Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Debate With Wind on Church Hierarchies

This is a response to a comment left by someone using the name wind. I block quoted some scripture quotes as well so I put Mr Wind's comments in green to distinguish them.
Well, I'll leave the "father" debate to a disagree. The way the Catholic church uses the word is precisely the context that Jesus was referring to, and not because I still haven't gotten "the basics" but because it's precisely the problem with the papacy and the man-made hierarchy that they impose.
So if you accepted the Catholic understanding of the priesthood and the papacy then the problem with the title would go away? So the problem is not the word but bigger Catholic doctrines? That is why Catholic/Protestant dialogues don't focus on Mat. 23:9 much. Even when I was protestant I never liked that argument so maybe I have not respected it enough. Sorry.
However as you go on I would concede that the Protestant churches are every bit as ego prone. I suppose I'm not a proper Protestant either since I believe that I have one Father and He is in Heaven. I've never had much use for the hierarchy, and while you point out accurately that this is not unbiblical I believe the error comes in the implementation almost 100% of the time. A good pastor or even a good Christian in general will help point toward God, anything else is just fluff.
But leaders are important. They are not going to be perfect but we do need them. Hebrews 13:7 says:
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
There are many other passages that talk about leaders in the church (Rom 12:8, Luke 22:26). There is simply no biblical basis for a leaderless church. They only question is how should that leadership be structured and how should leaders be chosen.
In the end Jesus says that the authority Pilot had over him was given by God and they used that authority to crucify Him. They used it wrongly. You see, this is an entirely secular example, but the same principle. The Roman centurion also understood these principles in a purely secular sense. However, the only real authority that comes from God is inescapable (by earthly means) anyway. As was the situation Jesus was in. The Pope is quite escapable as is any Pastor I've ever known. They have power because people give them power and if you can escape it is quite fine to do so assuming God has not told you to stay. God told you to stay and me to flee. There's no contradiction though, we all have different jobs to do and I certainly couldn't be doing what I'm doing now if almost any of my previous "bosses" whether Priest or Pastor had their way.
Pilate is a good example. He was given authority over Jesus by God. He abused that authority. Jesus still respected it.He didn't escape it even though He could. Look at Mat 23:1-3:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
So Jesus says the Pharisees are lousy leaders. Does he tell them to escape? No. He tells them to obey. The authority of the pharisees was replaced by the authority of the apostles. Are we any less obligated to obey them? The question is where is that apostolic authority today?

If you knew a bit more of my story you'd know that the last 20 years have taken me far beyond the basics. I've experienced churches in ways that make the Pharisees look good. Sure, I have managed to avoid crucifixion but I'm suspicious that maybe that is only because of modern cultural norms. Don't get me wrong, I've seen glimpses of good too, like an oasis in a desert.

I know there are some heart breaking stories. Bad leaders have done real damage. Both in Catholic and protestant situations. Catholics do have a bishop or a pope above the bad leader and can rectify the situation. They don't always but they are there. But Jesus didn't disband the disciples because of Judas. He expected human failings. Right after Jesus gave Peter the blessing of the rock and the keys He referred to Peter as Satan. He knew leaders would be fallible but He also knew there would be moments where we could say "this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven" (Mt 16:17).
I'm currently settled on never referring to "churches" as Church. I believe the two are virtually unrelated. Jesus demonstrated the Church in His lifetime. I don't recall an instance where He ever drew a contextually relevant parallel to buildings or human hierarchies. "The Church", "The Body", "The Vine" ... it was all much too big, much too spontaneous, and much too complex to fit into a building.

Mat 16:18 does refer to the church as being built on Peter. So that is a hierarchy of at least one person. Then there is Mat 18:15-20:
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
 "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
 "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Here Jesus says the church should settle disputes among believers. He tells us we must obey the church. He does not say we should escape when we are sure they church got it wrong. Quite the opposite.

But then he gives the apostles the power to bind and loose. That was a language that rabbi's would use when they made moral judgments. If the verdict was "bind" the thing in question was immoral. If the verdict was "loose" the verdict was that it was moral. So all the apostles were to be exercising authority like Old Testament rabbi's did. 

The other relevant passage 1 Tim 3. In verse 15 Paul calls the church "the pillar and foundation of the truth". But the whole chapter is about deacons and overseers. Again, scripture assumes a hierarchy.
This is a new wine skin. People fleeing different churches will assemble at random, hear sermons at their lunch tables, choose to be with teachers because of their God given authority and not their Seminary given authority. It's happening every day, and very few churches get it. They're too busy counting last week's offering. I'm blessed to teach and be taught many days per week. Not in a big congregation, but 1 to 1, not in generalities presented with charisma and showmanship, but in specifics presented with first hand knowledge, compassion, and the Holy Spirit's discernment. It's a better way and it won't work to its full potential until churches embrace it. Until Pastors and Priests hand over the programs and plans in exchange for real relationships. Until they are humble enough to trade man-made authority for God-breathed. REAL relationships, Truth must always be REAL. Anything else is just bovine scatology.
How do you know what you are taught in these 1 to 1 relationships is true?  Is there not potential for abuse there too? Confession is a time when we as Catholics get a 1 to 1 encounter with a priest. It is a good thing. But I had 1 to 1 encounters in my protestant church as well. The question is not the size of the audience but whether the teacher has authority from God to teach the true gospel.

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