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Mar 02, 2007


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good stuff.

in the "Story of Christian Theology" by Roger Olson he describes how the increase in hierarchy during the 2nd and 3rd ctry of Xty was "necessary" to avoid chaos and becoming a folk religion. I beg to differ and believe that it was because of the greater hierarchy in Xty that Xty was susceptible to becoming Constantinized in the 4th ctry.


Michael Kruse

It seems to me that as the movement expanded there would clearly need to be some organizational connectionalism. Unfortunately, it appears to me, that in the face of crisis they fell back on the only to organizational models they had been exposed to: OT and Greco-Roman structures. I think God had something new in mind for us to enter.

I think you are right. In a sense the Church structure began to become more and more like the empire which made it easy for the empire to embrace and co-opt it.

Sam Carr

Michael, isn't there a sense that we can see the trend towards hierarchies laid out in the NT period itself along with the trend to keep women in less then leadership positions?

Of course the 2nd and 3rd Cs consolidated, elaborated and established the control and command structures - very often as a necessary means to controlling heresies, but if the basic ideas are there in the NT itself, are we actually not calling for a return to a more biblical way but are instead trying to plow a new furrow?

Michael Kruse

Sam, I guess I would need to unpack what you mean by "trend toward hierarchies" and "plow a new furrow."

I don't see hierarchy developing in the NT in the direction of clergy/laity. I see a seemingly ad hoc structure forming in the NT. Elders are selected by the community in some places and appointed in others. Deacons in one locale and not another. Interchangeability of "titles" and seemingly overlapping responsibilities. It is my take that we frequently read back on to some of the "titles" in the NT (like pastor or elder) from our context much more than is actually there. It is basically that the more mature should lead and bring the less mature to maturity.

I would say that there is no biblical model of church governance. I think structure and governance has to flow out of mission and that there may be man legitimate ways of organizing for mission. The experience of the early centuries was one attempt to organize for mission that IMO was corrupted by cultural influences and then those structures were made sacred and unalterable. I largely question the idea that there is one biblical way.

How do you see this?

Sam Carr

I do agree with you as far as our tendency to read back into scripture what is not there. On the other hand, looking at the evidence, starting with a 'leadership' already being in place i.e. the apostles and within this group a sort of big 3 + 1 (Peter, James, John + Paul) 'calling the shots', so to speak. Then we have Paul in the pastorals with both Titus and Timothy basically asking them to do something like micromanagement. In various epistles we have Paul specifically addressing particular persons who appear to be de facto leaders and through whom Paul both passes instructions and expects that His messengers will be obeyed.

I agree that this does not amount to anything like what the church has done with it but there does seem to be some movement towards a structure of authority.

Michael Kruse

Thanks Sam. Good observations. What Stevens will get at more specifically later in the book is that nature of authority and leadership.

Authority is not a bad thing. There are different types of authorit. It is instructive to me how nearly everytime I get into discussions about what Stevens is writing, the anxiety level over authority and power goes through the roof. (Though not here ... yet. :) ) Stevens' concern is not about authority and power. It is about the nature of ministry. Yet I find that a great many can't even hear what he is saying about ministry because they are so anxious about power issues. On several occassions when getting into these issues I have been told "You have a problem with authority" and then tuned out. I think mission and ministry have to be appreciated before we can begin to talk about authority and leadership.

Elton Trueblood used to describe the role of a pastor as a player-coach. I have found few other metaphors that sum it up much better.


I am away behind in reading this good stuff. I think the difference with Paul was that has authority came from relationship with the people he was addressing and not from appointment to a position.

Apostles exercise authority "looking back".

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