Monday, March 22, 2010

But You're Just a Ruling Elder!

Has anyone ever told you this? "You're just a Ruling Elder." Perhaps not with those exact words. Perhaps they phrased it more delicately (as a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure they would have). Maybe it wasn't phrased using the second person singular, but the third person plural: "Scholars disagree with that point of view." Of course, "that point of view" is the one you are advocating. Or perhaps it was said in the first person: "I, Dr. Smith, have studied these ancient cultures for so many years, that surely we can't so easily discount my advice." As a matter of fact, perhaps this sort of disdain for Ruling Elders was phrased so elegantly and so subtly that you bought into it. You thought to yourself, "Maybe Dr. Jones/scholars/this guy in front of me with an advanced theology degree knows better than I do." Perhaps this sort of speech was used to counter a point you made or perhaps it was used to prevent you from even speaking at all. A preemptive strike in the debate, if you will.

Ruling Elders, I write to encourage you to see through this sort of speech. And I hope to give some antidote to these kinds of attacks.

First, I want to address these sorts of attacks. I say attacks, because that's what they are. It doesn't sound like one, though, does it? Stating "Dr. Jones has done post-doc work in Ancient Mesopotamian cultures and as a result of years of study has reached conclusion X." does not sound the same as saying "Sit down and shut up, stupid." But in reality that is what is being said. By saying Dr. Jones has years of knowledge that contradicts your point of view, what is being implied is that you do not have years of knowledge, nor a PhD to back up your point of view. You don't know as much as Dr. Jones, therefore your point is invalid, therefore you should not be speaking. Or, to put it another way: "Sit down and shut up, stupid!" Have you encountered this line of reasoning before? I have. And now that I have encountered it, I am all the more able to see it the next time I come into contact with it.

Second, the solution to these attacks. The best solution is Scripture. Our Lord was no respecter of persons (Matt. 22:16), but all too often, we are. We shouldn't be. Jesus also told us not to call any man "teacher" (Matt 23:10), but all too often we call men "doctor" (meaning "teacher") and hold them in high regard and value their words more because of this title. We shouldn't. We should, though, remember that first great church council in Jerusalem, where apostles and elders came together, as equals, to settle matters pertaining to the faith (Acts 15:6). If the early church did not regard the Apostles as more able to settle this matter than the elders, and if the Apostles did not take such a high view of themselves that they sought to belittle the elders, why then do we uphold doctors of theology (or masters of divinity) as better able to instruct us than an "ordinary" Ruling Elder?

The reason is a low view of Scripture. "A low view of Scripture," you may ask yourself, "how do you reach that conclusion?" Here is how: when we honor the view of a man with a PhD or even an MDiv who has read Calvin in the original Latin or translated Turretin himself or held the original Dead Sea Scrolls in his hands, more than the elder who simply quotes Scripture (properly exegeted), we reveal that our view of Scripture is less than that of these artifacts. After all, he held the original Dead Sea Scrolls! You just can't argue with that! I mean, any sucker can quote 1 John, but this man is a scholar. You're just a Ruling Elder! Sit down and shut up, stupid.

This approach to questions of doctrine is evil, subtle, and deceitful. Those are attributes of Satan, not of Christ's undershepherds (1 John 3:8; Gen. 3:1; John 8:44). What this view does is dismiss Scripture in favor of man's opinion. And pay close attention, because although the men who do this may reference or quote Scripture, their final authority will not be Scripture. If their final authority were the Bible, they would be humble, deferring to others and listening to you, Ruling Elder, because you are an Elder in the Church of God, and that is the highest office one can be called to.

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding article!

    However, I am only an ordinary lay person so my praise might not mean as much to you as someone with a PhD.