Church Membership De Jure or De Facto? [Brandon Adams]

Brandon Adams
Brandon Adams

Brandon Adams writes:

When Presbyterians are first introduced to 1689 Federalism, often one of their first responses is “Oh, so you deny the visible/invisible distinction of the church?” To which we respond “No.” For example, Chris Villi says:

In one of the key statements of the book, Denault writes, “The Scriptures do not provide any possibilities of being visibly in the New Covenant without participating effectively in its substance” (p. 153). This assertion represents one of the most fundamental errors of Baptist theology. Essentially, Denault is arguing that everyone in the New Covenant is truly saved and that it is impossible for an unbeliever to be connected to the New Covenant in any sense. Denault notes that, for Particular Baptists, the New Covenant “did not have an external administration in which the non-elect were to be found” (p. 86).

Again, the denial of the possibility of unbelievers in the visible church is one of the most problematic aspects of the federalism espoused by Denault. Is it really possible to guarantee that there are no non-elect people associated with the visible church? Even more, can this idea of “regenerate membership” in the visible church be defended as biblical? Given that 1689 federalists have always been convinced that true believers cannot lose their salvation, the very existence of a New Testament command for church discipline and excommunication contradicts their position.

http://www.jesuspaidinfull.com/Documents/CVilli_1689_Federalism_Paper.pdf

1689 Confession 2Yet our confession clearly states in chapter 26:

1._____ The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Hebrews 12:23; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:10, 22, 23;Ephesians 5:23, 27, 32 )

2._____ All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.
1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 11:26; Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:20-22 )

3._____ The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.
1 Corinthians 5; Revelation 2; Revelation 3; Revelation 18:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12; Matthew 16:18; Psalms 72:17;Psalm 102:28; Revelation 12:17 )

church pewSo where is the confusion coming from? It’s the difference between de jure and de facto.

de jure

[Latin, In law.] Legitimate; lawful, as a Matter of LawHaving complied with all therequirements imposed by law.

De jure is commonly paired withde facto, which means “in fact.” In the course of ordinaryevents, the term de jure is superfluous. For example, in everyday discourse, when onespeaks of a corporation or a government, the understood meaning is a de jurecorporation or a de jure government.

A de jure corporation is one that has completely fulfilled the statutory formalities imposedby state corporation law in order to be granted corporate existence. In comparison, a de facto corporation is one that has acted in Good Faithand would be an ordinarycorporation but for failure to comply with some technical requirements.

de facto

[Latin, In fact.] In fact, in deed, actually.

This phrase is used to characterize an officer, a government, a past action, or a state of affairs that must be accepted for all practicalpurposes, but is illegal or illegitimate. Thus,an office, position, or status existing under a claim or color of right, such as a de factocorporation. In this sense it is the contrary of de jure, which means rightful,legitimate, just, or constitutional. Thus, an officer, king, orgovernmentde facto is one thatis in actual possession of the office or supreme power, but by usurpation, or withoutlawful title

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