Bill Evans may or not be responding to the post here about C2k, but he has written a rejoinder to Kevin DeYoung’s mild raising of questions about transformationalism. The gist is this: how can you maintain the spirituality of the church and continue to affirm and practice diaconal ministry (as if the diaconate in Acts 6 was the hinge on which the church’s transformation of society turned — talk about blurring categories). In Evans own words:
Historically, Christians have seen in the Mosaic Law, the ministry of the Old Testament prophets, and in Jesus’ own wholistic ministry both the mandate and model for diaconal ministry and the care of the poor. They have taken the Apostle Paul seriously when he said, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
. . . I can’t help but wonder what is driving these overly spiritualized conceptions of the church’s ministry. Why has this spiritual vs. temporal dichotomy (which as we have seen is open to question) gotten so much traction? I have noticed that those who speak in these terms often evince a laudable concern to protect the church from agendas and distractions that are inconsistent with the church’s fundamental mission. The real question here is the nature of that mission.
Is Evans really trying to imply that the “wholistic” ministry of the diaconate is the basis for founding Christian labor unions, Christian schools, creating Christian sit-coms? His post does seem to resort to that John Framean mental tick of taking certain outward similarities of two things (drama and preaching) and turning overlap into a justification for everything (liturgical drama). However Evans wants to use diaconal ministry for “wholistic” ends, Reformed churches like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (the communion of one of Evans’ favorite theologians, Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.) have had no trouble maintaining the spiritual character of the church’s power and ministry while also carrying out deeds of mercy:
The spirituality of the church:
2. Those who join in exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction are the ministers of the Word or teaching elders, and other church governors, commonly called ruling elders. They alone must exercise this authority by delegation from Christ, since according to the New Testament these are the only permanent officers of the church with gifts for such rule. Ruling elders and teaching elders join in congregational, presbyterial, and synodical assemblies, for those who share gifts for rule from Christ must exercise these gifts jointly not only in the fellowship of the saints in one place but also for the edification of all the saints in larger areas so far as they are appointed thereto in an orderly manner, and are acknowledged by the saints as those set over them in the Lord.
Government by presbyters or elders is a New Testament ordinance; their joint exercise of jurisdiction in presbyterial assemblies is set forth in the New Testament; and the organization of subordinate and superior courts is founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God, expressing the unity of the church and the derivation of ministerial authority from Christ the Head of the church.
3. All church power is only ministerial and declarative, for the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice. No church judicatory may presume to bind the conscience by making laws on the basis of its own authority; all its decisions should be founded upon the Word of God. “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship” (Confession of Faith, Chapter XX, Section 2).
4. All church power is wholly moral or spiritual. No church officers or judicatories possess any civil jurisdiction; they may not inflict any civil penalties nor may they seek the aid of the civil power in the exercise of their jurisdiction further than may be necessary for civil protection and security. (BCO, ch. 3)
1. The Scriptures designate the office of deacon as distinct d perpetual in the church. Deacons are called to show forth the compassion of Christ in a manifold ministry of mercy toward the saints and strangers on behalf of the church. To this end they exercise, in the fellowship of the church, a recognized stewardship of care and of gifts for those in need or distress. This service is distinct from that of rule in the church. (BCO ch. 11)
Of course, if Evans wants to return to the social conditions that made diaconal “wholism” possible, as in state churches that had a monopoly on religious life and excluded dissenters, heretics, and schismatics, it is a free country. But if he is going to hold any contemporary Reformed church to a pre-1789 standard, he will need to make his Erastian leanings clear.