Scholars and shepherds: another angle on Roman Catholic ecclesiology...
Under Francis Beckwith's post announcing his conversion to Roman Catholicism, one Roman Catholic commented:
Welcome back (to Rome)! I am a clergy convert myself.
To which I commented that Dr. Beckwith is not “clergy.” He has no congregation he has been set apart by the Holy Spirit to shepherd. For my own understanding of his error, this is key. Go back to the Erasmus/Luther debate, and the same distinction is pivotal. Erasmus is a scholar, Luther a shepherd.
Dr. Beckwith is not “clergy.” He has no congregation he has been set apart by the Holy Spirit to shepherd. For my own understanding of his error, this is key. Go back to the Erasmus/Luther debate, and the same distinction is pivotal. Erasmus is a scholar, Luther a shepherd.
Here is one more key distinction between Geneva and Rome. Church government done according to Scripture makes the session (elders board) of a particular church the court of original jurisdiction in disciplinary matters, whereas Rome, following her traditional hierarchical government, removes discipline from the hands of the shepherd of the flock, elevating it to professionals.
Yes, in Acts 15 we see Antioch appealing to Jerusalem. Similarly, the local session may appeal to the presbytery and the presbytery to the general assembly. But the doctrine of subsidiarity is foundational to Presbyterian ecclesiology whereas Roman Catholics seem to find it most useful only in non-ecclesiastical contexts. Why does this matter?
It matters because Roman Catholic bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and Rome engage in doctrinal controversy *at least* one step removed from the souls being devoured by particular wolves. By way of contrast, think of the Apostle Paul, shepherd to the Ephesian church and co-laborer with a very specific plurality of elders, warning those elders:
Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:26-32).
Thus yesterday I found myself wondering what shepherd knew of Dr. Beckwith’s dalliances over the past months and years, and warned him day and night with tears?