This post continues my series on church polity. (See my posts “Introduction,” “Episcopal,” “Presbyterian,” and “Congregational” for introductions to the three major types of church polity. Then, in my previous post, “Scriptural Evidence,” I said that there was no direct scriptural evidence explaining how the church made decisions.) In this post, I was to point out a major problem with all three type of church polity.
What is that major problem? Selected and limited exegesis. In the case of each of the three types of church polity (episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational), support is demonstrated in certain scriptural passages, while other passages are ignored or explained away.
Furthermore, fact that believers never exercise authority over other believers in Scripture is completely ignored. Also, Scripture never shows some believers making decisions for other believers. The functioning of bishops, elders, pastors, leaders, evangelists, prophets, deacons, leaders, etc. are never shown to include decision-making or the exercise of authority. All of this (yes, evidence from silence… but very silent in the face of many decision that must be made by churches in the NT) must be ignored to support either episcopal or presbyterian governments. Similarly, the fact that we never see churches voting in Scripture must be ignored by those who support congregational polity.
Like I said, churches in the New Testament are faced with many problems – theological, ethical, social, moral, etc. Yet, in spite of this, no authors spell out the type of “government” the church should have in order to solve these problems. None. Not Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Not Paul. Not even Peter. Neither James nor Jude tell us what type of polity the church should have.
So far, in order to support any type of church polity, we must ignore the fact that there is no direct evidence, ignore passages that indicate indirectly other forms of church polity, and ignore the fact that polity is not important in any of the writings of the New Testament.
But, there is one more thing that we must ignore exegetically. We must ignore what Scripture says about all believers; things like the fact that all believers are indwelled by the Holy Spirit or all believers have the mind of Christ. We must ignore the fact that believers are to submit to one another. (I would assume this includes leaders? Even bishops? Even the presbyters?) We must ignore that believers are to consider others (and the opinions and desires of others) as more important than themselves. (I would assume this would include the majority versus the minority.)
How do we combine all of these things and still come to a conclusion on church polity? How can we have leaders without decision making? How can we have unity when we disagree? Where do we go from here? Don’t we need a polity or governance? Won’t everything fall apart if we don’t have a system in place?
Church Polity Series
- Scriptural Evidence
- The Problem
- Moving Forward
- From Experience