Monday, October 20, 2008

FIRST CENTURY PAGAN TALKS TO FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIAN

Imagine the conversation between an unbelieving Pagan in the first century and a follower of The Way:

Pagan: "I would like to know more about this Christ you speak of. Where is your temple?"

Christian: "We don't have one."

Pagan: "What? Then where does one go to meet with your God?"

Christian: "We are all the Temple of the Holy Spirit, so God meets with us wherever we are."

Pagan: "Hmm...then where do you conduct your sacrifices?"

Christian: "We have no animal sacrifice at all. Jesus became our sacrifice so that we could be free. Our only sacrifices are our own lives as we surrender to Him and His will every day."

Pagan: "Fascinating! I would love to meet your Priest to learn more about this."

Christian: "Well, I am a Priest."

Pagan: "You are?! But I thought you sold pottery in the marketplace? How can you be a Priest in this new religion?"

Christian: "You can be one also if you submit your life to Christ and place your trust in Him. We are all Priests of God."

Wasn't it a radically different system of faith that Jesus breathed into life 2000 years ago?

Isn't this a radically different system of faith than anything we have today?

Can someone explain to me why it should be different than what Jesus taught, inspired and promoted for His Church?

-kg

24 comments:

Mark Main said...

I don't think there is any explanation. At least not one that is actually able to hold any water.

Paul said...

Keith:

All believers are not all priests like Bishop N.T. Wright, Father Brennan Manning, and the late Father Henri Nouwen. Neither are all believers ordained, nor appointed, as was customary in the NT. There are vast differences between these and self-appointed "teachers" operating without spiritual oversight or accountability.

The gospels show Jesus teaching, promoting and inspiring hierarchy. He gave special authority to 12 men, that he did not give to all believers, including many of his followers. These 12 did the same, such as in Acts 6 where they appointed special ministers to care for widows. Apostolic succession continues, as do other forms of developing organized polities for fostering accountability. THAT is the system for which the church of Jesus Christ has ministered to a broken world, for 2,000 years.

As an aside, Jesus never taught explicitly on the issues you cite. Again...yawn...these views you hold collide with what other serious thinkers and spiritual giants, for 2,000 years, have extrapolated from scripture.

Paul

Anonymous said...

Re: "Special authority given to 12 men..."

Mark 9:38-41
38"Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."
39"Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

Re: spiritual "giants" like 'Father' Brennan Manning, the late 'Father' Henri Nouwen...

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

There is indeed a vast difference between those who think spiritual oversight and accountability trickles down through a strata of renowned and powerful men, and those whose see spiritual oversight and accountability as ultimately the job of the Holy Spirit. Is the Spirit given to all believers, or only to some? Is the wisdom and power of the Spirit so insufficient that He needs our help to handle the affairs of His church? Is there even any room for real supernatural power in a system that relies on the judgements of 'serious thinkers' and 'spiritual giants'? Nowhere in scripture to I see God elevating humans anywhere close to the level that you seem so inclined to do. There is definately a chasm between a reliance on man and his limited and warped wisdom, and the reliance on God and his infinite love, knowledge, and power....

Keith Giles said...

Paul,

See? We are really debating the issue of the priesthood of the believer after all.

When you say, "The gospels show Jesus teaching, promoting and inspiring hierarchy." I have to shake my head in wonder.

Is that really what you see in the Gospels?

Let's just assume for a moment that you are correct. What would it look like if Jesus DIDN'T promote hierarchy? What would we see if Jesus opposed this form of leadership?

Might we see Jesus pointing to a hierarchical form of leadership and condemning it?

Might we see Jesus also instructing his disciples to do the opposite of this and behave differently?

Do any scripture verses come to your mind (or anyone else's reading this) that might fit this formula?

If Jesus did instruct his disciples to avoid the exercise of authority over others, and if Jesus did model and instruct them to behave in an opposite fashion, then maybe we should also see evidence that this is exactly what they did in response to this teaching.

Don't you see the Apostles leading from the bottom up? Doesn't it seem plain to everyone who reads the New Testament that the Apostles taught the priesthood of every believer?

Has no one else read the "One anothers" in the NT where the Body is encouraged to teach, love, share with, exhort, rebuke, and spur "one another" to follow Christ?

I think this is a case of seeing only what you want to see, really.

In one of the previous posts here I answered your claim (Paul) that there were no "TRAINED Biblical Scholars" who agreed with my position. Was that not enough?

What would be enough? Is there anything that would convince you, if not the words of Jesus and the example of the early Church and the testimony of these TRAINED Biblical Scholars?

This (yawn) is why we're really just running around in circles on this issue.

But, I still love and respect you, Paul. I hope that you have not lost all love and respect for me as a friend and a brother in Christ. It seems you have taken this to a personal level against me, and honestly, that is what concerns me and hurts me most of all.

-kg

Paul said...

Keith:

The version of the priesthood of all believers you espouse is extreme. George Elden Ladd, probably the most renown theologian on the Kingdom of God, would reject your views. What you (and people like Frank Viola) believe ultimately undermines virtually every expression of church other than yours. You have been influenced not only, as you claim, by the Bible, but by people like Mr. Viola (who you link to on your home page!).

I gather that I'm probably not going to sway you. Nor is the entire cannon of 2,000 years of church theology. You seem to know something WE all don't.

I will try once more.

Acts 6:

"1In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables."

THE 12 APOSTLES GATHERED THE DISCIPLES. WHY THE DISTINCTION HERE BETWEEN "APOSTLE" AND "DISCIPLE"? THE 12 THEN DETERMINED THAT THEIR TIME SHOULD NOT BE SPENT ON WAITING TABLES BUT ON TEACHING. WHY? THEY WERE LOOKING FOR OTHERS TO PERFORM A SPECIFIC FUNCTION--SERVICE TO THE POOR. WHY DID THE APOSTLES, THEMSELVES, STOP HELPING THE POOR? WHY THE STRUCTURE HERE? WHO GAVE THE 12 AUTHORITY TO TELL THE DISCIPLES WHAT TO DO? WHY ARE THE 12 LEADING HERE? ON WHAT PRESUMPTION DO THEY BELIEVE THEY CAN ABANDON HELPING THE WIDOWS, SO THAT THEY COULD FOCUS ON TEACHING?

"3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."

THE 12 APOSTLES INSTRUCTED THE DISCIPLES TO DO SOMETHING. THEY LED. THEY DID NOT SERVE THEM IN THIS ACCOUNT, THEY TOLD THEM TO DO SOMETHING.

"5This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism."

THE DISCIPLES WERE "PLEASED" THAT THE 12 WERE GOING TO BE FOCUSING ON THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD AND ON PRAYER. THEY DID NOT BECOME VICTIMS. THEY DID NOT WHINE. THE DISCIPLES FOLLOWED-THROUGH (OBEYED) THE INSTRUCTION OF THEIR LEADERS. AND THEIR LEADERS RELEASED THEM TO DISCERN IN A DEMOCRATIC FASHION WHO WOULD BE BEST SUITED FOR THIS MINISTRY.

"6They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them."

THE 12 APOSTLES APPOINTED NEW GODLY DISCIPLES TO LEAD THE WIDOW-MINISTRY. THEY GAVE THEM A NEW JOB. THEY WERE THE ONES (THE APOSTLES) TO LAY HANDS ON AND APPOINTED PEOPLE INTO THIS NEW MINISTRY. FROM THIS MODEL, FOR 2,000 YEARS, THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST HAS FOLLOWED IN THIS EARLY CHURCH MODEL. IT CAN BE CALLED "STRUCTURE, "HIERARCHY," "CLERGY CLASS." WHATEVER. THE MODELS SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.

I LOVE THIS NEXT PART!

"7So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

AS A RESULT OF THE APOSTLES' FOCUS ON TEACHING AND PRAYER--OR THE NEW LEADERS' FOCUS ON SERVING THE WIDOWS--THE CHURCH GREW.

GROWTH IS GOOD!

This model sound very similar to the three dominant polities today, all of which you have previously rejected (vehemently, I might add).

Ultimately, Keith, two things seem clear. First, you see no problems with the means you use. I hear cynicism, sarcasm, divisive language and, ultimately, the same style I see in many of the emerging church literature.

I have tried to be clear about these two points: (1) you, as an American, are free to hold to any view of your choosing; (2) you, as a Christian, are not free to attack the Body of Jesus Christ.

Initially, I tried to address your positions (not you) by making comments. You dug-in your heals (which, again, is your right). I then tried to eliminate our own personal views, and make an appeal to historical theology--to the heroes of the faith. You then claimed something to the effect of "I don't care what they think, the Bible is my only map." My response was intended to show the lack of humility entailed in your dismissing of 2,000 years of Christian theology, as it pertains to these specific issues. Further, I believe it to be flat dishonest to claim the Bible as your only source of influence with respect to these issues.

Nonetheless, you, again, dug in your heals. I asked you to reconsider your methods, especially the rude language ("...butts in the seats..."). Your reply was that you were "sorry" that I didn't approve of your style. I took this to mean that you dismiss my concerns.

Honestly, Keith, I'm all for theological debate, but the church must not be the target of attack. Jesus and Paul make this explicitly clear in scripture. There is but one Body of Christ; anytime we attack that body, we align ourselves not with Jesus, but with the enemy--which is why Jesus said, specifically to his closest followers, "whoever is not against is for us."

Paul

Paul said...

If I had more time here, I would be able so show you, clearly, how your view is so radical that it, by implication, aims to discredit the validity of the ministries of some of my dearest friends. If your extreme version of the priesthood of all believers is correct--if the current roles of pastor, priest, bishop, teacher are not derived from the New Testament--than my heroes in the faith have given their lives to something, again by your implication, un-biblical.

My contention has NEVER been to reject the roles all believers should play in ministering to one another. I have held very closely to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, both when I was a pastor, and today. (After all, John Wimber was my pastor for 20 years!) It's just that I hold this view in the less extreme context of the likes of Ladd, Wimber, NT Wright and Willard. None of these guys tried to reject the biblical model of leadership and authority as distinct giftings (a priori, leadership entails authority).

I would seriously encourage you to read Ladd or Wright on issues of ecclesiology.

Paul

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Paul:

From reading your comments it seems that you believe that to criticize any practice conducted by anyone in the name of Christ, regardless of how it measures up to what the bible says, is tantamount to "attacking the body of Christ".

In light of such a comment, it makes me think of the list of things that have all been practiced and defended by people claiming to operate under the authority of Christ, over the last two millenia....

the selling of indulgences

human slavery

the denial of women's rights

praying to Mary

the Crusades

witch burning

racial segregation

Colonial expansion

political ambition

persecution of those who wouldn't 'convert'

This is but a short list, but it makes the point. Which of these things, if I would to declare them unbiblical, and flat out wrong, would then make me guilty of attacking the body of Christ? Would I be considered devisive? Am I arrogantly trampling on the spiritual expression of others if were to say that God does not condone say, treating people like property? None of these are examples of things only done by a small handful of extremists here or there, but were all accepted and condoned by the offical 'church' on a massive scale at some point in history. Perhaps they are extreme examples, but the point is that there is a significant difference between discussing forms of expression, and discussing the nature of the Kingdom itself. I find it strange that you used the word 'cannon' when referencing church history, because I had no idea that everything the church has ever said or done is to be considered on the same level as scripture... To me that comment had a very Roman Catholic overtone to it, I have to say.

Yes, all the verses you quoted are important in understanding how the body works, but, they have to be taken in the context of the entirety of scripture, not by themselves. I still have not heard you respond to the many verses which teach us, very clearly, that we are not to give titles and positions to certain people, even though we all have unique giftings, callings, and ministries within the body. You seem to read verses like Acts 6 more through the lens of historical precedent, and academic astuteness, rather than the lens of the rest of the Bible. It just seems to me that this might be more of a 'watershed' between your approach to truth, and the approach of others. Perhaps it would be beneficial to explore this matter first, instead of just hurling rocks at the conclusions that come from these more foundational positions......

In Christ, Daniel

Like a Mustard Seed said...

P.S. Your second comment seems to finally zero in on what seems to be the real issue at stake here....

Do we read the bible at face value, and accept it with obediance, or first consider how unconfortable it's message might be to ourselves and to others who have already spent much of their lives doing something...

"Radicals" like Keith, or Frank Viola, or anyone else, have never suggested that people who have served, or are serving, as professional Pastors, are wasting their lives. But, maybe they aren't experiencing being a part of the kingdom of God on earth in the way God has desired for them, and perhaps many of the people they have worked so tirelessly to serve aren't either....

Daniel

Keith Giles said...

Paul,

Obviously you feel that my ecclessiology denies, ignores, and reinterprets much of the New Testament, as you understand it.

So, if you can help me out, I'd appreciate it. Please give me one or two examples of an Anglican church in the New Testament and I will be quiet.

In fact, if you can show me a New Testament passage that corresponds to the modern physical church building, or show me a New Testament reference for the modern Baptist pastor, or show me a verse supporting the Presbyterian order of worship, or demonstrate to me from the New Testament where the weekly sermon is delivered by the pastor to a passive audience every week/month/year, etc. I promise to drop this entire subject and begin focusing on other subjects.

I'll even apologize here and on my newsletter and I will admit that I am wrong and that you are right, my friend.

To be honest, I'd be happy if you could just show me one example of a modern pastor in the New Testament.

Please respond.

kg

Paul said...

No, no, no, Daniel! I am not reading Acts out of context! Have you any formal training? (I don't mean to insult you here.) Your use of the term "context" is without merit. Those passages ("not calling anyone 'father'") were sandwiched between Jesus' message about the Pharisees. They have been used in this conversation, literally, "pulled" right out of the context for which Jesus was speaking. He was blasting the Pharisees here, and setting people free from their exacting standards. He was saying, "don't let these guys fool you; you are not accountable to THEM; don't respect them or give them any title...the don't deserve it."

He encouraged the 12 to "teach" (did this not make them teachers? did people not refer to them as teachers?). Do you really think that Jesus was telling the crowd to not call their fathers, "father" (cf. "And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven"). C'mon Daniel!

Forget about my views, forget yours, forget Keith's, forget Frank Viola's.

What's left? The Holy Scriptures.

But there are many interpretations the the scriptures, are there not? We--AS PROTESTANTS--do not simply develop our "own" theology! We humbly test our interpretations against people smarter than ourselves.

(As an aside, one of the practical dangers of your polity is a lack of theological accountability. Which is why I'm devoting my time here to trying to lend some sort of stability to views that are, as a matter of fact, extreme.)

On these specific issues, when I write "cannon," I refer not to myself nor Keith, but to an unending body of scholarship. My wife does not cover hear head when she worships today? Why? Because church tradition has developed practice based on the collective interpretation of scholars. Why do we not greet each other with "Holy Kisses"? Because scholarship/tradition has determined the difference in hermeneutics between descriptive and prescriptive scripture.

So, again, forget what I think for a moment. (Did you do that?) Two thousand years of biblical scholarship--across the denominations--deem that the Bible implicitly and explicitly teaches of the vitality of church hierachy. This is not a claim about what I believe, but what people like Thomas Aquinas, Saint Francis and John Calvin did.

In the very end, as you correctly write, this is very much a conversation about the degree to which one respects scholarship. I don't read my Bible without consideration of extra-biblical influence. Neither do you and Keith.

But to whom we will choose to be influenced by is THE QUESTION.

Your influences regarding church polity come from contemporary emerging church literature/house-church advocacy; mine from classical, traditional theological scholarship.

As Weseley espoused, there are four forces viable to shape our theology: the Bible, personal experience, reason, and tradition.

Let us hold to the vitality of all four!

Paul
The difference, as you correctly conclude, is simply about to whom we choose to be influenced. Neither of us read the Bible "at face value." Put me with Mother Teresa, Augustine, St. Francis, Wilberforce. And keep me from Viola and the ign

Paul said...

sorry...

keep me from the ignorant ones that would reject views of our heroes of faith, both of today, and of yesterday.

Paul

Paul said...

Keith:

You are guilty of a logical fallacy. Let me respond, per your request

First, you seem to imply that if a concept is not "in the Bible," that that such a concept must be "un-biblical." I respect your value for biblical literalism! The Bible is our main source for all matters in teaching, training and righteousness.

Second, to answer your questions, no there are no New Testament passages that correspond to the "Anglican church," the "modern physical church building," the "modern Baptist Pastor," or the "Presbyterian order of worship." Let me restate, there are no New Testament passages that mention these things.

Third, there are no New Testament passages that correspond to the "Mission House Church," a "missional church planter," or the phrase "priesthood of all believers." There are no NT passages corresponding to these examples.

Fourth, based on your logic, because no NT passages corresponds to "Anglican church," the "modern physical church building," the "modern Baptist Pastor," the "Presbyterian order of worship," AND the"Mission House Church," a "missional church planter," or the phrase "priesthood of all believers," all of these examples are un-biblical. Again, using your axiom of biblical literalism, none of these examples are valid, as none of them correspond to the NT.

What I find even more bizarre is this. You have gone to tremendous lengths to argue for a very rigid version of biblical literalism. YET ON YOUR OWN BLOG YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF, AND I QUOTE,as "Keith Giles is a writer, PASTOR, TEACHER, PREACHER, and missional church planter."

But you will never need to apologize and confess to me being wrong, and you right. Take my name out of this argument, and replace it with people like those people I site earlier (Willard, Wimber, Ladd, Wright) that you seem to want to avoid their contention...that your views simply are both extreme and ill-informed.

Paul
www.martinpost.com

Anonymous said...

Paul, would you focus less on Willard, Wimber, Ladd and Wright, and more on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

It could move your argument forward, sans the "are you trained?" snobbery and careful attention to the more seemly elements of church history.

Really, where does one arrive when he asks you who trained your trainers? And their trainers? And ...

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Paul:

I'll ignore the statements made to deride me for my lack of formal training, but your interpretation of what Jesus meant when talking about not being like the Pharisees has left me scratching my head. Your take on those verses is so bizarre, I highly doubt anyone is going to be swayed by such a strange approach to what is a very straight-forward, plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face teaching. The verses speak for themselves, and I'd say the only training you need to understand them is the ability to READ....

Secondly, your response to the question of finding things like the Anglican church, or a church building, or even a 'missional house-church', was not a question of whether or not we can find those specific WORDS or TERMS, and I don't see how that wasn't painfully obvious... We don't see the word "TRINITY" anywhere in the bible either, and yet we believe in it, because the bible teaches us about it's reality from cover to cover. The question is, do we find examples of those same basic concepts of hierarchical leadership, church buildings, etc., being taught or exemplified? We've heard the verses our whole lives used to prop up such thinking, but more and more people are seeing that they don't stand up under closer inspection.

Maybe we don't find the term 'missional house-church' in the NT, but do we see the church meeting in homes, propelled by a mission to reach the lost? ? ?

You say there are no passages corresponding to what has been summarized by the term "priesthood of all believers"... ? ? ?

1 Peter 2:9,10
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.


Is this verse talking about all believers? About everyone whose been redeemed by Christ? Or just those who've been adequately trained in the finer points of Theological discourse?

It seems vital that in under to appreciate the signifance of verses like this, we have to remind ourselves of what the Priesthood was for the generations that lead up to that point, as defined by the OT. Before Christ came, the Priesthood was definately NOT for all believers, in was an exclusive office, and the consequences of ignoring the stipulations of that office were severe. (We think of Aaron's sons, or what would happen if anyone who wasn't the High Priest tried to waltz into the Holy of Holies...) This human office, which was incapable of serving on anyone's behalf in any real, effective way, was only a pointer to Jesus, who would fill the one and only true office of High Priest. He filled the office of Priest in it's truest and fullest sense, by walking into the Holy Presence of the Father in Heaven on our behalf, to atone for us all. Since through the Spirit, Christ lives in all of us, we are now ALL priests in a sense, because the priesthood of Christ is alive and real within everyone who believes in Him. The One who stands in the presence of the Father also lives in each one of us. This is why it is completely backwards, and contrary to the very gospel itself, to suggest that we still have 'offices' for anything that anyone does in the kingdom. Jesus has filled them all, there are no more job openings... Anything that any of us are able to do for the Kingdom is only a result of the Spirit of Christ working through us. Nothing can be credited to man's intelligence, ingenuity, upbringing, education, scholarship, strength, character, or intentions. As Paul said, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."

You seem to believe that Keith is being contradictory when he stands against this idea of the pastorate being an office, and yet refers to himself as a pastor, teacher, missional church-planter, etc. This goes to show how deeply fused the ideas of a calling/gifting and an office are in your thinking. Tell me, does someone become a pastor because they receive the title of one, or because they've been hired by a church or denomination? What happens if they lose that job? Do they all of a sudden cease to be a pastor in God's eyes? OR, is someone to be acknowledged as being a pastor simply because that is what they are doing the work of building up others in their faith in Jesus? There is a vast difference between someone BEING a pastor, basically a brother in Christ who will be there to point to Jesus, help you search the scriptures, walk alongside you...., and someone accepting the title first, and saying "Hi, I'm Pastor So-and-so, nice to meet you..." The difference is in making it into a title, like "Dr. Hanson", or "Sir Reginald"...
No one has said that a person serving in a official, paid Pastor's position isn't a "real" Pastor, what has been said is that they aren't Pastors simply because they have a title, but only if they are truly doing the work of one. The sad truth is, that giving certain people titles actually undermines the very message of the servant-led kingdom that they are preaching. The purpose of titles is recognition. It's one thing if I say "that guy's been like a spiritual father to me...", but another if I'm introduced to someone as Father Such-and-such...

This is what Jesus said the Pharisees were guilty of...

Matthew 23:5-7
5"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'

This is what Jesus told US (his disciples) not to do...

I think I've beaten the point into the ground here, but it's been misconstrued and ignored so badly up to this point, that it seemed like it had to be laid out in the simplest of terms...

In Christ, Daniel

Paul said...

Thank you for the clarification, Daniel.

And yes, hierarchy exists in Acts and in Paul's letters. I tried to present but one example of this in Acts 6. There was a very clear distinction made in the early church with respect to leadership. In this particular account of the order of the early church, a distinction is made between "Apostles," "disciples," and "servants" (those chosen, then appointed, to care for the widows).

You mentioned that passages, such as Acts 6, needed to be taken "in the context of the entirety of scripture."

But, Daniel, you must understand that the very notion of context does not, as you write, relate to the consideration of OTHER books in scripture. Context, by definition, refers to the aspects of a particular book (i.e., a historical narrative such as Acts, wisdom literature such as Psalms, or a NT letter such as Galatians). Context also calls for the consideration of other factors for interpretation such as cultural and historical settings, surrounding passages, and the intention of the author.

You must realize that Matthew's gospel was written with the intention of convincing Jewish Christians. This new Matthean community had arisen from the shadow of the larger, dominant Jewish community. The elders of the established Jewish communities would have government appointed officials to oversee the application of community laws, customs, and the upholding of civil order. The influence of these officials in the legalistic form of the Pharisees were very problematic to new Jewish converts to Christ. They didn't know just how to treat their former leaders, especially based on the Roman method for allowing Jewish forms of civil authority. New believers were very confused.

So, Matthew is compelled to write of Jesus' instruction to those burdened by THAT tumultuous situation. IN Matthew 23 he is essentially instructing the new believers to turn their loyalties to the new Christian community, and ITS respective leadership structures, and away from that of the Pharisees. In verse 13, Jesus turns from instructing the new believers, and speaks directly at the scribes and Pharisees with his scathing "seven woes."

Hence, to read a passage properly in context requires more than identifying an imperative statement (i.e., "call no one father"), and making such a statement universal for all believers, for all times. Daniel, you know it would be odd to apply Matthew 23:9 literally. It is not un-biblical, as I said before, to call call our fathers "father."

Paul
www.martinpost.com

Keith Giles said...

Paul,

I would respectfully disagree with your reading of Matthew 23:9.

What Jesus says is, "Call no man father", he doesnt' say, "Don't call your Father 'Father'", which as you point out would be stupid.

Jesus said, do not call yourselves or allow others, to call one another "Father" in a false sense of honor.

This goes along with the second part, "Call no one Rabbi" or "Teacher". The term "Rabbi" was one of respect for a wise teacher. Jesus says, "..for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers."

Doesn't this go along with the rest of Jesus' teaching on leadership? When he says, "You call me 'Rabbi' and that is what I am" and yet his example is to wash their feet as a slave would do and then he says, "do to one another as I have done to you."

In both places he reiterates the principle that "the greatest among you will be the servant of all."

In the Matthew passage above Jesus is pointing to a hierarchical religious system and saying, "Don't be like that."

In Mark he does something similar when he points to the Roman Governmental system of hierarchy and says, “Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." – Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 10, verses 42-45.

So, in order to teach His disciples not to create or emulate or follow a hiearchical system of church government, Jesus points to both Religious and Secular examples of hierarchy and says, "Not so with you!"

Are we listening to Him?

Well, the Apostles certainly did:

“Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.” - 2 Cor.1:24

Paul the Apostle obeys Jesus and refuses to “lord it over” those who follow Christ alongside him. Instead he works with them, as a brother, not as an authority figure.

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” – 1 Peter 5:1-4

Here, Peter identifies himself, not as an Apostle, but as a fellow elder among the brethren. He then urges these elders (plural) to serve as overseers because they are willing, not because they have been handed a title or an appointment, and especially urges them to be careful not to “lord it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” – as Jesus commanded him years earlier.


-kg

Paul said...

Keith:

You are a bright guy, but you clearly have no theological authority figures in your life--you choose to be your own authority, and you, consistently, make gross errors.

Your misguided perspectives, sadly, is one of the dangers of the very polity you endorse (i.e., self-appointed spiritual leaders operating as "pastors," apart from oversight and structure). You are free to write what you'd like. But I am assuming there are no elders, boards or associations to ensure that the pastor of The Mission Church is not teaching heresy.

You just wrote,

"So, in order to teach His disciples not to create or emulate or follow a hiearchical system of church government, Jesus points to both Religious and Secular examples of hierarchy and says, 'Not so with you!'"

There is no biblical record of Jesus speaking to his disciples directly about the creation or emulation of ANY specific system of church government. You can continue to cut and paste those wonderful verses dealing with servant-hood, washing feet, etc. These are all wonderful teachings on the kind of leader Jesus desires--they say nothing about the forbidding of hierarchy in his future church.

Biblical scholarship has derived three main structures DIRECTLY from the NT (Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational). All three views are deeply supported by scripture.

I have presented Acts 6 as one specific case of how those who knew him best--the early church!--implemented...hierarchy.

But Acts 6 so undermines your narrow views, and those of the people you endorse, that you've chosen not to comment. Instead, you've returned to those simplistic dualisms (i.e., "brother" versus "authority figure").

Your previous post about there not being an "Anglican Church" in the Bible made me giggle. Do you not know that the NT churches were named by their geographical locale (i.e., "Church of Corinth, "Church of Galatia"). In this NT tradition, churches continued to be named by regions ("Church of Rome," "Church of France"..."Church of England" [Anglican]).

Keith, I earnestly believe that unitl you subordinate yourself to a body of brothers and sisters--yes, authority figures with theological training--I am fearful that your views will continue to become more and more extreme.

And I do continue to find the implications of even your latest writings VERY offensive.

They do not offend me personally. I am not a pastor.

But, again in your recent comment, you are spitting on those brothers and sisters that serve Jesus in hierarchical church structures.

Regardless of lip-service and spin, you ultimately deem their practice un-biblical.

Shame on you.

Keith Giles said...

For the record, I am personally accountable to the following Godly men:

*David Ruis
*Todd Hunter
*Ken Eastburn
*Bill Faris
*Jason Wright
*Joshua Dulaney

And, of course, very person in our house church.

Any and all of these people are free to correct me should they feel I am teaching heresy.

I submit myself to them and I will respond to their rebuke if they can demonstrate that I am teaching anything outside of the Word of God.

Blessings to you,
Keith

Paul said...

Keith:

My sincere apologies for that last comment. I crossed the line, attacking you personally.

We are worlds apart on this issue. I am concerned with what I see as an emerging divisiveness within the emerging church streams. I feel very compelled to defend any attack against Christ's body, in spite of its many blemishes.

But I want to remain civil toward you.

Again, I am sorry.

Love,

Paul

Brent said...

Paul and Keith,

Forgive me if I sound like a meddling fool, but I’d like to say something that might be helpful. I’ve been reading your exchanges for several days now, and I am beginning to understand the dynamic that is at work here. Paul, if you didn’t care about Keith then his writings wouldn’t make you so angry. Keith, if you didn’t care about Paul then his writings wouldn’t hurt you so deeply. This is therefore somewhat personal in ways that I cannot fully appreciate.

Unfortunately brothers, you will not be able to convince each other of your respective positions because you don’t have the same presuppositions. In an earlier post Paul, you mentioned four things that informed our understanding about God; those were scripture, tradition, personal experience and reason. You argued that we need all four. To this I’m sure Keith would agree. However the relative weight each of you gives to scripture and tradition are simply not the same.

Keith, you can list scripture after scripture and it will not move Paul because your understanding of scripture simply cannot be true in light of the weight of 2000 years of church tradition. Besides, he can find some scriptures references of his own. Paul, you can quote theologian after theologian and it will not move Keith, because he’s following the clear teachings of Jesus, not the traditions of men. Besides, he can find theologians who agree with him.

If you could reason together about the scriptures without using the opinions of theologians to support your views or condemn the other’s point of view, you might have an enriching conversation. You’ll be speaking the same language. After all, scripture can be used to interpret scripture.

Likewise, you might be able to reason together about church tradition and point out where each of your views fit within it, but you will need to keep the focus clearly on church tradition to do so. And yes, both of your positions can be found in Church history. Those 2000 years were far from monolithic.

But I suspect that if you want to edify one another, then this conversation will have to be done in private, and face-to-face. If you don’t want to edify each other, then perhaps these public exchanges should cease.

Keith Giles said...

Brent, Paul, Daniel, Lionel, etc.,

I believe that no more good can possibly come from these online arguments. We have all expressed our positions from a variety of angles, and Brent has clearly evaluated our positions from his vantage point and I agree with his assessment.

If we continue this dialog I believe it should be over coffee, face to face, and in brotherly love.

I will not continue to respond to further comments of this nature on this blog.

Blessings to all of you, especially to my friend and brother in Christ, Paul Martin.

BTW, you still owe me a copy of "Natural Church Development" dude.

Paul said...

Gentlemen:

I am in general agreement as to the ineffectiveness of this current argument. I, too, agree that it it time to bow out. But I do feel that I must express, quickly, the following.

In epistemology, philosophers refer to a concept called the "corresponding theory of truth." In a word, this theory holds that the declaration of a proposition is true if and only if that statement corresponds with reality.

Blog sites are so unique; today just about anyone can assert theological propositions in writing. These statements, though, cannot be true merely because they are written. They must correspond with reality.

Brent, I honesty appreciated your conciliatory tone. Yet within your kind words were untrue statements. I will quickly correct you, then say goodbye.

First you write, "Paul, if you didn’t care about Keith then his writings wouldn’t make you so angry."

My anger does not come primarily from my love of Keith. It comes from my love of Jesus' church--all forms. I'm angry with the growing and popular division I see in emerging/house-church trends. I led a house church for three years. I see the strengths in this form of worship; I also know if its weaknesses. But I do not believe it fitting, as believers, to attack those modalities we are (perhaps temporarily) inclined against.

Second, you contend that Keith would agree with the viability of tradition (in addition to scripture, reason and personal experience in Weseley's axiom). Yet you write that Keith is "following the clear teachings of Jesus, not the traditions of men." Respectfully, both cannot be true. Keith does not give weight to church tradition with respect to issues of ecclesiology. He has gone to great lengths to make this clear.

Third, you write, "Paul, you can quote theologian after theologian and it will not move Keith, because he’s following the clear teachings of Jesus, not the traditions of men."

Jesus never taught on, or endorsed a specific kind of church polity. Period. Your statement does not correspond with reality, Brent. Yes, Keith has always been follower of the teachings of Jesus; but so have the priests and bishops that I have mentioned earlier. Jesus was silent on weather churches should own buildings or what precise leadership structures should be used. He left that for the Apostles to sort out. And Acts 6 is a clear example of how his closest followers began to govern the new Jesus movement.

Thanks you Brent and Keith.

In Christ,

Paul

Paul

Joe said...

I don't believe in Priests. But then I don't believe in Pastors, Reverends or anything else either. On the other hand, I'm not convinced the cell or house church structure is any more biblical than the ecclesiastical forms in liturgical churches.

I'd also quickly say that there are clearly all kinds of very blessed people in these positions in all kinds of different churches. Sadly though, by naming and institutionalising the church (and particular roles within it), we have moved significantly away from the radical nature of the gospel. And we're all to blame for that in my opinion.

As a base principle, I'd maintain that once the church became institutionalised (ie continuation of the institution became far more important than anything else - people's jobs, emotions and efforts were invested in the structures) it pretty much left behind the gospels. Yes, some remarkable people are still speaking gospel to the church. But they tend to be the exception rather than the norm.

And for the record, I'm an Anglican and have been for years.

larry said...

Interesting Blog,
The argument will never be settled..... I think the whole thing is a mix, just like the music debate in the churches today.
Be convinced by your understanding, but don't let it divide you!
Remember, we pray for that brother with his foolish understanding so that he will "see the light".
Maybe "Test the prophets"??
I lean more toward the house church thinking, although I presently fellowship in a community church. it works better this way for now. After excommunicating all of the members of my church, I was the only one left.
Larry