“Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.”
Well...I think there is an inherent evil in the forming of associations/conventions. There is that urge (even one out of an honest desire to do God's work faithfully) to usurp church authority. While many would have a heart attack at the thought, it is a common trait of organizations. Very rarely does an organization decrease in power. Usually it increases in power. However, an association, in theory, is not an evil thing, it's just that there are sinful men involved in the association, etc. which always creates problems.
Well, Matt, you beat me to it! I was gonna make some analogy about the institution of a form of government that began with the philosophy of SERVING the people, but ended up foisting it's own special-interest, agenda-driven will upon them. It will NEVER relinquish an ounce of the power it has absorbed. Is this form of government (democratically elected representative republican) inherently evil? No. It's ours, and I think it's better than anything else going. Those seeking to "reinterpret" it's founding documents for personal and/or political gain, however, are. But, isn't that the nature of men (looking for the legal loopholes)?Sorry, everything's political to me...But, then again, aren't associations and conventions political?I think it boils down to founding agreements among the associates and how "iron clad" it's statutes are. Like Matt said, if men want badly enough to mess it up, they'll find a way.
As one who collects information about Baptists, I find associations a boon -- minutes and yearbooks gather info that would be hard to compile if all churches were completely unaffiliated. So from that standpoint (as a researcher) I really like them. But that doesn't speak to the Scriptural issue.A big problem with association as an organization (as opposed to association as fellowship) is that there is no Scriptural pattern by which to proceed. While the New Testament churches are found freely associating with one another, they are not found "organizing" in order to do so. Any organization will at best be formed in the sanctified wisdom of born-again believers. At worst...well, we don't even want to think about that.Even good men with an honest desire to do God's work faithfully cannot agree on how to take New Testament principles of church autonomy, equality, voluntarism, etc. and put them into a workable format. How many times have Baptists split, not because they disagreed on essential doctrines, but simply because they disagreed on the "proper" way to associate through an organization? This can be found a number of times in Texas alone. And how much time is spent at associations, conventions, etc. just arguing over the "politics" of how to associate, how to proceed with this question or that one?
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