Interaction with URCNA Report on FV (7): The Church with an Invisibility Cloak

The URCNA FV Report says (p.16) of the distinction between visible/invisible church, "its most basic function is to acknowledge that not all professing believers and their children, who belong to the concrete, visible expression of Christ's church in the world, are truly saved and members of Christ by faith."

I'm interested in the adverb 'truly.' It seems to imply that there is a sense in which you can be saved and yet not enter eschatological rest. I suppose the report is stressing that objective membership in the redeemed community does not guarantee final salvation. But isn't that precisely what FV folk are saying??

Reformed theologians have long quibbled about the invisible/visible distinction. I was taught in seminary by Cornel Venema who preferred the language of "unsurveyable" to "invisible." The illustration he used in class was of a penny under a mattress. A penny under a mattress can't be seen, but that doesn't make it invisible.

Here I would repeat the words of Dr. Jelle Faber, "Allow me to say to my Presbyterian brothers, 'One of yourselves, one of your own prophets, has said so.' I refer to the essay of John Murray in his Collected Writings, entitled, "The Church: Its Definition in Terms of 'Visible' and 'Invisible' Invalid." This from Faber's essay, "The Doctrine of the Church in the Reformed Confessions" in Essays in Reformed Doctrine.

Both Murray and Faber were of course willing to grant, as all FV folk are, that there are invisible aspects to the church. Murray points out, however, that the church in the New Testament "never appears as an invisible entity and therefore may never be defined in terms of invisibility."

Faber in fact questioned whether the distinction between invisible church and visible church "infringed" upon the truth of the Nicene Creed, "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church."

FV folk prefer the definition of the church given in the Heidelberg Catechism, as the gathering Church and the gathered church. The gathering Church is what Wilson terms the historical Church and the gathered church, the eschatological church.

Like the FV individuals I know, I am prepared to make all sorts of distinctions within the church between believers and unbelievers, between the faithful and the delinquent, between the sincere and the hypocrite, between the sheep and the goats, between fruitful branches and unfruitful branches. These distinctions approximate the Bible's own language (why won't that do here?). The visible/invisible distinction to me seems far removed from the text of Scripture.

Here are the affirmations and denials in the Joint Federal Vision Statement:

We affirm that there is only one true Church, and this Church can legitimately be considered under various descriptions, including the aspects of visible and invisible. We further affirm that the visible Church is the true Church of Christ, and not an "approximate" Church.

We deny that such a distinction excludes other helpful distinctions, such as the historical church and eschatological church. The historical Chruch generally correspends to the visible Church---all thsoe who profess the true religion, together with their children---and the eschatological Church should be understood as the full number of God's chosen as they will be seen on the day of the resurrection.

This looks very good. Where do I sign?

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