Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Body of Christ is Not Broken

The unelected leader of my (current) denomination, the Reformed Church in America, Wes Granberg-Michaelson, is also the interim leader of a new ecumenical body called Christian Churches Together (CCT), which he is very excited about (see link). Even liberals are beginning to recognize that the old ecumenical organizations, the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC), have slipped into silliness and irrelevancy. I am not particularly perturbed about this new effort, as I am convinced it will fail miserably in its mission because it principal presupposition is wrong: liberals believe that the body of Christ, the Church, is broken, and like Humpty Dumpty, needs to be put back together again.

Why is this presupposition wrong?

First, the church was never, even from its earliest moments, structurally one. It always was and shall always be a vast myriad of groups of believers, some small and some large. These groups have different spiritual and theological emphases, distinctive worship styles, and often differing government structures. And yet, as long as they adhere to "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), they contain the body of Christ. They are not themselves the body of Christ, since they are ALL mixed with seekers, heretics, unbelievers, etc., which Jesus called the "tares" (i.e., the weeds, Mt 13:25ff.). They contain the body of Christ because alongside the tares is the invisible church, that is, the number of God's elect children, saved by His sovereign grace through the atoning blood of Christ Jesus. They were once tares, but now are saints, having received forgiveness for their sins through their faith in Christ. God's saints are present in almost every denomination, even those which many consider unfaithful. Augustine and Bernard, for example, lead the vanguard of those saints God has delivered in the woefully deformed Roman church. The body of Christ is glorious in no small part because it triumphs over the fallible structures which contain it.

Second, this presupposition of uniting the church into one body, misunderstands Jesus's message in John 17. Ecumenists have for over a century now cried the words of our Lord in his High Priestly prayer, "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I in You" (v.21). John Calvin, in his commentary on this verse, rightly places it within the context of Christ's headship. He directs us to Ephesians 4:3, 11ff., "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...He himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ." In other words, the "oneness" Jesus prays for in John 17 is not ecclesiastical, but oneness we share as believers in the Spirit - a doctrinal oneness - a oneness of truth. In John 17:17, Jesus says just prior to his words about believers being one, "Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth."

The bottom line in all of this is that our denominational leadership spends a great deal of time and money pursuing union with liberal mainline churches, while ignoring the great need of the hour - the salvation of souls.

3 Comments:

Blogger homo unius libri said...

AMEN

2:40 PM  
Blogger Ehud would said...

I appreciate your words on this matter. Its an issue near & dear as I'm something of a theological refugee from an RCA congregation of Wes's disposition. I've seen first hand the nature of the "Unity" which they laud. It is nothing short of disolution of the Gospel. In such an atmosphere Liberal (& heretical) views are tolerated per the big-tent ethos but Conservatives (Orthodox) are spurned as "Dogmatists". Such a theory of tolerance is the antithesis of Luther's concept of "Toleration" & Scripture back of that. Such an inclusiveness requires that if one loves God they must embrace His overthrow.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Annette said...

so true

11:08 AM  

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