How Shall He Take Care of the Church of God?

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Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
I would, however, caution you against thinking that the excerpt you provided from Al Martin's writings is an open and shut case in your favor.

From the same work:

We will approach this subject of the man of God in relationship to his domestic responsibilities as we have done before, by stating an axiom. The axiom is that the man of God must manifest exemplary competence as a husband and a father.

Note that I am not saying that we must manifest perfection as husbands and fathers. Nor am I saying that we must manifest the highest level of competence among the entire membership of the church. There may be better husbands and better fathers, and yet you still may fulfill your pastoral duties with a grip on the consciences of your people because, by the grace of God, you are displaying the measure of competence in these two areas which is required by the scriptures.
 
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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
@Parakaleo perhaps your question from the OP is best answered in an elders only section of the PB. I think there you will get to what you need to get to while having elders alone, those who are making the actual decisions of "is this man qualified or not," weigh in.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Blake, Dr. Duguid asked this but I missed the answer if you gave it. What Presbyterian churches historically or current have absolutized this to preclude not yet married candidates for the ministry?

Chris, I don't think I will have a satisfactory response as I am beginning to believe that this issue has been an area of compromise for much of the church over many centuries.

Furthermore, I would not say I that have absolutized the command in these passages, but rather cleared away the common ways of subverting a very plain, apostolic qualification for ordination in the church. I did this by asking, "What if the apostle's words here really are binding, as written? Are there other teachings or situations in Scripture that would absolutely require a reframing of these commands?" The answers surprised me.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
@Parakaleo perhaps your question from the OP is best answered in an elders only section of the PB. I think there you will get to what you need to get to while having elders alone, those who are making the actual decisions of "is this man qualified or not," weigh in.

Sure, brother. I think that's a good idea. Thanks.

A few thoughts...

Phil, thanks for compiling all this information. Very helpful, but I continue to be controlled by the unmistakable expectation Paul sets forth in Scripture that a man must demonstrate faithful governance of his own house (wife plus dependents) in order to be considered qualified for ordained office in the church.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Chris, I don't think I will have a satisfactory response as I am beginning to believe that this issue has been an area of compromise for much of the church over many centuries.

Furthermore, I would not say I that have absolutized the command in these passages, but rather cleared away the common ways of subverting a very plain, apostolic qualification for ordination in the church. I did this by asking, "What if the apostle's words here really are binding, as written? Are there other teachings or situations in Scripture that would absolutely require a reframing of these commands?" The answers surprised me.
I think the difficulty is you have a singular stand, whether it is right or wrong. Does you current denomination take this stand?
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think the difficulty is you have a singular stand, whether it is right or wrong. Does you current denomination take this stand?

Yes. Full disclosure: There is a contingent that would wish us to revisit and fall back from this stand. It's an ongoing discussion. Your prayers would be appreciated.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I did this by asking, "What if the apostle's words here really are binding, as written? Are there other teachings or situations in Scripture that would absolutely require a reframing of these commands?" The answers surprised me.

Do you greet people with a holy kiss?
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I still just don’t see logically or exegetically how the qualification that an elder rule his house well contains necessarily within it the command to have a wife and children.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I still just don’t see logically or exegetically how the qualification that an elder rule his house well contains necessarily within it the command to have a wife and children.
And in some circumstances it can be beneficial not to. Though most will all say, on PB for sure, that the celibate case was overstated in antiquity and the middle ages.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I am a little bemused by this thread.

With regard to Albert Martin, for whom I have great appreciation, it seems a little odd for Presbyterians to appeal to a Reformed Baptist as the enunciator of an ecclesiological position. From which other portions of his ecclesiology would they nonetheless dissent? Also, I don't think that his own family troubles disqualified him from ministry; but I wonder how many who take this position would feel the same way?

The bigger issue, though, is that the rigor of this approach, if applied to other issues, would cut multiple ways. Is it not necessary that those who would rule the household of God must have wisdom and an ability to interpret Scripture contextually and holistically? I seem to remember Albert Martin himself calling for sanctified common sense. Ruling your own household well does not specify what sort of household is to be ruled.

One of the things that is often missing when people get into these sorts of controversies is the ability to step back, take a look at yourself, and ask if there could possibly be any factors other than historically exceptional faithfulness to Scripture that might be driving the concern or controversy. If one's own superior exegetical faithfulness requires indicting the bulk even of the confessing churches of the Reformation, it's possible there may be more going on. Romans 12:3 is also a clear passage.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
I still just don’t see logically or exegetically how the qualification that an elder rule his house well contains necessarily within it the command to have a wife and children.

The command (I would rather use the word "expectation") only exists for the man presenting himself as one to be considered for ordained office. It's not like I am saying Paul commands all men to be married/care for a household.

When a man is set apart to ordained office, he is entrusted with the care of God's household on earth. That much is very clear (1 Tim. 3:15, Eph. 2:19). Why then would it be so surprising to see Paul insist that a man must have established a track record of care for his own family/house before being entrusted with the care of God's household? This brings us straight back to Paul's question/challenge I quote in the OP and also goes hand in hand with the prohibition of a novice. He is not to be a novice in the faith, nor a novice in the governance of a house. Once you clear away the cobwebs of the expedient interpretations which have been wedged into these passages over the centuries, Paul's true intention shines forth as the most sensible and natural of qualifications.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The command (I would rather use the word "expectation") only exists for the man presenting himself as one to be considered for ordained office. It's not like I am saying Paul commands all men to be married/care for a household.
Obviously.

When a man is set apart to ordained office, he is entrusted with the care of God's household on earth. That much is very clear (1 Tim. 3:15, Eph. 2:19). Why then would it be so surprising to see Paul insist that a man must have established a track record of care for his own family/house before being entrusted with the care of God's household? This brings us straight back to Paul's question/challenge I quote in the OP and also goes hand in hand with the prohibition of a novice. He is not to be a novice in the faith, nor a novice in the governance of a house. Once you clear away the cobwebs of the expedient interpretations which have been wedged into these passages over the centuries, Paul's true intention shines forth as the most sensible and natural of qualifications.
I understand your position. I just don’t see it exegetically. And, frankly, your constant assumption/assertion that those who disagree with you are just doing so out of some sinful expediency is not a little maddening.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Make this practical for me. My church is very likely about to issue me a call to the ministry. I have been married for eight years, but my wife is barren. We have no children. Should I tell the session to reconsider?
 

Imputatio

Puritan Board Freshman
I love your references to logical fallacies and argument faux pas every so often. I always learn from it. Thanks, brother.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Make this practical for me. My church is very likely about to issue me a call to the ministry. I have been married for eight years, but my wife is barren. We have no children. Should I tell the session to reconsider?
Not for a moment. You are married and the presbytery can inquire of you and your wife (and other witnesses as it deems appropriate or needful) as to the sort of family governor that you are. You've tried to have children and have not. The presbytery can seek to gauge from you, your wife, and others the heart that you have to shepherd and guide the covenant youth and the sort of father in its estimate you'd be, from what they otherwise see of you. It would seem to me that your work in school administration and teaching, in addition to your congregational interactions with families, would go a long way here.

I have a friend who's been in the ministry for many years--he and his wife could not have children--and he's (with much help from her) had a most remarkable ministry, in addition to regular congregational hospitality--to other infertile couples, singles, students, etc. There are notable married men on this board that I will not embarrass by naming, who are biologically childless and clearly qualified for ministry. There is much that a single man--J. Gresham Machen, a remarkable colleague of mine, and many others I've known--can do and also much that a married couple not blessed with children can do.

Press on, good brother, with all encouragement!

Peace,
Alan
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
I understand your position. I just don’t see it exegetically.

Do you understand the position, though? Because you say you can't see it exegetically, which is odd when all I am asking brethren to do is align their practice with Paul's words, exactly as they are written. I am asking brethren to look at two passages through exegetical glasses that are untinted by any theological/practical/historical assumptions, be brutally honest about what the passages require, and only then ask if reframing these instructions is made absolutely necessary in light of other revealed truths in Scripture. I would submit that even if other truths revealed in Scripture strongly suggest a reframing would be in order (such as 1 Corinthians 7), that we dare not reframe these clear instructions for anything less than open contradiction with other parts of Scripture.

Make this practical for me. My church is very likely about to issue me a call to the ministry. I have been married for eight years, but my wife is barren. We have no children. Should I tell the session to reconsider?

I don't know your entire history, brother. I would not be surprised to find out your marriage is exemplary. I would expect that you have cared for your wife through heartbreak after heartbreak and commend yourself by her good testimony in the face of such difficult providence. However, if you have not demonstrated a track record of governing a plurality of dependents, commonly and biblically called a "house", then you do not escape Paul's challenge unscathed. "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" As much as we might like "his own house" to be a fill-in-the-blank matter, it is predefined by the verses coming before it. A man's house is assumed to include his children/dependents.

Remember, as I said above, a man taking up ordained office in the church is taking responsibility for the family of God. Did you know that God loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Psalm 87:2)? This means he loves the church more than he loves the families of the church. This is why the Lord has ordained that the first time a man exercises this kind of governance is not in the household of God, but in his own family, and that this be done "well".

I'm sure some will balk at me for saying all this. I am reminded of something I heard about Al Martin. When one of his grown sons turned from the faith, Pastor Martin went directly to the elders. He essentially laid his whole ministry on the table and said, "If this means I am no longer qualified, then I have preached my last sermon," (or something to that effect). The elders did not feel the grown son's departure called into question Pastor Martin's fundamental qualification for ordained office, but the main point here is Al Martin's unflinching dedication to observing God's standards, wherever this might lead him.
 
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Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
When one of his grown sons turned from the faith, Pastor Martin went directly to the elders. He essentially laid his whole ministry on the table and said, "If this means I am no longer qualified, then I have preached my last sermon," (or something to that effect). The elders did not feel the grown son's departure called into question Pastor Martin's fundamental qualification for ordained office, but the main point here is Al Martin's unflinching dedication to observing God's standards, wherever this might lead him.
I've known men quite well who did a version of that in their own lives and ministries. Martin is to be commended for such submission to his brethren in the Lord as are my friends who have done the same in the same or like circumstances.

I have no reason to believe that Taylor will not submit himself to his brethren in the Lord, those in the session and local congregation issuing the call, and those in the presbytery examining him for his fitness for the call. Martin's fellow elders did not show him the door. Were they not wrong, perhaps, given your reasoning? Or do you take a different position (I hope you do!) about adult children going their own way?

In any case, Taylor would not be his own judge in the matter but would be submitting the record of his doctrinal commitment, life, and service to the examination of those duly authorized to assess him. Are they wrong if they think he meets the qualifications? You seem to commend Martin for his humility in the matter. Indeed. We have no reason to believe that Talyor is acting in any other fashion here than one of true submissiveness to his brethren in the Lord.

Peace,
Alan
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
The bishops of Rome immediately after the fall of the Western empire didn't have kids, yet they managed not only the household of God, but the rest of Europe during its darkest days.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Who here literally obeys Paul's command to greet everyone with a holy kiss?

If a brother with a true burden to align his practice with the exact words of Paul in this matter greeted another brother who looked at Paul's instructions as being more open-ended and culturally informed with a holy kiss, I would expect the second brother to be extremely circumspect in any challenge he might offer to the first brother. The second brother would be, I think, forced to acknowledge that the first brother's view enjoys the "high ground" of being in step with the very words of Paul, even if thought to be too woodenly interpreted or lacking contextualization.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have no reason to believe that Taylor will not submit himself to his brethren in the Lord, those in the session and local congregation issuing the call, and those in the presbytery examining him for his fitness for the call. Martin's fellow elders did not show him the door. Were they not wrong, perhaps, given your reasoning? Or do you take a different position (I hope you do!) about adult children going their own way?

The problem is if these brethren are prepared to sustain Taylor as qualified for the ministry in opposition to the word of God, he should not submit to them in this. Again, I don't know the full details here so I am only speaking in terms of principles.

As for Al Martin's elders, I would say they have properly controlled the requirements in 1 Timothy 3:4 ("having his children in subjection with all gravity") and Titus 1:6 ('having faithful children") by Paul's question/challenge in 1 Timothy 3:5 ("for if a man know not how to rule his own house...") and concluded that Pastor Martin remains fundamentally qualified per Paul's challenge, having demonstrated upright and competent care for his household over many years. The grown son's rejection of the faith is therefore accounted to be a strange providence of God and not seen as evidence of defective family governance.

Despite what some may think, I have never taken the approach to these passages, "They must be interpreted as woodenly as possible." I tried to start this post off more on the level of, "Let's stop driving dump trucks of exceptions through the filter of these qualifications," but now it appears we are at the, "Let's see what gnats he lets through," stage.
 
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MChase

Puritan Board Freshman
The problem is if these brethren are prepared to sustain Taylor as qualified for the ministry in opposition to the word of God, he should not submit to them in this. Again, I don't know the full details here so I am only speaking in terms of principles.

Despite what some may think, I have never taken the approach to these passages, "They must be interpreted as woodenly as possible." I tried to start this post off more on the level of, "Let's stop driving dump trucks of exceptions through the filter of these qualifications," but it has now inevitably descended into, "If you allow this gnat through, then leave us alone about this dump truck."

This first part is offensive. You are assuming what you are trying to prove and applying it to a particular situation which you admittedly have no insight into.

For instance, my wife and I could not have kids for the first three years of our marriage. We fostered 3 girls for 6 months before they went back to be with their parents along with 2 other short term placements. Your reading would make such a man unqualified because he does not have multiple living children of his own. I don't really care about my own particular circumstances as I trust that my presbytery would not take me under care had I not demonstrated some sort of godly example albeit far from perfect. But it is offensive to categorically rule out a man because of his wife's barrenness.

No one came into this discussion trying to drive a dump truck through the qualifications. It is not really a massive leap - rather it is no leap at all - to think that Paul would not have been disqualifying himself the very moment he wrote what he did.

Every response you have given assumes that your detractors are arguing in bad faith. It is poor form.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
If a brother with a true burden to align his practice with the exact words of Paul in this matter greeted another brother who looked at Paul's instructions as being more open-ended and culturally informed with a holy kiss, I would expect the second brother to be extremely circumspect in any challenge he might offer to the first brother. The second brother would be, I think, forced to acknowledge that the first brother's view enjoys the "high ground" of being in step with the very words of Paul, even if thought to be too woodenly interpreted or lacking contextualization.

So do you kiss other people at church or not?
 
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