Where's the Church?
Or, "Let's stop dissing the visible Church"
OK, so this seldom works, to take a great, but rather long post, and try to pull out the salient points and make a coherent quote, so just go read the whole thing if you have time. It's great - on Hebrews 6. (Another possible title: "How does a Calvinist deal with the Bible saying, 'If you fall away from grace you can't come back'"?)
"this passage does not teach that one of the decreed elect can fall from their election.
"While the distinction between the visible and invisible church communicates an important truth (one which I affirm), it can lead to misunderstandings and problems if it is affirmed as the only category for understanding the Church. For example, given these "two" churches, which is the real one? Because evangelicals have answered (naturally) that the invisible church is the real one, this has led to the assumption that the visible church is, in some sense, unreal. This has led, in turn, to a disparagement of the visible church. Since the roster of names for the invisible church (the elect) differs from the roster of names for the visible church (all the church directories in the history of the world), then we would obviously give preference to the list that names of the elect, in distinction from the list that includes Bishop Spong,... and the BTK killer.
"when someone is guilty of apostasy, they are falling away from the true Church of Christ, of which he was genuinely a member. He was a genuine member, but not a permanent member.... Always remember that apostasy is a real sin committed by real people who fall away from a real, visible Church. The Church they fall away from is the body of Christ, not an earthly attempt to approximate the body of Christ. The churches we worship in on the Lord's Day are the body of Christ.
"Either we hold to the eternal security and perseverance passages, and twist the covenant warning passages (as many Calvinists do), or we hold to the covenant warning passages, and twist the eternal security passages (as the Arminians do). But all the Bible belongs to all Christians. If we come to understand the doctrines of God's sovereignty over salvation, and the reality of Christ's covenant with the Church, we can take all the Scriptures on these subjects at face value.
"The modern baptistic mentality which tries to identify the New Covenant as the elect only does not know what to do with these warning passages, except turn them upside down."
- Douglas Wilson