Opinions on faith and life

Apples and Oranges

2011-03-15

When the topic of discussion is hierarchy in Christianity, we often hear the argument that since God ordained a hierarchy of priests in the OT, and since such priests had to be men and from a certain tribe, then hierarchy, even when based upon the flesh, is God’s decree. Aside from the obvious fact that with a change of priesthood comes a change of law (Heb. chapter 7), we should also note that God gave specific, explicit, minute details about who could serve as a Temple priest, how they could serve, and when.

Where are such explicit instructions on either “pastors” in the church or any other kind of hierarchy?

To equate the two, we would have to say that God could have expected the OT Israelites to deduce the laws and priestly rules from vague or sporadic statements scoured from the various books. For example, there would have been no need for explicit decrees about tithes since all we need to infer it is Abraham’s one-off tithe of the spoils of war to a mysterious priest. Likewise for circumcision; all we need to concoct a divine mandate is one example (again, Abraham).

“But wait”, the hierarchy supporters object. “The Trinity isn’t explicit yet you believe in it. It has to be inferred from various scriptures.”

I would respond by pointing out that when the point under debate is a law to be obeyed, it must be explicit. Of course one must grasp the difference between the “spirit” of a law and the “letter” of a law, but this does not make the law so elastic that it can contradict other laws. For example, the age at which a person is permitted to drive a car is not left up to inference, but explicitly states the exact minimum age. The “spirit” of the law is public safety, but in order to be called a law then there must be clear, explicit boundaries or it could never be enforced. At the same time, there could not also exist a law stating that the minimum age is something different than the first law.

Likewise for the argument of hierarchy in Christianity, whether between clergy/laity or husband/wife. There are no explicit laws or decrees about this hierarchy. To enforce it would be like enforcing a minimum driving age when no laws are on the books about it, and only having a few examples to go by. And to argue that the “spirit” of NT teaching supports hierarchy is to conflict with other, clearer, explicit principles as I’ve listed many times before (e.g. The Inverted Pyramid).

So trying to grasp the nature or inner workings of God is nowhere near the same issue as trying to extract a clear law of hierarchy from a few inferences. Just as God did not leave the OT law and priesthood to the guesses or sleuthing of the people of that time, so also God did not expect us to piece together a law that, if true, would clearly contradict what actually is explicitly stated. And if it is not being argued that hierarchy is a law, then why all the effort to “enforce” it? Why all the meticulous explanations and impassioned appeals to “divine order”? Why all the outrage if a group of believers meets without any bosses (“pastors”) or decides that a woman can teach grown men the things of God? No explicit instructions were ever given in the NT for how to conduct a “worship service”, yet everyone calmly accepts that people can worship however they deem appropriate. Yet when the silence is about hierarchy, suddenly everyone becomes agitated and adamant about their particular view.

If you want to convince me that something is a Biblical law that applies to me, show me the explicit words making it such. Be consistent with it too; apply your hermeneutical principles without bias or loopholes that benefit only you. And make sure your law does not contradict the very core of our faith: love, humility, peace, consideration, freedom from burdens “that neither we nor our ancestors could bear”, healing, unity-- a new creation.

8 Comments

SaberTruth

Ok, no problem... and thanks for the link!

Deb

oops, sorry, here’s the source, I had it open at the same time: http://bwebaptistwomenforequality.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/does-it-really-matter-if-women-themselves-dont-care/

SaberTruth

Sure is... but I’m curious, where was this quote from? I don’t think I’ve seen it before, or my memory’s shot. :-)

Deb

PF: "What about the so-called difficult scriptures? You know what is difficult about those scriptures? The real difficulty in those scriptures is this: that we find it easier to believe that God made women inferior, than it is for us to believe that we have misinterpreted those scriptures." oh, so sad, and so true.

SaberTruth

Again, I have written about my reasons for believing in the Trinity before; see esp. the Appendix on that topic in my book Nicolaitan. The link for that article is Here. I have a separate article as well on Jesus’ divinity Here.

SaberTruth

Vic, I didn’t read every sentence of your very long comment, but I don’t know why you are trying to convince me of something I already believe. Please familiarize yourself with my writings on any given topic by using the "tag" list in the sidebar

SaberTruth

(Vic asked me to post this too as he is having trouble with the Captcha feature) I should have read more of the article. I read as far as “But wait”, the hierarchy supporters object. “The Trinity isn’t explicit yet you believe in it. It has to be inferred from various scriptures.” However when people surmise the trinity it saddens me. While you rightly write against the lie of hierarchy which has the same catholic source. your then follow the same tradition of trinity a catholic lie which is not in the bible. I stumbled on your site through The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy by George Davis, Michael Clark, & Kirk Pearson (Third Revised Edition) www.awildernessvoice.com which goes through some of the excesses of bible translations. Below is the first outline draft of my refutation of the trinity. I can agree and accept your statement of faith in the quoted part. Except for "He is both fully God and fully Man at the same time." In your "Statement" you write Although I grew up attending a conservative Protestant church I never accepted anything without a good reason. Blind faith was never an option to me; it had to be reasonable. I too apply this same criteria myself. On this basis - how can you accept the trinity.? Have you actual biblical scriptures that say Jesus is God. He is said to be the Son of God hundreds of times. Never God the son. Have you ever read the history of the "church wars", the binity first then the trinity? From about 200AD? Statement of Faith. I believe that Jesus is the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament, as proven by hundreds of fulfilled prophecies (Luke 24:25-27, John 1:29), his miracles, and his bodily resurrection from the dead. He is therefore the one and only Savior of the world; there is salvation in no one else and no other name. He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, laid it down as the atoning sacrifice for all mankind, and took it up again in a new and immortal body. He then ascended back to heaven where he “prepares a place for us”. I believe that salvation is by placing one’s trust in the Jesus of the Bible alone, understanding that he died for our sins and rose again. Nothing beyond this can be added to salvation, for salvation is purely a Gift and thus impossible to earn even partially. Do you think because I do not believe the trinity doctrine I am not saved? I know i received the gift of God’s Spirit in Feb 1968. Vic Putting Trinity to Rest. Can you really believe Gen 1:1-5 if you believe the trinitarian Jn 1:1-5 ? Are there strong parallels between the two scriptures? Does this put to rest claim that Jn1:14 proves Jesus is God? Genesis 1 1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. " Said H559 אמר ’âmar aw-mar’ A primitive root; to say God ’said’ spoke the word and they were created. The clearest meaning is create, command and appoint. In just the first 5 verses we see "God created", God moved, "God said", "God saw", "God divided","God called" The whole recreativion 6 days of Gen 1:3 - 31 and God’s SABBATH (not a physical day) of Gen 2:1-3 was commanded, appointed by God. The Word - That which God spoke and the creative actions and results was God’s and with God and the Word was God’s, the "word" the creative power of those words belonged to God. Now consider what John wrote. John 1 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Senseless, Contradictory statements or phrases unless the "word" be with God be that which he commanded and the "word" belong to God, and be God’s words? Can be easily understood if the "word" is God’s word or God’s words or what God "said", What God spoke. The Word - personalised by capitalisation can not be with God and be God. Word G3056 λόγος logos log’-os something said (including the thought); The word "logos" has same application in Greek as the Gen word "amar" in the Hebrew Translators and clergy and tradition have made the word "logos" into a person with capitalisation. Logos has no such meaning. Logos is never a person.It is flagrant misrepresentation. This is done to promote external religious doctrine. This dogma makes Jesus greater than God the Father. That Jesus is not God’s first begotten Son : but that Jesus is the creator of the universe. Therefore God is not the creator but Jesus is! Would this mean that Jesus created himself? Jn 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God. The logos - God’s words that he "said" - "Let there be light" - God spoke in the beginning. God’s words were his and with him - God - in the beginning - Gen 1-31, 2:1-3. Jn 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. The two "him" words in this sentence are naming "God" as v1 and v2 name God. Not the word, not Jesus. Jesus is no where mentioned. To clarify the meaning Consider again :- Who made all things? Did God? Gen 1:1 1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. How did he create by speaking the "word" His words. To illustrate the clear intent - just write Jn 1 v3 and v4 again with with the "him" identified. 3All things were made by God; and without God was not any thing made that was made. Confirming Gen 1:1. Now continue Jn 1:4. Jn 1: 4 In God was life; and the life was the light of men. Who created life and light by speaking His own words - God. Jn 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. Now compare, a parallel record :- Gen 1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. See the strong and fitting parallelism of Gen 1:4 - 5. Here is another example of the God the creator and "His commanding", his word. Who spoke the word - God. Psa 148:5 Remember the hymn 164 we used to sing Psalm 148 1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights. 2 Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. 3 Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. 4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. Commanded H6680 צוה tsâvâh tsaw-vaw’ A primitive root; (intensively) to constitute, enjoin 6 He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass. 7 Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: 8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word: 9 Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: 10 Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: 11 Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: 12 Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: 13 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. 14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD. The LORD H3068 יהוה yehôvâh yeh-hovaw’ (the) self Existent or eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God. Now if you want to I can go though all the other verses one by one to show that nowhere in the scripture does it actually show Jesus is God. Jesus is God’s first Spiritual begotten, now born Spiritual Son of God. Adam was the first physical begotten son of God, Christ the second Adam was Spiritually begotten. All the believing faithful will become Spiritual Sons of God when Christ returns in power. Haste the Day. Vic.

Vic

Christ’s body is an organism, not an organization, it cannot have offices. If it is a community (koinonia) living the common life, it has no need of power-endowed leaders. If it is "this Way," the concept of authoritative position is absurd. It is an assembly of saints, composed of those who are in a saved relationship to God . . . congregated around the name Jesus." [10] Each church is scripturally organized the moment it is planted. The house of Stephanos and others mentioned (because of their longer experience in the faith) . . . were heaven’s overseers without the appointment of the members. "Christ, the head is in heaven, but all authority on earth is his; and since the church is on earth, all authority connected with it belongs to Christ, and not to the church. Christ has never divided authority with the church . . . Since the church has no authority of its own, it can impart no authority to a man to take the oversight of a church is utterly absurd . . . it is a usurpation, a species of treason that puts the actors in direct rebellion against the head . . ." [14] James E. Scobey said bluntly, "No, there are no offices in the church of God which can be vacated and which may be filled at pleasure of poor, frail, erring man." [15] Fanning declared that if office was synonymous with vocation, then all members are officers: "It appears from this scripture (Romans 12:4) that each member of the natural body, perhaps, is a natural office, and if there is any fitness in the illustration, each member of the body of Christ is, by virtue of his spiritual existence in the church, an officer. In other words, we are not prepared to affirm that some of the members of the church are officers and others are not." [16] Sewell, emphasizing the egalitarian nature of the ecclesia, declared: "Overseers are not officers, like governors or magistrates, to carry out laws by force of official authority: for there is no man in the church that has such authority. Is there official authority in any members of the church of God more than others? The idea that certain members . . . on account of authority . . . that others have not . . . shall not be this way among his (Christ’s ) people . . . All have equal rights and authority." [17] The proper meaning is in, or among . . . The word overseer therefore means a worker, a laborer in the house of God . . . (T)here is nothing to indicate official relationship, but workers simply." [22] Stating that the expression "oversight" did not imply superordination-subordination, Sewell added: "We simply state that the word over in this expression is from the Greek preposition en. This preposition occurs 2700 times in the New Testament and is nowhere translated over. Mostly the word eu is translated "in." It does seem our translators were determined to have the idea of office, whether or not . . . God has arranged that the seniors among his people . . . shall teach and care for the younger ones, but this does not make one part officers over another part . . . "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church." Nothing more can possibly be made out of this occurrence of the word than simply the senior or older members." [23] Must every religious activity be carried on under the supervision of officer-elders? "The word elder . . . is from the Greek presbuteros . . . (I)t is an adjective of the comparative degree and literally means older. It cannot be properly called a noun . . . It would be strange if in so large a church as that of Jerusalem there should not be a plurality of older or senior members; members who, by their age and work were well suited to aid in the settlement of so grave a question (the Antioch crisis) . . . There is not one single word to indicate that any of these elders or seniors had been elected or ordained to anything . . . "The disciples of Jesus meeting at any place for worship would be called a "church." In this assembly there may not be found a man over 25 years old, and some as young as 15; yet among this number would probably be found some who could teach well and lead others in the paths of peace . . . I maintain that there are elders in this . . . assembly. You have elders in the assembly because some are older than others." [34] The word "bishop" from the Greek episcopos (shepherd, pastor), found its way into the 1611 English version on King James’ insistence. He meant it to connote something of the power, majesty and rule of the king himself. It appears five times in the Greek New Testament, once with respect to Christ, and four times applied to seniors in the churches on Crete and at Ephesus and Philippi. According to the Restoration writers it was a term connoting "tender, loving care" and was best exhibited in teaching ("feeding the flock"). It carried no connotation of power. [35] Their view that the chief function of the pastor, or elder, was to teach by word and example has since given way to the business view of the elder as initiator, manager, director and decision-maker. A closer examination of the Greek text by Sewell and others dissolved the claim to authority by elders as based on Hebrews 13:7. "Remember them which have the rule over you," [36] and Hebrews 13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you." The first verse was an admonition which came much nearer referring to the evangelists who converted the Hebrew Christians than to elders. Denying that the latter admonition settled the question of the power of the elders to command and the necessity for obedience by the members, Sewell insisted that "rule" involves nothing more than teaching by the older and more spiritually advanced members, and nothing in the Greek words warranted the expression "obey." [37] In keeping with later versions, Stroop points out that the Greek word Peithesthe, translated "obey" in the 1611 version, is a passive form and is best translated "be persuaded by your leaders." [38] In early Christianity, "leaders" could involve a galaxy of Christian workers including prophets, preachers, apostles, and shepherds -- born men and women. In the light of the above, the development and intensification of power in the Churches of Christ and Christian Church appears to say that Christ’s choice of nonpower in the wilderness was wrong and Satan’s offer of power to carry out religion was the proper choice. Fruits of power in the Restoration Movement are hierarchy, legalism, authoritarianism, and institutionalism. [39] The development of the office of "minister" [40] and the power interplay between that functionary and the "eldership" have highlighted the growth of power in the Churches of Christ and the decline of the members to pew-sitting spectators. Though the minister’s Power is basically derivative, he being hired exclusively by the elders, it is nevertheless real. It is enhanced by his priestly role, his monopoly of communication, his influence over the elders, his role as their proxy, and his need to build up their power to promote his own. [41] So potent a repository of power is the minister that the orthodoxy of a congregation is commonly judged exclusively by the orthodoxy of that official. Should that worthy edit a paper like the Journal of Truth, produced until recently in Murfreesboro, it is printed as the voice of the congregation and sits in judgment on other congregations. [42] If the eldership institution has profited from ministerial buildup, its power was originally rooted in the biblically assigned duty to older men and women to "nourish the flock" by word and example. There are vast numbers of church members who have yet to hear a single elder standing before the assembly in a teaching role. This function is now carried on by proxy. [43] Instead, a small elite corps of officeholders called elders has emerged as governors. In keeping with our technological age, the contemporary church has developed "instant elders." On a given Sunday the existing elders announce, generally through the minister, the appointment of a new elder, to take office the following Sunday unless the members can make a case against him. The "unless" being only perfunctory, the following week the designate instantly metamorphoses from the chrysalis of ordinary member to an officer of authority, fully equipped to "rule" and make the decisions of the church. The Restoration writers under the editorship of David Lipscomb flatly rejected the concepts of office, power, rule, and authority. According to Lipscomb, elders are nothing more than "the mare experienced men and women in the church (who) are the proper persons to instruct, admonish, and reprove." [44] How many elders are there in a given assembly? Their answer was: as many as there are older men and women of responsibility. How is an elder made? They replied: never by election, selection, or ordination, but by the process of growth and maturation. [45] But would not a large number of elders be unwieldy? Why not at least a rotation of them? They answered: you might as well speak of rotation of Christians as rotation of elders. Since elders do not govern, but rather teach and lead by example, there cannot be too many in a congregation. Quoting 1 Timothy 5:1, Sewell reminded his readers that the status of elders is not exclusively masculine: "Here the words elder and younger are used in contrast, and we have just as much right to say (that women are elders as men) . . . The phrase elder women is from the Greek presbuteras. If, therefore, presbuteros means official man, presbuteras means official women. The older women, according to this passage, are just as much officers as the older men are." [46] Considering the times in which they wrote, Sewell and other essayists held a surprisingly advanced view of the full and responsible role of women in the nonhierarchical church. Like the older men, the older women were, in the language of Paul, to be viewed as "mothers" who teach, guide, counsel, and reprove, and share in the decision of the Christian community. These writers made short shrift of the claim that elders have the authority to "rule." They knew the history of the 1611 version and the determination of King James to confer on both bishop and king the divine right to rule: "No bishop, no king." Hence his demand that the Greek word proistmi be rendered "rule," though it actually carried no connotation of authority, power, or governance. It merely meant that elders should be "foremost" in zeal, knowledge, quality of life, and concern for the welfare of the church -- a quality which rightfully should be embodied in all saints. In a very real sense, then, "ruling" was not the preserve of the few, but the duty of all. The word "deacon" appears a maximum of four times in one translation, two times in several others, and not at all in the better versions. The term diakonis literally means "slave" or "servant." It is a generic term that describes a relationship and implies neither office nor duty. Christ, Paul, Apollos, Peter’s mother, the apostles, Phoebe, Mary, the angels, and the Roman magistrates are all called "deacons" or "deaconesses" in the New Testament. Rejecting, along with Fanning, the expression "office of deacon," Durst wrote, "Our Savior was called a deacon (Romans 15:8). The apostles were called deacons. (1 Corinthians 3-5) . . . We must get out of our minds the idea of honor, or authority in the shape of office. The apostles were speaking of the work, not the authority to work." [57] If this thinking was sound, then the stenographer who prepares the church bulletin, the keepers of the library and the nursery, and those who maintain the church pantry are as much entitled to be recognized as deaconesses as any man on the junior board. Barnes addressed the problem directly: "There is a public diakonia or serving the word, and the diakonia in the church is doing the service of the church . . . In this there were men and women (1 Timothy 3:8-9). The deacons like the bishops must be grave . . . The women (deacons) in like manner must be grave, not slanderous, sober, and faithful in all things. If this does not mean the women among the deacons, what is the apostle’s doctrine on this subject? . . . Why are the women put here when the wives of deacons are spoken of in the next verse? Now turn to Romans 16:1 . . . does not this passage (referring to Phoebe as deaconess of the church at Cenchrea) help us understand why women are included among the deacons of 1 Timothy 3? When a passage can be understood only one way, I know that one is correct." [58] Noting that the hang-up about church offices, limited officially to elders and deacons but denied to teachers, prophets and servants, was associated with the concept of "qualifications" for office, the Advocate writers rejected the idea of legal qualifications. One may qualify for sheriff and, if elected, exercise powers belonging to that office and denied to others, Sewell pointed out, but such language belongs to the political lexicon, not to that of the Holy Spirit. One does not "qualify" to be elder or deacon, it is a matter of growth and experience. The person with the ability, insight, and inclination should begin to be a teacher. The person with a deep concern over the problems of others and the ability to understand and help should counsel. One who cannot work effectively with his own household (this term does not necessarily imply children, it could apply to slaves and freedmen attached to his household) [59] obviously cannot work well in the larger household of Christ. [60] Their conclusion was that any congregation in which anything is done had deacons and deaconesses, whether they are called that or not. When a job is completed, the deaconship ends. Deacons are not assistants to elders, they are not church leaders, they are servants of the church. Deacons are not given assignments because of their business acumen and their functions are not necessarily financial. If a deacon is also a leader, his leadership arises from some other capacity than his work. Age or marital status has nothing to do with deaconship. Young virgins were deaconesses in the early church. [61] The word "deacon" is not a title, but a term to describe a person at work for another; the Christian ideal would be every member of the congregation a deacon or deaconess. [62] Christianity is not a religion, but a faith. The treatment of it as a religion has opened the door to man’s drive for power rooted in his corrupted nature. [63] Every institution shaped by man, whether a Christian college, missionary society, "sponsoring church," or lectureship carries in its veins the poison of power. Power and countervailing power in the secular world may be treated as a necessary evil to prevent some greater evil or achieve some modest good. But power in religion is wholly evil. We have stressed the fact that Christ at the beginning of his ministry rejected Satan’s offer of power. At the end, he refused to bow to power: No man taketh my life; I lay it down! His people were to be a commune, a koinonia of equals, each voluntarily subject to all others. And the greatest among them would be the servant of all! The Restoration writers were deeply fearful of power in the church. Nevertheless, their vision of the church as a society of equals, devoid of hierarchy, offices, power, authority, bound together in love, fully participant, making decisions by common agreement, [64] and mutually in subjection -- that vision is too powerful to be lost, too desirable to be forgotten, and too biblical to be denied. Such a community is hard to come by. Authoritarian rule is the easiest thing on earth. But the impossible Christ points us toward the fulfillment of the vision along the strait and narrow way. The route is for those who would be "God’s freemen." 404 Minerva Drive, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130 Vic.