Church Government

Discussion in 'The Confession of Faith' started by Reformed 78, Sep 9, 2017.

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  1. Reformed 78

    Reformed 78 Puritan Board Freshman

    To Reformed Baptists:

    Are there any thoughts or commentary and or resources on why reformed baptist reject Presbyterianism's form of Church government?

    I have a Reformed Presbyterian friend trying to convince me of Presbyterianism.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Please, no slandering the other side. Just helpful thoughts on why you disagree...
  2. Reformed 78

    Reformed 78 Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm also open to any thoughts from Presbyterians... Just no war,lol!

  3. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Thomas Witherow has a work (larger and then a more concise title) comparing Episcopacy, Congregationalism and Presbyterianism showing from the Presbyterian side how each fall away at certain scriptural points until he gets to his own view. The Apostolic Church which is it is the title I think. I would be surprised if it is not online. If you want an early debate between Presbyterians and Independents, look for the Naphtali Press edition of The Grand Debate, which are the Westminster Assembly debate papers (check RHB, but this title if it isn't already is out of print from me).
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  4. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Very simply, it is because Baptists (and various other independents and congregationalists) do not see, by either example or inference, presbyteries and the various other courts that make up Presbyterian church government in the Bible.

    If you're just starting to look into the subject, Zondervan's "Who Runs the Church" and/or B&H's "Perspectives on Church Governments" aren't bad places to start, and the Kindle editions go on sale for $1-$3 or so a few times per year. While not technically "Reformed Baptist," there are some good Southern Baptist resources on ecclesiology such as this one. The 9 Marks website will have a lot more info.

    It might take a while to search, but there are probably some series or sermons on this issue on Sermon Audio.
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  5. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This would fall under what Baptists see as the local autonomy of each individual local assembly of believers to self govern themselves.
  6. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Looking for something else (as usual) I just found some of these which I thought had been lost; so will adding the few left to the NP website next week.
  7. Reformed 78

    Reformed 78 Puritan Board Freshman

  8. Reformed 78

    Reformed 78 Puritan Board Freshman

  9. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    It was Witherow that nailed it for me.
  10. Joshua

    Joshua pilgrim

  11. Krak3n

    Krak3n Puritan Board Freshman

    I actually read that entire book. No, not long ago, just in the time between your post and now. You don't understand! I rarely finish books!

    I will say that I found it concise and thought provoking.

    I've a few questions now, but I'll not hijack this thread.
  12. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    For a pretty thorough work on Presbyterianism, I would suggest James Bannerman's Church of Christ (2 Volumes). It's online for free at Internet Archive.
  13. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    Some other resources on Presbyterianism:

    George Gillespie - Aaron's Rod Blossoming

    Samuel Rutherford - Due Rights of Presbyteries

    Rutherford - Divine Right of Church Government

    Sundry Ministers of London - Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici
  14. deathtolife

    deathtolife Puritan Board Freshman

    I found James Bannerman and Witherow extremely helpful. However, as a Presbyterian, may I recommend some literature from the "other side".

    *John Cotton - The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Power Thereof and The Way of Congregational Churches Cleared (HERE)

    *The Cambridge Platform (here)

    *Samuel Mather - An Apology for the Liberties of the Churches in New England: to which is prefixed, A Discourse concerning Congregational Churches (here)

    *George Punchard - A View of Congregationalism (here)

    I would also like to add something. I hope it is helpful to your questions and research.

    I have found through the reading I have done that historic
    independence/congregationalism vs Presbyterianism is not as cut, dry and tidy as we like to make it sound it is. Hunter Powell does a fine job showing this in his book/thesis The crisis of British Protestantism: Church power in the Puritan Revolution (here). He shows well that the differences are often exaggerated. Rev. Dr. Ryan McGraw says "Powell shows how the Scots achieved a high degree of unity with the Apologists (Congregationalists who were known later as the Dissenting Brethren) over the question of the seat of church power." Another brief comment from McGraw in reviewing this book:

    "It forces readers to listen to the Westminster divines and to assess them on their own terms and in their own world. Modern readers may not always like what they find in reading books like this one. Yet this work is necessary to help explain what the Westminster Assembly did and did not intend to say in its affirmation of Presbyterian polity. Presbyterians were not all cut from the same cloth and not all Congregationalists were as far away from some forms of Presbyterianism as we may tend to think. Above all, this book provides us with an admirable example of how the Scots and the Apologists pursued catholic unity in their theology without threatening their distinctives. It also provides us with a model of doctrinal precision, spiritual maturity, and catholic charity that has potential to serve the church well today."

  15. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    Although I do think one should read the other writings, it should be noted that Robert Baillie refutes John Cotton in his A Disuassive From the Errors of Our Time.

    If I recall, Owen (who started as a Presbyterian) read John Cotton and converted to congregationalism. However, many portions of his works show that he was more Presbyterian than many lead on today. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee's reasearch on this subject is something to look into from his work Owen Represbyterianized.

    One shouldn't forget Naphtali Press' The Grand Debate where the papers of the assembly are given.
  16. deathtolife

    deathtolife Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the response Andrew.

    I believe Cotton responds to both Rutherford and Baille in The Way of Congregational Churches Cleared (the 2nd treatise).

    I am not sure about John Owen being "Represbyterianized" but I did read Rev. Sinclair Ferguson mention Owens polity as a "truncated Presbyterianism", which is what I find a lot of historic congregationalism to be. Where can I find Dr. Francis Nigel Lee's research? Is it available online?
  17. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    The work is apparently out of print, but Still Waters Revival Books has it in audio format here:
  18. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable Staff Member

    Here you are:

    Attached Files:

  19. Reformed 78

    Reformed 78 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for all your thoughts and resources! I'm going to dig into as much as I can! Please pray for me as I press forward! Again, Thank you!!
  20. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Freshman

    Jumping in late (I've been out of town), but if you can find recordings of Greg Nichols lectures on the Doctrine of the Church, he has a very good treatment of it from the Reformed Baptist perspective, with able refutations of Presbyterian polity where it parts ways with that of Baptists.
  21. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    You cannot separate ecclesiology from baptism - they work together. It is from that fundamental point of disagreement that our respective church orders are built.
  22. Krak3n

    Krak3n Puritan Board Freshman

    I have very little understanding of Presbyterian anything, so help me understand what you mean. We aren't talking about mode of baptism right? So you're saying that paedobaptism flows from church polity? Clearly I am confused... I don't mean this to argue with you, I only want to understand the connection you are making. I think I'm missing the entire point.
  23. zsmcd

    zsmcd Puritan Board Freshman

    in my opinion baptism and polity are (normally) inseparable simply because of the presuppositions required to arrive at those positions; namely covenant theology, the relationship between the NT Ekklesia and OT Israel, OT/NT continuity/discontinuity, etc. Although, as a Presbyterian, I will say that I see an ironic connection between independent church government and the baptistic view of the sacraments - individualism.
  24. Krak3n

    Krak3n Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you, I had considered that, and would agree with the "individualism" of baptist/independent churches.

    I think what confuses me about it is that, and perhaps I'm ignorant here, but don't reformed baptist churches also hold to covenant theology?
  25. Held Fast

    Held Fast Puritan Board Freshman

    Covenant theology, yes. But how we approach what that covenant means to ecclesiology is very different. As Zach is alluding to, the continuity of Israel to the Church today for Presbyterians is seen in circumcision to baptism, which is why they will baptize children into a covenant community even though they may not be elect. Baptist heritage looks at the circumcision of the heart, as professed by one of the elect in believer's baptism. Presbyterian sacramental view has to accommodate for the reality that there are baptized members in their covenant community that may not be elect, while for Baptists all baptized members have professed faith in Christ in keeping with a regenerate heart, so the ordinances have no role in grace beyond symbol. And then you get to the offices of the church, and the polity ... but we agree on covenant theology, which despite our differences means we share some very rich and deep theological convictions about salvation, which is what matters.
  26. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    Important point of clarification: We Presbyterians believe God does something (in the Lord's Supper), by faith, in the believer. God strengthens our faith and meets those who come in faith. It is not magic grace as in R.C. theology (because it requires faith), but God is present and works through their proper administration and reception........
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