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Monday, 12 October 2015

Impostor "offices" in the Modern Church

One lesson from the Reformation
Protestants learnt some good lessons from the reformation (small "r" because it was only partial - little was done, for example, to reform the church's ecclesiology back to the New Testament's vision of the church as a body). We don't buy into everything the reformers, whether Zwingli or Calvin, Luther or Melanchthon taught or did - only One Man deserves that sort of following. But they did take us back to the New Testament in important ways - and that is what reformation is always all about (when it is genuine).

The reformers said that no man should be called a priest, rightly so. The office of "priest" is an impostor office, an office that imposes itself unlawfully on the church. Jesus Christ is our High Priest and we need no human priests any longer. For a man to call himself a priest (which means mediator between man and God) puts him in blasphemous competition with the Great High Priest. So away with priests.....

Two Lessons from Jesus and his Apostles
Jesus exhorted us to call no man "father" (Matthew 23:9), because we have only one Father, our Father in heaven. His apostles know of only two church offices, that of pastor (synonymous with bishop and elder) and deacon (1 Timothy 3, Philippians 1:1), and it is not even clear whether those men (in the case of elders) or men and women (in the case of deacons) should be called/named that, "Deacon Helen, Elder Bob".

So there are only two offices, elder and deacon and that's it. There are evangelists and apostles with a small "a" (sent ones - missionaries for example), but no other offices in the church.

A modern reformation needed
However, sneaking into the church by the false academy door, is a new office in the protestant church, or two. There is the "Scholar" and the "Theologian" - or even one I have recently seen "Theologian at large". The idea is that the church needs folk who spend all their time in books, and that these men should be given a voice in conferences and their books given precedence over those written by the mere plebs of the church - namely full-time Gospel pastors. This notion presides over many of the conferences that are held for church pastors: what dignifies the conference is the presence of some famous scholar.

But "scholars", "theologians" and "academics" are impostor offices in the church of Jesus Christ. There is no warrant for them in Scripture, and the sooner we exclude them from positions of influence and authority, the better. The only men who should be listened to authoritatively are those whom God has called by the Holy Spirit to the office of pastor (=elder=bishop).

We honour men like John Piper and Timothy Keller and John MacArthur purely because they are Spirit-anointed pastors (who, by the way, did you know?, spend alot of time studying God's word. But then, every pastor and every Christian should be an avid student of the Word).

Where does this come from?
Where does this foolish honouring of scholars, theologians and academics in the church come from? This crazy pursuit of man-made eternity-forgotten academic qualifications?  It comes from the seductive nature of the academy (i.e. pride) and the academisation of the modern church. To be a something in a scientific knowledge-based, knowledge-honouring culture, you have to be called Dr or Prof or some similar weird title. Such is the power of this seduction that pastors aren't happy with being mere pastors, so they embark on PhDs so that people might be really impressed with them because they will then be called "Dr." It comes, ultimately from Satan's first seduction - Eve was attracted by new knowledge; the fruit would give her desirable wisdom (Gen 3:6).

A great added tragedy of this pursuit of the academy, is that most of the modern errors in the church have come through men and women who hold these impostor offices and are not accountable to their/any local churches. In the most recent spate of moral errors the books propagating immorality are mostly written by Bible College lecturers over the pond.

The next reformation must take us back to fishermen and ex-tax-collectors and ex-scholars like Paul (who called all that academic jazz 'dung') and back to men who filled with the Holy Spirit are called to influence the church; and not because they've studied at some "prestigious" (but unknown in heaven - where it counts) institute of learning or have earned some higher degree, but because they have been with Jesus. "Scholars", "theologians", "academics" and what nots would be consulted when and if necessary, but with no authority whatsoever assigned to them.

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