Sunday, January 2, 2011

Baptism in the Theology of A. H. Strong - Relation Between Local Churches - Summary of Ecclesiology Part III

The last topic covered by Strong, before transitioning to a whole chapter on the ordinances, is on the relation between local churches. Strong postulates "the absolute equality of the churches," where churches fellowship, cooperate, and care for each other as should individual Christians. He continues this parallel between churches and believers, as he writes of taking and giving advice, and of a church's labor to reclaim a sister church that is erring.[17] He advocates the involvement of "other rightly constituted churches" in ordination councils so that if a pastor transfers from one church to another, ordination need not be repeated.[18] He also considers useful the calling of a "council of churches" to advise a group of believers on the "desirableness of constituting a new and distinct local body." This council, though, only has an advisory role, not a constitutive role, for each church is directly under the headship of Christ, and all are "on an equal footing." Not only that, but "all are independent of interference or control by the civil power."[19]

After this overview of Strong's ecclesiology, in the next post we will start to interact with Strong's doctrine of baptism.

[17] Strong, Systematic Theology, 926-29.

[18] Ibid., 922. In addition to the inclusion of other churches, Strong insists on the presence of non-ordained members in ordination councils, since "the whole church is to preserve the ordinances and to maintain sound doctrine, and [because] the unordained church member is often a more sagacious judge of a candidate's Christian experience than his own pastor would be" (920-21). In keeping with this logic, Strong advocates that "the candidate for ordination should be a member of the ordaining church" (920). Conversely, with regard to pastors of other denominations wanting to pastor a local Baptist church, he advocates their re-ordination (924).

[19] Ibid., 902; 898. With regard to the state, Strong also adds that "the church as an organized body should be ashamed to depend for revenue upon the state" (899).

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