“…that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I in you…” (John 17:21)
“…making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:3-6)
There is only one church. The body of Christ is not split (see 1 Cor 1:13). It is unbiblical to think that it is possible for different Christian communities with different teachings to exist. To speak about “attitudes towards other Christian (or religious) communities” is in itself a denial of the biblical teaching about the unity of the community.
Whenever the word “church” is used in plural in the New Testament it refers to the one church, which consists of several communities in different towns. As we explained earlier we never intended to start “our own” church and we never did it. If we had found a community that deserved to be called the “church of God” we would have joined it at once. We would have denied God if we had done otherwise.
It is incorrect to claim that we “will not concede that other churches and religious communities are leading lives as Christians”. We can only say that the “churches” we know of do not correspond to the New Testament definition of church.
We do know that even within those “churches” there are Christians. Several of our brothers and sisters were already Christians while they were still part of organisations that are not churches in God’s eyes.
It is no secret that the “churches” deviate from the teaching and the practice of the first communities in many points. Even their own advocates are aware of that. Why, then, should we call them churches? We cannot call a group “church” that is not a church according to the Bible.
In this context it is important to note that the way the parable of weeds among the wheat (Matt 13:24-30 and 36-42) has been interpreted since the time of Origen leads to the conclusion that the “churches” understand themselves to be the “world”. The parable is taken to mean that sinners have to be tolerated within the church, that in the church there have to be good and bad people, that finally the church is always a mixed community (Augustine: corpus mixtum). But Jesus said: “The field is the world” (Matt 13:38a).
In this parable Jesus was not speaking about the church. He was speaking against the Jewish expectation that the wicked would be exterminated with the dawning of God’s Kingdom, often understood in a political way. In the world the separation will only take place on the last day. Within the community it happens now. Whoever refers this parable to the church identifies today’s “churches” with the world. And he is right.
If Kluge criticises the way we refer to the “churches” he should also consider that his own organisation is unwilling to this day to concede that the “churches” resulting from the Reformation are Churches in the proper sense. In 2000 the Catholic “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” declared:
“On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense” (Declaration “Dominus Iesus” 17).
Moreover, this same “catholic church” has for centuries denounced other “churches”, with whom she is now cooperating in ecumenical gatherings, as heretics and false teachers, persecuting them violently whenever possible. Considering this background a comparison with the Nazi Party (NSDAP), surely the epitome of human malice, is by all means justified. But while the Nazi terror could be stopped after some years, the “catholic church” continued for centuries to murder innocent people in the name of Jesus. The catholic terror was not as intensive as that of the Nazis, but it lasted much, much longer.
It is also worth mentioning here that at least in Austria and Germany the Roman Catholic organisation many a time chummed up with the National Socialist government. In fact, at that time ALL the Austrian bishops emphatically welcomed the annexing of Austria to the National Socialist German Reich and greeted the “Führer” with “Heil Hitler”. When some isolated critics like Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to join Hitler’s murderous army, spoke out about their objection to the unjust war, they received no support from the “church” for their godly principles. On the contrary, the Catholic bishop tried to persuade him to conform to God’s enemies. Nowadays, of course he is regarded as a martyr (because he disobeyed the pastor supposedly appointed by God).
To Matt 7:1 we have already taken a stand.