Short Argument for the Visible Church

There are billboards in my area which quote a Bible verse that I think is not likely to have the meaning its purchasers intend. It is 2 Chronicles 7:14:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

There are just all sorts of problems here for those who claim that Christ’s church on earth is invisible. In the first place, it clearly refers to the “elect,” because whom else would God call “my people who are called by my name”? But if these are the predestined, then basically the rest of the verse is superfluous: of course God’s people have humbled themselves; of course they are praying and seeking God’s face; of course they have turned from their wicked ways. So if any Protestant other than an Arminian says this today, he is talking theological nonsense on his own terms. but at the same time, we see that our land—this land, America—is badly in need of healing. What then? Are the elect—the only ones that some Protestants think can possibly be in view here—are they not praying? Nonsense. And yet our land is not healed. So either the passage has nothing to do with us, or something other than an invisible Church is in view.

Second, there is nothing of sola fide in this passage. Rather, God makes His mercy contingent upon human action.

Third and probably most obviously it is addressed to a visible People of God. There never was such a thing as an “invisible church” in Solomon’s day. This promise is addressed to Israel, a visible kingdom with visible subjects identifiable both by race and by a visible sign (circumcision). It makes no sense as a promise made to an invisible group who we are assured are certainly fulfilling the conditions of the promise God made.

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Posted in Ecclesiology, Lumen Gentium

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