The Visible and Invisible Church in Karl Barth and Henri De Lubac
Since the Reformation there has been a question of what is the nature of the Church. Is it visible, invisible or both? Karl Barth and Henri de Lubac both try to answer this question. Barth believes that Church is visible in as much as it is a human community and invisible in the reality of the faith that forms it. De Lubac agrees with Barth this far, yet De Lubac takes his theology to a higher level. In that the Church also participates in the Divine life of Christ.
Karl Barth believes that the human community is what makes up the visible church. The visible Church flows out of the invisible Church. It’s invisible only in the sense that that community is called together in faith to be the Church. According to Barth, the invisible aspect of the Church should never been seen as being in identity with Christ or a second version of him or extension of him. The Church should never be the following words; "vicarius Christi, or a corredemptrix or a mediatrix omnium gratiarum" because by using these words the Church can only surrender, harm or lose its true invisible being. This leads to Barth's belief that the community is the earthly historical form of the existence of Christ and also that Christ has a heavenly historical existence. Through his heavenly exaltation Christ is and becomes Lord of his community and the Head of his body. Therefore "the acting community of saints can be regarded as secondary, and the order of the community must be respected and the relationship should not be reversed." Barth writes that the distinction between Christ and Church must be maintained because the community is made up of mortal, sinful men. He goes on to write that we are "only Christ's Body, not the Head…which means that we can never have a 'head' of the Church on earth"
De Lubac looks at how the Mystical Body of Christ and the visible Church are always inter-related. He stresses the importance of realizing that the divine and the human in the church can never be separated. The truth that needs to be realized is that all salvation, "without exception and whatever the appearances may be, come by the way of the Church." De Lubac believes that if we profess our belief in the Church, that it is, both a universal and visible community, then without forsaking our faith, we can say that the universal Church is visible to an individual no matter what community he belongs to even if it’s a separated one at that. He also looks at how the Church cannot be made up of divided bodies; it must be only have one Body. He quotes Fr. Louis Boyer "an invisible Church is the same thing as no Church at all; without the hierarchy, which is her point of crystallization, her organizer and her guide, there can be no talk of Church." He shows that by seeing that the Church shows a mixture of the divine and human within the visible alone, one can understand how men were called to teach and guide the community...