Tag Archives: ecclesiology

Changing in a Grace-Filled Way

1:02 PM This week in our Greek 3 class we exegeted Phil. 4:1-9, a passage full of references to the need for unity and cooperation in the cause of the Gospel. I want to say from the start that I have tremendous respect for my students who are trying to effect changes in their churches. I deeply appreciate the fact that they want to go about the process in a way that is conducive to unity and does not fight against it. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do think it is wrong to force change without at least doing our very best to build a consensus. Commenting on harmony in the church, Howard Marshall (New Testament Theology, p. 347) writes:

Such harmony could arise in two ways. One possibility is that there is considerable toleration of different points of view, so that people do not fight over differences of opinion on nonessential matters. The other possibility is that people are united because they are in agreement about how they should think and act.

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7:17 PM Today in Greek class we went on yet another rabbit trail, this time along the path of ecclesiology. Church structures must be participational rather than representative, I told my students. My excuse to bring up this topic? A very good one indeed. The vocabulary to today’s lesson included the adjective hekastos, which, as everyone knows, is one of the my all-time favorite New Testament Greek words — so much so that I even invented a new word in the English language in its honor (see my book The Jesus Paradigm for a reference to the doctrine I call Hekastology).

Continue reading Hekastology

If Seminaries Began Teaching Biblical Ecclesiology

10:19 AM Ya gotta love that Eric Carpenter! Is nothing sacrosanct to him (*smile*)? His latest post is called What Would Happen if Seminaries Began Teaching Biblical Ecclesiology? What a great topic to explore! What can we say about this?

I might suggest that a good place to start would be our New Testament Introduction classes. Here we could contrast the position that existed under the Old Covenant with life under the New. For example, in the Old Testament, sacrifices were a vital part of worship, so much so that a special building was set aside for that purpose. Moreover, only certain people (called priests) could perform sacred duties on behalf of the rest of the people. Finally, specific animals had to be sacrificed. Under the New Covenant, however, a new set of conditons exists. The emphasis is no longer upon a building (the people form the church), the sacrifices are offered by all (every Christian is a fulltime priest), and the offerings are now spiritual in nature — praise and thanksgiving. (The book of Hebrews is explicit about all of this.) In addition to New Testament Introduction, what about church history classes? Could we not discuss New Testament ecclesiology when we are analyzing the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century — those men and women who refused to be shackled by ecclesiastical tradition and who sought to return to the simple practices of the New Testament? Even in our Greek classes these questions could be tackled as we exegeted such passages as Roman 12 or 1 Corinthians 12-14. (I do.)

The simple truth is that seminary can and ought to be a place of genuine discovery. Questions about church life, even though they might make us uncomfortable, can and must be asked.  At the same time, let’s realize that the main purpose of a seminary education is to acquire the tools necessary for self-study, realizing that all learning is ultimately self-learning. A SEBTS Ph.D. grad recently published his dissertation in which he argued against tithing as a New Testament requirement, and a current Ph.D. student is re-examining the question of why the church assembles. But having said that, it remains true that no amount of formal biblical education can ever bring us to a mature understanding of Scripture for the simple reason that education involves more than the intellect. God the Holy Spirit must do His work in our lives. The Good Shepherd alone can lead His sheep into truth. Are you off course? Allow God, through the Scriptures, to make you receptive to truths you may have previously rejected.

In the meantime, let’s not forget that as Christians we are wonderfully bound to each other in a fellowship that goes far beyond the mere sharing of convictions about ecclesiology. It is a supernatural and spiritual reality of Christ-like love and mutual burden-bearing. Only when we learn to experience that kind of love will the world stand up and take notice that we are truly followers of the Prince of Peace.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Christian Archy, and Why Four Gospels?.)

On Constantinian Sacralism in the Modern Church

From Dave Black Online:

Thanks so much, Eric, for raising again the perennial question about the Reformers’ insistence on maintaining medieval ecclesiology. I attribute today’s neo-sacralism directly to the Reformers and their faulty theology of the church, against which the Anabaptists inveighed. Under the tutelage of such sacralism church leaders today continue to accommodate biblical Christianity to the Constantinian distortion. Not least is this seen in the return to medieval theology in which “the Son of Man goes forth to war, a kingdom to subdue.” I continue to maintain that the Anabaptists were not indebted to the Reformers, were indeed not even a part of them. I spend a whole chapter in The Jesus Paradigm on this subject mostly because missions cannot thrive in a climate of sacralism. The Anabaptists were oblivious to national borders, and so am I. The New Testament plainly teaches that every Christian is a fulltime minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, a missionary even, and that every true believer will experience something of the cross. To this day there is a hesitation, even on the part of Christians who plainly acknowledge a debt to the Anabaptists, to import biblical ecclesiology into their churches. I say shame on us. We should know better.

(Dr. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm and Christian Archy.  This extract from his blog is used by permission.)