"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Arbitrary institutionalism: Emergentism or Catholicism

Recently at Michael Spencer's site "internetmonk", [Michael is Southern Baptist] he posted an interview with Jonathan Leeman. In the comments I wrote:

Michael,

I found the following statement [by Leeman] interesting:

Second, and more to your question, I would argue that the person who claims to be a member of the church (universal) without being a member of a church (local) is in an analogous position to the person who claims to be righteous in Christ (by position) but does not pursue a life of righteousness (in practice). In other words, let me propose that such a person is in a very dangerous position, and it raises real questions about the nature of their “faith.”

Why does this apply to individuals, and not to local churches? In other words, if the individual should be a member of the local institution, then why shouldn’t the local institution be a member of the universal institution? The argument works the other way around as well. If the local institution need not be a member of a universal institution, then it seems inconsistent (or ad hoc) to claim that the individual should be a member of the local institution. If anti-institutionalism (or at least non-institutionalism) is fine for the local church with respect to the universal church, then why is anti-institutionalism (or non-institutionalism) not fine for the individual with respect to the local church?


Michael offered a brief response. I replied with the following:

Michael,

If I were an 'emergent church' sort, I'd be pointing out the same ad hoc problem in your ecclesiological position. The ad hoc problem in your position does not depend upon the beliefs (past and present) of the messenger. If the local church per se has to be visible, then the universal church per se should also have to be visible. But if the universal church per se is invisible, then it seems that the local church per se is invisible (even though individual embodied believers are visible). If we are fully incorporated into the universal church through baptism and faith, then a fortiori we are fully incorporated into the local church through baptism and faith. It follows that denominations and memberships vows are superfluous.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

1 comment:

Tim A. Troutman said...

And a large number of individual Protestants (even of the reformed brand) would agree with this mentality (that local-church membership is extra-biblical).