Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pendleton. Baptist Church Manual - A book review

Pendleton, J.M. Baptist Church Manual, rev. ed. Nashville: B&H, 1966. 178 pp. $ 4.36.

A Virginia native and a great proponent of landmarkism, the late James Madison Pendleton was a prolific book and newspaper author, writing such titles as An Old Landmark Reset, a hymn book entitled The Southern Psalmist, and the very popular Baptist Church Manual, which is now in its fifteenth printing since it was first published in 1867.


The Church Manual is divided in seven chapters and five appendices. In broad strokes, it could be said that the seven chapters deal with doctrine and the appendices deal with praxis, if that would not run the risk of understating the practicality of doctrine and its discussion. Pendleton starts by spending a whole chapter on the nature of the church. While he admits a larger meaning for the term, “the redeemed in the aggregate” (5), he quickly points out that a majority of passages refer to a local assembly. He therefore defines a church as “a congregation of Christ’s baptized disciples, acknowledging him as their Head, relying on his atoning sacrifice for justification before God, and depending on the Holy Spirit for sanctification, united in the belief of the gospel, agreeing to maintain its ordinances and obey its precepts, meeting together to worship, and cooperating for the extension of Christ’s kingdom in the world” (7) He then proceeds to discuss the “moral and ceremonial” (8) qualifications of the membership of such a church. The moral requirements are repentance and faith, both of which have to precede the ceremonial requirement of baptism. Some attention is then dedicated to how a new church is constituted and how members are received and how membership is ceased.

The second chapter details the officers of the church. Said “officers are not necessary to the being of a church,” as can be seen by the absence of their mention in the definition he gives for a church, but “they are necessary to its well-being” (22). Pendleton identifies the “two officers that each church should have” as pastors and deacons (23), but also introduces two other officers, one which is “a prudential arrangement for each church to have,” namely the church clerk, and the other one being the trustees, which “are generally the legal custodians of the church property” (37).

In the third chapter entitled the “Doctrines of the Church,” Pendleton, after a short introduction, reproduces J. Newton Brown’s “A Declaration of Faith,” which is nothing less than the New Hampshire Confession of 1833 with an added church covenant and a prayer. In the introduction to this chapter, Pendleton informs the reader that the “Bible contains the revelation of God to man,” and declarations of faith “are not substitutes for the Scriptures. They are only exponents of what are conceived to be the fundamental doctrines of the word of God” (41-3).

Pendleton continues into chapter four by tackling the ordinances of a church, which he identifies as two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In the section on baptism, after defining baptism as “the immersion in water, by a proper administrator, of a believer in Christ, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Pendleton like many of his epoch, spends much time reasoning that baptism has to be by immersion. He then logically continues on to the proper subject of baptism where he argues that s/he has to be a believer, and therefore not an unbeliever or an infant. While talking of infants, he does undertake to deal with the issue of the death of un-baptized infants. As for the Lord’s Supper, Pendleton sees it “chiefly and supremely” as a commemoration of the death of Christ, so much so that he states that “the death of the Lord should monopolize all the power of memory” (89). Much of the subsequent discussion is to establish that “the meeting of a church is indispensable to a scriptural observance” of the supper (90). Church membership is thus used to imply the prerequisite of baptism for the supper.

As for church government, Pendleton identifies three distinct types: Episcopacy, Presbyterianism, and congregationalism. Pendleton identifies the salient features of Episcopacy as a church government which “recognizes the right of bishops to preside over districts of country” where the “bishop is officially superior to other ministers” and of Presbyterianism as a church government which “recognizes two classes of elders –preaching elders and ruling elders” (100-1). Three are the distinctives which he attributes to congregationalism: “that the governmental powers is in the hands of the people,” “the right of a majority of members of a church to rule,” and “that the power of a church cannot be transferred or alienated” (101-2). He then proceeds to argue for congregationalism alone is the New Testament model.

The penultimate chapter addresses the disciplines of the church or “the process by which the spiritual improvement, usefulness and efficiency of a church are promoted” (117). This includes formative and corrective discipline. The later is the major focus of this chapter. As for the last chapter, Pendleton separated the duties of the church into two categories: the duties to one another and the duties to the world. The latter includes personal evangelism, Sunday School, distribution of Bibles, etc., and sustaining missions.

As for the appendices, they include practical information on the business meeting of a church, various templates for letters and forms, a brief marriage ceremony, a section on associations and councils, and a section on Baptist declarations of faith. One has to wonder, though, how many of these are original to Pendleton, since Appendix V contains postmortem dates.

Critical Evaluation

Pendleton definitely wrote this manual as a defense of Baptist ecclesiology as the New Testament model. His justifications are often scripturally based, lexically sustained, and logically reasoned. There are times, though, when the reader is left wanting a more substantial scriptural basis for what Pendleton’s ideas and is frustrated by his repeated “lack of room” argument (see 26 for example). At other times, the scriptural justification is simply not found, and I am not only talking of points where he clearly deals with “secular” issues, like the necessity of trustees, but also about points where one would expect Scripture not to be silent on the issues. Throughout, he is very much so apologetic in his approach and often uses the writings of his opponents to convincingly support his assertions.

His starting the book with a discussion on the nature of the church is very much so appreciated, for such a discussion is often lacking and always necessary when dealing with ecclesiology. One has to wonder, though, if Pendleton would have thought that a non-cooperating church was actually not a church. The same could be asked about his necessity to meet together for worship. Would a congregation that meets together primarily for edification (1 Cor 14:26) and encouragement (Heb 10:25), understanding that God has called them to worship at all times (Rom 12:12, Rev 4), not be a church?

Reading Pendleton, I found myself shocked to find much of what I see as wrong with typical Baptist ecclesiology being stipulated by a pastor and Bible scholar. Let me deal with only one issue as an example, due to lack of space (can you say tu quoque?). While claiming to be an advocate of congregationalism, which he defines as the majority rules and the minority submits (which begs the question: is this understanding of congregationalism really the New Testament model of unity, love, and dying to self?), Pendleton practically advocates ruling elders called deacons. The Pendletonian pastor has “an authority not belonging to other church-members” (27), yet his duties “are preeminently spiritual” (31) and therefore there is a need for deacons, whose duties are both spiritual and secular and who are “a connecting link between the pastor and the needy one of the church” (33). One can see how ruling deacons got their start with such a train of thought. Pendleton displays some inconsistency, for he proceeds to argue for a plethora of standing committees so that the deacons can “share with the pastor in the spiritual ministries of the church,” which is their “role that is consistent with the place of the office in the New Testament” (35). Does he mean by that, that the deacons’ secular duties, which he argues for, are unbiblical? Is any of this true, Biblical congregationalism?


I conclude that Pendleton is a must read for two reasons. First, it does provide some good Biblical and lexical information about some core Baptist beliefs. Second, it allows us to understand better the background which undergirds the current typical Baptist church model. If we are to regain a New Testament church model, it is essential that we understand where people are and why they believe what they do.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yarnell. “From Christological Ecclesiology to Functional Ecclesiasticism." - A short review

Yarnell, Malcolm. “From Christological Ecclesiology to Functional Ecclesiasticism: Developments in Southern Baptist Understandings of the Nature and Role of the Churches.” Paper presented to the Anglican Communion-Baptist World Alliance International Theological Conversations, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, 11 September 2003.

In this article, Yarnell proposes to “elucidate developing understandings of the nature and role of the church” in Southern Baptist circles to show that “Southern Baptists have traded their original Christological ecclesiology for a functional ecclesiasticism” (1). It is not clear why understandings is plural, since he is tracing the historiography of one group, which he ultimately presents as having a relatively homogeneous ecclesiology. Yarnell’s journey begins, as is often his style, with a historical overview, where he traces Baptist foundations to the Reformation Church of England. Probably for the benefit of his audience, Yarnell spends much effort teasing out the common roots and similar beliefs of our English Baptist forefathers and their Anglican forefathers. It is not clear if Yarnell ignores the other forefathers of the modern Baptists due to his scope or due to his historical beliefs. Nevertheless, he finds parallels in Baptist and Anglican views of the Bible, justification, and prayer. He sees the beginning of tensions when “radicals were denied episcopal preaching licenses.” One is not clear if Yarnell believes that had the bishops agreed to license these radicals, they would not have separated, for he concludes that the difficulties ultimately lay with ecclesiology.

Yarnell transitions to a discussion of the historically Christological ecclesiology of our Baptist forefathers. He sees the genesis of Baptist ecclesiological doctrines in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and attributes the identification of the “locus classicus for early Separatists and Baptists” (Matt 18:20) to Anglican liturgical practices. It is in this passage that, according to Yarnell, early Baptists found inspiration for the authority of the gathered congregation. Christ, as prophet, priest, and king, our only Mediator, is the one who “dispenses the authority to preach, to pray, and to rule” (4). In these three offices of Christ, they saw the three marks of the church: the Word, the sacraments, and discipline. “God and His people came together in covenant and to form the local church” (4).

Yarnell eventually migrates his setting to the New World and focuses on the development of the Southern Baptist Convention. Yarnell sees a gradual transformation caused by the freedom of the New World, the eighteenth and nineteenth century evangelical awakenings, the frontier mentality, and the American governmental system. The transformation finally culminated in a separation from the early Baptist “ideological roots” due to a “general lack of education . . . coupled with the self-sufficient nature of the churches” (6). All that remained was the functional ecclesiasticism which was lacking ideological roots. This, coupled with individualism and liberalism, resulted in the demise of church discipline and resulted in a “crassly voluntaristic understanding of the nature of the church” (7). It is on this low note that Yarnell transitions to the last part of his essay, where he presents the average ecclesiastical model of the typical Baptist church. He divides this section into three parts: churches in relation to their people, churches in relation to God, and churches in relation to “the other.” His description of the typical Baptist church is unfortunately accurate and does prove his point. While Yarnell seems to identify the typical Baptist church’s problems and their causes, he does not offer any suggestions of how to return to a Christological ecclesiology, as a matter of fact, his article ends rather abruptly.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Patterson. “The Meaning of Authority in the Local Church.” - A short review

Patterson, Paige. “The Meaning of Authority in the Local Church.” In Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem. 248-251. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991.

In three simple sections, Patterson cuts to the chase on the issue of the ordination of women, or more appropriately, on the issue of authority in the local church, for he accurately identifies authority as the issue at hand, instead of the red herring which is the controversy over ordination. In his first section, Patterson starts the process with an expeditious lexical and biblical study on the topic of ordination. While at times allowing for the existence of an emerging pattern in Acts 14:23, 1 Timothy 4:14, and 5:22, he concludes that “it is sufficient to stress that no clear pattern or procedure for ordination is discernible in the New Testament” (253). One thing that is lacking in this section, though, is a definition for the concept of ordination. Due to the variety of meanings this term has in different traditions, it would have been helpful for Patterson to present his understanding of what ordination is and what it entails. Nevertheless, he correctly ends this section by stating that “most churches and denominations have developed ordination beyond New Testament precedent in both its form and its significance” (253).

This lack of New Testament evidence for ordination does not constitute, according to Patterson, a lack of evidence for the existence of ecclesiastical offices in the New Testament. Therefore the question is not “who can be ordained,” but “who is qualified to serve in those offices?” Here Patterson makes an assumption: that an office has authority associated with it. While he does not directly declare said assumption, it is central to his next section, where he seeks to understand how much authority elders wielded in the primitive church. This second section is mainly a discussion of multiple salient passages dealing with elders and authority. While maintaining that elders did have some level of authority in the primitive church, he quickly identifies limitations to said authority. These limitations are twofold: elder authority cannot supersede the authority of Scripture and is additionally bound by the authority of the congregation. As one proceeds through this section, one is given a theological whiplash of the mind, for one is first drawn in by Patterson’s convincing arguments on the role of the believers as priests and ministers with substantial congregational authority, which seems to be subordinate only to Christ’s authority, only to be thrown back by his reassertion of elder authority, even if somewhat limited. This limitation is necessary later when he reminds elders that their authority is subject to Scripture, therefore warning them not to give authority to any member to disobey Scripture (viz. giving authority for women to disregard what Scripture has to say about their role in the body).

Patterson then transitions to the question of authority and female teachers. He begins this section with a thorough encouragement for women to teach based on the Biblical pattern seen in the book of Acts and the writings of Paul. He also rightly points to Genesis to remind his readers that there is ontological equality between man and woman. He finally uses philosophical and Biblical arguments to argue that ontological equality does not necessarily mean functional egalitarianism. Knowing the classical arguments for egalitarianism, Patterson proceeds to dismantle them one at a time, while continuing to remind the church that they have the obligation to encourage women to “participate in the worship of the community of the saints with certain restrictions” (259).

He concludes this chapter with wisdom from his wife who, through a series of exhortations to live out Scripture in logical consistency, reminds the reader that the church should strive to assure “the full and proper use of [spiritual] gifts” (260).

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yarnell. “Οικος θεου: A Theologically Neglected but Important Ecclesiological Metaphor.” - A short review

Yarnell, Malcolm. “Οικος θεου: A Theologically Neglected but Important Ecclesiological Metaphor,” Midwestern Journal of Theology 2 (Fall 2003): 53-65.

In this essay, Yarnell attempts to restore οικος θεου to its appropriate level of importance among other Biblical metaphors for the church. After a thorough background check to substantiate his accusation of “general neglect,” Yarnell starts developing his defense for a renewal of interest in οικος θεου by pointing to the frequency and the importance of the uses of the metaphor. Yarnell identifies two types of uses of the οικος terminology: physical and relational. He points out that these are two “distinct images” and identifies Mark 11 and 1 Corinthians 3 with the concrete physical type. He postulates that these two uses “could easily transition into one another” and points to Ephesians 2:19-22 as an example. As for the relational use, he finds most evidence in the Pastoral epistles to which he dedicated almost half his paper.

The pièce de résistance for the relational use of οικος is 1 Timothy 3:14-16. Yarnell first resuscitates the notion of the Pastoral epistles as an ecclesiastical handbook by pointing to 1 Timothy 3:14-16 as the high point of the epistle. In this passage he finds his locus classicus, 1 Timothy 3:15, which describes the function of the epistle: to outline “standards of conduct in a set of social relationships figuratively know as ‘God’s household’.” Yarnell sees three levels of concern in this epistle: first, the church, then the family, and last, the state.

His analysis of the seventeen uses of the οικος family of terms throughout the Pastoral epistles expands his search to a wider set of terms which vary from “administration” to “steward” to “dwell.” Through this research, Yarnell demonstrates that “this family of words is used metaphorically of the church or of some part of the church” over half the time. The reader, though, is left wondering if looking at such a wide family of terms was actually needed to prove his point.

In the rest of the article, Yarnell summarizes his findings. After reminding his readers that “the ancient household was ‘the basic socio-political unit’ which had major religious and economic functions,” that “there was often a cult associated with a household’s god in which the householder functioned as the leader,” and that “household structure and terminology was frequently co-opted by religious associations,” he proceeds to identify five adaptations “of the structure of the household in the churches addressed in the Pastoral Epistles.” First, he sees a clear use of familial titles. Second, he sees the household as a locus of conversion and gathering. Third, he sees the household as a center of instruction. Fourth, he sees the household as a center of discipline. Last, he sees the clear identification of God with the householder (the father) figure. Finally, he also summarizes the Scripture references which refer to literal households.

While this essay provides good biblical data and did make a strong argument for the acceptance of οικος θεου as an important metaphor for the church, I was left wanting more elaboration on the outworking of this metaphor. It would also have been helpful for him to make a connection with and/or a distinction from the “family of God” metaphor.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Patterson. So You’ve Been Called to a Church - A short book review

Patterson, Paige. So You’ve Been Called to a Church. Wake Forest: Magnolia Hill Papers, 1996.

In this captivating essay, Patterson shares words of wisdom with the fictitious new pastor of New Mercy Seat Baptist Church. Since, in this candid heart to heart talk, his purpose is to address a new vocational pastor of a typical Baptist church, I will force myself to abstain from arguing matters of ecclesiology, and will just critique the work, given the audience for whom it is intended. Actually, regardless of the audience, the majority of his counsel is priceless and right on.

The bulk of Patterson’s plea with his readers consists of six existential insights. First, he makes a plea for anybody entering such a position to do so only because of the call of God on their lives. This comment cannot be understated and should more over be expanded to all believers, for as servants of the Most High, we should all seek to follow God’s calling on our lives. Second, he encourages his readers to “rule by love” or “not rule at all.” Patterson revels in pointing out that the KJV uses “rule” as a translation for hegeomai, yet he perceptively describes hegeomai as “moral ascendancy.” Translation issues aside, the point is that anybody whom the Spirit of God has put in a position of leadership can only do so by modeling the attitude of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He must love all, he must walk with God, and he must serve all. Only after years of modeling godliness and love, will anyone truly be considered a leader. Third, Patterson pleas for integrity and incarnational living; this implies honesty and humility. Fourth, he urges his reader to be courageous. He defines this attribute, which he has observed is frequently missing, as bravery, not bravado. It “is the ability to stand for truth and justice,” and is “characterized by restraint.” It is often needed on behalf of others and should be done with the fruits of the Spirit, not “allowing the root of bitterness to spring up in one’s life.” Fifth, due to the responsibility of teachers to indoctrinate their pupils, Patterson makes a plea for expository preaching. Here Patterson probably assumes a little of his audience, for he does not define expository preaching except for an indirect comment from Jeff D. Ray who claims that it is “difficult, laborious, and time-consuming to dig out an adequate interpretation of a passage of Scripture and coordinate the results of that patient digging in an effective, logical outline” (emphasis mine). His insistence on sola scriptura in preaching is appreciated, and so is his definition of fervency, for which he also pleas; by fervency he means “that the message is prepared in arduous study and marinated in prayer until the aroma of God has so permeated it in your own soul that your audience is riveterd to your message.” His sixth and final plea is for a consistent walk with God. This is as much for the preacher’s relationship with the body, as it is for his own personal life.

Patterson uses this topic to transition to a warning to his reader that the venture on which he is about to embark will be a torturous one. Due to human sin and churches’ abandonment of church discipline, troubles will come. This view of the church is a sad reality, but even sadder is the view of the preacher’s solitude in this situation (bar his relationship with God, of course). While Patterson does not advocate solitude, he seems to succumb to its apparent inevitability and is transparent about of his own grief in the matter. He is therefore compelled to give his reader some advice on what do to in those circumstances. First, keep on following one’s calling. Second, do not turn a pulpit into a “bully pulpit.” Third, trust in God.

Overall, most of Patterson’s insights to his fictitious pastor are beneficial to any believer who takes his call to be a minister seriously. This comes as no surprise since pastors and leaders are called to be examples (1 Pet 5, Heb 13). Having said that, vocational ministers who seek to glorify God in this vocation, more than anybody, should take this wisdom to heart.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hammett. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches - A short book review

Hammett, John. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005.

Hammett, motivated by his “concern for the welfare of the church,” writes a book which he believes accurately reflects Biblical teachings, is deeply rooted in Baptist history, is practical and applicable, and is urgently needed to help Baptist churches “be the radiant bride of Christ” (21). Not all these lofty goals are achieved on all subjects, but Hammett does provide a valiant attempt at it. His stated methodology, which he is consistent in using, is to begin with Scripture and then to enrich the understanding of Scripture with history. Once this process is completed, systematic theology can be formulated, and finally it can be used in practical ministry (16). He divides his work into five sections each centered on an individual question.

In What is the Church?, Hammett first takes a Biblical approach by analyzing the lexical terminology associated with the church. The bulk of his effort is centered on the word ekklēsia. Next, he presents three main images of the church: the people of God, the body of Christ, and the Temple of the Spirit. He then proceeds to look at the historical marks of the church and concludes that this is an ongoing task (65). Unfortunately, he does not offer a modern outworking of this task. The last chapter of this section presents a theological and practical answer by trying to identify the essence of the church. While he discusses several aspects that are very intrinsic to the essence of the church, one is still left wondering what exactly a church is. Why is a para-church not a church? What is the difference between a Bible study and a church?

In Who is the Church?, Hammett presents his biblical, historical, and theological plea for regenerate church membership. He offers some practical suggestions on how to recover regenerate church membership. First, he argues for a return to the use of a church covenant. His Biblical support is from Nehemiah 8-9, but the heart of his plea is pragmatic. Second, he argues for a reformation of Baptism and church membership. His plea for a separation between the application and the granting of membership leads him to suggest that Baptism be delayed, especially for children. Relational evangelism and the discipling of children seem to be more efficient methods of solving the issue, without requiring a child to disobey Christ by not following his Master in believer’s baptism. Last, he rightly pleas for re-instating church discipline in church life.

In How is the Church Governed?, Hammett argues for elder led congregationalism. A plurality of elders is suggested, with a single pastor “who sees himself as one of the leaders” (209), but “more important than the model of government is the character of the leaders” (210). In this model, he emphasizes that the “atmosphere to be cultivated is one of challenge, encouragement, and affirmation in the area of every member ministry” (212). Hammett is very pragmatic with his single pastor position, and the reader is left wanting Biblical support for several of his arguments.

In What Does the Church Do?, Hammett divides the ministry of the church into five aspects: teaching, fellowship, worship, service, and evangelism. He also presents a thorough look at the Lord’s Supper and Baptism as “more than simple symbols” (257).

Hammett concludes his book with Where is the Church Going?, a look at current and emerging trends, both nationally and internationally. He deals with the seeker movement, which he correctly accuses of pragmatism, and the emerging church movement, which he correctly chastises for its overemphasis on postmodern thought. He sees an impulse of some churches to want to travel to the past historically or to other cultures geographically to learn of how God’s Spirit has worked in those scenarios.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Brand and Norman, eds. Perspective on Church Government - 5 Views of Church Polity - A short book review

Brand, Chad Owen and R. Stanton Norman, eds. Perspective on Church Government - 5 Views of Church Polity. Nashville: B&H, 2004.

According to the editors, this book was assembled with a desire to “drive [the reader] more and more to the Word of God to find answers to how the church ought to be led today” (23). For this purpose, besides the introduction, which includes a short historical overview, the book presents five different authors’ writings on their view on church polity and the respective replies.

In The Single-Elder-Led Church, Akin, while comfortable with a multiplicity of congregational approaches (40), seeks to defend that “the case for the single-elder position, as a scriptural acceptable option, can be made on biblical, theological, and practical grounds” (64). In his quest, one of his repeated arguments is that “who is giving leadership and direction to the church is far more important than how many are involved in this assignment” (26, 44). Overall, Akin offers a good defense of congregationalism and of the singularity of the terms pastor/elder/overseer. He is weak in his defense of a single-elder-led congregation, at times falling into inconsistencies and unwarranted assumptions. I am afraid this position has been accepted because of pragmatism, and I join with Zahl in failing “to see a strong enough nod to the fluid and free-floating gifts of the Holy Spirit” (76).

In The Presbytery-Led Church, Reymond attempts “to demonstrate that the Presbyterian form of government alone passes biblical muster” (93). Reynolds is too bold in his approach, in light of his weak defense. Reymond falls prey to circular reasoning (143) and anachronistic exegesis (144). Also, he is not always consistent in his terminology. His emphasis on connectionalism is appreciated, but his avocation of the necessity for an “ecclesiastical connectionalism” (112, 154) is not. As White states: “independence does not mean isolation from fellow believers but independence from nonbiblical ecclesiastical structures” (140).

In The Congregation-Led Church, Garrett states that congregationalism “is that form of church governance in which the final human authority rests with the local or particular congregation when it gathers for decision-making” (157, 198). He produces a solid scriptural defense combined with commentator evidence from all backgrounds, a historical summary, a theological defense, and a pragmatic defense. Garrett spends time demonstrating that congregationalism, while not always easy, allows all people in the congregation to grow spiritually. He offers a small section warning against some of the modern phenomena in Baptist life which he believes conducive to true congregationalism (190-2).

In The Bishop-Led Church, the Very Rev. Dr. Theol. Paul F. M. Zahl presents a refreshing, provocative, candid, and honest view which is pragmatic, lacks scriptural support, and preferentially honors a specific tradition. His approach includes two categories: esse and bene esse, but he errs when he states that an esse for church polity “can never be sustained from the [Biblical] text” (214-6). His two proposed advantages for episcopacy are not even well defended.

In The Plural-Elder-Led Church, White states his thesis: that “the Scriptures do in fact show us locally autonomous congregations functioning directly under the headship of the Word, . . . and the divinely instituted guidance of the elders” (260). He offers a standard defense of biblical plural eldership. His main purpose seems to be to discredit a fictitious higher ecclesiastical body. His division of teaching and ruling elders is “reading into the text what is ‘plainly’ not there” (288). He also offers some practical considerations, but falls short of producing an “incontrovertible” (284) presentation.

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