Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Agree or disagree?

"The principle by which we are to be guided in determining what appointments in the apostolic churches are to be considered as binding for all time, and what discretionary, may be stated thus. Whatever can be CLEARLY shown from Scripture, either by precept or example, to have been instituted by the apostles, and which cannot be shown to have had its origin in the temporary and peculiar circumstance of their time, is binding on us and for all time. Whatever can be shown to have had its origin in the peculiarities of that time, is not binding, the same peculiarities no longer existing. Upon this principle, deaconesses, a plurality of elders, and the 'holy kiss', are omitted now. Upon this principle also, the frequency of the Lord’s Supper is left to the pious discretion of the churches." -- William Williams, Apostolical Church Polity, American Baptist Publishing Society, 1874


Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that the central weight is given to the apostles of Jesus, rather than to Jesus himself.

R. L. Vaughn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R. L. Vaughn said...

Will, thanks of the comment. It is good to hear from you again. That is a careful observation and a point that I missed. Perhaps that is because of a difference in our perspectives. It is probably Williams' view that the bulk of New Testament church practice is found in Acts and the epistles, as opposed to the Gospels (I'm just guessing here).

When I read this quote, I immediately keyed in on how his approach excluded the plurality of elders and the holy kiss. I do not agree with Williams' conclusion that "whatever can be shown to have had its origin in the peculiarities of that time is not binding." In fact, I can't even see why he would think plurality of elders, weekly communion or deaconesses had their origin "in the peculiarities of that time." I can understand that argument in relation to the holy kiss, though I don't necessarily agree.

I have noticed that it is a quite common practice among modern Baptists (perhaps others, but I can't really say for certain) to point out that the book of Acts is "descriptive, not prescriptive." Certainly it is descriptive. But of what is it descriptive? The apostles and prophets doing their own thing and making it up as they go? The apostles and prophets teaching them to observe all things Christ commanded them? Being guided by the Spirit into all truth? Just something to think about.

Anonymous said...

I realise that my statement might have been too curt.

I don't want to set the apostles against Jesus, of course. Still, in Acts (and even directly in the letters) we see the primitive church leaders making mistakes. And this is good, because we make mistakes, and need to know how to live in them. And we see them doing the right thing, too. And so great importance must be placed on their words and actions.

But, at the end of the day, Jesus is the Lord, not Paul, not Peter; and he remains Lord. To what extent it is the case the 'Jesus Christ has come to teach his people' in the present--in our particularlites--is yet a great mystery to me. And so I go back to his teaching as central.

Jesus did, of course, teach about practice--in fact, you might say he taught mostly about practice. His kingdom teachings, especially the sermon on the mount, are crucial for the church. If the sermon on the mount were printed separately as an 'epistle,' it would be longer than 14 or 15 of the ones we have, including Philippians, Colossians, the pastorals, James, either Peter.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Will, I didn't take your statement as curt. Sorry that my response might have implied that. I do think it is interesting and does suggest somewhat of a different approach. I do think that the Sermon on the Mount and other parts of the Gospels are sometimes neglected in preference to the other writings of the New Testament. One popular dispensational teaching I've heard places the Sermon on the Mount for the future rather than the present -- rules for the millennial reign of Christ (I don't agree with that; just mentioning it).

I think I may have mentioned it before. The way I view inspiration means that I give "equal weight" to the epistles of Paul, Peter, etc. -- not because I think they are equal with Christ, but because I believe (for example) when Peter says "desire the sincere milk of the word" or Paul says "lay hands suddenly on no man", they are quoting Christ -- writing down His words to us. Jesus Christ the Son of God is our Lord and Saviour. Paul, Peter, James and Jude are mere servants. But when they quote their Master, they are His words and not their own. I suppose I would also say that His teaching is central and that what His servants write is also His teaching. I don't write this to say this is different from what you believe, but as an attempt to portray in simple terms what I believe.