UNI Navigators, Denominations & C.S. Lewis

Hey UNI students!! I just ran across a great display of what we talked about this past Tuesday at NAV Night regarding primary issues (the gospel and its content) and secondary issues (church polity). So, let me recap our subject from Tuesday night, and then I will link a conversation between Kevin DeYoung (Reformed Church in America – RCA), and Hunter Powell (Southern Baptist). This is excellent!

Addressing the differences between Christian denominations, C.S. Lewis once said, “Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is One God, and Jesus Christ is His only Son.” In other words, disagreements among believers is a family discussion. This quote kicked off our night on Tuesday, October 16, 2012  when I was asked to address the UNI Navigator’s question: “Why are there so many branches of Christianity (denominations), why the conflict, and how can we have unity?” 

First, we approached the topic historically. We briefly addressed 4th and 5th century Church Councils, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox split of 1054, the 16th century Reformation, the 17th century Puritans, the 18th century Great Awakenings and other revivals of the 19th century, and the arrival of the Pentecostalism in the 20th century; all of which led to the formation of multiple denominations.

We also addressed the arrival of theological liberalism through the teachings and writings of Friedrich Schleiermacher, Horace Bushnell, and Walter Rauschenbusch, and the contagious preaching of liberal orators like Harry Emerson Fosdick. However, we could not speak of the arrival of theological liberalism without referring to the best orthodox response to that movement; J. Gresham Machen and his book, “Christianity and Liberalism.”

Yet, other Christians did not have the measured and intellectual response of Machen. Instead, they responded with a fiery fundamentalism. At its worst, fundamentalism became a reactionary, separatistic, legalistic and anti-intellectual movement focusing on a multitude of secondary or tertiary issues. Eventually fundamentalism would cause radical splits in almost every denomination; especially among the Baptists and Presbyterians in the north. Interestingly, fundamentalism would create an atmosphere in which the New Evangelicals would thrive. The New Evangelicals were both intellectual and experiential which caused them to be able to transcend traditional denominational boundaries leading to the creation of even more denominations.

After racing through the history of denominations, we asked the question: “What are the specific conflicts that caused (or cause) the formation of denominations?” In short, the conflicts that most often cause the formation of denominations are both primary conflicts (a compromised gospel), and secondary conflicts on important (but not central) issues such as disagreement on the sacraments of baptism or the Lord’s Table, or church polity.

Lastly, we argued that the way to show unity in Christ’s Church was not by ceasing to have denominations, but rather by each denomination having a dynamic biblical orthodoxy, a historic Christianity, a faithful multigenerational, multiethnic, multi-continental movement which stands or falls on primary issues … AND … to do this without sacrificing our denominational distinctives. This perspective shows both the unity of our faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ (“one holy catholic church” ~ Nicene Creed), and our humility on secondary issues that are important, but not central.

What does it look like to be unified on the primary issues (the gospel and its content), and yet humbly maintain our distinctiveness on important (but not central) secondary issues? Consider the discussion of Kevin DeYoung and Hunter Powell yesterday on church polity.

On October 19, 2012 Kevin DeYoung wrote Putting In a Good Word for Presbyterianism – Kevin DeYoung

The same day Hunter Powell responded with Questioning Kevin DeYoung’s Good Word on Presbyterianism | 9Marks.

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31 Responses to “UNI Navigators, Denominations & C.S. Lewis”

  1. Hi Kevin,

    Great blog, brother. Came over from K DeYoung’s.

    Please accept a challenge to your point to the Nav group. You taught them church polity is a secondary matter, and not essential to unity. And of course, no one is saved by polity, but rather by the gospel.

    But would you mind responding to this:

    On Crete the churches are led by many rebellious leaders who are not only ungodly, but downright worthless for any good deed. Iow, unregenerate (Titus 1:10-16). From this we can be certain they weren’t preaching the gospel.

    So if church polity is secondary to the gospel, and unity is accomplished through the gospel, why is the apostle Paul’s main purpose in writing the letter of Titus, and apostolic solution to the problems of the churches on Crete, to bring about reform in church polity (Titus 1:5)?

    • kevinwilkening Says:

      Thanks for your challenge, brother. You pose an excellent question. So, let me try to answer you … and if I am unclear please feel free to respond back repeatedly until I am clear.

      Here it goes:

      I affirm that the rebellious and detestable leaders of Crete were not preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. I also affirm that Paul’s response to this “gospel issue” is to reform church polity. However, I see a distinction here between the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the church’s structure/polity that will bring about “what accords to sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).

      Therefore, it is my contention that all Christians must say, “Christ is the Head of His Church.” All Christians must say, “The local church is to contain elders/pastors/bishops/overseers” (and I would add deacons). All Christians must say, “The elders are to guard the church from false doctrine, teach true doctrine, and shepherd God’s people, etc.” However, how many elders? And how many deacons/deaconesses? And if the local church should be overseen by a synod, presbytery, or session? Or whether the church should be autonomous and independent? Or whether the local church should practice “elder-rule,” or “elder-led congregationalism,” or simply practice “congregationalism” .. all of these are the secondary out-workings of how to handle situations like Titus 1:10–11 (ESV) — For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

      I also want to be clear: I do believe that church polity is important. When I say that church polity is not primary, please do not hear that I mean unimportant. I would contend that the type of church government that we employ in our churches says something about what we believe about gospel. An Episcopalian form of church government, or an Anglican form of church government, or a Presbyterian form of church government, or a Baptistic form of church government says something about the gospel. Therefore, it is “important” how we practice our church polity. However, we must stop short of saying, “Our church polity is the gospel.” As you have already stated previously, “… of course, no one is saved by polity, but rather by the gospel.”

      Therefore, I believe the solution to unity in Christ’s Church is not by ceasing to have denominational distinctives (like church polity), but rather “by each denomination having a dynamic biblical orthodoxy, a historic Christianity, a faithful multigenerational, multiethnic, multi-continental movement which stands or falls on primary issues … AND … to do this without sacrificing our denominational distinctives.” One of those distictives will be church polity.

      If this has not been helpful, or does not answer your question, please get back to me. Thanks again for taking the time to respond.
      Kevin

  2. Thanks Kevin. I really appreciate what you have to say, and how you say it. Gifted brother indeed!

    I appreciate your questions, “how many, synods and sessions, independent or connected, etc. And those questions, which I personally see are answered clearly in Scripture, aren’t essential to your post and what you taught the Nav group – that polity is not critical for the gospel or for unity.

    And I’m left wondering a bit if you got to answering my question, so let me clarify it by way of contrast – and feel free to turn it around if it paints you into too much of a corner.

    Was the apostle’s plan to bring spiritual health and unity to the churches of Crete to make the saving gospel clearer to them, or to change their polity?

    IOW, does Paul say, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,” or “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would explain the gospel more carefully and allow for differences in church polity, as I directed you”?

    • kevinwilkening Says:

      Please forgive my long delay in responding. I went out of town for a week, and I forgot to respond to before I left. Please forgive me. I promise I wasn’t dodging you … hahahaha.

      Definitively, I believe that Paul was saying, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” On this you and I agree. Paul is commanding Timothy to appoint elders in Ephesus. No question. I would even go a step further to say, “If a church does not have elder(s), then they are not a church.” Having elders is a primary issue; it is commanded.

      However, what is less clear is how these elders are to function inside of the local church. This is where I believe the differences in church polity come into play (i.e., secondary issues). What the local church may title those elders is a secondary issue (elder, bishop, pastor). How the local church operates with their elders is a secondary issue (elder rule, elder-led congregationalism, congregationalism, etc).
      Please hear my heart here: I am not saying that the form of church government is unimportant. I believe it is important. However, I do not believe it is primary. In other words, the church’s polity is not on the level of the virgin birth, or the historical resurrection.

      Again, if I am not answering you, please get back to me, brother. I value your insight here. I echo the cry of the church … reformed and always reforming.

  3. Hi Kevin,

    Why, it’s been over week… eternity in the blog world 😉 – I had figured you were not interested to pick it back up.

    The main point you originally made with was that polity is a secondary issue – which I challenged with a verse from the book of Titus. And even in your latest response, still haven’t addressed my question, “Was the apostle’s plan to bring spiritual health and unity to the churches of Crete to make the saving gospel clearer to them, or to change their polity?” Your answer to that question in light of titus 1:5 will hopefully show you something you may be assuming to be true but really isn’t.

    BTW, your statement, “what is less clear is how these elders are to function inside of the local church” may be your present understanding, but there is a vast amount of material in the NT on elders, their roles, the nature of their interaction with each other and the congregation, etc.

    In fact, there is more instruction in the New Testament on eldership than there is on communion, baptism, marriage, child-raising, and work combined. The larger passages on eldership, if you want to check this out for yourself, are Acts 15:1–29; Acts 20:17–38; 1 Timothy 3:1–7; 1 Timothy 5:17–22; Titus 1:5–9; and 1 Peter 5:1–4. The smaller passages are sprinkled throughout Acts and the letters to the churches. If you start studying it you will discover it everywhere in the New Testament. So if this is your first time looking at eldership, the vast amount of verses could be overwhelming. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Eldership is easy to understand. God has just seen it to give us a lot of teaching on it so we get it exactly right, because so much is at stake.

    • kevinwilkening Says:

      Okay, I think we may be talking past one another here. So, let me try to clarify.

      1. In answer to your first question I responded with … “I also affirm that Paul’s response to this ‘gospel issue’ is to reform church polity.” If I am assuming something here that is not true; please instruct me.

      2. Regarding my last response: In trying to show that polity is a secondary issue … I stated unequivocally that the Scriptures require elders. However, “what is less clear is how these elders are to function inside of the local church”

      I believe my poor choice of words caused some confusion. I should not have used the word “function.” When I said “function” I was simply meaning that there are honest differences that flow out of the text between godly men on the role of the elder and the role of the congregation/assembly in church polity. For instance, my good PCA friends and I disagree on the part that the elders are to play (function) and the part the congregation/assembly are to play (function) in the practice of church discipline. But this is not a primary issue; it is a secondary issue.

      Back to Titus. Paul is calling Titus to reform the church’s polity; no question. And the reform that needs to take place to set things in order is the appointing of elders. On this there is no disagreement. It is clearly a command to appoint elders. However, the secondary issue is: elder rule (Presbyterian polity) or elder-led congregationalism (historic Baptist polity). If the texts were clear, then we would not have good, godly, textual disagreement over the function of elders in congregational life.

      • Thanks Kevin. I read what you are saying but am still confused. Seems to me you’re saying having elders is a biblical necessity but not a gospel necessity because good people disagree on how they function in the church. Is that about right? IOW, if good people disagree on a particular matter, then it is a secondary issue.

        See, I didn’t think we who claim the Bible is inspired and profitable for teaching (2 Tim. 3:16) should base our conclusions about what we believe in Scripture is unclear on “because good people disagree.”

        I doubt titus shared this Latitudinarianism. He apparently felt none of the confusion you do about Paul’s command to appoint elders – i.e., how many, what is their relationship to the congregation, to each other, etc.

        Paul’s directive to him to take care of all things related to the appointing of elders was really a command from God the Father and Jesus Christ (Titus 1:4). Maybe this is part of the reason Paul was inspired by the Spirit to use the word “diatasso”, the strongest word in the NT for “direct, command” (Acts 18:2, Luke 17:9-10) to make sure it, and nothing else, happened.

        If Titus was where you seem to be at, couldn’t he have at least in part blamed Paul for incomplete instructions on what it means to appoint elders, and from there, to blame the first 2 members of the trinity of the same lack of sufficiency?

  4. kevinwilkening Says:

    I finally can see where we are talking past each other. I refer you back my reply from yesterday. I stated: “I would even go a step further to say, ‘If a church does not have elder(s), then they are not a church.’ Having elders is a primary issue; it is commanded.”

    The secondary issues that I am addressing do NOT have to do with explicit commands; hence, the word secondary.

    Baptist polity has elders. Presbyterian polity has elders. A direct command is primary. However, their elders and congregations function very differently; these polity issues are secondary.

    Now I want to address you opening remarks. You stated: “Seems to me you’re saying having elders is a biblical necessity but not a gospel necessity because good people disagree on how they function in the church. Is that about right? IOW, if good people disagree on a particular matter, then it is a secondary issue.” See, I didn’t think we who claim the Bible is inspired and profitable for teaching (2 Tim. 3:16) should base our conclusions about what we believe in Scripture is unclear on “because good people disagree.”

    This response seems to lack a bit of charity.

    I hold the Word of God to supreme in all matters of faith and conduct. And of course, disagreement with good people is not what makes a matter a secondary issue. If I disagree with someone on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our disagreement does not make this a secondary issue. Nor have I argued for any latitude in the appointing elders. We must appoint elders.

    The fact that God does not spell out each and every polity issue for His Church does not cause us to blame God for lack of sufficiency; rather, it produces in us a deep and abiding humility that confesses in secondary issues, “I could be wrong. Oh God, give me Your grace to understand these texts rightly so I lead your people rightly.”

    • Hi Kevin,

      “This response seems to lack a bit of charity.” Could be, not intended. Please accept apologies.

      Please consider – Corinth didn’t have elders when Paul wrote the letter to them in Scripture – yet they are called a church (1 Cor. 1:2).

      Also, consider – many churches on Crete were almost certainly led by “elders” before Titus got there, as were most in the 1st Century. But Titus had to disassemble them all in each city and appoint only the biblically qualified to eldership. Not all churches, that call themselves churches and have a plurality of elders, have apostolic eldership practices, iow.

      To wit: are churches that vote men into eldership complying with Titus 1:5? Iow, did Titus, in obedience to Paul, hold votes in each city, or was he personally responsible to appoint them based only on the qualifications of Titus 1:6-9? Does God want elders to be elected representatives of men, or appointed by biblical qualification alone?

      In your original post you were answering the question on disunity in the church: “Why are there so many branches of Christianity (denominations), why the conflict, and how can we have unity?”

      If we don’t address and change polity to reflect the NT, how can we have biblical flesh and blood unity? Or think of it this way: were the churches Crete dis-unified before Titus finished his elder-appointing ministry, and then unified when he was?

  5. Kevin, are you out of this thread, frustrated with my questions, or have you gone away again?

  6. kevinwilkening Says:

    Nope. Still here. Thinking about how to best respond. You ask several questions in your last post. I am debating whether to try to answer each of those questions … or whether answering them sends us further down the proverbial rabbit hole. LOL.

    I want to assure you that I am not frustrated. Just considering how to best proceed.

    • OK, I appreciate that, because we got a bit sidetracked about “good people” being a defining matter in what makes a particular doctrine primary or secondary. You say it doesn’t b/c you are a sola-scriptura man. But I’m still left wondering about this issue because you appear to claim a “good person” (theologically) is one who denies the resurrection. You wrote:

      “disagreement with good people is not what makes a matter a secondary issue. If I disagree with someone on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our disagreement does not make this a secondary issue. ”

      Am I misunderstanding you? Do you consider someone who doesn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ a “good person” theologically speaking (i.e. orthodox)?

      For the sake of advancing the post and pursuing my original challenge, I’m going to assume you would like to rephrase that since there aren’t too many “simultaneously just and sinner” folks around (of whom I am definitely one) who would call people who don’t believe in the resurrection, “good.”

      Which brings me back to my original challenge. If as you claim church polity is a secondary issue and not essential to unity why was it Paul’s main purpose in sending Titus to Crete (Titus 1:5)?

  7. kevinwilkening Says:

    Clearly, if we were sitting with one another over a cup of coffee I think we could talk this through in less than an hour.

    However, it also strikes me that when I answer your objections, you do not seem to track with me. As in this last exchange. Let me explain:

    You had previously stated: “IOW, if good people disagree on a particular matter, then it is a secondary issue.”

    My response to your statement is: “disagreement with good people is not what makes a matter a secondary issue. If I disagree with someone on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our disagreement does not make this a secondary issue.” In other words, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a primary issue. Just because there is disagreement about said primary issue does not then move that primary issue to a secondary issue simply because there is disagreement.

    In your last response, you took my statement to mean that I hold the resurrection is not a primary issue. You state: “But I’m still left wondering about this issue because you appear to claim a “good person” (theologically) is one who denies the resurrection.”

    That is the exact opposite for which I am contending.

    Lastly, by way of clarification: you continue to address “good people.” In context, I initially stated, “I was simply meaning that there are honest differences that flow out of the text between godly men on the role of the elder and the role of the congregation/assembly in church polity.” It was then followed by my final sentence of my response, “If the texts were clear, then we would not have good, godly, textual disagreement over the function of elders in congregational life.” Notice: I was not arguing simply for “good people.” I was arguing for godly, orthodox Christians who are wrestling with the truth of the text. I was speaking of orthodox theologians, pastors, professors who differ with one another on polity, but are unified in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe this clarification will help take the ambiguity out of what I intended by good.

    • Thanks Kevin, for your response and showing where I misinterpreted your words on “good persons disagreeing” and secondary issues.

      My goal in chasing that down was to simply expose it as a refuge we can all fall into in order to protect us from taking the sacred text at even face value. For example, good people (truly regenerate, well studied) reject “simultaneously just and sinner”. Is it plain? Well sheesh, Romans 4:5. But neither of us should be too surprised that even “good people” disagree over it. We just like to pick for ourselves who the good people are based on church history and personal experience.

      But because Christ died for the church (Ephesians 5:25) ecclesiology is a natural extension of both Christology and soteriology. Iow, what one believes about the church connects to what one believes about Christ and what happened (or did not happen) on the cross. Think RCC with its partial Christ (He didn’t fully atone for our humanity, ipso facto He assumed and atoned for less than our full humanity) and a partial salvation (impartation). This should make us pause in calling debated ecclesiological issues in non-RCC ecclesiology less important to unity than soteriology, and probably ought to chasten us into realizing that flesh and blood unity, the kind we are commanded to maintain (Ephesians 4:3), is entirely dependent on our ecclesiology. So no wonder good people wrestle with the eldership texts. They don’t struggle because the texts on eldership are unclear as you repeatedly claim, but because of other (hamartiological) matters.

      If eldership and how it functions were unclear in Scripture then differing churches/denominations holding to differing forms of leadership/eldership would not only be acceptable but honorable, and why considering it a secondary issue to unity is so accepted. Nobody gets their salary taken away and we keep doing what we’ve always done.

      But if that’s true, why is it so easy to upset the apple cart by simply asking “if church polity is a secondary issue and not essential to unity why was it Paul’s main purpose in sending Titus to Crete (Titus 1:5)? Or asking this question: did Paul want the churches of Crete to take votes to choose for themselves church leaders, or have Titus himself appoint the elders?

  8. kevinwilkening Says:

    Good words my friend. So, I have a couple of papers I would like you to consider regarding your final question, “Did Paul want the churches of Crete to take votes to choose for themselves church leaders, or have Titus himself appoint the elders?”

    Where would you like me to send them? Just post them here? Or would you like them via email?

    • I would like to see the papers. But before you post them (my preference) do this, answer me two questions.

      1) Using an electronic concordance, look up in English translation how often the word “vote” is used in Scripture (cognates fine). When you find the one instance in Scripture please evaluate: is that vote an act of righteousness, or an act of sin?

      2) When in Scripture is the majority ever correct in determining what God’s will is in any given situation?

      After answering those 2 questions, then please post.

  9. kevinwilkening Says:

    My answers:
    1. The search for the word “vote” in English is not helpful to the discussion. We need the Greek word for “appointed.” The word for “appointed” is χειροτονέω. The roots of the word are χειρο, “hand,” and τονέω, “to stretch.” Please see next post.

    2. The majority is right of times in Scripture, but I you said “ever” I will just give you a few.
    Exodus 19:8 (ESV) — 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.
    Exodus 24:3 (ESV) — 3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”
    Acts 6:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.

    • Hi Kevin,

      Thank you for the depth of attention to this topic. Before I dive in I just want to make a couple comments.

      The entirety of your lengthy posts deal with asserting that church votes – i.e., congregational voting, are biblical. I will try to rebut that later, but let’s keep in mind the context.

      This blog started with you asserting that “the gospel is a primary issue and church polity a secondary issue” You were answering a question “Why are there so many branches of Christianity (denominations), why the conflict, and how can we have unity?” Your final answer in your blog was: we argued that the way to show unity in Christ’s Church was not by ceasing to have denominations, but rather by each denomination having a dynamic biblical orthodoxy, a historic Christianity, a faithful multigenerational, multiethnic, multi-continental movement which stands or falls on primary issues … AND … to do this without sacrificing our denominational distinctives.”

      If I might summarize your final answer, you are asserting that unity is shown by holding to a proper view of the gospel, not a proper ecclesiology.

      In response I challenged you that the book of Titus and the disastrous church environment on Crete disproves your assertion. That island’s churches were led by many rebellious and disobedient leaders (Titus 1:10). Worse yet, the churches were being led by unsaved men (v. 16). My challenge to you was this: “So if church polity is secondary to the gospel, and flesh and blood unity is accomplished through the gospel, why is the apostle Paul’s main purpose in writing the letter of Titus, and apostolic solution to the problems of the churches on Crete, to bring about reform in church polity (Titus 1:5)?” This question was meant to be a direct confrontation to your blog post, requiring you to defend your thesis that when it comes to Christian unity “the gospel is a primary issue and church polity a secondary issue.” But instead of directly answering my challenge you only agreed that church polity “is important.” In your response (2 weeks later) you wrote, “If a church does not have elder(s), then they are not a church.” While I disagree with you on this last point (which you were making to show how important you believe church polity is) you still did not answered my challenge that requires you to defend “gospel first, polity second” in matters of unity. I never doubted that you thought polity important. What I doubted was your assessment of polity and gospel unity.

      So I repeated my challenge again (Nov. 5, 10:19). But your response the next day, while acknowledging Paul’s solution to a gospel failure in Crete’s church was indeed changing everyone’s polity, still didn’t answer my challenge, which was, in a word, “Why?” Why, if the gospel is essential to unity, and polity is secondary to unity as you assert, was the apostolic solution to Crete’s mess reforming church polity and not primarily gospel proclamation? But again you did not answer.

      So still not receiving any answer from you in subsequent posts of yours, yesterday at 11:43, and again in a later post at 1:01 I reiterated my challenge to you. That’s 4 times now, and still no answer to my challenge.

      Now you have found a topic you think you have traction on – church voting. Even if you completely right on this, you are still avoiding my challenge. IOW, if you end up winning this issue of votes/no votes, it means nothing in light of your blog and my challenge to it. It only reinforces that you are avoiding something you don’t like, but is very clear in Scripture: reforming church polity is essential to how apostles handled church disunity and out-and-out disobedience, and how we should as well. Paul’s solution, given to Him by Jesus Christ, was not to get everybody on the same page soteriologically, but ecclesiologically. Do that right and you’ll have the means to not only preach the gospel, but live it out as well.

      From here I will respond to your posts in order as I have time.

  10. kevinwilkening Says:

    What is the Biblical way to choose church leaders? Local churches often wish to select their own pastors. And church leaders may wish to select their fellow-workers. Here is how the Roman Catholic Church views the matter:

    “Bishops were given the right to remove any priest who [assisted and allowed] ‘lay interference in the spiritual concerns of the Church’ and to close down any parish that tried to recruit an unauthorized pastor on its own… [A] recent statement from the pope… asked incredulously: ‘Did Christ commit His Church to be ruled by the Trustees or by the Bishops? Shall the sheep lead the shepherd?’” (1)

    On the other hand, Baptists tend to be congregationalists. Colin Smith said in the Baptist Bulletin, 2008:

    “We believe in Biblical authority; therefore we believe in Congregational Church Government, which simply teaches the New Testament pattern. God’s will is objectively given through the vote of the local congregation. Whether it’s His will for discipline, for officers, for how money should be spent—it is done by the vote of the congregation. That’s God’s way.

    “Acts 1 is fascinating. When the believers wanted to choose a leader before Pentecost, what did they do? They cast lots. That’s the Jewish way. Why? Because the Jews believed that when someone cast lots, the whole disposition of the dice was in the hands of the Lord. Once a person cast lots, that was God at work. It was a startling thought: “To settle an issue, let’s do something random, because there is no such thing as randomness. God will settle it.” This was the typical Jewish method of asking, How do I discern the will of God?

    “In Acts 6, however, when the church wanted to choose officers, what did the apostles do? Let the congregation select. The difference between Acts 1 and Acts 6 is such a perfect example of congregational church government. The apostles were seeking the will of God by a vote of the congregation. This is an amazing process. Oh, sometimes it is also a nasty, dirty process—but so is changing a diaper or raising children. Our lives here are never quite as clean as we want to make them. Congregational church government has some very clear principles, but some very muddy applications. Because we believe congregational government is a direct result of Biblical authority, we believe it is God’s plan for the local church: It is how God expresses His will.” (2)

    Should the congregation choose elders or should elders be chosen by other elders? This is a very important question. And an informal poll of our deacons and adult Sunday school teachers showed some difference of opinion on this question. So we will spend a fair amount of time on it. Pardon the length of this article.

    Acts 6:2-3 (see 1-6) And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.”

    This is the choosing of “the seven.” Many hold that these are the first deacons. Perhaps. Regardless, the Apostles decided that more church leaders or servants were necessary. They asked the body to choose from among themselves seven men to serve in the ministry of daily distribution to the poor. The “whole gathering” chose men for this purpose. The Apostles then appointed these men. A congregationalist attitude was at present. Also, a method of selecting these officers was known to the people. This passage also separates the act of “appointing” from the actual selection of these men. “What method did the early church use when selecting additional officers?” the answer is: “congregationalism, sometimes.”

    Acts 14:23 And when [Paul and Barnabus] had appointed elders for them in every church [in the area of Lysrta, Iconium, and Antioch], with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

    The word for “appointed” is χειροτονέω. The roots of the word are χειρο, “hand,” and τονέω, “to stretch.” This word changed in meaning from the period before Christ until the 2nd century. A.T. Roberston says it “is an old verb that originally meant to vote by show of the hands, finally to appoint with the approval of an assembly that chooses as in 2 Corinthians 8:19 , and then to appoint without regard to choice as in Josephus (Ant. XIII. 2, 2) of the appointment of Jonathan as high priest by Alexander.” So this word was used to refer to both corporate voting and to individual selection. Strauch (2) says that the context dictates that it must mean “choosing” because Paul and Barnabus (“they”, vv. 20, 23) are the subject of the verb. So even if they did vote, Paul and Barnabus did that voting and chose elders.

    However, consider the words of John Calvin on this passage. He was trained first as a lawyer in a school that emphasized classic Greek study.

    Had ordained by election. The Greek word χειροτονειν doth signify to decree, or ordain a thing, by lifting up the hands, as they used to do in the assemblies of the people. Notwithstanding, the ecclesiastical writers do often use the word χειροτονεια, in another sense; to wit, for their [the] solemn rite of ordaining, which is called in Scripture laying on of hands. Furthermore, by this manner of speech is very excellently expressed the right way to ordain pastors. Paul and Barnabas are said to choose elders. Do they this alone by their private office? Nay, rather they suffer the matter to be decided by the consent of them all. Therefore, in ordaining pastors the people had their free election, but lest there should any tumult arise, Paul and Barnabas sit as chief moderators.” (4)

    And:

    …the whole body as was the custom of the Greeks in elections, declared by a show of hands which of the two they wished to have. Thus it is not uncommon for Roman historians to say, that the consul who held the comitia elected the new magistrates for no other reason but because he received the suffrages, and presided over the people at the election. Certainly it is not credible that Paul conceded more to Timothy and Titus than he assumed to himself. Now we see that his custom was to appoint bishops by the suffrages of the people. We must therefore interpret the above passages, so as not to infringe on the common right and liberty of the Church. (5)

    Calvin said the Text shows that Paul and Barnabus oversaw the election by the church, and not that they chose the elders themselves. Calvin is so sure that this word indicates a vote of the church that he argues for the same meaning of the word “appoint” in Titus 1. He considers χειροτονέω to be the clear Scripture which sheds light on Titus 1, which he holds to be less clear.

    All of the early English Bible translators rendered χειροτονέω in Acts 14:23 as an election. Tyndale Bible, 1534: “And when they had ordened them elders by election…” Cramner Bible, 1539: “And when they had ordened them elders by election…” Geneva Bible, 1557: “And when they had ordeined them Elders by election…”

    The Didache is the shortened title of a book called The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. “Didache” means “teaching” in Greek. It was written in the first century. Though we knew it had existed, it was lost for centuries until it was rediscovered in 1873. It is a manual for basic teachings of Christianity and church life. Section 15 discusses the selection of elders:

    “You must, then, elect (Χειροτονήσατε) for yourselves bishops and deacons who are a credit to the Lord, men who are gentle, generous, faithful, and well tried. For their ministry to you is identical with that of the prophets and teachers. You must not, therefore, despise them, for along with the prophets and teachers they enjoy a place of honor among you.” (6)

    This was written to the saints of the church (“For their [elders’] ministry to you,” “You must not… despise [elders],” “they enjoy a place of honor among you.”). It is the saints of the church that the Didache says “must elect” for themselves church leaders.

    This gives some insight in two ways. First, grammatically it adds to our understanding of χειροτονέω. Here, the word clearly is used for a vote of the saints of the church. “You must elect for yourselves.” Second, the historical practice gives us insight. The Didache clearly puts the choice of elders in the hands of the congregation. The early church voted on their elders.

    Historical evidence for congregationalism in the early church exists. Edward Gibbon, in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, said:

    “The submission, or the resistance, of the clergy and people, on various occasions, afforded different precedents, which were insensibly converted into positive laws, and provincial customs: but it was everywhere admitted, as a fundamental maxim of religious policy, that no bishop could be imposed on an orthodox church, without the consent of its members. The emperors as the guardians of the public peace, and as the first citizens of Home and Constantinople, might effectually declare their wishes in the choice of a primate: but those absolute monarchs respected the freedom of ecclesiastical elections; and while they distributed and resumed the honours of the state and army, they allowed eighteen hundred perpetual magistrates to receive their important offices from the free suffrages of the people.” (7)

    Brown says, “Turretin buttresses his arguments with a listing of quotes by church Fathers who explicitly state that either bishops of elders were to be elected by congregational vote. These witnesses include Tertullian, Origin, Cyprian, Crystostom, Gratian, Ambrose, Theodoret, and Augustine.” (8)

    Clement, an early bishop of Rome, wrote the church at Corinth:

    “And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over the name of the bishop’s office. For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they provided a continuance, that if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration. Those therefore who were appointed by them, or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole Church, and have ministered unblamably to the flock of Christ in lowliness of mind, peacefully and with all modesty, and for long time have borne a good report with all these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out from their ministration.” (9)

    This was part of Clement’s argument for what is now known as Apostolic Succession; that is the teaching that authority in the church has been handed down as apostles chose overseers, and they in turn chose their successors. The Roman Catholic Church today holds that its teachers are the chosen of the chosen of the apostles, and hold the authority of the Apostles. Clement, then, can hardly be expected to have sided with congregational authority when he was arguing that the Corinthian church should keep their appointed overseers against their own discernment. Even so, Clement still affirmed the right of the congregation to consent to the selection of their leaders.

    Titus 1:5 “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town…”

    The word Paul uses for “appoint” is different from what is used in Acts 14:23. It means to set, or appoint. Paul wanted Titus to choose elders in each church. Is this a contradiction of Paul’s method in Acts 14:23? No. The situation in Crete was different. The towns in Asia had older, more mature churches, and Paul directed them to choose their elders. However, in the case of Crete, the churches were much less mature. Crete was similar to a church plants. Therefore, the elder should select elders if the church isn’t mature enough to do so reliably.

    The concept of a “elder candidate” will also be important. Practically, Titus teaches us that where candidates for eldership require training the church planter or standing elders will choose the candidate, and the church body will approve him once he is ready to be called. This would be very consistent with Clement’s description of the process.

    Conclusions:

    1. Elders should be chosen by the members of the church.

    2. Elders should actively lead the congregation in the selection of elders, just as Paul and Barnabus did.

    3. In the case of an immature church, perhaps elders should choose elders themselves. Practically, this may be inevitable. Since a man must be able and must be trained, he must first be selected and then trained. This training process will begin between the new elder and the missionary/elder long before the time of his election by the church.

    4. Little is said about how the elders were chosen by the members of the church. Was it by consensus or by vote? Acts 14:23 strongly suggests a vote.

    – -=-=-==-===-=======-===-==-=-=–

    (1) O’Toole, James M., The faithful: A History of Catholics in America, 2008, pp. 62-63.

    (2) http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=1155

    (3) Strauch, Alexander, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, 1995, pp. 137.

    (4) Calvin, Jean, Commentary on Acts, 14:23.

    (5) Calvin, Jean, Institutes of Christian Religion, Vol. II, http://www.vor.org/rbdisk/html/institutes/4_03.htm#4.3.7

    (6) Didache, 15 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/richardson/fathers.viii.i.iii.html

    (7) Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, 660-661.

    (8) Brown, Jeff, Form & Freedom: What the New Testament Teaches About Church Government and Church Leadership, 2004, p. 92.

    (9) 1 Clement 44:1-2

  11. kevinwilkening Says:

    Please forgive me. My intention was not to try to “have traction” on any subject here. That was not my intent in posting this last article. I was well aware that we are a far distance from the topic as it originally began. However, you cannot ask me to answer two questions, and then when I answer them, talk about having traction. That is insincere.

    Therefore, please choose not to respond to my last post. I do not want to take up your valuable time responding to such a lengthy post.

    Clearly, we are talking past one another repeatedly, I believe it would be best that I stop commenting on this particular post. Why? Not because I am frustrated or because I do not enjoy the dialogue. It is because I have to make sure I am caring for my church members first. I must study to feed them. I must meet with them often to answer their questions. I must respond their needs. If I am taking an inordinate amount of time on this post, then I have less time for them. Therefore, while I have enjoyed our brief conversation, I am choosing to gracefully bow out of this topic.

    Thanks for your time and Godspeed.

    • Post 1
      Hi Kevin,

      A defense of eldership doesn’t shy away from the issue of voting in the NT. For those like myself who do embrace it, we see voting among Baptists as their infant baptism – a doctrine to be protected to the death but without a single example or precept in Scripture to offer in its defense.

      I hope you will feel free to respond when able – Ted.

      You wrote:
      1. The search for the word “vote” in English is not helpful to the discussion. We need the Greek word for “appointed.” The word for “appointed” is χειροτονέω. The roots of the word are χειρο, “hand,” and τονέω, “to stretch.” Please see next post.

      But the Greek NT has a word for “vote” and it isn’t χειροτονέω. That word is “ψῆφον” and it is found in Acts 26:10 and is translated as “vote.” It refers to the pebble that was cast as one’s vote.

      This is important to the discussion of voting in the NT since the only word used for “vote” in God’s word does not refer to the practice of stretching one’s hand but casting a voting stone. There are in fact numerous ways to vote, from ballots, to hand raising, to stones, to stepping forward, to remaining in a line.

      Having said that, it may be that the churches of Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:19, χειροτονέω) held votes of affirmation but not votes resulting in “yes’ or “no” decisions. Such votes confer no authority but display encouragement. This type of vote is the only kind of vote that χειροτονέω apparently referred to in the ancient Roman world (Eduard Lohse, TDNT, 9:437).

      You wrote:
      2. The majority is right of times in Scripture, but I you said “ever” I will just give you a few.
      Exodus 19:8 (ESV) — 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.
      Exodus 24:3 (ESV) — 3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”
      Acts 6:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.

      Kevin, my question wasn’t “when did a majority agree to be obedient, or follow guidance from spiritual leaders,” but “When in Scripture is the majority ever correct in determining what God’s will is in any given situation?”

      Unfortunately none of your examples answer my question: neither the Israelites nor the early Jerusalem congregation were trying to figure out what God wanted. The Israelites were waiting to find out what God wanted from them, not determining it (Exo. 20, 24) and the church was not determining how they should solve the widow problem but following directives from their leaders. What directives? They were to chose 7 (not 10, or 8, or 25) men (not women, not girls) who had a select set of characteristics (not job skills). Any 7 men among that select group, and only from that select group, was God’s will for them to choose for the need. The congregation determined nothing but only chose among the candidates. How exactly they picked the 7 Luke does not tell us.

  12. Post 2

    You wrote:
    Colin Smith said in the Baptist Bulletin, 2008: “We believe in Biblical authority; therefore we believe in Congregational Church Government, which simply teaches the New Testament pattern. God’s will is objectively given through the vote of the local congregation. Whether it’s His will for discipline, for officers, for how money should be spent—it is done by the vote of the congregation. That’s God’s way.”

    I reply:
    Yet churches vote sinfully all the time, from voting good men out of the pulpit, to voting unqualified men into it, to often supporting agendas opposed to God’s Law. In 2009 the ELCA voted to ordain openly homosexual men and women to the office of elder. Jonathan Edwards’ church voted him out. Colin Smith, now with the Lord, certainly didn’t believe that was God’s way. And yet he claimed, and you support it, that votes objectively reveal God’s will. I personally don’t want that kind of nonsense passing my sola-scriptura threshold, nor that of the people in my church. We adamantly teach that God’s will is only objectively given in Scripture. Voting a heretic into the office of a pastor is not what God wants churches doing, and it happens all the time. It’s not God’s way.

    For how can congregational governance showcase what Colin Smith called “biblical authority?” The teaching that the congregation is under its elders is repeatedly taught in Scripture. Here are some of the texts in the New Testament which directly teach that Scripture grants full-charge governing authority to elders: Acts 15:2–16:4, Acts 20:17–28, 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13, 1 Timothy 3:4–5, 5:17–18, Titus 1:5–9, 1 Peter 5:1–4, and Hebrews 13:17. In addition to these passages are multiple instances of congregations submitting to elders in the book of Acts and in some epistles. On the other hand, there is not one passage in the Bible that teaches or shows elders who are governmentally submitted under the congregation. Since Scripture can’t teach two opposites to both be true, at best only one can be correct: congregationalism, or eldership. As long as Hebrews 13:17 is in the canon, Congregational Church Government will disagree with Scripture. In other words, the Congregationalist doesn’t really believe in biblical authority but desperately want to convince himself he does to legitimize his experience. But voting is learned from the world, not the Bible. You, Kevin, are called by Christ to die to self and prefer all others in the church as more important than yourself, not voting your will in opposition to some or all of them. Every church vote you participate in brings you a sinful opportunity to prefer your will against others in the church. Or you could die to self and just not vote.

    The church is built on the teachings of His apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20, 3:5), Christ Jesus’ teachings being the cornerstone. Since none of the apostles ever initiated a church vote, taught a church to vote, or encouraged a church vote, voting stands opposed to what they did pass along from Him (John 16:13-15). Do you want to receive praise from the Lord of Scripture? Learn shepherding from the NT, not the world.

  13. Post 3

    You wrote:
    “Acts 1 is fascinating. When the believers wanted to choose a leader before Pentecost, what did they do? They cast lots. That’s the Jewish way. Why? Because the Jews believed that when someone cast lots, the whole disposition of the dice was in the hands of the Lord. Once a person cast lots, that was God at work. It was a startling thought: “To settle an issue, let’s do something random, because there is no such thing as randomness. God will settle it.” This was the typical Jewish method of asking, How do I discern the will of God?

    I reply:
    But, when verse 23 says “they” put forward two men, who was the “they,” the 120, or the apostles? Answer: the “they” of verse 23 refers to the “us” of verse 22 — the apostles. In fact, the pronoun “they” refers to the apostles every time it is used in Acts 1, and when verse 26 says “they cast lots,” it isn’t referring to the 120, but the apostles. In other words, the congregation had no role whatsoever in the choosing of the twelfth apostle except as onlookers.

    Casting lots was a decision-making process used only when the larger interests of national Israel were at stake such as Joshua’s land distribution and certain national sacrifices. Selecting the twelfth apostle was an important decision for national Israel because Judas had committed suicide. Yet Jesus had said, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28, HCSB). Judas’ twelfth seat of “ministry and apostleship” (v. 25) to national Israel needed replacement and the apostolic use of lots reflected their discerning biblical guidance in light of Christ’s future promises to them and Israel. Lots, or anything like them, should never be used in any church in any decision-making. Yet they were wisely used in Acts 1, and even though Paul didn’t fit Peter’s selection criteria (vv. 21–22), even he recognized and submitted to their validity in choosing the twelfth apostle (1 Corinthians 15:5). Acts 1 reveals a congregation that decided nothing and exerted no rule. They listened in as the apostles prayed to the risen Christ “YOU, Lord, show which one of these two YOU have chosen” (Acts 1:24, emphasis mine). Jesus, not the 120, nor the apostles, chose Matthias to be His twelfth apostle through His sovereign control of lots (Acts 1:26, 6:2, Proverbs 16:33). To believe the congregation made the choice of the twelfth apostle, and not Jesus himself, insults Him. To then claim this patterns how He wants leaders selected in the church is inept and reckless.

  14. Post 4

    You wrote:
    “In Acts 6, however, when the church wanted to choose officers, what did the apostles do? Let the congregation select. The difference between Acts 1 and Acts 6 is such a perfect example of congregational church government. The apostles were seeking the will of God by a vote of the congregation. This is an amazing process. Oh, sometimes it is also a nasty, dirty process—but so is changing a diaper or raising children. Our lives here are never quite as clean as we want to make them. Congregational church government has some very clear principles, but some very muddy applications. Because we believe congregational government is a direct result of Biblical authority, we believe it is God’s plan for the local church: It is how God expresses His will.” (2)

    I reply:
    There is no mention in Acts 6 that “the apostles were seeking the will of God by the vote of the congregation” – this is sheer fabrication. And the reason why votes are a nasty dirty process is because they reflect the world’s sinful methods of choosing and unbelief in how God wants leadership in the church to be made – which is clearly revealed in His word (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 5:19-25). If you turn from the world’s ways and will choose the Lord’s ways, and not veer to the right or to the left, you will find “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. (Jam 3:17 NAU).”

    You wrote:
    Should the congregation choose elders or should elders be chosen by other elders? This is a very important question. And an informal poll of our deacons and adult Sunday school teachers showed some difference of opinion on this question. So we will spend a fair amount of time on it. Pardon the length of this article.

    I reply:
    That little exercise (which I hope was peaceful and fun) will show you that polling people produces no truth. The same with voting. A man is not qualified for office because he is voted in by the congregation, nor does a negative vote prove a man is not qualified for office. That assessment can only be determined by the will of God as revealed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

  15. Post 5

    You wrote:
    Acts 14:23 And when [Paul and Barnabus] had appointed elders for them in every church [in the area of Lysrta, Iconium, and Antioch], with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed…. A.T. Roberston says it “is an old verb that originally meant to vote by show of the hands, finally to appoint with the approval of an assembly that chooses as in 2 Corinthians 8:19 , and then to appoint without regard to choice as in Josephus (Ant. XIII. 2, 2) of the appointment of Jonathan as high priest by Alexander.” So this word was used to refer to both corporate voting and to individual selection. Strauch (2) says that the context dictates that it must mean “choosing” because Paul and Barnabus (“they”, vv. 20, 23) are the subject of the verb. So even if they did vote, Paul and Barnabus did that voting and chose elders.

    I reply:
    Robertson’s notes on this passage are well known and yet have not been followed by scholars. Why? Because there simply isn’t the evidence. Strauch is correct to the Greek; Robertson is not. The verse clearly shows it was not the congregation who appointed elders but Paul and Barnabas who “appointed elders for them” (v. 23). Robertson’s take on the verse can’t account for the indirect object or the masculine plural participle as Strauch does. Why would two mature and godly men vote between the two of themselves, or why appoint whom others choose? Much more likely the two of them discussed the potential elders, tested them (1 Timothy 3:10), and then appointed them, as both χειροτονήσαντες and αὐτοῖς show.

  16. Post 6

    You wrote:
    “consider the words of John Calvin on this passage. He was trained first as a lawyer in a school that emphasized classic Greek study….the Greek word χειροτονειν doth signify to decree, or ordain a thing, by lifting up the hands, as they used to do in the assemblies of the people. Notwithstanding, the ecclesiastical writers do often use the word χειροτονεια, in another sense; to wit, for their [the] solemn rite of ordaining, which is called in Scripture laying on of hands. Furthermore, by this manner of speech is very excellently expressed the right way to ordain pastors. Paul and Barnabas are said to choose elders. Do they this alone by their private office? Nay, rather they suffer the matter to be decided by the consent of them all. Therefore, in ordaining pastors the people had their free election, but lest there should any tumult arise, Paul and Barnabas sit as chief moderators.” (4) And:

    …the whole body as was the custom of the Greeks in elections, declared by a show of hands which of the two they wished to have. Thus it is not uncommon for Roman historians to say, that the consul who held the comitia elected the new magistrates for no other reason but because he received the suffrages, and presided over the people at the election. Certainly it is not credible that Paul conceded more to Timothy and Titus than he assumed to himself. Now we see that his custom was to appoint bishops by the suffrages of the people. We must therefore interpret the above passages, so as not to infringe on the common right and liberty of the Church.

    I reply:
    And yet Luke’s Greek is very clear in Act 14:23: only Paul and Barnabas are the subject of χειροτονέω and the congregation its indirect object, regardless of what Calvin wrote. He even reaches into the practices of the world to support his polity. Bad move but it’s the only place to support voting in the church. And don’t forget, only a few men were allowed to vote in those elections.

    You wrote:
    Calvin is so sure that this word indicates a vote of the church that he argues for the same meaning of the word “appoint” in Titus 1. He considers χειροτονέω to be the clear Scripture which sheds light on Titus 1, which he holds to be less clear.

    I reply:
    Titus 1:5 is not less clear and Calvin was committing a hermeneutic blunder. I wrote a book on it, The Titus Mandate, available at Amazon.

  17. Post 7

    You wrote:
    All of the early English Bible translators rendered χειροτονέω in Acts 14:23 as an election. Tyndale Bible, 1534: “And when they had ordened them elders by election…” Cramner Bible, 1539: “And when they had ordened them elders by election…” Geneva Bible, 1557: “And when they had ordeined them Elders by election…”

    I reply:
    And yet, you have not wondered that none of the modern translations follow those ancient translations? The reason why is because they were wrong. Remember, they were coming out of Catholicism in which men bought bishoprics and appointed dolts for priests and ran the whole ecclesiastical show. And remember too, when they spoke of election, they only meant the gentrified men could vote, not women, nor the uneducated (i.e., servants). They were escaping oppression but still holding on to vestiges of the world’s ways. They didn’t love democracy nor did they believe all in the church should have an equal vote. Far from it.

    You wrote:
    The Didache is the shortened title of a book called The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. “Didache” means “teaching” in Greek. It was written in the first century. Though we knew it had existed, it was lost for centuries until it was rediscovered in 1873. It is a manual for basic teachings of Christianity and church life. Section 15 discusses the selection of elders: “You must, then, elect (Χειροτονήσατε) for yourselves bishops and deacons who are a credit to the Lord, men who are gentle, generous, faithful, and well tried. For their ministry to you is identical with that of the prophets and teachers. You must not, therefore, despise them, for along with the prophets and teachers they enjoy a place of honor among you.” (6) This gives some insight in two ways. First, grammatically it adds to our understanding of χειροτονέω. Here, the word clearly is used for a vote of the saints of the church. “You must elect for yourselves.” Second, the historical practice gives us insight. The Didache clearly puts the choice of elders in the hands of the congregation. The early church voted on their elders.

    I reply:
    The word χειροτονέω can just as well be translated, “You must appoint for yourselves” since it does not specify the manner of appointment. And again, the writer(s) did not mean for the whole church to do the choosing, but only men whom were deemed worthy. Given 2000 years of church history, women didn’t start voting in churches until the 1950s (in some Pentecostal churches earlier). This is because the world’s women in all Western democracies gained suffrage in the 19th and 20th Centuries. When it comes to voting the church follows the world’s practices and reaps the consequences (James 4:4). Finally, the Didache is notorious for legalism and is not to be trusted for help in shepherding the flock of God in any matter.

  18. Post 8

    You wrote:
    Historical evidence for congregationalism in the early church exists. Edward Gibbon, in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, said:
    “The submission, or the resistance, of the clergy and people, on various occasions, afforded different precedents, which were insensibly converted into positive laws, and provincial customs: but it was everywhere admitted, as a fundamental maxim of religious policy, that no bishop could be imposed on an orthodox church, without the consent of its members. The emperors as the guardians of the public peace, and as the first citizens of Home and Constantinople, might effectually declare their wishes in the choice of a primate: but those absolute monarchs respected the freedom of ecclesiastical elections; and while they distributed and resumed the honours of the state and army, they allowed eighteen hundred perpetual magistrates to receive their important offices from the free suffrages of the people.” (7)

    I reply:
    Only men who were Roman citizens were allowed to vote. In Rome that was a small percentage of the populace (less than 10%).

    You wrote:
    Brown says, “Turretin buttresses his arguments with a listing of quotes by church Fathers who explicitly state that either bishops of elders were to be elected by congregational vote. These witnesses include Tertullian, Origin, Cyprian, Crystostom, Gratian, Ambrose, Theodoret, and Augustine.” (8)

    I reply:
    Most of Turretin’s references are to the election of bishops in synods are performed by other bishops from other cities. Those few references to congregational elections do not refer to the entire congregation but to the same kind of people who voted in Turretin’s church –only men qualified to vote by either gentry or other privilege such a political citizenry.

  19. Post 9

    You wrote:
    Clement, an early bishop of Rome, wrote the church at Corinth:
    “And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over the name of the bishop’s office. For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they provided a continuance, that if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration. Those therefore who were appointed by them, or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole Church, and have ministered unblamably to the flock of Christ in lowliness of mind, peacefully and with all modesty, and for long time have borne a good report with all these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out from their ministration.” (9)
    This was part of Clement’s argument for what is now known as Apostolic Succession; that is the teaching that authority in the church has been handed down as apostles chose overseers, and they in turn chose their successors. The Roman Catholic Church today holds that its teachers are the chosen of the chosen of the apostles, and hold the authority of the Apostles. Clement, then, can hardly be expected to have sided with congregational authority when he was arguing that the Corinthian church should keep their appointed overseers against their own discernment. Even so, Clement still affirmed the right of the congregation to consent to the selection of their leaders.

    I reply:
    The word Clement uses to affirm congregational consent is “συνευδοκησάσης” and carries no sense of authority or power. It is used in the NT in Luke 11:48, Acts 8:1, Act 22:20, Rom 1:32, 1 Cor. 7:12-13. Clement rightly assesses congregational approval as one of consent, but not authority. Furthermore, Clement’s argument in the 44th chapter is not for Apostolic succession but rather to explain that men who rightly enter into the presbytery of a church are those appointed to that role by other qualified men. This process of appointment flows from Christ Himself. Even as Jesus appointed the apostles, and the apostles appointed the first elders, so now (biblically) qualified men only are to continue to appoint presbyters. This is critical to his upcoming rebuke of some unqualified men in the Corinthian church who had deposed some elders unjustly, and had torn apart the church.

  20. Post 10

    You wrote:
    Titus 1:5 “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town…”
    The word Paul uses for “appoint” is different from what is used in Acts 14:23. It means to set, or appoint. Paul wanted Titus to choose elders in each church. Is this a contradiction of Paul’s method in Acts 14:23? No. The situation in Crete was different. The towns in Asia had older, more mature churches, and Paul directed them to choose their elders. However, in the case of Crete, the churches were much less mature. Crete was similar to a church plants. Therefore, the elder should select elders if the church isn’t mature enough to do so reliably.

    I reply:
    Why is the situation in Crete different? You say the towns in Asia had older, more mature churches, and Paul directed them to choose their elders. But Crete’s churches were older than them by quite a bit – Acts 2:11. Cretans were saved on Pentecost and went back to Crete and started churches. Why the church was so established on Crete by the time of the writing of Titus that every town (1:5) had multiple men who truly fit all the elder qualifications (1:6-9), including “not a new convert” (1 Tim. 3:6). It takes men many years after salvation to become mature enough to be truly elder-qualified, including the ability to handle Scripture (Titus 1:9). One should never appoint a new convert to be an elder, church plant or not. To suggest so is reckless and shows disregard for the elder qualifications in Scripture and a lack of regard for what sheep truly need.

  21. Post 11

    You wrote
    Conclusions:
    1. Elders should be chosen by the members of the church.

    I reply:
    That is not one of the elder qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 or Titus 1:6-9 that makes a man able to serve. You are adding a qualification Jesus Christ did not and doing so without His permission. Do you believe your pattern of electing elders make church safer than the way He explains in His word?

    You wrote:
    2. Elders should actively lead the congregation in the selection of elders, just as Paul and Barnabus did.

    I reply:
    Praise God ,we agree on something. But the reason for my agreement is not pragmatism but because Scripture commands elders to do this since He calls us to be “rulers” (1 tim. 3:5, 5;17, Heb. 13:17) and “stewards” (Titus 1:7).

    You wrote:
    3. In the case of an immature church, perhaps elders should choose elders themselves. Practically, this may be inevitable. Since a man must be able and must be trained, he must first be selected and then trained. This training process will begin between the new elder and the missionary/elder long before the time of his election by the church.

    I reply:
    Why should we have two standards that are in the end simply arbitrary? Who decides what is an immature church and what is a mature church?

    You wrote:
    4. Little is said about how the elders were chosen by the members of the church. Was it by consensus or by vote? Acts 14:23 strongly suggests a vote.

    I reply:
    Acts 14:23 says nothing of the sort: it clearly and specifically states that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in those 3 churches. It further says “they appointed elders for them” – it does not say the congregation elected elders for Paul and Barnabas to appoint.” Furthermore, Titus 1:5-9 teaches exactly and teaches a pattern on how elders are to be chosen for and by the church, and is also attested in 1 Timothy 5:19-25. I’m sorry you consider it “little.” Many others find it not only sufficient, but as a protection from the world’s compromising ways as well.

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