Just in case you hadn't realized from the banner photo on the top of this blog page, there's been some personnel changes in the critically acclaimed folk/rock band Caedmon's Call. It seems that Cliff Young, who was the least talented musician in the band anyway, had a falling out with the band and left to pursue a fruitless solo career in kazoo playing. Thus, I, Andrew Groves am here to fill his shoes with purpose and skill. The next Caedmon's album will feature the amazing songwriting talents of myself and Andrew Osenga and is predicted to go platinum. Caedmon's fans... here I come.
Don't we all love the Home and Garden channel? Its stimulating and provocative programming keeps viewers like us captivated, thirsting for more. While statements like this may be true for some people, they are not true for the majority of you reading this post. So, if we don't enjoy watching the Home and Garden channel, why do we pay for it in our cable bills? One word: bundling.
You see, bundling is very simple: cable providers refuse to give you ESPN, for example, unless you also subscribe to Disney. But what if I don't want the Disney channel? It doesn't matter because Disney owns ESPN and wants you (the naïve consumer) to subscribe to all of their channels or none of their channels. Frustrating, isn't it? The reason our cable bills are so high is due to the number of channels in our cable plans. But we are not given a choice of the channels comprising our bundle; we're just given a basic cable bundle and sent on our way.
Why am I making such a fuss over this? Let me illustrate. Imagine that a nice young boy from down the street is selling magazine subscriptions to raise money for a class field trip. "Oh, how precious," you think to yourself. "Maybe I'll just renew my subscription to National Geographic, and he'll be on his way." However, when you tell Billy that all you want is National Geographic, he informs you that in order to get National Geographic, you have to pay for four other magazine subscriptions. "But I'm not interested in these other four magazines! All I want is National Geographic." Well, that's too bad because (in this fictional account) a megacompany owns all of these magazines and only offers this set of five magazines bundled together.
You see, cable is a visual form of magazine subscriptions. They have employed a system known as "narrow-casting" to appeal to specific viewers, as opposed to "broad-casting" that appeals to a mass audience. In other words, an outdoorsman would want the Outdoorsman's channel, and a chef would want the Food Network. Cable channels focus on narrow subjects, and should be available in whatever combination a consumer desires. If you want to read more about this, I invite you to visit the following website. It might just open your eyes to some new possibilities with cable: how you should be able to customize channels and keep cash in your wallet.
The following are some thoughts concerning the Presbyterian structure of church government. The author of these thoughts shall remain anonymous...
The crux of this improper understanding of the church government rests in two areas: a failure to recognize the local church as an autonomous body and the false dichotomy of "teaching" and "ruling" elders. The first is the result of a fear that left to themselves, churches would run amok, and therefore they need to be governed by an outside agency (the Presbytery). Unfortunately for Presbyterians, it is clear in the New Testament (particularly in the writings of Paul) that local congregations were not subject to the oversight of anyone. This does not mean that the could not be rebuked or challenged when they were unfaithful, but it does mean that they and their pastor bore the responsibility for maintaining fidelity to doctrine and theology. If a pastor or a member of the body is driven out, Paul does not come and exercize some "authority" in removing them, but he implores them to take their own action to expel unbelievers. Ultimately, the shepherd of the flock is responsible for his sheep, and in that responsibility he should be teaching them in a way that makes a Biblical reaction involuntary when issues occur.
Sam [Lamerson] claims that a strong argument for Presbyterian government is, "First, this seems to be the kind of government that the early church practiced in the book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul. The early churches were ruled by a plurality of elders and these elders came together to rule on theological issues." While it is true that Paul and others came together and often called churches out for unfaithfulness or sin, they did not ever exercize authority over a church by removing members or a pastor. They were calling for reform, not forcing it upon an autonomous local church. He also suggests that total depravity requires accountability to keep it in check. I wholeheartedly agree- and it's clear in the New Testament that accountability rests with the church itself. It is the responsiblity of the congregation to rebuke or expel their pastor if he is in unrepentant sin, and likewise with any brother or sister in the same situation. Appealing to an outside authority is both unnecessary and extemporaneous; the church should be equipped (by the pastor) to handle any such incidence.
The other side to this coin is the false dichotomy between "ruling" and "teaching" elders. It's very unclear in the New Testament that there exists a separate class of "ruling" elders. Much of this comes from the "Overseer Qualifications" passage in I Timothy, but the "ability to teach" is clearly delineated in that passage. Additionally, all of what the Presbyterians would call "ruling elders" at the Jerusalem council taught, so which were they, ruling or teaching? The bottom line is that to be an "elder" or "overseer," it is clear in Scripture that you must be able to teach, which seems to make you a teaching elder. There's also a strong argument from Greek here, however, I'm not proficient enough to state it yet. Ruling elders are pastors, teaching elders are pastors, overseers are pastors. If you are not a pastor, you have no authority over a church.
A few closing comments: Baptists have a book of church order as well- it's called the Bible, and it contains all we need to understand government, discipline and "trials" (if you want to call them that). Second, as I read through the "levels" of church government, it occurs to me that none of this is clearly (or even vaguely) laid out in Scripture. They are clearly constructions of expediency and practicality. There is no session, board or presbytery in the New Testament, there are local churches and pastors. I find it odd that the "reformers" are so in love with a book of church order, a book that is essentially just tradition. The Catholics and and Anglicans have books of church order too, and for that matter, so do the Methodists, though they don't follow it much anymore. All that said, the Presbyterians are my brothers and sisters, but they need to get their act together on Baptism and Ecclesiology.