I personally believe much of the turmoil we face in our Convention today [speaking only as a Southern Baptist] can be credited to the difference on how we view the Church. I'm speaking of viewing the church as primarily and "institution" or primarily an "organism."
This was brought out anew to my thinking as I read Dr. Al Mohler's blog post written in response to a woman who had written in the national newspaper USA TODAY about women NOT being viewed as equal in the eyes of the Church. I have to say I agree with Dr. Molher's critique that you don't set forward a truth because of how it is viewed in the culture. We are to set forward our views on women AND men [or anything else theological] based on how we view the text of scripture. I also have to say that, undoubtedly, D. Mohler and I might disagree on our view of women in the church but both of us would be doing so on how we view scripture not culture.
But my interest was peaked by one statement that Dr. Mohler made that is different than how many Southern baptist [myself inluded] see the Church. In this post I'm going to put up the quote AND a portion of an article by another Baptist with a differing view. So you will see the quote first and then a longer statement by John Reisinger.
In fairness to Dr. Mohler [whom I admire in many ways] were he able to speak to the issue I'm raising he might come closer to John Reisinger than I know. But I'm simply using a quote not assigning a doctrinal belief to him. It's a contrast of thoughts I'm raising here...not men. First the Mohler quote then the quote from a Reisinger article.
"Nevertheless, those who believe that the church is an institution established by Jesus Christ and who believe that the Bible is our sole final authority for belief and practice must obey what the Bible teaches. This means that we must also follow the pattern set out in the Scripture as the pattern set out by God himself." Dr. Al Mohler
"The Landmark Baptists, along with Rome, insists there is no such thing as a universal/invisible ekklesia. They are convinced the only ekklesia in the NTS [New Testament Scriptures] is the local/visible ekklesia. If we ask the question another way, the Landmark Baptist and the Romanist miss the boat. Instead of asking whether the visible or invisible ekklesia is the most used concept in the NTS, let's ask this question: "Do the NTS emphasis union with Christ via the indwelling Holy Spirit, which all agree is true of all Christians, or does it emphasize membership in a local congregation of professing Christians?" That is bottom line in the discussion.
The moment you try to make the "local/visible" ekklesia to be an institution, or physical organization, which is supposed to be Christ's Vicar on earth, as opposed to the ekklesia being an invisible/universal spiritual organism, you are half way back to Rome.
My contention is that the NTS do NOT give us two different definitions of the ekklesia of Christ. There is not a spiritual ekklesia where all who are in it are saved, and a physical ekklesia made up of both saved and lost. The moment we allow these two different kinds of ekklesias, we have denied and changed the basic meaning of ekklesia as being "the called out ones." The difference between the so-called 'universal' ekklesia and 'local' ekklesia is not that one is a spiritual organism made up of regenerate people and the other is a physical organization with both saved and lost in it. There is only one ekklesia and the different uses of the word is only referring to how many of the 'called out ones' you are talking about. In one instance you are talking about all the called out ones, or the ekklesia for whom Christ died, and in the other instance you are talking about all those living in Corinth, or wherever, for whom Christ died.
The Bible does not talk about the difference between an organization and an organism. The so-called visible ekklesia does not take on a life of its own independent of a living relationship with her Lord. The ekklesia of Christ does not have an ounce of authority on her own. She speaks for Christ only when she speaks His words. She represents Christ only when she repeats what her Lord has spoken. She cannot say, "Christ has made me His Vicar on earth therefore you must obey me without question."
I repeat, the ekklesia emphasized in the NTS is not an institution, or organization that you join, but it's a spiritual body into which the Holy Spirit has baptized you. Everything is determined by the phrases "Christ in you" and "you in Christ." It is this truth that the NTS emphasize.
Should Christians today join a group of Christians and live under the love and discipline of that group as it has defined itself and its beliefs in its constitution? Absolutely! But not because that is the way the early church did it. Where is there a single instance in the NTS of any individual being examined and then joining "a local church?"
Should a group of believers write out their beliefs and rules of conduct and require everyone who wants to join their church to promise to live under those rules. Absolutely! But again, not because that is the way the early church did it. Where do the NTS say that each group of believers wrote a constitution?
In the next article I will attempt to demonstrate why there is such confusion about church polity in our day. We must deal with problems for which we have no clear answers. We struggle with situations that not only did not exist in the apostolic age but also could not have been anticipated in that age." John Reisinger [All emphasis made by PB]
Interesting. Your thoughts? let me know...graciously. :)