The Teaching Office

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pvawter's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

On the one hand there is the granting of approval by the congregation, an act of ratification, an expression of ultimate authority. Congregationalism, as a form of governance, would believe that the apostles and elders in Jerusalem were governmentally submitted to the congregation in Jerusalem. As Kevin Bauder says, it was a congregational business meeting. I for one do not see antagonism between the congregation and the leaders in Acts 15, or as being necessary to the congregational polity. It will happen though, if the leaders want to shepherd sinning people to repentance and some in the congregation don't like that.

Ted,

now you are simply inserting something into Acts 15 which none of us (nor Scripture) have suggested is there. In fact, rather than the congregation forcing its will on the apostles and elders, Kevin rightly concluded that it was the congregation which was in complete agreement with its leaders as they led.

Ted Bigelow wrote:

On the other hand there are the details in Luke's account that go against such an observation. The phrase "with the whole church" is a prepositional phrase unrelated syntactically to the main verbs of Acts 15:22-23. Therefore, the "whole church" did not chose the men, nor send the letter. Thus they had no governmental role whatsoever. They are merely mentioned in passing.

As several of us have already mentioned, v.23 includes the entire congregation in the heading of the letter, indicating that it was a unified response to the question at hand. Again, there is no conflict between the leaders and the congregation, and this cannot support any claim that excludes the congregation's role in the process. Maybe my earlier comment went unnoticed in all the earlier discussion, but there is a textual variance in v.23 which materially affects one's interpretation of the specific heading of the letter, so no argument based on it will probably be entirely compelling either way.

Ted Bigelow wrote:

This is reflected in Acts 16:4, where Paul's deliverance of the letter comes with the obligation of these churches to keep the contents (dogmata, "decrees")of the letter for the reason that they were "judged (kekprimina) by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem."

If congregationalism were true, and those decrees rested on the authority of the church in Jerusalem, why then were they binding on two other autonomous churches: "for them to observe"? To accept congregationalism one must believe the churches of Galatia, and all other churches, were free to accept or reject the "burdens" of Acts 15:29 based on congregational vote and perhaps an existing doctrinal statement. Yet this directly violates the mandated obedience to the contents of the letter and requires that Paul and Silas' authority was not from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem but was in reality under each church's own authority.

But the congregational position has to be wrong, for it presupposes sin in the text as Luke reports it. Either Paul and Silas sinned by forcing autonomous churches to obey the decisions of another church, or the churches of Derbe and Lystra, and all others, sinned by obeying the authority of men outside their church. Or both.

You are ignoring the key phrase in v.28, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." The authority did not rest on either the elders & apostles or the congregation in Jerusalem, but on the Holy Spirit whose authority the congregation submitted to by following the leadership and teaching of its elders. Do you see how that works? Instead of elders forcing their will on the church and declaring it to be the leading of the Holy Spirit, the congregation recognizes that the Holy Spirit is leading through the clear teaching of His word by the elders. This is how the congregational polity is defined by those who are not predisposed to reject it. You would characterize it as conflict between the congregation and its elders, but that is not how Scripture conceives of it at all.

Ted Bigelow wrote:

One last difficulty for the congregational position is this - what happened to the men in the church of Jerusalem who still believed in salvation by circumcision? Did they repent, and now believe in justification by faith, and so when "the whole church" gave governmental approval, they went along? If so, we are left not only scratching our heads to identify who were the false teachers and apostles who dogged Paul all his ministry with false accusations, upsetting whole churches, but as to why Luke wouldn't report such a wonderful turn of heart in the agitators.

Actually, the congregational position, as I have outlined it above, answers your question here as well. If the whole congregation, along with the elders and apostles, recognized the Holy Spirit's leading in this process, then we can safely conclude that they submitted to the Holy Spirit's leading and followed the ordinance in the letter. As to the identity of Paul's opponents, you cannot even identify who they were in Acts 15, for they are only identified as "certain men" who belonged to the "party of the Pharisees." If Luke doesn't identify them any further than that, I guess we will just have to take Scripture at face value without trying to supply details the Holy Spirit saw fit not to include.

Now that I have answered the questions you raised, please feel free to grace us with your responses to the following questions. Be warned, however, that any response other than direct answers will likely be seen as dodging, obfuscation, admission of hypocrisy, or worse.

  • Why have you not instructed the people of your own church to join themselves to another, previously existing church in town so that you can consistently apply your own teaching without hypocrisy, since I gather that those other churches refused to close up shop and join with yours?
  • On whose authority did you become the pastor of your church? If it was your own, then how is that not a violation of your own argument based on Precept and Example from Titus 1? If it was the congregation's approval which allowed you to become their pastor, then are you not simply in denial of the fact that you submitted to the authority of the congregation only to teach that the exact opposite must be true?

 

Ted Bigelow's picture

One of the problems evident in Ted's reasoning here is the absence of any recognition of apostolic authority. This was still a unique, transitional situation as is found throughout the book of Acts.

Chip, in my first post on this thread I wrote,

But in Christianity, the apostles of Jesus Christ define the church's doctrinal parameters.

In an earlier post to Rob I wrote this:

Rob - the apostles in 2014 are the same apostles in the first century.

Jesus Christ made a promise to them by which they are the foundation of all Christian doctrine. Referring to the teaching ministry of His Holy Spirit to His own personally chosen apostles, Christ said, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13) . The "you' of this verse is not Kevin's church, but the apostles.

So those who believe Christ to be the Son of God incarnate believe the writings of His apostles to be all the truth, which are collected in the 27 books of the NT. These men's writings, and nothing else, are the ultimate parameters of doctrine, not the people of each church, as Kevin teaches (congregationalism).

If you accept what Kevin teaches you accept defection from Christ. His teaching not-so-subtly shifts submission to the apostles and the ministry they received directly from Christ to the people of one's church. Principally, it is no different than Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, or the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Hence, the authority in his religion defects from Jesus Christ's apostles to his own church, from God, to man.

This morning I wrote to Dan,

If congregationalism were true, and those decrees rested on the authority of the church in Jerusalem, why then were they binding on two other autonomous churches: "for them to observe"? To accept congregationalism one must believe the churches of Galatia, and all other churches, were free to accept or reject the "burdens" of Acts 15:29 based on congregational vote and perhaps an existing doctrinal statement. Yet this directly violates the mandated obedience to the contents of the letter and requires that Paul and Silas' authority was not from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem but was in reality under each church's own authority.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hi PVawter,

In an earlier post you and I had an exchange in which i accused you of sinning. Here it is,

You wrote:

I don't have time to find the exact quote, and I suppose Ted can correct me if I am mistaken, but when he was asked how he came to be recognized as a legitimate elder at Grace Church he could offer no other support than that he deemed himself worthy of that mantle. He cannot allow for the congregation to exercise such authority, for he denies that they have any right to do so, but in the method which he derives from his own unique interpretation of TItus 1, the only Biblical means by which a man may become an elder in a church is that he is appointed by one who has authority to do so. It would seem that Ted's view of elder-appointment would require either a landmark type of church succession or an unbroken episcopacy from the time of the apostles.

I replied:

Dude, that's just plain sinful. You really don't know what you are talking about, are erroneous in virtually everything you assert, and utterly misrepresent me and my teaching. It is not to me to defend myself, but the same invitation to David is extended to you. Visit us. Talk to the church.

Your response to me did not deal with my accusing you of sinning in any real sense (apology or substantiation of the accsuations), but instead prevaricated,

What I am talking about is nothing more than what you have actually said. Yet you react as if you don't remember the very things you have written. I have read several of the articles you pointed to on your own site, and I am simply applying your own standard onto your situation. If the Biblical precept derived from Titus 1 is that elders must be appointed by qualified elders, then what qualified elder appointed you? And did the congregation have any part in the decision? If they chose you as their pastor, then it was the congregation which exercised authority, an authority you deny is Biblical. Therefore, by your own standard and teaching, wouldn't that cast doubt as to the credibility of your own position? Please don't misunderstand me, Ted. I believe that the congregation has the responsibility to call a pastor as they operate under Christ's headship and the Spirit's guidance, so I don't question your qualification to pastoral leadership. I just question your apparently arbitrary application of your own standard.

Now you write back four days later, and go back to making accusations all over again:

 Be warned, however, that any response other than direct answers will likely be seen as dodging, obfuscation, admission of hypocrisy, or worse.

Why would any Christian want to receive a warning from a man who makes public accusations without substantiation, continues to misrepresent his teaching, ignores him when he calls him out publicly for sin, and then goes back to doing it all over again?

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

One of the problems evident in Ted's reasoning here is the absence of any recognition of apostolic authority. This was still a unique, transitional situation as is found throughout the book of Acts.

Chip, in my first post on this thread I wrote,

But in Christianity, the apostles of Jesus Christ define the church's doctrinal parameters.

In an earlier post to Rob I wrote this:

Rob - the apostles in 2014 are the same apostles in the first century.

Jesus Christ made a promise to them by which they are the foundation of all Christian doctrine. Referring to the teaching ministry of His Holy Spirit to His own personally chosen apostles, Christ said, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13) . The "you' of this verse is not Kevin's church, but the apostles.

So those who believe Christ to be the Son of God incarnate believe the writings of His apostles to be all the truth, which are collected in the 27 books of the NT. These men's writings, and nothing else, are the ultimate parameters of doctrine, not the people of each church, as Kevin teaches (congregationalism).

If you accept what Kevin teaches you accept defection from Christ. His teaching not-so-subtly shifts submission to the apostles and the ministry they received directly from Christ to the people of one's church. Principally, it is no different than Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, or the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Hence, the authority in his religion defects from Jesus Christ's apostles to his own church, from God, to man.

This morning I wrote to Dan,

If congregationalism were true, and those decrees rested on the authority of the church in Jerusalem, why then were they binding on two other autonomous churches: "for them to observe"? To accept congregationalism one must believe the churches of Galatia, and all other churches, were free to accept or reject the "burdens" of Acts 15:29 based on congregational vote and perhaps an existing doctrinal statement. Yet this directly violates the mandated obedience to the contents of the letter and requires that Paul and Silas' authority was not from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem but was in reality under each church's own authority.

Ted,

Funny how quick you are to reply to the part I said I didn't want to side track us, and how you continue to ignore the question everyone has been asking since you first began promoting your novel, extra-biblical ideas.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

I am going to ask that questions/discussion about Ted's view on "one church in a vicinity" (whatever size that is) be left aside in this thread. While many of us, myself included, find this position to be a problem, I believe it can be separated from the view on congregational authority, at least for the purposes of this thread. Also, any further posts that are of the "you didn't answer my question so I won't answer yours" type (from any poster) will be summarily unpublished, and the admin team can then sort it out.

The thread finally started to take a better turn again with Dan Miller's post, and I would like to see it continue in that vein. Let's stick to what the text says (and interpretations of it) instead of this tit-for-tat stuff. The admin team may decide to override me here, but I think at a minimum there needs to be a cool-off period in this thread, and this post is now serving as that reminder.

Dave Barnhart

Dan Miller's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
... Congregationalism, as a form of governance, would believe that the apostles and elders in Jerusalem were governmentally submitted to the congregation in Jerusalem.
You don't seem to understand congregationalism.

Ted Bigelow wrote:
... The phrase "with the whole church" is a prepositional phrase unrelated syntactically to the main verbs of Acts 15:22-23. Therefore, the "whole church" did not chose the men, nor send the letter. Thus they had no governmental role whatsoever. They are merely mentioned in passing. ...
The phrase "with the whole church" clearly means that the church approval was obtained. The letter is explicitly from "Οἱ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι καὶ Οἱ ἀδελφοὶ." 

Ted Bigelow wrote:
...  But the congregational position has to be wrong, for it presupposes sin in the text as Luke reports it. Either Paul and Silas sinned by forcing autonomous churches to obey the decisions of another church..."
Again, you don't seem to understand congregationalism.

-=-=-=-=-=-

As a footnote on SharperIron, this thread doesn't discuss Dr. Bauder's article. There are interesting things in there to discuss. But instead, over a hundred posts are consumed with Ted's polemic against a straw-man version of congregationalism.

Maybe this is inevitable on a forum. It's happened probably since the beginning here. The "Like" button makes me wonder if a "Dislike" button would be good. Perhaps every time you get a "Dislike" on one of your posts, you get a decrement in your word-length limit for posts. 

Jay's picture

Maybe this is inevitable on a forum. It's happened probably since the beginning here. The "Like" button makes me wonder if a "Dislike" button would be good. Perhaps every time you get a "Dislike" on one of your posts, you get a decrement in your word-length limit for posts. 

I like this idea.  Even if I might dislike the idea of seeing people's opinions of my posts Biggrin

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

My suggestion for Ted B and James K (I've made this before to James K). For each

  • Use a blogging platform (blogspot or wordpress) AND
  • Start a series of articles on your view of ecclesiology AND
  • ​After each post send me a PM on this system AND
  • I will post each  blog post as a filing

Why: 

  • I really don't understand either of your views
  • You both criticize Bauder or his positions but are either  obfuscatious or evasive about your own positions

Readers ... if you find the above a good idea ... use the like button on the lower right of this post

Dan Miller's picture

Or let Ted write short articles giving his views. What happened here kept the article of this thread from being discussed. If Ted wrote articles, then we could discuss those topics there.

It would be important to keep the papers short - about 1,000 word-count. That way hopefully there could be some focus.

Jay's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

Or let Ted write short articles giving his views. What happened here kept the article of this thread from being discussed. If Ted wrote articles, then we could discuss those topics there.

It would be important to keep the papers short - about 1,000 word-count. That way hopefully there could be some focus.

Ted's written a few articles for the site, but nothing recent - you can see the list here.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

pvawter's picture

James K,
The context of 1 Timothy 2 has nothing to so with congregational vs elder rule, but with the exercise of authority in the worship of the church. Paul's instruction concerning the submission of women in the church is no problem for congregational authority, since the congregation is to act in unity rather than as individuals.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Dan, would you help me understand congregationalism better?

I wrote,

On the one hand there is the granting of approval by the congregation, an act of ratification, an expression of ultimate authority. Congregationalism, as a form of governance, would believe that the apostles and elders in Jerusalem were governmentally submitted to the congregation in Jerusalem.

To which you replied,

You don't seem to understand congregationalism.

Since I have misunderstood congregationalism, perhaps you would do me a service. Since you are a congregationalist, perhaps you could explain to me, what is wrong in the following quotes:

“In this model, the congregation exercises the ultimate human authority in the church… In such a system, the leaders… may exercise significant influence… but, in the final analysis, the highest human authority is vested in the congregation, not the leadership.” (John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, 143)

“As the name indicates, the final authority does not rest with the bishop or elders but rather with the local assembly of believers… Thus,… ultimate authority lies with the individual members of the congregation. (Ben Merkle, 40 Questions About Elders and Deacons, 28).

“The scriptural government, Baptists held, was congregationalism. They were democrats in the church—all ecclesial authority resided in the members jointly…. They had responsibility to establish what the Bible taught.” (Greg Wills, Polity, 20-21).

“The Charleston Summary was a directory of church government and discipline… It taught that all church authority was in the congregation….” (Wills, Polity, 36).”

Apparently I am confused not only with what they write, but with what Kevin’s writes,

“Ultimately, the congregation must define the church’s doctrinal parameters. This is exactly what happened in the local church business meeting at Jerusalem in Acts 15.” 

As further evidence of my confusion, he then claims it was Peter and especially James, not the congregation, who defined the doctrinal parameters:

“James, who was one of the pastors of the church, did more than to reflect upon abstruse biblical principles. He also applied those principles to the doctrinal problem in very direct ways, going so far as to state a solution for the church”

How does Kevin know the church in Jerusalem defined the church’s doctrinal parameters and not James? I don’t know. He never makes a case for the congregation doing any defining work in his article.

But does Luke, the author of he text? Well, he never records anyone from the congregation speaking a single word, casting a single vote, or asking a single question. And yet according to Kevin, the congregation was the ultimate definers of doctrine at the JC in Acts 15. It is very hard for me to follow.

Well, i don't expect you to help me understand Kevin. But in my prior reply to you when I pointed out to you that the phrase “the whole church” is syntactically detached from the verbs “chose” and wrote.

In your response to me you excised that syntactic observation, and it appears, ignored it entirely as not fitting your congregationalism. I only say this because you didn't acknowledge it, and only moved on to made yet another claim. You claimed that the opening phrase of Acts 15:23 is clear on congregation approval of the JC.

You wrote,

“The phrase "with the whole church" clearly means that the church approval was obtained. The letter is explicitly from "Οἱ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι καὶ Οἱ ἀδελφοὶ."

Perhaps you can clarify how those words indicate the brethren had the power of approval? Aren't the most important persons in a document usually  placed first? I would suggest that if anything, the brethren, being the last group mentioned, were the least important. Or at the least you need to make the case for why the last group to be mentioned was the ultimate approving authority which was a series of ethical commands to other churches. And as always, you need to explain why Acts 16:4 does not mention the ultimate governing authorization for the JC and its obligations upon other autonomous churches.

But you know what Dan, for most students of Scripture, all that is superfluous anyway. There is no good reason to accept the reading you quoted. It has extremely late and poor manuscript support.

The far stronger phrase, both in terms of textual witnesses, and in terms of hardness of reading, is “Οἱ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι ἀδελφοὶ”. See Acts 15:23, NAU.

In Metzger’s Textual Commentary, he writes,

“The addition of καὶ before ἀδελφοὶ appears to be an emmandation made in order to avoid what in Greek is a somewhat harsh apposition…” 

This is why your chosen reading of v. 23 is only seen in the KJV and NKJV but in no translation that accept the older manuscripts as legitimate.

Am i wrong? Is the reason this reading is offered only because it supports congregationalism?

When Daniel Akin quotes this passage in his article on Congregationalism, he places the matter in footnotes and writes,

“I have followed the NKJV, believing it better reflects the overall context” (Akin, Perspectives on Church Government, 302).

But in textual criticism, that is exactly how NOT to make decisions among variant readings since it almost guarantees one will side with the textual reading that best fits their pre-existing theology. And what context is Akin speaking of? He doesn't say. But as we've seen, the masculine plural verb only a few words earlier utterly and completely disallows “the whole church” from having any role in the choosing of Conference emissaries. Yet they are the ultimate authority? How? One can only be left to wonder what “overall context” Akin is thinking of. (FWIW, I love Danny Akin. He was my first doctoral advisor before he left Southern to became President at Southeastern).

I would guess that Kevin Bauder, a research professor, can do criticism, and yet by citing Acts 15:23 he too includes this discredited reading to support his congregational thesis:

In the face of a doctrinal and practical challenge, the entire congregation participated in drawing a doctrinal line (Acts 15:22-23)

But he won't be help accountable for what he writes, so perhaps you could do me the favor of setting me straight on all these matters, for as you say, I don't understand congregationalism.

Thank you, Dan. I look forward to your help.

Dan Miller's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

Ted Bigelow wrote:

... Congregationalism, as a form of governance, would believe that the apostles and elders in Jerusalem were governmentally submitted to the congregation in Jerusalem.

You don't seem to understand congregationalism.

...

Ted Bigelow wrote:

...  But the congregational position has to be wrong, for it presupposes sin in the text as Luke reports it. Either Paul and Silas sinned by forcing autonomous churches to obey the decisions of another church..."

Again, you don't seem to understand congregationalism.

Your reply included:

Ted Bigelow wrote:

Dan, would you help me understand congregationalism better?

 

“As the name indicates, the final authority does not rest with the bishop or elders but rather with the local assembly of believers… Thus,… ultimate authority lies with the individual members of the congregation. (Ben Merkle, 40 Questions About Elders and Deacons, 28).

 

...

I'm only replying to the quote from Ben Merkle. An example.

Merkle notes that "ultimate authority" lies with the members. That's congregational. But it does NOT imply the things you said above. In Congregationalism, elders ("pastors," often) have authority over the congregation. They lead, they teach, they rule. You said that in "Congregationalism, ...elders [are] governmentally submitted to the congregation." That is only true in a narrow sense. As Merkle said, ultimate authority may rest with the congregation, but as he says many many times in his book, day-to-day authority lies with the elders. 

 

In the second quote (where I said you didn't understand congregationalism), you say that it would have been sinful for the autonomous churches to be forced to obey the decisions of another church. 

Congregationalists would never see Acts 15 that way. Rather:

Antioch is having trouble agreeing. It's elders say, "Hey, let's go to Jerusalem and see what they think."

The Antioch church says, "Ok. Go." They go... Jerusalem Council meets... Jerusalem elders recommend an answer... Jerusalem Congregation agrees... Letter sent... v.30-31: Antioch hears letter and rejoices (adopts Jerusalem decree).

Nowhere does it say that the Antioch congregation was forced to adopt the Jerusalem Decree. If they viewed the letter as a false teaching they would have been right to have disregarded it.

---------

You seem to think that Congregationalism means that NOTHING ever should be done, led, or decided by leaders of the church, but ALWAYS by the congregation. That's not what congregationalism teaches. And you seem to think that the congregation can't listen to wise counsel before deciding on something. Again, not congregationalism.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Hopefully this made some sense. I'm tired after a long day. I wanted to answer you in some way. I don't plan to go back and forth on these things. It's possible that in the list of people you quoted, there are some who do teach a bizarre form of congregationalism like you seem suggest. If so, then there are apparently Hyper-Congregationalists.

James K's picture

So Dan, in your defense of congregationalism, you have stated that if the church at Antioch had view the letter as false doctrine, they would have been right to have disregarded it.

I thank you for making this so clear to me and others who read this.

You believe the congregation at Antioch had within its right the power to shirk apostolic dogma.  And that is yet another reason why I was compelled by the clear testimony of Scripture to reject congregationalism.

Had the Antioch church disregarded the apostolic letter, THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN IN SIN.  Whew.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

James,

Not necessarily. Paul instructed the church that if anyone, including himself, altered the gospel the church should reject the message. In the same way, Dan only says the church should reject a false message, which, though coming from an apostle, would not carry the God-given apostolic authority. As I said previously, it is not the act but the actor that you can disagree with. If we reverse the situation to a church that is elder-ruled in the way you have described, the scenario plays out the same way (same act) just with different roles for the participants (actors). There the elders would still reject false doctrine, even if it came from an apostle, and rightly so. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

James K's picture

Chip, the reverse isn't true at all.  Your argument is too near to our present time rather than NT time.  At one time, there was THE doctrine/faith.  Matters like head coverings, timing of the rapture, extent of the atonement, etc, were all addressed and expected obedience.  Due to the corruption through time, and the various factions dividing over this and that, attempts have been made to stop the disease.  Rather than address the core problem.  Congregationalism is such an effort to fix the ills of the church today.  Sadly, it only creates more problems.

To be blunt, the well meaning beliefs of so many are still very wrong and thus are outside the accepted circle of doctrine handed down.  If people truly went back to scripture and not their seminary training, confessions, etc, the church would have a different outlook.  You may disagree, but tell me, how much true unity is encouraged by every kind of church with every kind of teaching and every kind of confession.

I know you disagree, but there is not a single place in scripture where the church is given authority OVER the elders.  Not a single place.  Multiple times the elders are spoken of as being the authority though over the church.  So which is it?  Explicit texts or the white portions of the bible?

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hey Dan,

You seem to think that Congregationalism means that NOTHING ever should be done, led, or decided by leaders of the church, but ALWAYS by the congregation. That's not what congregationalism teaches. And you seem to think that the congregation can't listen to wise counsel before deciding on something. Again, not congregationalism.

Kindly provide any positive evidence I even suggested such a thing and I will gladly disown my words as mistaken. For unless I've missed something, yours is the first mention of 'day-to-day' authority in this thread. Is it possible you are projecting something on me which is beyond the scope of the thread's argument - which is, "was the congregation the ultimate governing authority in the JC?"

Kevin's post on the JC launched the thread - he made statements such as this:

“Ultimately, the congregation must define the church’s doctrinal parameters. This is exactly what happened in the local church business meeting at Jerusalem in Acts 15.”

So hopefully in my criticism of Kevin's poor and public handling of the sacred text, and in my interaction with other congregationalists like yourself, you'll notice I include phrases like "final authority," "ultimate human authority," even as he did.

This led me to write such phrases to you as,

On the one hand there is the granting of approval by the congregation, an act of ratification, an expression of ultimate authority. Congregationalism, as a form of governance, would believe that the apostles and elders in Jerusalem were governmentally submitted to the congregation in Jerusalem.

To which you replied:

You don't seem to understand congregationalism.

But if I do understand congregationalism, then could it be that you haven't understood me?

 

Jay's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
But if I do understand congregationalism, then could it be that you haven't understood me?

It would be much easier to understand you if you answered some of the questions put to you.

You mentioned: 

(Dan) You seem to think that Congregationalism means that NOTHING ever should be done, led, or decided by leaders of the church, but ALWAYS by the congregation. That's not what congregationalism teaches. And you seem to think that the congregation can't listen to wise counsel before deciding on something. Again, not congregationalism.

(Ted) Kindly provide any positive evidence I even suggested such a thing and I will gladly disown my words as mistaken. For unless I've missed something, yours is the first mention of 'day-to-day' authority in this thread. 

I found this a little up the page:

On the one hand there is the granting of approval by the congregation, an act of ratification, an expression of ultimate authority. Congregationalism, as a form of governance, would believe that the apostles and elders in Jerusalem were governmentally submitted to the congregation in Jerusalem. As Kevin Bauder says, it was a congregational business meeting. I for one do not see antagonism between the congregation and the leaders in Acts 15, or as being necessary to the congregational polity. It will happen though, if the leaders want to shepherd sinning people to repentance and some in the congregation don't like that.

On the other hand there are the details in Luke's account that go against such an observation. The phrase "with the whole church" is a prepositional phrase unrelated syntactically to the main verbs of Acts 15:22-23. Therefore, the "whole church" did not chose the men, nor send the letter. Thus they had no governmental role whatsoever. They are merely mentioned in passing.

If you believe that we're making the apostles subservient to the congregation - a charge I believe that you've made several times now - then I can't see how you can wiggle out of putting "ultimate authority" on the congregation. Furthermore, you're contrasting your position with a straw man representation of congregationalism.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Dan Miller's picture

Ted, I'm feeling like we've moved from talking about what is right to whether you understand congregationalism. That's probably my fault because I said, "You don't understand Congr..." 

We Congregationalists hold our elders to be our authorities. They act as under-shepherds and lead, rule, and authoritatively teach in our churches as the NT directs. If you understand that, then great.

Kevin Miller's picture

 

Suppose I had a job that took me to Mongolia for a few years, to a town with no churches whatsoever. Suppose I were to witness to those around me and people heard the gospel and the Lord saved them. What should be our next step as a group of Christians? Surely we would want to organize into a local church. How would we go about getting our elders? Some of the group of new believers would certainly learn the Scriptures faster than others and show the character traits necessary for being an elder, but if we as a congregation do not have the authority to install them as our elders, then what do we do? Also, how do we draw up a doctrinal statement for the church? Do we wait until we get elders (however we get them), and then let those elders determine the doctrinal statement?

 

Ted Bigelow's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

Ted, I'm feeling like we've moved from talking about what is right to whether you understand congregationalism. That's probably my fault because I said, "You don't understand Congr..." 

We Congregationalists hold our elders to be our authorities. They act as under-shepherds and lead, rule, and authoritatively teach in our churches as the NT directs. If you understand that, then great.

Thanks brother. Very godly of you.

When i started out commenting on Kevin's post way back, I said a single verse of Scripture undoes all his assertions concerning the role of the congregation at the JC: Acts 16:4.

Consider, please, how that plays out in distinction from something you wrote a couple posts ago:

The Antioch church says, "Ok. Go." They go... Jerusalem Council meets... Jerusalem elders recommend an answer... Jerusalem Congregation agrees... Letter sent... v.30-31: Antioch hears letter and rejoices (adopts Jerusalem decree). Nowhere does it say that the Antioch congregation was forced to adopt the Jerusalem Decree. If they viewed the letter as a false teaching they would have been right to have disregarded it.

By mentioning the letter from the JC as a "decree" you are right with Luke, who called the decisions of the JC "dogmata" (decrees) in Acts 16:4. Dogma are "a formal statement concerning rules or regulations that are to be observed​" (BAGD). We shouldn't confuse them with proposals or mere propositions, things that are up for debate and vote, but which in themselves have no binding authority.

You see, the decisions of the JC were binding on congregations, which is why the end of Acts 16:4 is not to be translated "they delivered to them the decrees for them to consider" but rather "they delivered to them the decrees to keep." The NIV translates the phrase, "for the people to obey."

The issue comes down to religious authority, not only in the JC, but in our own beliefs as men who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and the writings of His chosen apostles as the authority of Christ Himself. Are Luke's words in Acts 16:4, which define the authority behind the JC and make no mention of the congregation, compatible with Kevin's congregational claims on Acts 15 or not? This is the matter of this thread.

He ignored this verse in his article, and does not hold himself accountable where he allows his public writings to be posted.

I believe James K (in his comment above) is completely correct when he writes that the Antioch church would have been in staggering sin had they even thought they were supposed to judge the decrees for themselves (i.e., as congregationalists), instead of, rejoicingly, obey them. 

But our bigger point is that congregationalism, as a system of governance that claims the congregation is the ultimate authority in the church of Jesus Christ, is a faith that claims to be founded in Scripture but is actually opposed to it. My own addition is that because it is opposed to Scripture it produces a presumptuous faith and schismatic disobedience to Jesus Christ in both individuals and churches.

 

 

 

Jay's picture

When i started out commenting on Kevin's post way back, I said a single verse of Scripture undoes all his assertions concerning the role of the congregation at the JC: Acts 16:4.

Ted, I've already addressed 16:4 in an earlier post, so I'll not revisit that rabbit trail again.

The real problem here isn't even your teaching on polity or the constant maligning of other Christians.  It's your crazy hermeneutic that you have so helpfully described for us in your blog post on Precept and Example.

You mention that there must be both a precept and an example in order to make a passage binding on the church today:

But Jesus wasn’t done convincing John. To seal John’s faith He gave a precept,

“and blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Mat. 11:6).

Jesus’ scriptural examples, coupled with His own precept, gave John what he needed most – the convincing power to hold to a justified faith in Christ at the hour of death. That’s the power only Precept and Example gives.

Anything less – even just example or precept – can easily form a presumptuous faith built on insufficient evidence. Such faith crumbles in the day of distress, even as John’s was; other times it survives by will power. But in all cases it relies on less than God offers in His glorious Word – the cross-checking power of precept and example.

and

God provides all people equally with precept and example so that we can understand what He wants us to believe (doctrine), and do what He wants us to (duty). At the same time precept and example holds us back from adopting false beliefs and practices. Precept and example is the way Scripture teaches us as individuals and as churches what God’s revealed will is for life.

We are all so liable to misunderstand and misinterpret Scripture that we can grow frustrated and impatiently ask, “whose interpretation is right?”

But we also should know that no one stands above the Word of God. It is all from God and without error in the whole or in the parts. Our ability to understand is the problem. So God gave us all, equally, P&E to grant us a confirmatory method to know the right belief and practice, and to keep us from depending on men’s errant interpretations. If you can think, you can understand.

P&E is the public proof that the Bible is inspired and the domain of no man or church.

You can't let 16:4 go because it's the second part of the principle that you're trying to teach here, and if it doesn't mean what you say that it means, then your whole system of either polity OR your aberrant hermeneutic collapses, and either way, you are discredited.  So it doesn't matter how much ink we spill on that topic, because you continue to read and re-read your ideas into a text that does not say what you want it to.  The ONLY way that someone can walk away from 16:4 with what you teach is because they're already 'bought into' your flawed theology and interpretation.

Ted, you have no business trying to pastor a church with a hermeneutic like this.  You will be held to a higher standard as a teacher (James 3:1), and you will be held guilty of adding to and taking away from what God says (Rev. 22:18-19).  You are salting yourself with fire if you continue in this error.

Repent.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

And with that, this thread is now officially closed.

Dave Barnhart

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