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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Church: Catholic or Invisible? Part II



This is a follow-up to "The Church: Catholic or Invisible?".

Consider the following dialogue. One of the participants is a Protestant who claims that there is such a thing as the visible Church. Call him VC-guy. The other is a Protestant who denies that there is such a thing as the visible Church. Call him VC-denier.


VC-denier: "There are Christians who get together and proclaim the Word and celebrate the Sacraments. And there are various denominations to which most Christians belong."

VC-guy: "Wait, you left out something else that is also there, i.e. the visible Church."

VC-denier: "I don't see any visible Church. I see only the things I listed."

VC-guy: "All the things you listed constitute the visible Church"

VC-denier: "What if it didn't exist?"

VC-guy: "What do you mean?"

VC-denier: "I mean, what would be different if there were no visible Church?"

VC-guy: "There wouldn't be people congregating together to proclaim the Word and celebrate the Sacraments."

VC-denier: "No, you're not following me. I mean, what if there were only people congregating together to proclaim the Word and celebrate the Sacraments, and not some additional entity called the visible Church? What would be different?"

VC-guy: "Well, nothing, but that's impossible, because wherever there are people congregating to proclaim the Word and celebrate the Sacraments, there is the visible Church."

VC-denier: "Yes, in your view, wherever people are doing those things, by definition that is the visible Church".

VC-guy: "Right"

VC-denier: "But what if there weren't actually another entity, i.e. a visible Church, but only a term [i.e. 'visible Church'] that was being used to refer to the plurality of persons doing these activities? What would be different?"

VC-guy: "I don't know. Nothing I guess."

VC-denier: "What about the principle of parsimony? You know, the principle that the simpler explanation is to be preferred, all things being equal?"

VC-guy: "Right, but how does that apply here?"

VC-denier: "Well, we can explain the same data equally well in two ways, one by positing another entity "the visible Church", and one without positing that entity."

VC-guy: "Ok, so what?"

VC-denier: "Therefore, by the principle of parsimony, the explanation that does not posit an additional entity is preferred, because positing the additional entity is entirely unnecessary."

VC-guy: "So according to your argument, there isn't actually a visible Church. Rather, what exists are visible persons who are proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacraments. We can give those persons a collective label (of any sort), but we shouldn't make the mistake of treating the label as referring to a single unified entity constituted by those persons."

VC-denier: "Exactly."

VC-guy: "So really, there is no visible Church; there are visible people engaged in meeting to proclaim the Word and celebrate the Sacraments, but not another entity 'the visible Church'."

VC-denier: "Well, ... yes."


The point of the dialogue is to show how VC-guy's position is subject to the principle of parsimony. The application of the principle of parsimony shows how he has committed the "fallacy of misplaced concreteness", treating a plural-referring term as if it referred to an additional singular entity that in some sense includes all the other singular entities within itself.

The Catholic position is not subject to this critique because the Catholic Church is a hierarchically organized institution. Reductionism (as applied to living organisms) is the opposite error of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, because while misplaced concreteness treats mere pluralities as if they are actual wholes and thus unnecessarily inflates the account of ontology, reductionism treats actual composite wholes as mere pluralities of smaller simples, and in this way fails to account fully for the being and activity of actual composite wholes. (See Leon Kass's "The Permanent Limitations of Biology".) Because the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church is analogous to that of an organism, it is not subject to eliminative reductionism by way of the principle of parsimony. To try to explain the activities of Catholics without referring to the institution to which they belong would necessarily leave out a significant part of the full explanation. It would be like trying to explain the daily life of a human being solely in terms of the movements of the particles of which he is composed. But a complete explanation of the activities of Protestants as such need not refer to some world-encompassing entity, "the visible Church", over and above the influence of other believers, their local congregation and/or denomination.

49 comments:

CD-Host said...

Since you are being philosophical, you may be confusing ideals with reals here. There is no distinction between "material triangles" and the collection of all triangles that exist in the physical universe. There is a distinction between material triangles and "all triangles" in a mathematical sense.

Other than that, yes. The visible church is the collection of churches that people go to. Nothing more. It is not an entity but a term for an entity.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

The visible church is the collection of churches that people go to. Nothing more. It is not an entity but a term for an entity.

What is the "entity" for which it is a term?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

Bryan,

Do you really think that is compelling? "An additional entity." Seriously. If I predicate "visible church" of a particular visible phenomenon, you can't come back and say, "But, oh, there is no difference if we do not predicate 'visible church.'" Well, of course. But that's your argument, bolstered by a dubious application of parsimony, as if my predication were constituting an additional entity.

I really don't think we're going to get very far in this discussion, especially judging from our previous discussion on the Dodos page. Your criteria of rationality is simply bizarre to me.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

Please show me where the argument is wrong. If we can explain everything without that additional entity "the visible Church", with no explanatory remainder, then the principle of parsimony eliminates it.

What exactly is wrong with that argument?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

"the visible church" is a predicate, not "an additional entity." I'm not adding any "thing." I'm doing what language is supposed to do -- define, limit, categorize, etc.

Here's a philosophy help tip: If your argument doesn't make any sense at a common sense level, then you've failed to make proper distinctions (or created false distinctions).

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

"the visible church" is a predicate,

That's exactly what my argument shows, i.e. that for Protestants there is no actual "visible Church". It is just a term. Many Protestants will say, "We too believe in a visible Church. We believe that Christ founded a visible Church." But when you start digging, you find that their "visible Church" is just a term, and so it implies that Christ founded a mere predicate.

In the other thread you said, "Instead, [Protestants] can say that the Church exists where the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed, through Word and Sacrament."

But notice that it doesn't make any sense to say that a predicate exists. A predicate is a part of language. But Protestants talk about the "visible Church" as if it is an entity, saying that it "exists".

Later in that thread you said, "When Bob, Sam, and Joan commit themselves to this task of proclamation, they constitute part of the visible church."

But how can people constitute a predicate, which is a piece of language? That seems to make no sense. A piece of cloth can constitute a flag. A chunk of bronze can constitute a statue. But people cannot constitute a predicate.

So you see the confusion in your own terminology, because on the one hand you use existential language to refer to the visible Church. But on the other hand, you admit that it is only a predicate.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

Bryan,

Yes, it's a term, but it signifies something. The predicate, as language, doesn't exist as a (physical) thing exists, but what it signifies exists as a thing exists. That's the point: "the visible church" exists. C'mon, Bryan, I know you are capable of these distinctions.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

You wrote:
Yes, it's a term, but it signifies something. The predicate, as language, doesn't exist as a (physical) thing exists, but what it signifies exists as a thing exists.

So, you believe that the term 'visible Church' signifies a "thing" that "exists". But just earlier you said:

"the visible church" is a predicate, not "an additional entity."

There it seems you are saying that the visible Church is not an entity.

So it seems you are saying that the referent of the term 'visible Church' is a thing that exists, but not an entity that exists.

So, what is the difference between a thing and an entity? How can a *thing* exist and not also at the same time be an *entity*, i.e. a being of some sort?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

So, you believe that the term 'visible Church' signifies a "thing" that "exists". But just earlier you said: "the visible church" is a predicate, not "an additional entity."

Bryan, it is both a predicate and predicates a thing that exists. That's the point. All terms do this. "Visible church" is a predicate, a signifier, but it predicates something, it signifies something. It doesn't "add" something; it signifies something. It is not an additional entity; it is the entity. That's why your argument fails.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

it is the entity.

Ok, if there is an entity that is the visible Church, then my argument applies as follows. Since we can explain all the data without that entity, and with no explanatory remainder, then the principle of parsimony eliminates it.

So, what exactly is wrong with that argument?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

Bryan --

Not sure I understand the question. Could you clarify what is missing, not understood... with "The visible church is the collection of churches that people go to."

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

You said that the 'visible Church' "is not an entity but a term for an entity."

So the question I'm asking concerns your phrase "term for an entity". More specifically I'm asking: What is the entity that the term 'visible Church' is a term for?

Does that help?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

Using the triangles analogy:

material triangles ~ All the churches in the world throughout all of time / history.
triangles ~ All the material churches that could exist.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

I don't understand your reply. Could you clarify?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

Ok, if there is an entity that is the visible Church, then my argument applies as follows. Since we can explain all the data without that entity, and with no explanatory remainder, then the principle of parsimony eliminates it.

Bryan, please re-read what you just wrote: "explain all the data without that entity"??!!!??!! No, you can't explain all the data without that entity, because it is the entity! That's the whole point.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

"explain all the data without that entity"??!!!??!! No, you can't explain all the data without that entity, because it is the entity!

What if the only [relevant] entities were human beings who were gathering to proclaim the Word and partake of the Sacraments, and there was no entity that is the visible Church, what would be different?

In other words, if we were to list out the furniture of our ontology, it would look like this:

(1) Sally - proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacrament.

(2) Joe - proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacrament.

(3) Susie - proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacrament.

(4) Bob - proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacrament.

etc. etc. (with just individual persons being listed in this list)

But you want to add something else to the list.

(n) the visible Church


So, what would be different (in the world) if you left (n) out of the list of ontology? How does leaving (n) off the list fail to explain anything that occurs in the world?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

Okay Bryan. This is getting a bit much. I'm not adding anyTHING; I'm USING a predicate. (I'm "adding" a predicate, but that goes for every term). Let's use another example: I call the machine with wheels that cuts grass a "lawn mower." I believe in lawn mowers. Since lawn mowers are visible entities, I believe in visible lawn mowers. We could just say "those particular machines that cut grass" exist, without saying "lawn mowers." Am I adding anything by saying "lawn mowers"? Am I "adding something to the list" of particular machines that cut grass? No. Of course not. Nothing is being added. A signifier is used, but not "an additional entity." Of course a different predicate could be used, but that's not the debate (and a stupid debate that would be). The debate is whether this predicate (visible church) in my understanding of there being a visible church is valid. The debate is whether the predicate, "visible church," can be used of a community proclaiming, yada yada. My answer is yes. The answer is obviously yes. Therefore, this "protestant" understanding of the visible church is legitimate as a visible church. Your argument fails.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

You have moved back to treating the 'visible Church' as a predicate. You are trying to have it both ways. When you say that the visible Church is an entity, then I show that this entity falls prey to the principle of parsimony. Then you say that the visible Church is a predicate. When I then point out that Christ founded a mere predicate, you reject that and say that the term 'visible Church' refers to an entity. Then I go back and show that the principle of parsimony eliminates the entity, leaving us with the list of ontology from (1) through (n-1). In response, you move back to the claim that the visible Church is a predicate.

In my post, I'm not talking about the 'visible Church' as a predicate. I'm talking about that supposed entity to which the term 'visible Church' refers. So let's set aside the predicate discussion, and focus on the entity to which 'visible Church' refers.

My argument is that the principle of parsimony does not justify the positing of such an *entity*. That is because everything can be explained by appealing to the activities of individual believers, the various local organizations to which they belong, and the various denominations to which they belong. So the principle of parsimony eliminates the positing of (n), because (n) is superfluous. Everything can be explained by appealing to [(1) through (n-1)]. When you try to add (n) to the list, the principle of parsimony cuts it off.

If you don't agree, you need to show how an explanation in terms of [(1) through (n-1)] is incomplete, that is, how (n) is needed to give a complete explanation of the data.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

When you say that the visible Church is an entity, then I show that this entity falls prey to the principle of parsimony

WTF! The entity is the visible Church. The entity cannot fall prey to parsimony unless it's an additional (unnecessary) entity, BUT IT'S NOT. IT IS THE ENTITY. Seriously, this is getting ridiculous.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

I'll try to explain this more carefully. If we were to list out the entities in our ontology, it would look like this:

(1) Sally - proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacrament.

(2) Joe - proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacrament.

(3) Susie - proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacrament.

(4) Bob - proclaiming the Word and celebrating the Sacrament.

etc. etc. (with just individual persons being listed in this list) We could also include particular congregations and denominations in this list.

The question is whether or not we should include one more thing in this list:

(n) the visible Church

I'm arguing that the principle of parsimony eliminates the need to posit that (n) is also in the list. Everything can be explained by appealing to [(1) through (n-1)]. When you try to add (n) to the list, the principle of parsimony cuts it off.

If you don't agree, you need to show how an explanation in terms of [(1) through (n-1)] is incomplete, that is, how (n) is needed to give a complete explanation of the data. So, what does (n) explain that [(1) through (n-1)] does not explain? If you can't answer that question, then you aren't justified in positing that (n) must be added to the list of entities in your ontology.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

It's not about completing the list; it's not about adding something that's necessary; it's not about adding anything at all.

This is truly exasperating. Your argument does not work because I'm not adding anything. I believe that Sally, John, etc. doing x, y, and z is the church. I believe it is necessary (proper) to call this the church because I believe it is, not because anything would change if I didn't.** In the latter sense, it is not necessary; in the former sense, it is necessary. This is what philosophy is about -- making distinctions.

**I could be a dick and call it a Theme Park, but it would still be the church.

CD-Host said...

Bryan --

Do you believe that American culture exists? That is that Americans without any hierarchy are able to construct and engage with a culture (language, literature, social norms? When I read your post you seem to argue that the Catholic has "visible church" because it has a hierarchy while Protestants don't because they don't. I don't see what the hierarchy does. There can be organizational structures other than hierarchy that involve collections of individuals.

Further I think it is meaningful to talk about things that are a mix of conceptual and material. I gave the example of triangles. Another one would be "the english language". A reductionist could say no such entity exists. Yet people who claim to speak seem to be able to communicate and other claim there is real content they need to learn.

Mark said...

Bryan,

Seriously? You can't see that "the visible church" is just a term that is being defined? You can't separate the term from its definition and call it a "separate entity". Both you and Kevin use the term "visible church". You just define it differently. All that says is that Protestants and Catholics define "visible church" differently, and we didn't need this long tedious debate about language to tell us that. Kevin is right in his argument. Your argument makes no sense whatsoever.

Mark

Mark said...

Bryan,

I guess I should spell out why I say "your argument makes no sense whatsoever." And I don't mean this to belittle you in any way. I really am confused by your line of reasoning. As I've followed this exchange between you and Kevin, here is what I see happening:

Kevin is adamant that "the visible church" - let's call this 'A' - IS "of a particular visible phenomenon (people preaching the word and partaking in the sacraments)" - let's call this 'B'.

Simply defined, Kevin says A = B.

However you come back and say that A and B are different, and that A constitutes an "additional entity" from B. How? That is NOT what Kevin is saying. Kevin says A = B, not that A is separate from B. You keep confusing this in your responses to Kevin.

A and B are only different in a grammatical sort of way, not ontologically different. A is defined as B - this is part of what language does; it defines "things". This does not make A distinct from B. Then you say in your response on 9/10 @ 6:47 PM, "That's exactly what my argument shows, i.e. that for Protestants there is no actual "visible Church". It is just a term." You are essentially saying, why do Protestants need the term, A, if we have it's definition, B. This is a silly linguistic distinction. Sure you don't need the term 'A' if you have the definition, 'B', but how does that help anyone in this discussion? Catholics use the term 'A' too, but we define it as something different - let's call the Catholic definition of visible church, 'C'. You can no more remove A from C in the Catholic understanding than you can remove A from B in the Protestant understanding.

It seems you are confusing linguistic distinctions with ontological distinctions.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

It's not about completing the list; it's not about adding something that's necessary; it's not about adding anything at all.

Ok, then there is no entity referred to by the term "the visible Church", because the list only includes [(1) through (n-1)]. That's exactly what I've been arguing.

Your argument does not work because I'm not adding anything.

Ok, we're still agreed the list only includes [(1) through (n-1)].

I believe that Sally, John, etc. doing x, y, and z is the church.

But given that (n) is not on the list, then what you say here can only mean that "the visible Church" is a term that refers to a mere plurality, not an actual unity. There is no entity to which "the visible Church" refers; there are many persons, and you are referring to them with a term. But there is no *single* entity picked out by term "visible Church". There is not something "constituted" by [(1) through (n-1)]. There is no "thing" or entity that is composed or constituted by [(n) through (n-1)].

As soon as you admit that (n) is not on the list, then you are in agreement with me, because that's all my argument is showing. You could refer to all the fish in the ocean as "the visible fishdom", but hopefully we wouldn't commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness and start speaking of "the visible fishdom" as an entity or a thing. An actual plurality can be treated mentally as a unity, but the error comes when we mistake the mentally imposed unity for actual unity in the world, and start referring to the actual plurality as if it were an actual unity.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Mark,

Welcome to my blog. See if my latest reply to Kevin helps address your confusion. If not, I'll try to clarify.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

Regarding culture, we share certain ideas, memories, desires, dispositions and practices. We refer to this rather ambiguous collection of shared ideas, memories, desires, dispositions, and practices with a singular term "American culture". But an idea remains an idea when shared. And the same is true for memories, desires, dispositions and practices. They do not turn into a unified entity when shared. They are accidents of persons. And when they are formally shared, they remain accidents of persons, even if referred to by a singular term. Different instantiations of a form share formal unity, just as if we all had the same idea of the number 7 in our minds. In that case, formally the same idea would be in our minds. But that does not mean that all the persons who have that idea in their minds constitute or compose some entity. Likewise, the persons sharing the ideas, memories, desires, dispositions and practices that we refer to as American culture do not thereby constitute or compose some entity. They remain a mere plurality, even though they share these ideas, memories, desires, dispositions, and practices. Shared form is not sufficient to make a unified entity, just as the shared DNA pattern of two identical twins is not sufficient to make them one being. They are still two beings. But hierarchy allows for composite unity, not just shared formal unity. That is why a family is a unity, and not a mere plurality. And that is why (as I mentioned earlier in the comments) congregations and denominations are on the list of [(1) through (n-1)].

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

Bryan --

I think two of your answers get to the point.

1) Your notion of the "visible fishdom".
I can make all sorts of statements about visible fishdom:

a) They each have a 2 chamber heart
b) They breathe oxygen through water via. gills
c) They are cold blooded
etc... That is they do have properties and can be meaningfully spoken about. I can at the same time talk about a larger group of "fish" which includes for example extinct fish. Both are entities, "visible fishdom" is a material entity while "fish" is a conceptual entity.

Now moving on to a family not being a plurality because of the existence if hierarchy. Let me get clarity here. What is the definition of an entity? Given a collection how can I tell if it is an entity or not? You have used the example of living things. I'd argue that seaweed is a perfect of an entity with no hierarchy even at the cellular level.

Andrew Preslar said...

Bryan,

I particularly enjoyed both this post and your subsequent comments.

I want to see if I am following you thus far, and to ask a few questions.

It seems to me that the difference between yourself and your interloculters is that you think the visible church is a *thing* like a cat or perhaps like a nation-state is a thing, while they think that the visible church is a *thing* like a culture is a *thing*.

It is easier to think that a nation-state is a visible thing than to think that a culture is such, but I suppose that one could argue that both positions fail to establish that the Church is a visible thing, if what we mean by that is basically what we mean by saying that a cat is a visible thing.

So far as I can tell, your critique of the *visible* church in the sense intended by your interlocutors, i.e., visible as a culture or a language or a gathering of individuals is visible, boils down to the charge that they commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness; i.e., the visible church that they posit is not an objective (extra-mental) *thing* or *entity.*

And I take it that the nub of the fallacy of mis-placed concreteness, vis-a-vis the visibility of the Church, is that although a thing can be concrete yet not visible (e.g., an angel), a thing cannot be both visible and non-concrete.

Towards the end of your post, you note the specific difference in a Catholic conception of the *visible* church such that it does not fall prey to the same fallacy: the Catholic Church, as a hierarchically-ordered institution, is *like* an organism (e.g., a cat).

I take it that this answers the question (which is on my mind, at least) of how a church or nation-state meets the criterion of concreteness but a culture or a language does not?

How do we then move from the concreteness of the Church to the visibility of the Church (since to be concrete is not ipso facto to be visible)?

Or to put the thing another way (since to be visible is to be material), how is it that matter belongs to the definition of the Church (or of a nation state) in a way that it does not belong to the definition of culture or language?

Finally, how is it that matter enters into the definition of the Church such that the Church is more like an organism than is a nation-state or another such hierarchically ordered institution?

For, surely, when we affirm that the Church is the Body of Christ, and therefore visible, this is a Mystery, not merely a metaphor.

I am not asking you to do all of my homework for me, but if you have any thoughts ready to hand, I would like to read them.

Kevin Davis said...

A "mentally imposed unity"? Well, welcome to language. I guess I'm going to have to stop calling men/women, "humans." But I'm not "imposing" in some illegitimate manner. I'm not "creating" a unity out of a plurality. I'm predicating a single concept of a plurality, but it is purely linguistic. The "plurality" is just the components of what I'm labeling. My label is not a forced "unity," the various factors themselves coalesce to form a single identifiable phenomenon that I label, "church." Mark is right. These are basic linguistic / ontological mistakes that you're making.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

I'm predicating a single concept of a plurality, but it is purely linguistic.

Exactly. That's exactly what my argument shows. Finally we agree! No more referring to an "entity" or "thing" or believers "constituting" something. There is for Protestantism no entity that is the "visible Church". There is in actuality only a mere plurality, that you are referring to with a singular term. Christ founded a mere plurality, not a visible unified entity.

The only difference between your position and that of the Protestant who denies that there is a visible Church is semantic. You refer to a mere plurality with a singular concept. The Protestant who denies that there is a visible Church also believes that there is only a mere plurality, and just chooses not to use your label 'visible Church' to refer to that mere plurality. So there is no substantive [ecclesiological] difference between the position of Protestants who affirm that there is a visible Church, and the position of Protestants who deny that there is a visible Church. It is merely and purely a matter of arbitrary semantics, whether or not one chooses to apply that label 'visible Church' to the mere plurality of believers.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Rene'e said...

Brian,

There is something I do not understand about the concept of “the invisible church”. If as Protestants say, the Church is the body of believers and invisible, then was the Reformation a action against one particular body of believers that belong to the invisible church? Also, if the Church is invisible and yet people can profess to see corruption within it and then begin the process of reforming it, would not that require the Church to be visible? And truly if the Church is the invisible body of believers, would not it have been more appropriate to reform the members within, than attempt to reform a whole church, which according to some never existed , and according to others it did visibly exist, but then ceased to exist in the 15th century, when they “reformed” it. Because as I am understanding the Protestant statement of invisible body of believers as being The Church, there would not have needed to be a reformation, because even though certain members were not in good standing, the Church as the invisible body of believers would not have needed to be reformed.

Last…If it was the case that the Protestants were reforming one particular body of believers in the invisible church, should not they still be reforming all bodies of believers today? Or could that be exactly what has been happening?
(I mean no disrespect by that statement.) Also, would something have to have existed in order to have apostatized itself?

Sorry, if what I am asking is not making sense, I am trying to understand these different concepts.

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

It seems to me that the difference between yourself and your interlocutors is that you think the visible church is a *thing* like a cat or perhaps like a nation-state is a thing, while they think that the visible church is a *thing* like a culture is a *thing*.

Well, Catholics believe that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and this is not just a label applied to a mere plurality. As for what my interlocutors believe, we may have to take that on a case by case basis.

but I suppose that one could argue that both positions fail to establish that the Church is a visible thing, if what we mean by that is basically what we mean by saying that a cat is a visible thing.

Read Mystici Corporis Christi and Satis Cognitum. Here's a sample from Mystici Corporis Christi:

[BOQ] That the Church is a body is frequently asserted in the Sacred Scriptures. "Christ," says the Apostle, "is the Head of the Body of the Church." If the Church is a body, it must be an unbroken unity, according to those words of Paul: "Though many we are one body in Christ." But it is not enough that the Body of the Church should be an unbroken unity; it must also be something definite and perceptible to the senses as Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Satis Cognitum asserts: "the Church is visible because she is a body. Hence they err in a matter of divine truth, who imagine the Church to be invisible, intangible, a something merely "pneumatological" as they say, by which many Christian communities, though they differ from each other in their profession of faith, are untied by an invisible bond.[EOQ]

And I take it that the nub of the fallacy of mis-placed concreteness, vis-a-vis the visibility of the Church, is that although a thing can be concrete yet not visible (e.g., an angel),

Right.

a thing cannot be both visible and non-concrete.

Whatever does not exist or is not actual cannot be visible. In order to be visible, it must be.

How do we then move from the concreteness of the Church to the visibility of the Church (since to be concrete is not ipso facto to be visible)?


See the two documents I mentioned above.

Or to put the thing another way (since to be visible is to be material), how is it that matter belongs to the definition of the Church (or of a nation state) in a way that it does not belong to the definition of culture or language?

Because culture and language are forms that in principle can be multiply instantiated. But the Body of Christ is necessarily one Body, because Christ is incarnate, i.e. took on matter in taking on His [human] nature. A Body cannot be multiply instantiated, even though it can be spread out in space. A body grows organically in space and time. This is why Apostolic succession is *sacramental* (involves matter), and requires a line of succession back to the Apostles. This is why incorporation into the Church involves matter (i.e. baptism). This is why the feeding of the Church involves matter (i.e. the Eucharist). This is why separation from the *Body* is schism. If the Church were merely a form, there would be no such thing as schism. Each of the four marks of the Church follows from the incarnation, i.e. the en-mattering of God.

Finally, how is it that matter enters into the definition of the Church such that the Church is more like an organism than is a nation-state or another such hierarchically ordered institution?


Because the life of the Church is the life of Christ. The soul of the Church is the Holy Spirit. This is a divine life that Christ gave to us at Pentecost, His very own Spirit. It comes to us through the Church, and specifically through her sacraments. A nation-state is an artifact, like a machine, because it is made by mere men. But the Church is a divine entity, because she is animated by the divine life given to her by Christ. Pentecost is God breathing His divine breath into His Bride made from the blood and water that poured forth from the second Adam's side, and making her a living being.

For, surely, when we affirm that the Church is the Body of Christ, and therefore visible, this is a Mystery, not merely a metaphor.

Correct, most definitely not a mere metaphor.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Renee,

then was the Reformation a action against one particular body of believers that belong to the invisible church?

Either that, or against a group of persons who were apostate [and non-elect] and therefore not part of the invisible Church.

Also, if the Church is invisible and yet people can profess to see corruption within it and then begin the process of reforming it, would not that require the Church to be visible?

No, merely corruption in individuals or corruption in a man-made institution.

And truly if the Church is the invisible body of believers, would not it have been more appropriate to reform the members within, than attempt to reform a whole church, which according to some never existed , and according to others it did visibly exist, but then ceased to exist in the 15th century, when they “reformed” it.

Once you get rid of the notion of a visible Church (or reduce 'visible Church' to a mere label), then "in" and "out" mean something like "elect" and "non-elect", respectively. So you can separate from anyone who seems "out", and join with anyone who seems "in". You seem to be using "in" and "out" in a Catholic sense, implying that the Reformers should have tried to reform those who were in [the visible Church]. (They would say that they did.) But if someone doesn't seem elect, then they are "out" [according to invisible Church lenses] even if "in" [according to visible Church lenses]. So separation from people in the "visible Church" is quite acceptable when you eliminate the visible Church (or treat 'visible Church' as a mere label for the plurality of all Christians).

the Church as the invisible body of believers would not have needed to be reformed.

Right. They are elect; they'll get reformed one way or another, this said of heaven or at the moment of glorification.

Last…If it was the case that the Protestants were reforming one particular body of believers in the invisible church, should not they still be reforming all bodies of believers today? Or could that be exactly what has been happening?
(I mean no disrespect by that statement.)


I think Reformed believers would agree with that, at least in theory, even if not in practice.

Also, would something have to have existed in order to have apostatized itself?

Sure, but the existing thing could have been merely man-made.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

Exactly. That's exactly what my argument shows. Finally we agree! No more referring to an "entity" or "thing" or believers "constituting" something. There is for Protestantism no entity that is the "visible Church".

You are clueless. "No more referring to an entity"? The referent is the entity. I give up. This is the most idiotic debate I've ever had, and (likely) will ever have. Good luck in philosophy -- you'll need it.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

"No more referring to an entity"? The referent is the entity.

You seem to be either affirming that (n) is on the list, or trying to treat [(1) through (n-1)] as if that is an entity.

But you already agreed that (n) isn't on the list. And if you are now claiming that [(1) through (n-1)] is an entity, then you'll need to add that to the list of entities (because up till now it has not been on the list).

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Rene'e said...

Bryan,

Thank you for explaining that to me. I think I understand better than I did before. I have a few new questions based on your answers, if I may ask. Forgive me if you answered them in the last post. As I said this is very confusing for me. Perhaps because as you said I see things with Catholic eyes.

“Either that, or against a group of persons who were apostate [and non-elect] and
therefore not part of the invisible Church.”

How could people know who was elect and who was not? Does this mean, that they consider all Catholics worldwide “non-elect”? Or not part of the invisible Church?


“No, merely corruption in individuals or corruption in a man-made institution.”

The apostles were men. Was not Luther, Calvin, Knox and Henry VIII men. They each have a different “elected” body of believers that worship God in man made institutions.
This is proven because of their doctrinal differences which were decided by men, even though they each say they are following scripture for their visible body of believers.

How would one tell the difference between the Churches in the Bible who being in Scripture, (I assume one would say they were “elect”) and the Churches of Luther as compared to Calvin, compared to Knox and Henry VIII, (and their individual doctrinal differences in which all were taken from scripture) as one or all are considered elected?


“Right. They are elect; they'll get reformed one way or another, this said of heaven or at the moment of glorification.”

Does this mean everyone is “elect” but not the Catholics who stayed and are still in the apostatized Church? Or will all be elected including Catholics irregardless of denomination at the moment of glorification?

Sorry, if I am being redundant .I think I am missing something.

Thos said...

Dear Kevin,

When I lived in Scotland as a child, I was taught not to speak to people as you have spoken to Bryan. Saying "You are clueless" is not a fruitful statement, so should be reserved. Also, your use of "WTF" and "dick" seem particularly inappropriate for a discussion on Christian unity. I implore you to consider whether the words that appear below your nice image of the cross express Christian charity and love. You can be annoyed, frustrated and unimpressed, without having to resort to communication unbecoming of believers.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Andrew Preslar said...

Bryan,

Thanks for answering the questions. As indicated, I intended to do some of my own homework, I did (last night), and I posted some of the results this morning. It was good to read your reponse, and especially those links.

I know that this blog is dedicated to unity, but I find it to be also, and not incidentally, helpful for faith seeking understanding.

As regards the list of entities
[(1) through (n-1)] to which "the visible church" (n) is supposed to somehow relate, at first blush this reminds me of Kant's dollar (or whatever it is in German; "drachma"?).

Except that you are speaking of entities (things that are) and Kant of predicates (properties / conceptual attributes of things that are).

Perhaps your interlocutor could tell me if part of his frustration with you might be because he is thinking of "visible church" in terms of existence and [(1) through (n-1)] in terms of *predicates*, in which case "visible church" (n) need not be among the predicates in order to make an existential difference.

You, on the other hand, are refering to [(1) through (n-1)] as *entities*, which are not the same things as predicates. In which case, the claim that "visible church" is not among the entities [(1) through (n-1)] does make an existential difference.

Principium unitatis said...

Renee,

How could people know who was elect and who was not?

That's very difficult. It is claimed that one can know about oneself. But it may be impossible to know about someone else, unless one witnesses them die in a state of faith. The best one can go on is their present state, whether they claim to love God and show that in their behavior.

Does this mean, that they consider all Catholics worldwide “non-elect”? Or not part of the invisible Church?

Not at all. But some Reformed persons claim that unless one believes the Reformed gospel, one cannot be saved. So according to that view, Catholics who never believe the Reformed gospel are not saved, and are (in this view) therefore non-elect.

The apostles were men. Was not Luther, Calvin, Knox and Henry VIII men. They each have a different “elected” body of believers that worship God in man made institutions.

True. But being in a man-made institution is not a problem for a Protestant, since Christ only founded an invisible Church, and therefore there is no need to find the *visible* Church that Christ founded. However, in the long run, the notion that the Church is invisible undermines 'demoninationalism', and has led to the non-denominational, emergent, mega-church, bible-church phenomenon we are now observing in Evangelicalism.

How would one tell the difference between the Churches in the Bible who being in Scripture, (I assume one would say they were “elect”) and the Churches of Luther as compared to Calvin, compared to Knox and Henry VIII, (and their individual doctrinal differences in which all were taken from scripture) as one or all are considered elected?

I'm not sure I understand your question here.

Does this mean everyone is “elect” but not the Catholics who stayed and are still in the apostatized Church?

No. For the Reformed, some group of persons was elected for salvation by God before the foundation of the world. Only these people are going to heaven. The rest are going to hell because God chose not to give them irresistible grace. So the Reformed does not believe that everyone is elect. Most Reformed would not deny that some Catholics are elect, though some Reformed would claim that those Catholics who do not come to believe the Reformed gospel cannot be saved and are therefore not elect.

Or will all be elected including Catholics irregardless of denomination at the moment of glorification?

Election, for the Reformed, took place before the foundation of the world. Glorification takes place, according to the Reformed view, at the moment of the believer's death, or at the moment Christ returns, whichever comes first.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Andrew,

You, on the other hand, are refering to [(1) through (n-1)] as *entities*, which are not the same things as predicates.

Right.

In which case, the claim that "visible church" is not among the entities [(1) through (n-1)] does make an existential difference.

Right. If (n) is not on the list of entities, there is no such entity as the visible Church.

I read your post on your blog, and I agree. Regarding your point that one Protestant option is "(2) there is a visible Catholic Church and it is visibly divided.": If the visible Church is visibly divided, then unity is only a contingent, not an essential, mark of the Church. Not only that, but we would have no way of knowing when the *visible* Church ceased to exist, and that would put us in the same position as those claiming that the Church is not visible, but invisible.

Earl Radmacher (The Nature of the Church) maintains that Protestants must interpret this stock Pauline usage in an entirely metaphorical way or else fall prey to Roman Catholicism.

That's an interesting point. And your quotation from Hall is excellent too.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

You [Bryan], on the other hand, are refering to [(1) through (n-1)] as *entities*, which are not the same things as predicates.

[Bryan:] Right.


Unbelievable! Complete vacuous understanding of language -- that all entities are given predicates and all predicates signify entities. I should follow my advice and give-up, but I couldn't help myself.

By the way, I'm not from Scotland (just there doing a masters). I'm from the South in the good ole USA. But I can assure you that in our graduate seminars, we had no hesitation in calling out sophistry (oh, like saying that a predicate adds an entity). And I know without any doubt that Bryan's little "proof" here would never get the time of day in a seminar, and I doubt he would be so bold as to present it. You can, apparently, get away with ridiculous syllogisms on the internet, but not in the real world of academic discourse and peer review.

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

Let's back up and clarify some philosophical points about language. We distinguish between words, concepts and referents. Words are material symbols. Concepts are abstracted forms of things, and exist only in minds. And referents are the things our words are referring to, through our concepts. This is the linguistic triad.

So my whole argument is principally in the domain of only one vertex of that triad, namely referents, that is, entities in the world, not concepts, and not words. My argument shows that for Protestantism, the principle of parsimony entails that there is no entity that is the visible Church. There is no entity that in some sense includes [(1) through (n-1)] within itself.

So when Andrew says:

You [Bryan], on the other hand, are refering to [(1) through (n-1)] as *entities*, which are not the same things as predicates.

Andrew is right that that is what I am talking about. I'm not talking about language, I'm talking about the things language refers to. So (1) is referring to Sally, who is an entity. And (2) is referring to Joe, who is an entity. And (3) is referring to Susie, who is an entity. And so on.

You seem to find that amazing and unbelievable. Are you an anti-realist who thinks that language cannot refer to entities? Perhaps you could say something about your own philosophy of language, and how it contrasts with what I've laid out here. Otherwise, we seem to be at some sort of impasse with respect to mutual understanding.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

By the way, I never claimed that "a predicate adds an entity".

My argument shows that for Protestantism, there is no entity for the term 'visible Church' to pick out. In all the entities in the list of entities from (1) to (n-1), not one of them is the visible Church. Nor is [(1) through (n-1] an entity. So for Protestantism, "visible Church" is not an entity, but only a predicate referring to a mere plurality.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Kevin Davis said...

Bryan,

First, I'll admit that my tone has been less than proper. I do find this (objectively) a sophistic argument, but I do not mean to say that you are purposefully intending to be a sophist. Obviously not. I just get passionate about this stuff.

Now, to your claims. No, I'm not an anti-realist. I'm as resolute a realist as it gets. The point of all of my previous comments has been to reject any sort of nominalism in our language and ontology. How? By insisting on a real correlation between predicate and existent, between language and ontology. Likewise, concepts are not merely mental constructs. Sure, we abstract "man" from individual men and women, but "man" exists as long as individual men and women exist. Universals are real. This goes to the whole realism-nominalism debates of the later middle ages. I stand with the realists, who rightly accused the nominalists of sophistry (though recent research has helped better understand what Ockham etc. were really saying).

In our debate, I've simply been insisting that "church" is any phenomenon of persons doing x, y, and z. This is visible, ergo, "visible church." We can't abstract "visible church" from these phenomena of persons and treat it as a separate thing. But, that's what your whole argument is doing.

Rene'e said...

Brian,

Thanks for your help.

Is this correct?

Both Catholics and Protestants, believe the Church is the “invisible body of Christ”.

But, Catholics believe Jesus also set in place a “visible” Church on earth, with Apostolic
Succession, Authority given with “keys”, breathed on by the Holy Spirit, instructions to Baptize, hear Confessions, drive away demons, authority to retain or remit sins, all, which are stated in scripture until He returns.

Protestants believe the “Visible” Church ended with the Apostles deaths. Even though this is not stated or implied in scripture. Therefore “visible” Churches are nothing more than man made institutions with man made doctrines agreed upon by various councils in each Church including their own specific churches, based upon each ones own different individual doctrines and scripture interpretations? Reformed bodies, originally had the very visible church described as what the Catholics believe and describe above, in the WCF, but then they decided it was incorrect doctrine, and decided to not include specifics of a visible church in the Book of Church Order?

It was at this point, that Luther, Calvin, Knox and Henry VIII, decided that the Church was the Invisible Body of the Elect, and visible Churches cease to exist?

Principium unitatis said...

Kevin,

First, I'll admit that my tone has been less than proper. I do find this (objectively) a sophistic argument, but I do not mean to say that you are purposefully intending to be a sophist. Obviously not. I just get passionate about this stuff.

Thank you. I understand. Regarding realism and nominalism, I too am a realist. So we are agreed on that.

So let's see if we can get to the bottom of our disagreement. You wrote:

In our debate, I've simply been insisting that "church" is any phenomenon of persons doing x, y, and z. This is visible, ergo, "visible church." We can't abstract "visible church" from these phenomena of persons and treat it as a separate thing. But, that's what your whole argument is doing.

My argument is not about local churches, local congregations, or even denominations. By "visible Church" I'm speaking of some *one* thing that includes within it *all* embodied believers. So if you do not claim that there is such a thing, then you have no quarrel with me or my argument. But if you do claim that there is such a thing, and you deny that it is a hierarchical institution, then your position is at odds with the conclusion of my argument. I'll assume, for the sake of argument, that you do claim that there is such a thing as a visible Church which includes within it *all* embodied believers, and that it is not a hierarchical institution.

If so, then it appears to me that you are here claiming that the visible Church is a "phenomenon". That sets up the dilemma. Either the phenomenon (in question) is an entity or not.

If it is an entity, then it should be on the list of entities, in which case (n) goes back on the list and my parsimony argument cranks back up.

But if the phenomenon (in question) is not an entity, then the phenomenon can in principle be explained without remainder by the activities of the entities involved in the phenomenon. Now, if any phenomenon can in principle be explained without remainder by the activities of the entities involved in that phenomenon, then the phenomenon is actually a mere plurality. (A good example might be when fans in a stadium do "the wave".) So if the phenomenon (in question) can in principle be explained without remainder by the activities of the entities involved in the phenomenon (in question), then the term "visible Church" refers to a mere plurality, not an actual unity. In that case, in founding the visible Church, Christ founded a mere plurality, not an actual unity, and not a visible entity. In founding the visible Church, Christ merely did the ontological equivalent of initiating "the wave" at a football game.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...

Kevin,

I understand now that you are not Scottish but Southern. I spent part of my childhood in the south too, and gathered that they do not find it polite to say things like “you are clueless.” You said, I think somewhat in defense, that “we had no hesitation in calling out sophistry”. I was not critiquing your calling out sophistry. I meant to challenge you to consider the words you had chosen to use, some of which I would not permit my children to use.

“I do find this (objectively) a sophistic argument…” A view is objective if it is derived from an external test, not dependent on one’s own predilections, at least as I understand it. I don’t think it is true to say ‘I objectively find X.’

I hope you get a chance to retreat to the Isle of Iona while you are in Scotland. It’s not very easy to get to, but it is worth the trouble. It is a wonderful place for prayer and reflection -- my pastor-dad took my family there many times when we lived on the Firth of Clyde.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Rene'e said...

Brian,

"My argument is not about local churches, local congregations, or even denominations. "

By "visible Church" I'm speaking of some *one* thing that includes within it *all* embodied believers. So if you do not claim that there is such a thing, then you have no quarrel with me or my argument. But if you do claim that there is such a thing, and you deny that it is a hierarchical institution, then your position is at odds with the conclusion of my argument. I'll assume, for the sake of argument, that you do claim that there is such a thing as a visible Church which includes within it *all* embodied believers, and that it is not a hierarchical institution.


Thank you, I finally understand.