Sunday, July 14, 2013

Church authority

Some critics of Abolish Human Abortion are making very loose claims about church authority. To put the issue in perspective, I'm going to quote some judicious statements by A. A. Hodge, in his classic commentary on the Westminster Confession.

I have one caveat with how the position is formulated. It would be better not to prooftext the claim by appeal to Mt 16:19. For one thing, the meaning of the metaphors ("keys," "binding," "loosing") is too disputable to secure the claim. In addition, prerogatives conferred on apostles aren't ipso facto transferable to church officers.

However, the substance of the claim can be easily proven from other NT passages. So nothing hangs on that particular prooftext. 

All Church power must be exercised in an orderly manner through the officers spoken of above, freely chosen for this purpose by the brethren ; and it relates — " 1. To matters of doctrine. She has a right to set forth a public declaration of the truths which she believes, and which are to be acknowledged by all who enter her communion. That is, she has a right to frame creeds or confessions of faith, as her testimony for the truth and her protest against error. And as she has been commissioned to teach all nations, she has the right of selecting teachers, of judging of their fitness, of ordaining and sending them forth into the field, and of recalling and deposing them when unfaithful. 2. The Church has power to set down rules for the ordering of public worship 3. She has power to make rules for her own government; such as every Church has in its book of discipline, constitution or canons, etc. 4. She has power to receive into fellowship, and to exclude the unworthy from her own communion."   

This last power is commonly styled "the power of the keys" i. e. of opening and closing the doors of the Church, of admitting or excluding from sealing ordinances. Matt. xvi. 19. In view of two unquestionable facts — (a) to forgive sin is an incommunicable attribute of God and Christ ; (b) God has given to no class of men the faculty of absolutely discriminating the good from the bad — it follows that the Church power of opening and shutting, of binding and loosing, spoken of in Matt. xvi. 19 and in the second Section of this Chapter, is purely ministerial and declarative. Church censures declare simply what is, to the best of their knowledge, in the opinion of the church officers pronouncing them, the mind and will of Christ in the case. And they have direct binding effect only in so far as the relations of the person censured to the visible Church is concerned. They can have effect upon the relations of the censured to God and to Christ only in so far as they represent the will of Christ in the case, and because they do.  

It belongs to synods and councils (a) at proper times to form creeds and confessions of faith, and to adopt a constitution for the government of the Church. (6.) To determine particular controversies of faith and cases of conscience, (c.) To prescribe regulations for the public worship of God, and for the government of the Church, (d.) To take up and issue all cases of discipline, and, in the case of the superior courts, to receive appeals and complaints in all cases of maladministration in the case of individual officers or subordinate courts, and authoritatively to determine the same.  

All synods and councils since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred ; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice; but to be used as a help in both. That is, these synods and councils, consisting of uninspired men, have no power to bind the conscience, and their authority cannot exclude the right, nor excuse the obligation, of private judgment. If their judgments are unwise, but not directly opposed to the will of God, the private member should submit for peace' sake. If their decisions are opposed plainly to the word of God, the private member should disregard them and take the penalty.  

But in every case in which the decrees of these ecclesiastical courts are consonant to the word of God, they are to be received by all subject to the jurisdiction of said court, not only because of the fact that they do agree with the word of God, but also because of the proper authority of the court itself as a court of Jesus Christ, appointed by him, and therefore ministerially representing him in all of its legitimate actions. 


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  2. The damning euphemism called “selective reduction”

    Selective abortion of twins, triplets, quadruplets etc.

    1. Watching the video of the woman I couldn't help but thinking, "She's a robot. She's not human. There's no sadness in her voice." In fact, she's almost smiling about what she did. Absolutely shocking!