Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Is "Mother Church" too Catholic?

It's a well-known quote:
He cannot have God as Father who does not have the church as mother. 
For many evangelicals, this sounds way too Catholic but should we be so reticent? Consider first, the Scriptures do indeed describe the Church as our Mother (Galatians 4:26). Second, the picture in Scripture is that those whom God has appointed to eternal life, do so through His Church (e.g. Acts 2:47 & 1 Corinthians 14:25). Of course there are exceptions (such as the thief on the cross and perhaps the Ethiopian eunuch) but, isn't it the case that exceptions prove the rule? The Westminster Confession of Faith seems to confirm this when it declares that outside the Church "there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” This makes sense when we recognise that in Scripture, Salvation  is much more than conversion; it also includes sanctification and glorification. We shouldn't therefore be so presumptive as to think that we may approach eternal life apart from the means of grace that our Covenant Lord has ordained for us. It is within the church that we are born into this kingdom (via baptism), that we hear the glorious words of our Risen King proclaimed, that we are strengthened and nourished in our faith by his sacraments, and that his law is administered through church discipline by the officers given to the church by her Lord. This is where we are born, where we grow, and where we are protected and disciplined. Like a nurturing mother, the church cares for us throughout our lives and deserves to be greatly honoured for her inestimable work. Or as John Calvin puts it somewhere:
let us learn, from her single title Mother, how useful, nay how necessary, the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceives us in the womb and gives us birth, unless she nourishes us at her breasts 
In other words, we Christians need to stand up in respect, when Mother enters the room.

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