Monday, November 13, 2006

The Church is Objective

A post at Reformed Catholicism critiques B.B. Warfield's notion that the reformation was the triumph of St. Augustine's doctrine of grace over his doctrine of the church. (here)

The post argues that Warfield's construal is wrong. (I agree.)

What interestes me is the discussion that ensued around the post regarding the nature of the church. The author and commenters take on the contemporary protestant evangelical notion that the church is a voluntary association for the good of its members ( a la John Locke -- For the most devilish working out of this erroneous concept see George Barna's book Reveolution.)

The church is not a voluntary association based upon social contract theory. The church is an objective reality. As one commenter on the RefCath blog puts it,

"by “objective” I meant something like “existing apart from the subjective dispositions or choices of human beings.”

This is right. The reason it is right is because the church is an extension of the incarnation (cf. Eph. 1:22-23). The church existed in nascent form in Christ and then was given birth at Pentecost. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent from the ascended Christ for, among other reasons, to bring persons into union with God in Christ. The community that burst on the scene was birthed by God. It was visible. It was objective. It had order, leadership, teaching and sacraments.

The church is objective. Joining Jesus and joining the church comprise one decision of faith -- not two.

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