In the Facebook group The Level-Headed Christian Reconstructionist, Bojidar Marinov points out the blindingly obvious (July 26, 8:37am) below:
I was asked earlier today whether I believed, according to the WCF 25:2, that “there is no salvation outside the visible church.” The person asking the question seemed to be sincere, so I suppose some people who have vested interests in the existing institutional system – which has proven its inadequacy and is obviously under God’s curse – are still busy purposefully misreading and slandering my ecclesiology.
Let’s say it in bold, maximum headline style:
“the existing institutional system – which has proven its inadequacy and is obviously under God’s curse”
The faster this damned, effete, gelded, kingdom-shrinking…
(and thus, in direct opposition to Christ’s command. And churches that back a different gospel than that preached by Christ, are by definition demonic churches. Regardless of their pretty clothes, fine buildings, or (rapidly fading) Establishment patronage.)
…institutional systems is cut off and left to die (as per John 15:1-6), the better it will be.
(Sure, purge the pulpits… but be sure to cut off, defund, and abolish the evil, kingdom-hating, Christ-despising seminaries as well. They have no place in the Bible: neither Christ nor the apostles have any place for them… and obviously they have no place for the powerful, commanding, and authoritative law-word of Christ, the apostles, or the Bible itself.
Although, I do admit that they are occasionally useful as sock-puppets for today’s secularist power-elite. And they do make a good imitation, powerless, insipid, paper-mache version of Christianity, always careful to echo their secularist betters and never daring to cross the lines that the enemies of Christ has laid down.
But that’s just one more reason to dump those seminaries, today.)
My reply is this:
First, the WCF doesn’t say that “there is no salvation outside the visible church.” The real text is that “out of [the visible church] there is no ORDINARY POSSIBILITY of salvation.” This is an important distinction, and anyone who doesn’t understand this distinction, doesn’t understand the Reformation, period, and it doesn’t matter whether he has been to a seminary, or is even a teacher in a seminary. “No salvation outside the visible church” is a Papist doctrine, and it presupposes salvation dependent on the will of men and their institutions.. “No ordinary possibility for salvation outside the visible church” is the Reformed doctrine, and it presupposes God’s sovereignty to act outside any human will or institution. Again, anyone who doesn’t understand the difference is not Reformed, period.
As a general rule of thumb, it is reasonable and suitable to join a God-fearing, Biblical church. But if all of them in your area are worthless, avoid the lot. Aim high, insist on the best… and there’s nothing prohibiting any God-fearing, spirit-filled Christian man from starting his own church, so long as he is filled with the Holy Spirit, adheres to the Bible — the entire Word of God, even the parts you don’t like — and follows the directions of the Bible regarding teachers, prophets, deacons, etc.
[Addendum: from Chapter 46: Church from Christian Economics: Teacher’s Edition
There are criteria for church office. These are found mainly in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. They are as follows:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil (I Timothy 3:1–7).
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, knot greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with ma clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus (I Timothy 3:8–13).
These are primarily ethical criteria. Money is relevant insofar as a leader should be charitable. Giving money away, not accumulating it, is the standard. This distinguishes a church leader from a business leader. Elders are entitled to salaries, but they must first qualify ethically for this double honor, as Paul calls it (I Timothy 5:17–18).
These standards do not govern businesses. Therefore, economic theory has little to contribute to a proper understanding of the church.
Did I say anything at all regarding seminaries, denominations, etc?
Why no, I didn’t.
(Although I do recommend learning the Greek and Hebrew of the original writings – easily done by computer nowadays – and understanding John Calvin’s commentary on Deuteronomy – It’s even better than the Institutes!)
Second, and more important, the WCF does NOT define the visible church as an institution. That same point defines the visible church as the sum of all individual believers throughout the world THAT PROFESS THE TRUE RELIGION. Thus, the institution does not define the visible church; the individual profession does.
Amen, and amen.
To put it in more concrete terms, once you publicly profess Christ, you ARE the Church, even if you are not a member of an institutional body. Continuing to point #3 in the chapter, that visible church is given all the institutional tools it needs to use, but none of them are definitional for the visible church. They are only tools. The visible church, contrary to papists and anabaptists, is the sum of professing believers, not an institutional body, universal or local.
This is true!
Thus, yes, I do believe with the WCF that outside the visible church there is no ordinary possibility for salvation, but that only means that unless you make a public profession of faith, you are not saved. Anyone who tells you that this means that you need to be a member of an institutional body is not Reformed, he is in reality a papist. Any teacher who tells you this is a false teacher, and should be denied the pulpit in your church and even excommunicated.
Liars will fail, lies will fade, but the truth of God will stand forever.