Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ekklesia Means "Assembly" pt. 3

Part One, Part Two, (A Related Blogpost)

Why is the idea of the universal church dangerous?

A few weeks ago now, I was asked, "Why is the idea of local church only so important? Or, to put it another way, why is the idea of the universal church dangerous?"  This post will answer that question.

ONE, the universal church as a teaching or belief eisegetes scripture or distorts the plain meaning of the text.  The more I hear universal church people talk and write, the more I think this.  I am sorry, but I read and listen to inane statements attempting to defend universal church from the Bible.  No verse teaches it.  Men will say that some verse "obviously" teaches it, and then they give no grammatical or syntactical evidence.  When I expect it, they turn pretty quickly to, first, quote of a well-known theologian (speaking as one having no authority), and, second, to mockery.

There is plenty of grammatical proof for a local church.  There is none for the universal.  If this was such an important concept, then why is there no unequivocal, just plain, mention of it in the Bible?  Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is even anything fuzzy, but if the "true church" really is all believers, where is the statement of that?  So if someone can just make the Bible mean whatever he wants it to mean, that's going to mess everything else up too.  We see this happening all the time.

So I don't see universal church in the Bible.  I actually see "universal" and "church" as mutually exclusive, absolutely contradictory to each other.  I do believe scripture teaches some paradoxes, but universal and church are not a paradox.  They're a contradiction.

The generic, singular usages of "church" seem to give people the most trouble.  None of those prove a universal church.  Since they don't prove anything, they should be interpreted in the light of what is proven, what is plain.  But no, universal church people take the non-existent, at best fuzzy, and conform the plain to that.  It's horrible.

So when people read this in, I ask, why?  It's not in there, so where did it come from?  I look back at history and I see Roman Catholicism.  I see Platonic philosophy.  It's easy to see how it got read in.  It got read in by amillennialism, by allegorizing, by spiritualizing, by philosophizing, and by covenant theology.  It explains and backs up and buttresses a state church.  When you want a state church and it isn't in the Bible, you've got to find it somehow.  This is how it gets "found."  It does distort the simplicity that I see in scripture.  The gospel, the worship, and the church are all simple.

Universal church people are, for the first time I've read, asking how that we read a local only position into scripture.  We don't, but they act like we have to do that, when it's already clear that the local church is in the Bible.  I'm reading two things, it seems, now.  One is that it came from a reaction to Campbellism.  I just wag my head on that one.  It doesn't make sense.  Nothing can even prove it.  It's shoddy work.  It starts by assuming that local only ecclesiology started with Graves and that Graves lived when Campbellism started.  There's your deep work.  Sheer speculation.  Two is that it came to defend a particular view of history, separate from Roman Catholicism.  I can't even find that spider web.  Both of these are just desperate.

So TWO, a universal church brings in Platonic philosophy and allegorical interpretation into the Bible.  When allegorization becomes the norm, then infant sprinkling becomes a way to join the church, which is the equivalent of salvation.  That has perverted the gospel.  Now you can read in apostolic succession, a human priesthood, and transubstantiation.

THREE, the universal church belief will cause men to see all sorts of other interpretations and doctrines and practices a different way, the wrong way.  It will necessarily twist other doctrines.  Instead of the gifts being used in a church, now they are used outside of a church, and someone feels justified having done so, because their gift is being used in the "true church."  The justification of a "church council" comes from seeing something other than and more than two churches settling their differences in Acts 15.  There are many, many more here.

FOUR, the universal church belief destroys all other true beliefs.  The fastest way for the truth to be destroyed is to get it outside of what God built to protect it.  A universal church cannot protect the truth.  It doesn't have a pastor, doesn't practice the ordinances, and doesn't practice church discipline, all ways that the truth is protected and preserved.  The universal church as a container for truth has holes all over it and it results in exponentially fast distortion of the truth.  The truth can only be protected at a local level.  Other of the reasons related directly to this one.

I believe the biggest reason for postmodern Christianity, emergents or emerging, and loosey-goosey dealing with the truth comes directly out of the wrong view of the church.  When a universal church guy wants to protect the truth, generally he writes a book on it or has a conference or a council or a coalition.  None of those are biblical ways, because the only biblical ways are done by an actual church and none of what the Bible says about a church protecting or preserving the truth is those things.

FIVE, the universal church disables biblical unity and biblical separation.  This, of course, is related to the truth, as I said that other reasons directly relate the destruction of all other beliefs, including the gospel.  The unity of the Bible and the separation of the Bible will never be practiced consistently by a universal church person.  The reason there are about 20-30 interpretations of John 17 is because of the universal church.  There is little agreement on what the unity is that Jesus is praying for.  There is non-stop discussion on what are the correct doctrines to separate over.  The fundamental or essential doctrines gets increasingly dumbed down to make it still not possible, but to give it a better try with no hope of succeeding.  Ultimately the truth is what is discarded.

So, SIX, the universal church belief causes scripture to contradict itself.  Scripture won't contradict itself, even as God won't deny Himself, but unity and separation contradict with a universal church belief.  It becomes impossible not to contradict.  That doctrine cannot be true.

And, therefore, SEVEN, the universal church destroys church purity.  Here's how it happens.  I want to use music and worship as an example.  A church doesn't break fellowship with a church that plays rock music, because "all believers are the true church."  The rock music church claims to believe in salvation by grace through faith.  The people in the church that doesn't use rock music are influenced by the rock music church.  More in the non-rock music church begin accepting it.  The non-rock music church starts using rock music.  I've seen this again and again in my lifetime.

EIGHT, the universal church belief results in people wasting their lives with wood, hay, and stubble.  Gold, silver, and precious stone are about the temple of God, which is local only.  Paul said, "Ye are the temple of God."  There are thousands that work in "ministries" that are not in fact worship of God, but another ox-cart of their own invention.  They are wasting their time and their life.

NINE, the universal church belief brings the following mess-ups that could each be their own separate explanation of the dangers of the universal church:  parachurch organizations, church hoppers, inclusion of all sorts of heinous groups into the broad umbrella of "the church,"  apostate denominations like Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Methodism, justification of a state church, ecumenism, disrespect of the church (which is local only), unfaithfulness to church (they're attending the big one), validates hierarchical leadership that is everywhere today -- various sacral societies applying unscriptural authority all over, giving to whatever charity and counting this as the Lord's giving, discipleship is destroyed because men think they are making disciples outside of the actual Great Commission (when they're not), Christian publishers affected by whatever it is that will be popular enough to help them meet payroll for their staff and employees, missionaries giving an account to boards ahead of churches, and more.  If I spent more time thinking, I'm sure I could list a few dozen more.  These were easy and they all come out of a universal church belief.

TEN, the universal church belief will be the final belief of the anti-christ, who will lead a universal church.  That church will feel justified, I believe, by the same arguments as the universal church.  Jesus will destroy the universal church.  A universal church contradicts replenish the earth.  It is a modern tower of Babel.  Babylon is the final religion, the universal church, that will be destroyed.

People ask me why church doctrine is so serious.  Why would we separate over it?  If you give in on the church, you now give in on every single doctrine.  If you say there is a universal church, now someone can and will practice universal church, and then all other doctrines will be perverted.  Could there be a true doctrine that is true that would cause all of that?  No way.

Just as a little aside, to be read later, the universal church teaching and belief creates guys like we have had a few of in our comment section, who free float, and can go off in any "ministry" they want, essentially creating havoc, without accountability.  They don't like strong pastoral authority, really almost any pastoral authority, if any authority at all.  They like to be their own man out there free-floating.  They can just say, "God led me," and take off.  God speaks to them individually without the work of a church.  Their word is as good as anyone else's.  They can be a big shot in their own little pond.  They are their own expert.  A lot of pastors are the same way.  They just go when they want, start their own ministry when they want, with little regard to the inter-relations of a church.  "The body is all believers," and as far as they're concerned they're then fitting into the body.  Someone might disagree, but they could never have the authority of the big one, so no one has to listen. This is all the product of a belief in a universal church and it has created more wackos and cuckoos than anything.  The universal church belief is perfect for the men who see computer chips in their corn flakes.


Don Johnson said...

Kent, you can do much better than this. I'll try to deal with this more thoroughly at my place when I can get to it, but a few brief comments here will have to suffice.

As I see it, you object to the idea of the universal church on these grounds:

1. It is unbiblical
2. It damages the doctrine of separation
3. It allows for parachurch organizations/activities
4. It will foster the one-world church of the anti-christ

I think almost all of your points can be fit under those heads.

Your problem is that you have proven none of them. You haven't dealt with the passages I raised, you just say "the idea of a universal church isn't in the Bible". That's not exegesis, is it? It would seem that if you are going to refute what I have said you would at least take the time to show where my exegesis is wrong.

The pattern continues through all your points: you put forth propositions with no proof. Which, as they stand, count as opinions. And opinions are simply that, not authoritative and not convincing.

I think you have succeeded in explaining why you think the notion is dangerous, however. Primarily I think it has to do with separation and the notion that a) you can't successfully be a separatist and hold to the universal church and b) you are unwittingly in league with the anti-christ if you hold to the universal church.

As to being a successful separatist, I think that my own record refutes that point. As to being unwittingly in league with the anti-christ, well, I would concede that it is possible, if what you say is true. But you haven't shown how the belief in a universal church by itself supports the efforts of the anti-christ in the world. You will have to show a correspondence, not just utter a pontification. You would have to show that what I understand to be the universal church is the same thing that the ecumenical movement says is the universal church and hence the efforts of anti-christ to promote it. I think you will have a hard time proving that point.

Anyway, enough for now.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

d4v34x said...

" have proven none of them." ~ Don Johnson

An irony I myself noticed. Why irony? Because:

"There's your deep work." ~Bro. B.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I thought I answered the question. I have dealt with the exposition, the biblical part of it, many, many other times. This was a very narrow idea. You want to know what we think the dangers are. I can understand someone maybe not liking to hear it, but it is what I think the dangers are. There are going to be a lot of men that will really, really like this because it puts the dangers in one post, right at someone's finger tips.

I think you are simplifying way too much with the four. Under number 9 itself, I've got a catch-all that includes a number of other results. There is a ton of disobedience that comes out of this doctrine.

As far as how you practice separation, you are now a complete anomaly, one, and, two, you too are stuck with a particular view of separation that doesn't fit what we read in scripture. What fundamentals do you separate over? What are the fundamentals? Why do you advocate schism in the body? Since you believe in a universal body? There are a lot of questions here that get explored in our book.

Regarding a one world church, we believe that's how things end on earth. It's easy to see how a universal church belief is going there, even if you oppose THAT universal church. It will have the ecclesiology of Roman Catholicism, something the reformers never gave up. You read through the Bible, and God told Cain to spread out, he didn't, and the flood, and then they redid that after Noah at the tower of Babel, and that Babylonianism will end the earth. It seems easy to see.

I'm in the back of class with kids taking a test, so I'll be back some other time.

The Preacher said...

As Don has said you have not proven anything. You talk about others who "as a teaching or belief eisegetes scripture or distorts the plain meaning of the text", but you have done the same thing. I do not have the time to tear down almost everything you said, but I will give you one:

Kent wrote:

"I am sorry, but I read and listen to inane statements attempting to defend universal church from the Bible. No verse teaches it."

Ephesians 3:[15] Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

Well Kent, please explain in context of Ephesians 3, that in Jesus Christ the WHOLE family IN HEAVEN and EARTH is named?
1> v6- Gentiles be fellowheirs,
2> v8- All saints,
3> v10- THE CHURCH,

Let me ask you a couple of questions that are corollaries to the discussion of the church.

1> Are you incorporated an a 501c3?

2> Do you issue state marriage licenses or do you have a Covenant Marriage certificate the church issues when you perform a wedding?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I answered one question. I didn't say I was providing a biblical exegesis for the dangers. I gave my understanding of what the problems are. If you asked me my belief on the trinity, I might not quote one verse. I would explain to you what my belief is, period. That's another post, which I've written dozens of times. I'm not saying I haven't read anyone defending universal church. It's just that they don't go into detail explaining it. They just assume it to be true.

If you don't think we've done work on this, did you read the Thomas Ross series on Spirit baptism? Not very deep, no? So this critique isn't valid. I answered the question. It's one blog post.

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing, did you guys read my three or four part series answering David Cloud's article. I got deep into those passages. Did David Cloud? No. But there were crickets for that series. That whole series got deep into the church issue. It isn't a book, but it was exegetical, very. Awaiting the answer.

The Preacher said...

Don wrote:

"You would have to show that what I understand to be the universal church is the same thing that the ecumenical movement says is the universal church and hence the efforts of anti-christ to promote it. I think you will have a hard time proving that point"

He sure will because he has no concept of what that means biblically and how it worked biblically since all he did in his attempt to destroy the argument was to set up continued strawmen and then knock them down by pontification.

Another biblical point:

Ephesians 6:[21] But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:

Paul was in prison in Rome, which is after Acts 20 (speaking to the overseers) and he tells the church that Tychicus, beloved BROTHER will come to make known ALL THINGS. Well, I thought Paul did that when he said, he kept back nothing (20:20) and shunned not to declare all the council of God (20:27)? He had more that needed to be said about his affairs, and he did not send for a "local church only pastor" to come and see him, but rather sent them Tychicus, a beloved brother.

1> Explain that in light of all your latest diatribe.

Kent Brandenburg said...

For those criticizing a post that I didn't write. What I did write wasn't the biblical basis for the local only position, but it was the dangers of the universal church position. Let me give an example. What if I asked, what are the dangers of the false doctrine of infant sprinkling. How much biblical exegesis would come? If I asked disprove the infant sprinkling position---lots of exegesis writing---dangers of it, little exegesis. They're different questions. When in my post I say that I get little to no exegesis from men on the universal church, I'm just reporting. I have exegeted a lot here, a lot at Jackhammer, a lot when I was at SharperIron. For instance, on Spirit baptism, which is the proof text essentially for the universal church guys, we have written about a book of exegesis on that here. No? Waiting for the answer.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi, I've been wanting to do this for awhile, but on the right are posts and articles on the church, if you are wanting exegesis. It deals with many, many facets to this. I'm always open to good exegesis on the universal church, wherever that might be.

KJB1611 said...

My Spirit baptism paper is here:

Further exegesis on the local only position is here:

The false doctrine of universal church is definitely dangerous.

Joshua said...

Folks ask what the dangers are. The dangers are listed. Folks then cry foul because they didn't get a thesis expounding, exploring and explaining every last point to the nth degree? The man's written a book about it if you want details like that.

Deal with the post lads. There are a bunch of negative things in there that are manifestly assisted by believing in a universal church, and you don't need 16 verses to figure that out, even if you do believe in the UC. How about we start off with some grudging concessions before the demands for further heavy lifting begin?


The family of God is universal. Everyone enters the family of God through salvation. It's not the same as the church. The church of God is local. Every proof text you've posted here

Pastor Brandenburg,

This is a good summary of the rotten fruit of the false UC doctrine. Keep on hammering it.

I remember doing a two part sermon on Wednesday nights on the myth of the UC a few years back. Two fascinating things came out of it.

One was a brother who took umbrage, and said there was a bunch of verses that refuted the LCO idea but he'd look them up and show me. He looked em up, but kept being surprised to find that unless the UC was assumed before he read the verse, it either didn't specify it was talking about the church, or simply could refer to a single church. No passage could only make sense if a universal church existed - they made perfect sense on their own with a local church reading.

The second was a bunch of folks who had never been taught the LCO position, but neither had they been taught the Universal position. They were stunned that there were Christians who thought they were still in church even if they never darkened the door of a local assembly. It just blew their mind that people could think there was a big invisible church that existed that everyone was in. It's fascinating how if you're not taught it, it doesn't occur to you, nor do you get that from the Bible. It reminds me of Calvinism in that way.

I grew up with the UC position, so I do understand how pervasive it is in your understanding. You keep approaching verses assuming it, and end up seeing it everywhere. Your blog here and Jackhammer were the first interaction I had with an LCO position. The more I read, the more it started to make sense, so I went and talked to my pastor about it. He backed up what you were teaching here from the Bible, and the rest is history. Appreciate your part in it.

d4v34x said...

I'm saying you list outcomes without enough support to show causality. It's speculative.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I make a lot of legitimate argument, in other words, I show causality many times.

On the other hand, I am making some assumptions based on a belief in the reality of local only. If scripture teaches local only, the false doctrine of universal church produces this. It would take A LOT of time to show causality for all of this, but I'm open for you to ask me on any of them, and I'll explain if you need it. I say that with complete joy and happiness, differentiating between those two.


Kent Brandenburg said...


And I'll be happy to point out where there is argument for the outcome. There are several of those. I might come back later today (I have Greek class and need to finish up Wed study) and list all of the scriptural arguments I make. Do you want that though? Because I don't want to do it, if you don't care anyway. :-D

Don Johnson said...

Hi Kent

I've read over your responses, I'll try to work on a detailed answer tomorrow. The circumstances of my day today made anything like that impossible and the next two days look only slightly better.

I think d4's pithy comment sums up the problem pretty well though. You just give out a list of problems but don't prove that those problems are actually caused by the doctrine.

However, it is a fair point that all I asked for was what you saw as the dangers of the view. The question wasn't asking for a book.

Nevertheless... I still think you can do better! Class dismissed, for now!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bobby said...

I totally get your point here, kent. You are just giving dangers. They asked for a list and you gave them one. You are right on.

So much of what men like Don contend against as fundamentalists has roots in the UC mentality. Come to think of it, Fundamentalism would be one of the fruits of the UC movement.


Good Discussion,
I greatly appreciate all I’ve learned here. The local-only position has a lot of merit and the arguments of Jesus’ usage, the generic, singular noun usage, and the plain interpreting the fuzzy are powerful. I would say that I’m leaky local-only. I still struggle with verses like 1 Cor. 14:23 and 15:9. (How can an assembly not be assembled in one place?). Both of those can probably be explained from the plain to fuzzy but I’m just being honest. With that said, we all have blind spots. And we can’t see them because well, they’re blind spots. This is one reason I believe why the NT calls for multiple elders in every church (Acts 14:23) and not a sole pastor. Some of us can’t understand why someone sees a UC in the text with all the arguments and the history. But the same could be said about not seeing headcoverings.

Kent Brandenburg said...




I've been thinking about this one and it would be interesting to find out exactly how someone puts a verse to every danger of a false doctrine. If the false doctrine isn't in the Bible, then the Bible isn't going to say anything about it's damage, is it? I am interested in that, which is why I gave the infant sprinkling parallel. Besides being a false doctrine, which leads people astray, what verse can you put to a doctrine that isn't in scripture? I'd be interested in anyone answering that one. It seems like a default or token critique -- no scripture -- but if it isn't in the Bible, and it came in later in the history of doctrine, the dangers are going to be historical. Wrong? I'm happy to know. On the other hand, I think anyone should do the best he can to make a scriptural connection.

John Gardner,

You really want a discussion of headcoverings, don't you? :-D I have my position laid out in great detail in my book on dress, not yet published, but finished for awhile. I do think through it greatly. I read books from every position, listened to sermons. I think I do take the biblical position, but I don't see how that the wearing of headcoverings for women is unbiblical. I don't think that. I could see your thinking my position is unbiblical, but I don't think yours is in this case.

On the 1 Cor 14:23, that actually supports a local position very much. If the "whole church" were all believers, then how could it come together in one place. Churches can come together in one place -- that's just the thing.

Paul persecuted the church of God is a generic singular noun. There are many examples of those. Perhaps your point is that he persecuted more than one church, so the use of the singular means there is something bigger than local. First, did he persecuted more than one church? He never made it to Damascus to persecute, so the argument could be made that he's speaking only of the Jerusalem church.


Thanks for the reply, sir. I bring up heacoverings with you because it is one of the few places where we differ. I'm not sure we can have differing positions and both be biblical. I wouldn't mind reading that book.

With regards to 1 Cor. 14:23, it's not that all Christians are to assembly in one place, It just seems redundant/non-sensical to me to say if the whole church come together in one place. If a church is an assembly in a local place, then isn't it already/always in one place?
Maybe the emphasis is on the word "whole" though in which case, I concede.
I concede as well on paragraph 3.
Blessings to you and yours.

Joshua said...

I have made an annual habit of pestering Pastor Brandenburg to publish his book on dress, and seeing he brought it up and I'm running out of time in 2013 to get my dig in .... Dressing for The Lord sure would make a great Christmas gift in 2014!

Bill Hardecker said...

I would Pastor Brandenburg's points of consideration #11: The history of the term Catholic. It stems from The Epistle of Ignatius [of Antioch] to the Smyrnaeans (ca. A.D. 101-105?) this is the earliest usage of the term "Catholic" as applied to "the Church." (cf. Chapter 8 of the letter). The idea is that there is a body that transcends the local assembly. So the idea isn't N.T. and not promoted till at least a few years after the closing of the canon of Scriptures and having no Apostolic authority. Having said that, the term Catholic wasn't exclusively applied to the Roman Church till after the Protestant Reformation. My point is: the idea of a body beyond a local assembly isn't New Testament and is both Romish and Protestant in usage (which are antithetical to the Baptist heritage & beliefs). Anyway, FWIW.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Kent,

I've gone through your post point by point and just published it on my blog. I read through it a second time and tried to take out any smart-alecky comments. There still may be some, as I am somewhat uncurable. But I have tried, I don't want to just be a smart mouth in a serious debate.

That's for a disclaimer up front. I also read through the comments here to this point (Bill Hardecker the last I can see) to see if I should add anything to that piece.

Just two comments here, then we can continue here or at my place as folks see fit. I will not be available during the daytime Friday, so there will be a delay in responding.

Now, to Kent: If the false doctrine isn't in the Bible, then the Bible isn't going to say anything about it's damage, is it?

Well, no, but you can always show how a doctrine develops. Sometimes it develops from a misinterpretation of Scripture or over-emphasis of Scripture, and sometimes it comes from another source outside of Scripture. But you can always trace its development, just like any other matter of history. Also, you can use Scripture to clearly refute it.

And to Bill Hardecker: My point is: the idea of a body beyond a local assembly isn't New Testament and is both Romish and Protestant in usage (which are antithetical to the Baptist heritage & beliefs).

On isn't New Testament: you have to deal with the arguments of those who say it is before you can make that assertion. As to being Romish/Protestant - by quoting Ignatius, you are demonstrating that it is neither. He wasn't either one.

The Rome/Protestant angle is one that I was expecting as a danger of universal church teaching, but I don't think it has merit. Partly because the doctrine isn't exclusive to them and partly because I don't see it as driving anyone into their positions. That is, the mere fact of holding a universal church view is no predictor of trending towards Rome or Protestantism.

Ok, enough for now. I'll be interested to see what else you all have to say.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bill Hardecker said...

Don Johnson,
I do appreciate your feedback on my feedback.

Have you read Pastor B.'s treatment of Bro. Cloud's ecclesiology? Is that not dealing with arguments of those who say it is universal?

Ignatius' "Catholic" concept (among other things, like his view on the "Eucharist") is the seed that the RCC Tree sprung out of. He was a precursor.

BTW, the "captcha" verification in the comment section is enough to scare dyslexic users and makes me think I struggle with it. :-)

KJB1611 said...

Dear Don,

I do not wish to enter into this discussion extensively at this time, but I simply wish to point out that the references to the Catholic Church are probably interpolations, as are the other elements of hierarchicalism in his writings. My explanation is here:

relatively near the top of the article.

KJB1611 said...

I was not clear that in the last comment I referred to Ignatius. The pronoun referent was not clear. What I meant to say was that the references in Ignatius to a Catholic Church are very likely to be later interpolations that he never wrote.

Don Johnson said...

Quick comment. I looked at Thomas' page and have skimmed the articles by Kent re David Cloud.

Regarding the Ignatius question, first, there is doubt as to whether he even wrote the epistle, some epistles attributed to him have been shown to be later frauds, written by some to make out that he is saying things that came to be in vogue later. This makes it somewhat suspect to use him to prove anything.

But even so, let's assume the 'catholic' reference is genuine. I think it is a bit of a stretch to claim he is the seed of Roman Catholicism. The Roman system took hundreds of years to develop. Augustine had a major influence, but you still don't have the Roman Catholic church as it existed at the point of the Council of Trent onwards. I am fairly dismissive of this argument.

Let me see if I can put it succinctly: the universal church idea may be something that false churches teach, but the idea is not what made them a false church, nor is it what created them in the first place.

Bottom line, as I said to Kent at my blog, is this: does the Bible teach it or not? If it does, we should embrace it. If it doesn't we should shun it.

As I have time, I am thinking to do more writing on this subject later, I'll be glad for your interaction when that comes up. I am currently in a very busy stretch so it may be a while before I come up with something.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ken Lengel said...


Under Danger Number two, another blogger suggested prrof was needed to prove that belief in a universal church was 1) a result of Platonic philsophy and 2) a result of allegorical or spiritualizing the intepretation of Scripture.

Both can be answered from one source reference to the matter. In "The Church of the Living God: A Reformed Perspective", Wallace Alston writes the following:

"This distinction between the invisible and the visible church was clearly formulated by Augustine in the fourth century. Agustine was steeped in Neo-platonic ways of thought. Platonists believed that true reality is not what is visible. True reality is invisible. The visible reality may well reflect the invisible, but when it does, it always reflects it in a partial and imperfect way."

"This worldview greatly influenced Augustine's doctrine of the church and that of the Reformers centuries later. The true church, accodrding to Augustine, is always invisible. The visible church on earth is a real but imperfect reflection or representation of the true and invisible church, which is completely know only to God. We see the visible church, but we must believe that the invisible church exists in, but also above and beyond, its earthly form.

As for allegory and the universal church, the author continues..."Each celebration of the mass brought the invisible church to mind. There exists an invisible communion of saints, of which the believer was reminded at the Eucharist, whose membership is only known to God."

It is quite evident from these statements that Alston believes that Augustine both as influenced by Platonic philosophy and used allegorical interpretation to justify the existence of such an invisible communion of saints.

Jim F said...

What about the idea of the church being the bride of Christ? Or are you saying there are many brides of Christ? Also, isn't Christ coming for His bride (the church) at the rapture?

Jim F

Michael S. Alford said...

Kent, as much as I enjoy some of your writings, this one seemed stuffed to the brim with straw men. The only thing I can figure is when you say 'universal church' you're thinking of something different than what I'm thinking of. You're thinking of some sort of cross-denominational monstrosity that some sort of Protestant pope will eventually seek influence and authority over. If that's what you mean, then I join you in opposing it.
When I think of the church, I do think of an assembly, local in nature. But beyond that, I acknowledge that one day all believers will be assembled together in one place. In that sense, all believers are the church, and that is why the term is used interchangeably in scripture.
Knowing that someday we will all be one big happy family (after the Lord Jesus Christ straightens out our doctrine and gives us the mind of Christ so we can all get along) does not give me the authority, in the meantime to church hop or rebel against the local pastor or play the part of the Lone ranger. Understanding that the church is much bigger than my local assembly doesn't give me the authority or license to do any of the things you accused 'universal church' guys of doing.