Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Church Government
The issue of church government is not a burning issue today, and it is not a point of extreme importance to me either, but it is important. I think it is an issue that would be good for us to revisit, with a humble attitude.

Many years ago I did a study to see whether the congregational/democratic form of government, used by the Baptists, or the the federal/rule by elders used by Presbyterians was more biblical. I was thoroughly convinced that the Baptist position was not supported by Scripture, and adopted the Presbyterian system to be the biblical position.

After doing that study I made the move from being a Baptist and adopted the Presbyterian position about church government. It didn't occur to me then that I need to study the issue further and look at the episcopal form of church government as well. The episcopal form (rule by bishops) is the type of government that is used by the Anglican/Episcopal Churches, Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches. I simply assumed that those churches' hierarchical forms had slowly evolved over a long period of time, but I believed that the Presbyterian form was the true biblical of Church government.

The first event that caused me to question my preconceptions on the issue was during a history lecture by Rev. R.J. Rushdoony. Some aspects of the Rev. Rushdoony's work is controversial, but I've found him to be interesting have benefited from reading his books and listening to his lectures. I believe him to be an important scholar.

Many years ago, while listening a series of his lectures on Church history, I heard Rushdoony, a Presbyterian minister, mention that in the earliest days of the post-apostolic church, the church already had (at least) a quasi-episcopal structure.

This raised a red flag for me, but I was not motivated to do an involved study on the subject, though I did now have the matter on my radar screen. Next I learned that a number of Reformed theologians in England maintained an episcopal understanding of Church government.

I have now been reading the Early Church fathers for a number of years, and reading them has confirmed in my own mind was I heard Rushdoony say in his lecture so many years ago. The very early church had some form of hierarchy. I've also started reading on this matter with interest. Earlier this year I read a couple of books defending the episcopal form of church Government. One of them in in particular was very thorough and solidly written. This book was written in 1839 by Archibald Boyd and it is titled, Episcopacy, Ordination, Lay-Eldership, and Liturgies: Considered in five letters. Boyd was a pastor for the Church of Ireland and was arguing for the episcopal position against the Presbyterian form.

I sent part of it to several of my fellow Presbyterians hoping to get input, but I never heard back from them on the matter. I do have more studying to do, but if I had to say at this moment which position I believe to be more biblical, I would have to say that I think some kind of rule by bishops is the more biblical position. I will return to this subject in the future.

Coram Deo,

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