They take the pulpit to be a stage...

Aside from Scripture, I've found Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor to be the most helpful book I've read on the calling of the teaching elder (pastor). Baxter's work is also extremely helpful for ruling elders. Strauch's Biblical Eldership is about the only contemporary book being read today on the eldership but I'd discourage its purchase or use due to Strauch's potent anti-clericalism. When I read him years ago, I found him to have a proudly disimissive attitude toward pastors that bore more resemblance to the galloping egalitarianism of American culture than, say, the Pastoral Epistles. But more on this later...

Here's the section of Baxter I quote more frequently than any other. Baxter is responding to those who object to pastors preaching to the conscience:

They say, "You are so precise and you keep talking about sin, and duty, and make such a fuss about these things, while pastor so-and-so, who is as great a scholar as you and as good a preacher, will be merry and joke with us and leave us alone, and never trouble himself or us with this sort of talk. You can never be quiet and you make more commotion than needs to be made; you love to frighten men with talk of damnation, when sober, well-educated, peaceable (reformed) pastors are quiet, and live with us like other men."

(People) will give you leave to preach against their sins, and to talk as much as you will for godliness in the pulpit, if you will but let them alone afterwards, and be friendly and merry with them when you have done, and talk as they do, and live as they, and be indifferent with them in your conversation. For they take the pulpit to be but a stage; a place where preachers must show themselves, and play their parts; where you have liberty for an hour to say what you (desire); and what you say they regard not, if you show them not, by saying it personally to their faces, that you were in good earnest, and did indeed mean them. -Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, (Banner of Truth, Carlisle PA: 1974) p. 85.

By the way, here's a page with a picture of Strauch among the other speakers at Doug Phillips Vision Forum's recent third annual Conference for Uniting Church and Family held in St. Louis this past week. Strauch and Phillips working together makes theological sense to me.

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Strauch must be a pretty good guy if Doug Phillips would let him speak at the conference. It's nice to see so many preachers making a stand for the family, and strengthening the church by doing so.

I followed the link in a comment on your blog a few weeks ago and heard the sermon by Voddie Baucham. WOW! I went and ordered some DVDs & CDs from him. I hope someday to find a Family Integrated Church, but no luck in my part of the country.

Tim:

I will have to respectfully disagree with you on Strauch. Though he is anti-clerical, I haven't found that it worms its way into the rest of the (excellent) discussion of Biblical eldership. He seems firmly against egalitarianism when it comes to ordaining women as elders. I do understand why a TE would bristle at his anti-clericism, though.

Have you done much blogging on Doug Phillips or Vision Forum? If not, I would love to hear your perspective.

In Love,

Dear Chris,

No offense taken.

However, the question is not one of individual officeholders being jealous for their own perquisites, which seems to me to be the implication of your statement that TE's might bristle at anti-clericalism. Rather the question is whether boards of elders rightly are led by a first among equals who moderates their meetings and is called to, and works hard at, teaching and preaching.

In practice, Strauch's anti-clericalism leads to a lack of respect for this man on the part of the rest of the elders. (In fairness let me say that, although I saw this theme throughout Strauch's book some years ago, he may have downplayed it in a revised edition.)

This is lethal in a church where the elders are not inclined to faithfulness to the Scriptural duties of elders--particularly discipline--and the moderator is the only one standing in the way of their betrayal of their trust. So as Strauch rightly commends discipline, he wrongly inoculates elders against the very respect for the moderator/pastor that the Apostle Paul commands in 1Timothy 5:17: "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching."

In my experience, this is a problem endemic to the PCA and it's not at all clear to me why a congregation should respect and obey elders who themselves refuse to give double honor to those they have called to work hard at preaching and teaching. In other words, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. "Hey dude, who made you boss-man over me? Haven't you ever heard of the priesthood of all believers?" And so on.

Hatred for authority is a core value of our culture and it only takes a spark to get the fire going. So in churches where the elders have been taught not to give double honor to their pastor, we'll watch as the fire spreads. Speaking historically, the Plymouth Brethren are the word to the wise that ought to be sufficient.

With love,

Tim Bayly

This discussion goes interestingly along with my husband's perspective of our local PCA (fomer home) church right now. The elders are finally seizing some control after the church being a solo show for the past 20 years by the pastor. There essentially might as well not have been an elder's board for most of the church's existence from my understanding (i.e. members of the elder's board on the books that didn't even attend the church anymore, etc.) So I was thinking it was positive that the elders were righting a wrong, until my husband explained that it's simply a pendulum swinging from one unhealthy extreme to the opposite, equally unhealthy end of the spectrum. The elder's board just announced in church a couple of weeks ago the second pastoral reorganization within the year. My husband says since there is no longer a pastor leading the elder's board, from all appearances, that it will just be a power show with the strongest man on the elder's board running the place now instead of the pastor.

I noticed the same thing about Strauch, Tim. His views on the office of elder are clearly "two office," which is the real reason that he disparages the office of minister.

Of course, i also dispise the PCA's ridiculous "two-and-a-half" office view. If i never am called "TE Austin" again, it will be too soon.

Really, Strauch's baptisic views play themselves out properly in his ecclesiology. Why *SHOULD* there be a distinction between pastor and elder in a purely congregational system? Of course, many PCAs have the same congregational mentality that says that there should be no distinction between "teaching" and "ruling elders."

Not long ago, i bought a 19th century copy of the old PCUSA standards. These were the standards before the split and they were revised by the Southern Presbyterians (considerably more baptistic) and the Northern Presbyterians (becoming more liberal). It equates the office of bishop with the office of pastor, and distinguishes it from the office of elder. This is true Prsesbyterianism (still held in some semblance by the RPCNA, the ARPC, and the OPC). If the "TE" is only a "first among equals" (i.e., same office, but different function, as the PCA holds), then there really *IS* no reason to have the pastor to be a member of the Presbytery and not the congregation. The newer micro denominations, like the Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church (anti-FV offshoot of the OPC, and taking in new member churches from the PCA as well), are much more consistent in this regard than the PCA.

No, i'll take the old designation of "Reverend" over being called "TE," and it is precisely because i believe that there *IS* clergy in the Church. Elders and ministers are distinct offices, not two functions of the same office. So, while i'm sure that there are some PCAs (like yourself) who would disagree with Strauch, i guess what i'm saying is that he's more consistent in his ecclesiology than the "two functions of one office" folks are. I don't know where exactly you stand on the issue, but the whole use of the TE/RE designation is part and parcel to the "hybrid" view.

"Strauch and Phillips working together makes theological sense to me."

Is that a compliment or a veiled slam? I can't tell. Given that earlier in the post you expressed a dislike of Strauch, I suspect it's the latter.

Consider me ignorant...but I believe Strauch's book is the required reading in our church in order to even be considered for Eldership. And you know from previous conversations that my pastor isn't a theological slouch.

Can you further enlighten us with the point you are trying to make here???

Thanks.

Charley

The working relationship of pastor and elders depends upon mutual respect and trust. Both clerical tyranny and elder self-will lead to strife over which office is the greatest and this strife poisons their working relationship. While clericalism has been a large problem in past centuries, rebellion against authority is a much greater problem in our time.

Consequently, despite the many theologically astute pastors who use Strauch, I'd suggest either of the following as much superior (and free):

Richard Baxter's "The Reformed Pastor"

http://www.reformed.org/books/baxter/reformed_pastor/index.html

Samuel Miller's "The Ruling Elder"

http://www.reformed.org/books/ruling_elder/index.html

Editor's Note:

This comment has been removed because it contained accusations against a third party without being signed with a legitimate name and email address.

David Bayly

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