Item description for Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views of Church Polity (Perspectives) by Chad Owen Brand, R. Stanton Norman & Stan Norman...
Overview This book presents in counterpoint form the basic models of church government which have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter will be written by a prominent person from within each tradition--with specific guidelines dealing with the biblical, historical, and theological issues within each governance tradition. In addition, each writer will have the opportunity to give a brief response to the other traditions.
Publishers Description "Perspectives on Church Government "presents in counterpoint form the basic models of church government which have developed over the course of church history with a view toward determining which is most faithful to Scripture. Each chapter will be written by a prominent person from within each tradition--with specific guidelines dealing with the biblical, historical, and theological issues within each governance tradition. In addition, each writer will have the opportunity to give a brief response to the other traditions.
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Studio: B&H Academic
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.42" Width: 5.46" Height: 1.01" Weight: 0.95 lbs.
Release Date Jul 1, 2004
Publisher Broadman And Holman
ISBN 080542590X ISBN13 9780805425901
Availability 0 units.
More About Chad Owen Brand, R. Stanton Norman & Stan Norman
Chad Brand is associate professor of Christian Theology at Boyce College of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He resides in Louisville, Kentucky.
Stan Norman occupies the McFarland Chair of Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He resides in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Reviews - What do customers think about Perspectives On Church Government?
A must have. Get this one. Feb 13, 2010
A great tool for anyone looking for a well rounded look at the issues of church governance and their respective proponents.
OK Read, but serves better as a resource Sep 4, 2009
The book is a views book that deals with five different ways that churches operate. Several of the methods of government have little to no Biblical basis. It seems that one or two can fit the Biblical pattern. It will help you to understand other people's views but probably not worth the read.
A Helpful Overview with Some Flaws Jan 25, 2009
The issue of church polity is perhaps one of the most divisive issues in local churches in America. Churches have split over the issue of "elder rule" versus some form of congregationalism (since the late 1970's this has been a major flashpoint issue in the ministry of TMS president Dr. John MacArthur and different Baptist associations because of his advocacy of an elder system). Churches in Episcopal systems have seen their congregations locked out of their church facilities by a "headquarters" who did not like the way a particularly local congregation was going. And in Presbyterian systems local congregations have seen church discipline decisions with clear Biblical warrant reversed by Synod and General Assembly courts.
Congregations and their leaders wonder what is the "biblical" form of church government, how should they be organized and how should decisions be made. Certainly, it seems, that this is a foundational issue for the local church that seeks to conduct it's affairs in a manner that pleases God.
Historically, several forms of church polity have developed, and many variations and nuances exist within those established positions. A local church struggling with its own organization or a new assembly wondering how to "get off on the right foot" is often left with a "blithering array of competing models, all of which lay claim to biblical authenticity" (p. 22) which are often by presented by respected evangelical leaders, pastors, and theologians. One work that escapes from the "blithering" category is this "five view" work. Here five options of polity are presented clearly, forthrightly and in a generally irenic manner. Brought together by the editors, five respected evangelical leaders present their case for local church polity. They and the positions they affirm are as follows:
* Daniel Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, defends "The Single Elder-Led Church: The Bible's Witness to a Congregational/Single-Elder-Led Polity," (25-86).
* Robert L Reymond, Professor of Theology at Knox Theological Seminary, defends the "Presbytery-Led Church: Presbyterian Church Government," 87-156).
* James Leo Garrett, Jr., Professor of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, defends the "Congregation-Led Church: Congregational Polity," 157-208).
* Paul F. M. Zahl, Dean and President of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, defends the "The Bishop-Led Church: The Episcopal or Anglican Polity Affirmed, Weighed, and Defended" (209-54).
* James R. White, Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, defends the "Plural Elder-Led Church: Sufficient as Established -The Plurality of Elders as Christ's Ordained Means of Church Governance," (255-96).
As normal in this genre there are responses by the other contributors at the end of each major presentation. There are useful indexes (name, subject, and Scripture) and a clear introductory chapter by the editors dealing with the key issues and a brief history of the history of church polity.
The contributors uniformly present clear definitions, Biblical defenses, and generally offer detailed research in their efforts. The publisher opted to use endnotes instead of footnotes which often breaks up important points that the contributors were making in their articles. Each author supports his position from Scripture and with a wide array of material. For instance in his chapter, Garrett utilizes 318 notations which encompasses 19 pages of material.
In evaluating the presentations certainly that by Akin should be judged as superior. He is both current in his scholarship and, while making an affirmative case for his position, still acknowledging room for flexibility (p.73). Reymond makes a detailed presentation of the Presbyterianism and defends it, in large part, as a means to maintain church and ministry "balance." He states, that, "it provides the most trustworthy, just, and peaceful way for the church to determine its principles, its practices, and its priorities and to resolve its differences" (p. 135). Reymond's point that within a congregational model there are, "too many ministers and too many churches that are accountable to no one" (ibid) is well stated; however, he weakens his position considerably by attributing the tragedy of Jonestown and the scandals of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and Jesse Jackson directly to a congregational model (p. 136). In doing this he likewise fails to note that Presbyterianism, as a system was not able to deal with the liberalism that eventually led to the reorganization of Princeton Seminary in 1929 and the wholesale departure from orthodoxy of several Presbyterian denominations.
While thoroughly noted and detailed, the article by Garrett is more of a laundry list of quotations and people who have supported some form of congregationalism. His criticism of "mega-churches," the ministry of John MacArthur, and Dallas Theological Seminary, as part of the "crisis" or "major erosion or overt rejection of congregational polity" (p. 190) is a tired old canard. However, his point that individual members need to be more active in the affairs and ministries of their churches is a worthwhile contribution (p. 192).
In presenting the Episcopal model, Zahl centers on the Anglican Church, which is not a particularly major force in American evangelicalism. His presentation is clear and perhaps one of the best affirmative presentations of that system this reviewer has encountered. However, it would have been helpful had he expanded his horizons to include the Methodist, Lutheran and perhaps even the Roman Catholic schemas.
The final presentation by James White on the plurality of elders is perhaps the most disappointing in terms of presentation. His argument is often pedantic and has an air of "my way or the highway" to it. He utilizes Sola Scriptura in such a manner that he makes it clear that a rejection of his position on polity is a de facto moving away from or rejection of the Sola as well. His notations are weak (he uses only 11 footnotes) and he offers little in the way of affirmative support. In fact his is the only article that fails to cite or quote any supporting source outside of Scripture.
There are certainly other points of disagreement and issues that could be mentioned, but, for the most part, the individual authors dispatch these in their responses to one another. There are a couple of issues that we would mention however. In assessing Congregational model position, Akin appears to correct Garrett's assertion that John MacArthur is Presbyterian (p. 196) but points to a reference that he identifies as "Note 99" which has no bearing on that point, and in fact in the section discussing MacArthur (whose ministry Garrett views as a major reason Baptist churches have moved towards "elder rule", p. 191), does not make a claim that MacArthur is a Presbyterian.
This book, while covering a large swath of evangelical church polity, it is not complete. There is no discussion of a minimalist polity such in Plymouth Brethren assemblies, and as already mentioned there is no discussion of the non-Anglican systems that practice the Episcopal model. An additional issue is that there is no discussion of the inherent weaknesses in each system and how, on a practical level, those are overcome. There is also no discussion of how one might practically implement one system or the other if you were starting from scratch, how one might move a congregation from one model to another, or under what circumstances such a change might be a good or bad idea.
This is an important work and a valuable contribution to the literature of polity and we recommend it highly. That being said, this reviewer agrees with the great Anglican expositor and theologian, Bishop J. C. Ryle, who stated, "There is not a text in the Bible which expressly commands churches to have one special form of government, and expressly forbids any other" (Ryle, Knots Untied [reprint, Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan, 2000], 234). The diversity of polity within local churches that God has chosen to bless in history make it clear that outside of the Biblical commands that everything should be done "properly and in an orderly fashion" (I Cor 14:40); that godly men be given the task of local church leadership (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9); and that those leaders must dispatch their duties with humility before God (1 Pet 5:2-3); the exact structures of church polity enjoys freedom of expression to meet the needs of a local assembly.
Diversity in Church Polity Jul 12, 2008
I have found the book interesting just to get other peoples viewpoints. I have attended all these types of churches mentioned and have seen some pro's and con's to each.
I think one of the main structures to all these methods should be - to incorporate freedom of the Spirit. Which one will give the Spirit freedom to exercise in Liberty.
The New Testament is founded through the Holy Spirit by the very words of Jesus. He that was sent from the Father, The Holy Spirit, we should allow freedom to worship in the Spirit. So, how can one incorporate His good pleasure through the selected polity? If by instruction of the letter? No, it is to be by the Spirit saith the Lord of Hosts as the Prophets foretold and the way Jesus foretold. Rev. 19:10.
There can be too much structure in polity, which comes from man not God.
A Helpful Place to Begin Exploring Polity Jul 6, 2007
Church polity is a fascinating topic and it is no light study to try to understand the differences in ecclesiastic praxis that we encounter even in our own broad theological traditions. This counterpoint introduction to Church polity includes five authors which represent three specific polities: Congregationalism, Presbyterianism, and Episcopalianism. The Congregational authors (Daniel Akin, James Leo Garrett, Jr., and James R. White) each represent subtle differences in Congregationalism (single elder, plurality of elders, and one representative of general Congregationalism who argues mostly for a plurality of elders). Why the editors chose three representatives of Congregationalism is not clear - they could have equally chosen three representatives of either of the other two ecclesiastic traditions. To add to the confusion, Daniel Akin was tasked with making a case for the Single-Elder-Led-Church but concedes that he personally prefers a plurality of elders. Huh?
I suspect most non-Congregationalist readers will find Akin's and White's arguments for Congregationalism tenuous at best; however, many will likely find James Leo Garrett's contribution to this work fairly helpful and perhaps some may even find it convincing.
For those interested in looking for a strong presentation of Episcopalian polity, they will need to look elsewhere. One wonders if the Editors were even familiar with their author's views on the subject prior to soliciting their participation. Case in point: Paul Zahl, the chosen representative of Episcopalianism. Zahl doesn't seem much interested in actually making a case for Episcopal polity, so no argument is presented, no exegesis is offered. What we get instead is his history of the Anglican Church. An interesting read nonetheless, but hardly appropriate for this venue.
That leaves Robert Reymond and his defense of Presbyterianism. Reymond is a gifted author and his confidence and handling of the subject at hand is attractive. Reymond will certainly be appreciated by Presbyterians and, like Garrett, will likely given opponents of Presbyterianism a better understanding of Reymond's tradition and the reasoning purported to support it.
The disadvantage to a format such as this book adopts is that it is not sufficiently interactive. Each author is given the opportunity to comment on each other author's presentation, but that's where it ends. This leads you to want to know how each author would respond to his peer's reviews, which would probably generate a lot more clarification of each author's intention and position.
When I am seeking to purchase books on this site, I read the reviews ultimately to determine if I should make the purchase or not. Is this one worth your money? I suppose that depends on how familiar you are with the topic. If you feel you have a good grasp of the traditions represented in this book, you should probably save your money as you are unlikely to gain much from this book. However, if you are not so familiar, then it is certainly is worth the money and in that case it has my recommendation.