Universal Church and Landmarkism

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Southern, Feb 17, 2011.

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  1. Southern

    Southern
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    This is a theological question for my Landmark brethren that deny the concept of a 'Universal Church' consisting of all the redeemed. Let me state ahead that I am not interested in debating but rather to hear and think through your responses. So thanks ahead of time.

    I have heard the debate usually revolve around a person either believing in a 'local/visible' church or a 'universal/invisible' church. However, this seems to misunderstand that there is a clear line of believers who have held to both (1689 LBC, etc.). That is why they made a distinction between the two and instead of seeing an either/or (local vs. universal) their was a belief in both/and (local and universal).

    It is often argued that all of the redeemed have never assembled and thus cannot be refered to as a 'church'. They appear to argue that to apply the word 'church' to all the redeemed would violate what the word means. However, this is to misunderstand the very nature of the church being argued for. No one is arguing that all the redeemed have assembled literally and visibly (as in local churches) but have indeed assembled in Christ (see Jn. 6:37, etc.). Now some will be quick to argue "wait a minute that is not a 'literal' church", to which they are correct hence the distinction b/t the two.

    This is not inventing a new definition for the greek word translated 'church' but rather a different application. Many instances could be pointed to in scripture used in a similiar fashion. The word Baptism is used in a literal sense (water baptism) and in figurative senses (judgement, sufferings, spirit, etc.). This is also true of other terms (kingdom, family, brother, etc.) where there is a literal meaning and a spiritual meaning.
    I am curious if you are aware of any Landmark works that deal with this or you would be willing to offer your thoughts? (BTW, don't feel that you have to be guarded with your statements as I am only looking for general responses and not interested in debating this)
     
  2. Iconoclast

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    The universal church so called does not assemble until the last day.
    Some hold to a "universal church" idea here on earth.
    Who are the deacons of this universal church? The elders?


    Sometimes the church is spoken of in general terms, like I have heard it taught we might discuss the Jury. just in general terms.
    For the most part it is not discussed in such general terms. This confuses the Kingdom of God...with the local church.
     
  3. John of Japan

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    Linguistically speaking, to win your argument from the Greek for "church" (ekklesia), you have to prove that ekklesia (not baptism or judgment or the like) itself is used in such a symbolic way. You can't prove that one word has a symbolic use just because others do. I know of no case in koine or classical Greek where there is a clear use of ekklesia as a symbolic assembly.

    In classical Greek it is invariably an actual physical assembly, as in the legislature of the Greek city states or a Greek poet who gathered the animals to hear his song. In Biblical usage that doesn't involve the church of Jesus, you also have literal, physical assemblies: the Jews in the wilderness (Acts 7:38), the assembly at Ephesus (Acts 19:32, 39, 41). With the possible exception of Deut. 23:2-3 and Lam. 1:10, there is no symbolic usage in the LXX that I can find. It is always a literal assembly.
     
    #3 John of Japan, Feb 17, 2011
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  4. Southern

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    iconoclast and John of Japan,

    Thank you brothers for your thoughts. Here is another thread addressing this subject. I may need to add the Hebrews passage mentioned by Iconoclast as also referring to something that appears to be present and cannot be pushed entirely into the future because the Hebrew writer mentions that "ye are come" (vs. 22, perfect tense I believe). Which appears to me to teach this 'church' is a present reality in some sense.

    P.S. Is there some way to 'like' your posts above to show my appreciation of your time and thought put into your posts?
     
    #4 Southern, Feb 17, 2011
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  5. John of Japan

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    Your "thank you" accomplishes that. :wavey:
     
  6. Iconoclast

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    I tried to send you a message with alot more info...not sure i did it correctly.

    Southern....because we are In Christ by Spirit Baptism,our citizenship is in heaven now.....our inheritance is reserved in heaven for us waiting for the last day....
    The question is can there be an un-assembled assembly?
    We are in the kingdom of God as individuals, and yet their is a corporate expression of that kingdom...the local church.
    There were letters written to seven local churches in revelation.and the epistles were to to a generic or universal body.
    let me know if the private message came through.
     
  7. Amy.G

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    The bride of Christ consists of all believers of all time and is also called the church is it not? Therefore, there is a universal church.
     
  8. Iconoclast

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    Yes and no,lol
    here is from the baptist catechism with commentary...by WR>Downing
    Thus, there is some confusion about the English term “church,” which has
    traditionally and variously signified a congregation, a building, a
    denomination, an ecclesiastical system, the aggregate of all true believers in
    mystical union with Christ or the whole of Christianity throughout history.
    Some hold to the concept of a “universal, invisible church” comprised of
    all the elect of all ages, or at the least of all living believers world–wide at any
    given time. This concept of the church confuses it with the kingdom of God.
    287
    Such an entity, of course, has never assembled, is not properly an assembly,
    does not possess any of the attributes of a church, and thus cannot truly be
    termed a “church” [ekklēsia, or gathered assembly]. It is rather a spiritual and
    comprehensive concept of the mystical [spiritual] union of all true believers
    with the Lord Jesus Christ, and finds no concrete expression ecclesiastically,
    except in a local or gathered assembly (1 Cor. 12:27. The def. article “the”
    before the word “body” is to be omitted). The idea of a “universal, invisible
    church,” however, is wide–spread in Christian thought, and is axiomatic to
    both Reformed and Dispensational thinking. The Sixteenth Century
    Reformers, reacting against the Romish idea of a “universal visible church,”
    establishing their own state churches with a similar pattern, and understanding
    that not all who professed Christ were truly converted, developed the idea of
    both a “visible” and an “invisible” church. The former was composed of
    believers and unbelievers; the latter of only the true believers. Some hold that
    this theory derived from Gnostic, Neoplatonic philosophy which saw the
    visible world as the imperfect reflection of the perfect invisible world, i.e., the
    world of the Platonic “ideas.”
    But what of those passages where “the church” is referred to in an abstract
    sense (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:32; Eph. 3:10–21; Col. 1:18)? Does this not refer to the
    aggregate of all true believers who are in union with Christ as his “mystical
    body”? “The One True Church”? We prefer another interpretation, which is
    consonant with all the uses of the term “church” in the New Testament: first,
    the local or concrete use of “church,” referring to any given assembly of
    scripturally baptized believers. Second, the abstract, generic or institutional
    use of the term. A common illustration is that of “the jury,” referring not to
    any particular jury, but to the institution of this legal entity in the judicial
    system. When such usage finds concrete expression, it is a local, visible jury.
    This same principle would hold true for those statements which are often used
    to refer to the “universal, invisible church.” We prefer to classify these as the
    “institutional” use of the word “church,” which finds concrete expression in
    the local assembly. Third, the eschatological use of the term “church,”
    referring to “the general assembly [panēguris, the festal gathering of a whole
    group, nation or country] and church [ekklēsia] of the firstborn” which is in
    the process of being assembled in heaven. When all the elect are gathered
    together from all ages, they will comprise the church [panēguris] in glory,
    fully assembled for the first time (Eph. 5:27; Heb. 12:22–23; Rev. 21:2). This
    three–fold usage coherently answers to every use of the term “church” in the
    New Testament without violating either grammar or doctrine—or the
    meaning and biblical usage of the Old Testament qahal and the New
    Testament ekklēsia.
    The meaning and history of the church are not self–interpreting. The New
    Testament is the standard, and thus the meaning and history of the church are
    to be interpreted in the light of the New Testament.
    288
    Quest.
     
    #8 Iconoclast, Feb 17, 2011
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  9. Southern

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    John,

    Thank you brother and nice to meet you. You will not be seeing me on here much. I am compiling some thoughts on Landmarkism (for a friend) and wanted to put out some thoughts on message boards and emails to respected individuals to make sure I am not missing something. I have many brothers who are of the Landmark persuasion and I hold them in high esteem. I was licensed to preach in a Landmark church and educated in a Landmark institution but wanted to see if there were any works that had come out since (or new arguments besides the old ones). Thanks for your response.
     
  10. Southern

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    For a good work on this subject I suggest John Thornbury's "The Doctrine of the Church: A Baptist View" (Pilgrim Publications) if you would like to look at this issue theologically as well as historically. There was an argument listed above (either by Iconoclast or John from Japan) about a generic usage of 'church'. See J.L. Daggs "Manual of Church Order" (found online at Founder.org in their library) in answer to this argument where he deals with it in much detail. I offer this as I will not be spending alot of time on the board and would like to point you to some good resources and answers to the arguments being presented by these good brothers above.
     
  11. Amy.G

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    Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    Church-ekklesia


    Christ was not saying He was building a local ekklesia.
     
  12. Southern

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    For anyone else who responds please keep in mind that the argument is that the Universal Church has assembled... they have assembled in Christ. Hence the distinction between the local church (which yes we see menioned in scripture and no one denies) and the Universal Church (which includes all of the saved). This will answer the question of "who are the elders and deacons?", or as my friend says "when do they observe the Lords supper?", "do they meet every sabbath with each other?",etc.

    Again, all that are saved come to Christ (Jn. 6:37, etc) they have assembled in Him. Please keep this distinction in mind about the nature of each (hence the distinction!), you may disagree but please don't overlook this distinction presented in the first post.[/
     
    #12 Southern, Feb 17, 2011
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  13. Amy.G

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    Thank you.

    You should stay on the board though. :)
     
  14. Southern

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    Thank you.

    However, I really do not have the time although I think message boards can be of great help and benefit.
     
  15. Iconoclast

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    Correct......and yet a called out assembly......assembles.
    You cannot have an assembly that does not assemble

    The discussion deals with local assemblies,plural vs. the one full final assembly on the last day.
    It has never assembled totally yet,because the last of the elect are not saved yet.
    some have left their bodies already/physical death....some have not been born yet
     
  16. Tom Butler

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    Brother, in the OP you said you didn't want to debate. Yet, here you are debating. I realize that in part you are quoting a friend's views for the sake of argument, but it's still arguing. If you want to debate it, then come on in. But please don't profess to be above the fray when you are actually participating in the fray. And you are trying to set presuppositions for this discussion, which doesn't work here, either.

    By the way, this idea of all believers "assembled in him" is some sort of ecclesiastical gobble-de-gook. We may say all believers are "in him," but the fact is we are not assembled, literally or figuratively, "in him." You are asking us to accept this proposition before we ever debate the matter. Surely, if I don't accept the pre-supposition, you'll not try to keep me out of the discussion.

    I'll have more to say in later posts. It's a good subject, and you've gotten some good stuff from Iconoclast and others.
     
  17. Tom Butler

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    Amy, your comment has drawn several responses, and I'd like to add mine.

    Not only is "church" used to describe a specific congregation, which assembles, it is also used in both a generic sense and a prospective sense.

    Iconoclast has spoken to the generic sense. We may talk about the jury as generic term, but in actuality, it has no real meaning unless we have a real live jury.

    The same with "family." We talk about the breakdown of the family, but in fact, only real families break down. The generic must always take expression with the concrete.

    Then, Iconoclast mentioned the prospective sense. That is the sense in which the church is referred to as the bride of Christ. But it comes to fruition only in Heaven, when the actual bride (the saved, assembled church) is united with her husband, the Bridegroom. That, then, is also the only time the "universal" church will really be the church--when it becomes the great general assembly.

    By the way, that's when we'll be truly united, for we will all know the truth.

    And we will all be Baptists.

    Sorry, I just couldn't resist.
     
  18. Southern

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    LOL! Thanks for that. I agree brother. :)
     
  19. Tom Butler

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    Although there is no such animal as the "universal church," let's assume for purposes of discussion that there is.

    We've already had questions raised as to where and when it assembles, and who are its pastors and deacons. Let me add another one or two:

    Who are the members of this U-church? Well, let's see--Baptists, of course, a bunch of Methodists and Presbyterians, some Pentecostals, a stray Roman Catholic here and there, some Messianic Jews, Lutherans. Let's be generous and include a Mormon whom God saves despite his church's teachings.

    I call your attention to the one thing that stands out to me in the list: Every one of them (except Baptists, of course) believe and each error. Some, indeed, teach heresy.

    Next, they are hopelessly fractured. They never assemble together; they rarely, if ever, fellowship together, pray together. They can't even agree how to send missionaries. So the U-church doesn't send any missionaries, never gives a dime for the propagation of the gospel, never disciples believers.

    Incidentally, all those things the New Testament commands believers to do: assemble, evangelize, give offerings, worship, have fellowship, send missionaries, go as missionaries, plant new churches, help those who are hurting--are done by----------------------------------------------------------

    Ready?----------------------------------------

    Local congregations.

    The U-church, then, even it it were real, is a useless entity. It does not, not cannot, carry out the Great Commission.

    There is no rationale for its existence. That's why it doesn't.
     
  20. Southern

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    Tom stated:

    Thank you for your comments.

    My response above which can most certainly be called "debating" was only my attempt at clarifying what appeared to me to be overlooked in my original post. I wanted to make sure that the distinction I made (that there is a difference in the nature of the local church in comparison to the universal church) was kept in mind. For example, one of you argued something about when has it ever assembled and what are its pastors and deacons which, again, appeared to me to overlook the distinction I made.

    I appreciate your comments brother. Thank you for your time and effort in interacting on this forum. I assure you that I will read and consider your thoughts. May the Lord bless you. I would also appreciate your (any of you brothers) comments on the other thread dealing with Ephesians 5 that I linked to. Thank you ahead of time.
     
    #20 Southern, Feb 18, 2011
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