Shepherds sneaking into the fold, undercutting "properly recognized and authorized shepherds"...
(Tim, with thanks to Dave C.) Commenters on this blog warn those who would "commit their very soul and eternal destiny to men (who preach) lacking the proper authority from God's ordinary means of salvation, the Church" pointing out that "the Church is the one given the task of calling and charging ministers with particular tasks and spheres of ministry." They conclude their warning: "Nor should we take kindly to supposed shepherds to sneak into the fold and take allegiance away from properly recognized and authorized shepherds..."
So I wonder who they'd side with in this battle? In this particular case (which is by no means rare across church history) who is it who is "lacking the proper authority from ...the church?" Who are the "properly recognized and authorized shepherds?"
One of the very many problems with this Neo-Old School, Mark Noll, Daryl Hart argument is its failure to acknowledge that, by this very construct, John the Baptist, our Lord, and the Apostles all abrogated to themselves authority that bypassed those who claimed to be the only true successors to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron. In other words, John the Baptist, our Lord, and every one of the Apostles were "lacking the proper authority ...from the church," and were not "properly recognized and authorized shepherds."
Now of course, our Neo-Old School brothers may be fleet of foot, responding to this objection by saying that John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles all had the anointing of the Lord, and therefore were themselves the rightful successors to Aaron. But this is begging the question. Who knew it at the time except through the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Weren't the Apostles "unschooled, ordinary men?" And if so, what on earth gave them the right to preach, teach, and baptize?
Fact is, all through the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic church used the same arguments used by our Neo-Old School brothers today to silence evangelical ministries ordained and empowered by the Spirit of God. And those who oppose such ministries as those of Whitefield, Edwards, and the Tennents need to pause and ask themselves what, after all, the Word of God does mean when it warns us not to quench the Holy Spirit?
Officialdom is good, but officialdom is also quite dangerous and must be used with meekness and humility lest we're left with the Sanhedrin and the temple courts filled with merchants, every one of which has the proper certification stamped with the imprimatur of the proper ecclesiastical authority.
When Calvin and Luther set about to reform the Roman Catholic Church, Rome's officialdom made precisely the same arguments against them as are still being made today against men such as Whitefield, Edwards, and Tennent. But the reformers appealed to the marks of the church, answering that those who claimed for themselves the title of "the true church," and yet didn't administer the Sacraments biblically, didn't preach in a way faithful to God's Word, and didn't exercise biblical church discipline only spoke in behalf of synagogues of Satan--not the true Church.
So, dear brothers: Either they were right and the same judgment needing to be made at the time of the Reformation and in Colonial times must be made yet today. Or they were wrong and Rome's our home. Take your pick, Neo-Old School men; one side or the other.