. Troutman said...

"Well there might be an elephant in the living room. He hasn't chosen to reveal himself clearly. We only see him through our fuzzy eyes. Sure it may appear to some that there really is an elephant... but we all know people can see things or think they see things that aren't really there. It happens all the time. We musn't go beyond what we know for certain".

The elephant is only unclear to those who sincerely don't want there to be an elephant in the living room.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Don't take that the wrong way.

Thos said...

Tim,

I'm a little emarrassed to ask, but...

I didn't see that quote on the post I cited. Is it there, or were you paraphrasing to make a point?

If anyone did say, with reference to understanding Christ's Church, that we "mustn't go beyond what we know for certain", I'd have a strong opinion to share with them. Knowing with Certainty is a very high standard, if not, in the relativist's eye, an impossible standard. I imagine you're in full agreement.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

George Weis said...

Whoa! Tim, there comes those rough edges :D

An Interesting post Thos. Yes, indeed we do see through a glass darkly. We can't possibly see the whole picture in these death stricken bodies. We await our redemption(in the fullest) to be able to see all the truths in full clarity. I don't think for a minute that any one of us, nor any organized body knows ALL.

Let us not go far beyond what we can know. Prudence is utterly linked with wisdom.

Bless you both brothers!

-george-

George Weis said...

A nice discussion over there on that guys blog. I appreciate the remarks he made about both the Puritans and the RCC and what they did in regards to this issue. I would like more dialogue on such a topic.

-george-

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

On the one hand Jeff claims that "Our knowledge of the Church, as with many things, is "through a glass, darkly.", but on the other hand, in his comments in that thread, he thinks he sees clearly enough through that glass to determine that the Catholic Church "went off the rails" in "overemphasizing the nature of the visible Church in its doctrine of ex operato sacraments and theories of papal vicarship."

I'd like to see his evidence/argument for where those "rails" are, and how he knows that the Catholic Church went off them.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Bryan,

Your point is, of course, well taken. Thank you. Let me try.

If one assesses that the Church cannot be reliably defined with precision, and one sees that the Catholic Church has defined the Church with precision, is it such a stretch for them to say that the Catholic Church is not “the Church”? I cannot speak for his critique of the sacraments or the papacy though. I would agree with your criticism here.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Thos said...

Tim never answered my request for clarification...

Thos.

Thos said...

George,

Thanks again for contributing. You said, “We can't possibly see the whole picture in these death stricken bodies.” I would like to take this opportunity to inquire whether you saw my reply to you on my post “False Ecumenical Advertising”? I believe that, insofar as our bodies are death-stricken, our intellects are equally struck.

“I don't think for a minute that any one of us, nor any organized body knows ALL.” This is a broad statement. I think if I accept this approach (‘no one has a monopoly on truth’) with full force, I would have hard time *not* applying it to the Scriptures and their authors. One has to be cautious when casting a skeptical view over all Christian entities, while trying to simultaneously maintain the Church’s delivery of infallible texts.

“Prudence is utterly linked with wisdom.” Indeed, but it is not imprudent to cast ourselves totally before Christ. I suggest that it is at least logically possible that Christ could make for His people a reliable authority structure. In that case, it would be no more imprudent to obey that structure than to obey Christ. We must either submit to an authority’s judgment about Truth, or our own judgment. Maybe it’s imprudent (and unwise) to place our own judgment above others’?

Much to think about.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

George Weis said...

Thos,

I am glad that you are always willing to consider the other arguments that are brought forth. I have a feeling though, that your search for this may never be answered. Hopefully that is ok. I do the same. I believe we can know for certain those truths that have been handed down plainly to us.

Yes, of course I se what you are saying about the organized authority. Point taken. However, about the scripture... could not also those writings be the only source of truth that we have. Some of it being clear cut... and other parts a little unanswered?
Why must we go beyond that? Do we need to have it all mapped out for us? In that, I mean absolutely that we cast ourselves completely before Christ. Indeed, that is all I mean :)

Hmmm... yes I agree, that is is fully a possibility, and He is able, and could have placed an authority structure over us. Yet, have you reached a decided point on this? If not, why not? I assume, you are asking with a heart that seeks the truth. I also assume you are willing to imagine that your current stance could be wrong. I am the same way. Yet, I have not been convinced at this point that I have been wrong. This being said, I do not think that my personal thoughts on truth are above others. Again, there are some things that seem quite plain in the scriptures and others that aren't so clear.

Many blessings to you friend!

-george-

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

Granted. I agree that we cannot know exhaustively which people receive what we call a baptism of desire. But I would challenge the use of "seeing through a glass darkly" to justify a notion that the Church must be non-institutional, an invisible and [merely] spiritual entity, some of whose members are visible because they are presently embodied. That turns on its head the earth-to-heaven order that Jesus says to Peter when He says, "whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven". (Matt 16:19) The spiritualized conception of the Church makes God's hidden decrees the *epistemological* determiners of the Church boundaries, meaning that we are left in the dark about these boundaries. But the incarnational conception of the Church (seen here in Matt 16:19) makes the decrees of the Church the *epistemological* determiners of the Church boundaries, which is fully compatible with God's hidden decrees being the *ontological* determiner of all things. We see God's decrees and human free choices in a both/and relation, not an either/or relation.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

One more point. :-)

When I was growing up, that "through a glass darkly" verse was used to support various sorts of theological skepticism. It was used to support a kind of individualism/relativism in which we each just sought to listen to the Holy Spirit and do the best we could with that internal voice, since in our view there was so little objective theological knowledge. Later on I came to see that this verse was being abused. It was never intended to be a skeptical trump card, over-riding the theological determinations of the Church. It was intended to contrast what we *do* know now, with how much more we will know in the life to come. So, I'm very wary when people use that verse in support of some form of theological or ecclesial skepticism. The verse can be so [ab]used to call into question all theological knowledge. "Did God really say ...?" and "We don't really know ... " are too much alike. That theological skepticism is not what Christ intended to leave with His Church, in my opinion. We have to distinguish abuse of that verse from proper use of that verse. :-)

Just a thought.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan