If you followed the link in my previous post “Disregard 1 Corinthians 11-14“, and read the quotes, you probably noticed that the author quoted Emil Brunner’s book The Misunderstanding of the Church (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953). I thought you might enjoy some excerpt from the Brunner’s preface:
What is the Church? This question poses the unsolved problem of Protestantism. From the days of the Reformation to our own time, it has never been clear how the Church, in the sense of spiritual life and faith – the fellowship of Jesus Christ – is related to the institutions conventionally called churches.
For the Roman Catholic church this problem does not appear to exist at all. Rome presents to the world the face of a church which is certain of itself. But this is only so in appearance; in reality Rome too has no ready answer to the question how the phenomenon visible in the New Testament as the Ecclesia is to be related to the papal church as the latter has developed in the course of centuries; and the uneasiness of those who cannot satisfy themselves with the neat formula that the one has evolved into the other is the less easily appeased the longer it lasts.
In the last 50 or 100 years New Testament research has unremittingly and successfully addressed itself to the task of elucidating for us what was known as the Ecclesia in primitive Christianity – so very different from what is to-day called the Church both in the Roman and Protestant camps. It is, however, a well-known fact that dogmatists and Church leaders often pay small attention to the results of New Testament research, and are only too ready to bridge the gulf between then and now by a handy formula such as that of development, or by appealing to the distinction between the visible and invisible Church, and thus to give a false solution to this grace and distressing problem. But while many theologians and Church leaders are able to quieten their consciences by such formulae, others are so much the more painfully aware of the disparity between the Christian fellowship of the apostolic age and our own “churches,” and cannot escape the impression that there may perhaps be something wrong with what we now call the Church.
For this book has sprung from just this desire to discover the reason why since the Reformation epoch a real solution to the problem of the Church has not been found. The reader will feel, I hope, that behind it lies not merely the impulse to know, but a desire, at least equally strong, to bring into being the true fellowship of Christ. (pg 5-6)
I’m sure that Brunner found many who disagreed with him. There were also probably many who ignored him and carried on with church as usual. I’m also certain that there are many who agree with Brunner, and who desire to study the image of the church as we see it in Scripture. I hope that all of us desire that our study of the church leads to living as the church in a manner that honors God and glorifies Jesus Christ in the Spirit… and that seems to be Brunners concern as well.