The Myth Of The Universal Invisible Church
By Pastor Roy Mason
There is no mention of a Universal Church in the Bible. The warmest advocates
of the theory will of necessity admit that nearly every instance in which
ecclesia, translated church, is found, reference is to an actual, local,
visible church. The other few times ecclesia is used, according to the
laws of language, the term is used in a generic or abstract sense, and
does not at all refer to an all-inclusive Universal, Invisible some thing.
This will be dealt with later.
And When This Theory Started
Not only does the New Testament know nothing of a Universal, Invisible
Church, Christians of the early centuries knew nothing of such. I have
read rather widely in the writings of the early church fathers - the writings
of the Christian leaders who lived in the early days of Christianity all
the way from Polycarp who knew John the apostle, on down. In their writings
they don't speak of an all embracing spiritual Universal, Invisible Church.
Doubtlessly they would have been amazed at such a doctrine. They speak
of church and churches - never of a vague Universal, Invisible monstrosity
composed of all the saved everywhere. They knew the Greek language too
well to try to use the term ecclesia in such a sense anyhow.
As time passed, Satan managed to introduce heresies and perversions among
the churches. These eventually produced the Roman Catholic Church. Bear
in mind that Roman Catholicism did not spring full grown into the world.
It is the product of error and false doctrine accumulated over a period
of several centuries. Dr. R. K. Maiden, former editor of the Word and Way,
of Missouri, has the following to say about the rise of the Universal Church
conception and adoption of the Universal Church Theory, is the parent heresy
in ecciesiology. How and when did this theory originate? The change from
the idea of the individual, self-governing church, to the Universal Church
had its origin in one of the most colossal blunders of all Christian history
- that of making 'ecclesia' and 'basileia' identical. So far from being
identical, the difference between 'church' and 'kingdom' is so great as
to require that they be contrasted rather than compared. Jesus and the
writers of the New Testament never confused the two terms. The taproot
of the Universal Church theory is the identification of the church and
kingdom, making the two coincident, coextensive and coterminous. The theory
of the identity of church and kingdom and of the universality of the church
were twin born. New Testament writers knew nothing of a world church. As
nearly as can be determined, the first formal, official identification
of church and kingdom was projected when the Roman Empire became nominally
Christianized, about the time of the consummation of the great ecclesiastical
apostasy. It was the Ecumenical Council of Nice, called by the Emperor
Constantine, that affirmed and projected as its creed the idea of a 'Catholic'
World Church. From then down to the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth
century, the universal VISIBLE theory of the church held the field, except
for the scattered, comparatively obscure, hunted and persecuted little
churches known by various names at different times - churches of the New
Testament type in doctrine and polity. Following the Reformation period
and born of the Reformation movement, there emerged a new theory of the
church - the UNIVERSAL, INVISIBLE SPIRITUAL THEORY."
The Universal Visible Church theory is an utter necessity of the Roman
Catholic Church. There is not the slightest resemblance between the simply
organized, self-governing churches of New Testament times, and the great,
complex hierarchical pope dominated institution that we know as the Roman
Catholic Church today. Conditions in that church became so intolerable
that they produced the Protestant Reformation. Let it be remembered, and
never forgotten that Baptists are NOT Protestants. They existed long before
the rise of Protestantism.
When the Protestant reformers split the Catholic world, they did not make
the radical changes they would have made had they gone back to the Bible
as their standard of life, and doctrine, and conduct. They of necessity
rejected the Roman Church as the Universal Visible Church, but they did
not go back to the New Testament Church type. What would they do? With
what would they replace the doctrine of the Universal Visible Church? They
solved the problem by coining the doctrine of the Universal INVISIBLE Church.
So the Universal, Invisible, spiritual theory of the church WAS INVENTED!
Such a thing didn't exist for over fifteen hundred years after Christ started
His church! But this is now the working theory of all Protestantism - and
sad to say many Baptists have unwittingly been snared by this theory.
MOTHER OF HERESIES
Down in Florida where the writer lives, we often have severe hurricanes,
and sometimes these spawn a whole bunch of violent tornadoes. They literally
spin off of the parent storm. This same thing is true of the mother heresy,
the Universal church theory. She spawns a lot of other heresies. The Church
Branch theory is a case in point. Some years ago there was a preaching
mission sponsored by the Federal (now National) Council of Churches. Dr.
E. Stanley Jones acted as a special spokesman for the Council, in an attempt
to keep it and its aims before the people. Dr. Jones advocated the formulation
of a kind of super church entitled "The Church of Christ In America", formulated
by all the denominations. He said, "The figure that I have in mind is that
of a tree, with many different branches adhering to the central trunk -
"The Church of Christ In America ..."
Dr. W. L. Poteat, a former president of Wake Forest College, and a very
loose Baptist, in his book entitled, "Can A Man Be A Christian Today,"
in referring to organized Christianity calls it, "The Christian Church."
Dr. Marshall, teacher of McMaster's University, is quoted as saying in
a sermon, "Baptists do not regard baptism as essential to membership in
the 'Christian Church' - the church universal - even though they insist
on immersion as a condition of admittance into the BAPTIST SECTION OF THE
CHRISTIAN CHURCH." The National and World Council of churches operates
on the theory that all of the churches of different and even conflicting
faiths should be united into one big world church, with the leaders, the
"Big Boys" directing its course. Beyond this seen conglomeration however,
is the Church Universal concept, the mother of the smaller church heresy.
SUMMARIZING: The Universal, Invisible theory is unknown to the Bible; is
unknown to the writings of the early church Fathers who lived back near
apostolic times; was unknown during the centuries when Roman Catholicism
dominated Europe, and when the Universal Visible theory was in vogue. It
is AN INVENTION of Protestantism designed to take the place of the Catholic
Universal Visible theory. No one who seeks to follow the Bible should adopt
as an item of doctrine an unscriptural invention of men.
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