A Personal, Corporate Faith
There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
WCF XXV: Of the Church
The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.
It seems to me the church as the kingdom of God, as part of Christendom, is attacked from almost every conceivable angle in the modern American evangelical religion. We have rugged American individualism, individual rights that trump the rights of groups, eschatology that undermines the kingdom of God as a present reality, salvation by individual prayer, relationship not religion, and on an on. I feel like I should break into a rendition of “Another Brick in the Wall.” Each of these bricks contribute to a whole which undermines the value of the church, her worship, her sacraments, her preached word, her very identity as the body of Christ and the bride of Christ.
But why should there be any tension between a personal faith and a corporate identity? Why are “personal” and “individual” treated as synonyms? As adults, the profession of our personal faith credentials us, in a sense, to be brought into the covenant community by way of baptism. As infants, our parents’ standing in regards to the covenant credential us to be brought into the covenant through baptism. In both cases, it is within the corporate body of Christ that our personal salvation is worked out from faith to faith through the grace of God.
It would appear from the sweep of history that allowing the notion of individuality to permeate such topics in place of the personal leads to all sorts of trouble.