The Door-Step Evangel

Two-Church Doctrine
Dr. Ronald L. Tottingham

Many believe the church is an "invisible body" like a land mass under a sea and islands pushing up above the waters are like local churches pushing out of the water. The island is all one sees of this great land mass and all a boat might land on and all one might find water, food, etc. Many, many Baptists and fundamentalists hold that the church is like this with local churches as islands pushing up out of the universal church into view of the world. They see the local church as the only places where men may "land" and find the water of the word and food for their souls - but that the local church is only the visible island out from a greater church which is invisible to this world. Is this true to what the Bible says??

The by-word among fundamentalists and "independent" Baptists today is "I'm local church," or "we are local church." Is being local church enough? Does this make one a Baptist? Is this the "flag" definition we wave to show one our being of the truth?

Many times claiming to be local church only means a pastor or church holds that the Lord uses or works through local churches today. Some will even go so far as to believe that the Lord uses and works only through the local church today. These go so far as to believe that missions, magazines and all ministries including educating should be only in local churches.

Now I ask again, is this enough? Since I likewise hold this to be biblical practice of a local church position, why do I still ask, is this enough? Because it is not enough. To be local church is not a reference to origin. I ask all who claim to be local church, when did that church (the institution as a New Testament doctrine) originate? Many fundamentalists and "independent" Baptists hold this from loosely to strictly practiced but believe the church (as a New Testament institution or doctrine) originated the day of Pentecost.

To be local church is only one's position on the practice of the church, but one may practice correctly and of an incorrect institution.

Two-church theology? Could you explain? Over the years I've heard good preachers declare to me that they are "local church." They even go on to explain their position which identifies actually as mine, not that I am the measuring stick, but to the biblical measure we both seem to hold.

However, I still do not find comfort. "Why?" I ask. Well, I believe it's because we hold to different doctrines of the church. But how could that be when we are both "local church?" It's the "two-church" doctrine. Let me explain.

Many fundamentalists and fundamental Baptist brethren hold a two-church theology of the church. They do hold a "local church" position but not as the only or original church. Actually they believe the "church" is all the blood washed saints from Pentecost to the rapture, so that this is the "body of Christ." They hold that the saved are "baptized of the Holy Spirit" unto salvation using I Cor. 12:13 as their proof text. Then they claim to hold to the "local church" as God's agent upon earth during this Age. In other words they hold a "two-church" theology. They hold a "universal invisible church body of Christ" position as the originating and true composition of the biblical church, but hold that God has local churches, as agencies through which He works in this Age. Now that is a two-church theology. Those which hold that are able to hold a strong "local church," God only works through the local church practice. Many who are two-church are Baptist, historically. Meaning, they believe in Baptist's history (to a point). They may even lean against para-church ministries boards, etc. in holding strongly to the local church only agency through which God works now.

However, this "acting agent" doctrine of the local church does not necessarily believe that Jesus established His church during His ministry. Often it believes that the Holy Spirit established the universal body - church on the day of Pentecost.

You see, those who hold "two-church" theology believe the local church is an issue of "church practice" rather than "church origin." They are local church in the present practice of the church but universal church in the origination of the church. Personally I believe this is due to a misunderstanding of the doctrine of the church.

Evolutionists and Creationists argue over models of origin and so do Universalists and localists argue over models of origin. As Creationists have the evidence substantiating their model or Evolutionists hold illusionary "proof," so the localists - those holding a local church origin position can show the sure Word of God to prove their model of origin for the church when the Universalists hold only logic and tradition.

The one model says Christ established the church, the whole church institution, during his own personal ministry upon earth as a local congregation then out of that single congregation birthed all other true churches down through the ages as a family is generated of an original "father." Such as Abraham fathered all Jewish people, and Noah all post-flood peoples, etc.

The other model says the Holy Spirit established the church at Pentecost as a universal body of all bloodwashed Christians born again between Pentecost and the rapture.

One model says the church is spiritual and universal. The other says it is both physical and spiritual, and local, or single congregations (plural).

One claims that universal body includes all the truly saved and that any and all Christian ministries (Let's qualify as fundamentally saved, ok.) are parts within the body of Christ/universal church and qualify as an arm, eye, etc. and is the Bride of Christ.

The other says that it is the local congregation made up of born again, properly baptized persons holding to doctrines true to the scriptures and that only ministries out of single congregations of such faith and practice are sound and acceptable to God. And that the members of such churches are the arms, eyes, etc. within their local "body of Christ," and is the Bride of Christ.

Obviously, these two positions could become enemies to each other as opposing models. While each could and often do voice a claim to the local church as God's practicing agent on earth now, only one holds that that same "local" church is also the originated church too. One holds that the local agent church is the physical practice element of the "true" church universal.

True Historic Baptists have always believed that the church is local in nature, origin, and practice. Protestants have always believed that the church is inclusive - a universal body in origin and practice. True Historic Baptists have always held that the purity of the church-body-bride is doctrinal correctness, not just blood washing. However, Protestants and Protestant fundamentalists, (even those who are Baptistic "Baptists") have always held that the church-body-bride's purity is only blood washing (new birth), and that doctrinal correctness was essentially non-essential. These have been, for the most part, inclusive of varieties of doctrine. It does make a difference what you believe concerning this model issue.

As for those who are "two-church" in their theology (you will find it in their ecclesiology section of theology described as two-churches) let me personally state that I would hold that the two-church theology not of like faith nor practice with myself. As I personally believe the scriptures teaches accurately only one model of church - that being that it originated a local congregation and continues as such.

The Door-Step Evangel is published in the interests of Evangelism and information as a Church paper, sincerely devoted to the cause of Jesus Christ. We are in favor of everything that is right and opposed to everything that is wrong.

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