Am (all about me) I the Reason for Presbyterianism's Failure?

Once upon a time, Episcopalians really did believe in truth and error, and condemned Presbyterianism as a departure from true Christianity (winning over the crown didn’t hurt efforts to prove Anglicanism true). One of the errors of Presbyterianism was ordaining the laity to be rulers in the church (read elders). Here is how one pamphleteer at the end of the seventeenth century put it (Parallel between episcopacy & presbytery; or The Church of England vindicated from all the false and uncharitable reports and suggestions of either papist or Presbyterian [1680]:

. . .which of these two governments have the more effectual means to procure the end of Church-government, the preservation of truth and peace, and the suppression of heresy and schism. I answer Episcopal; for ‘tis strange, that laymen, from whose education has no knowledge beyond their trades and such like affairs can be expected, should be as fit instruments for such kind of employments, as grave and learned scholars, whose only business is to tread the path of all arts, both humane and Divine.

Come to think of it, in an elite world of princes and bishops having all the power, putting the affairs of heaven and hell in the hands of ordinary laymen was risky. And that diceyness may explain why Presbyterians throughout the modern era have looked for professionals — physicians, attorneys, and academics — to train and ordain as elders. At least these well educated persons would know more than the ordinary bishop.

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18 thoughts on “Am (all about me) I the Reason for Presbyterianism's Failure?

  1. Ooh, let me meet these “fit instruments”. I’m aware of only a handful. Otherwise, I know a group who are better in their spare time. And, Los Spurs. Jus’ cuz.

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  2. C-Dubs, sshhh! They’ll be none of that. Can’t maintain ninja status that way. I’d have to put on my ‘Macho Man’ persona if that ever happened.

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  3. I once knew a ruling elder who was a bus driver by profession. He was not shy about challenging theologians whenever he detected what he thought was heretical teaching. Whenever one of them would rebuff him by saying “I have a PhD (or Mdiv),” he’d fire back, “Yeah, and I’m a PhD’s worst enemy – I’ve read the same books you have!”

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  4. The best parliamentarian on our session is a janitor. He knows Roberts Rules as well as anyone in our presbytery.

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  5. Medical school mnemonic for remembering on which side of the heart is located the mitral valve:
    A mitre is a bishop’s hat, and a bishop is never right.

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  6. A good case could be made that those from the “professional” ranks and the “educated” have done more damage to the biblical Gospel than average joe six-pack. I don’t know how anyone can read the scriptures and not notice how Jesus made a bee-line to the lost sheep of Israel, i.e.. to those whom the educated powers that be would have nothing to do with. Paul also makes it clear, as an exhortation, to associate with the lowly. I could give numerous scripture passages but will refrain.

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  7. “. . .which of these two governments have the more effectual means to procure the end of Church-government, the preservation of truth and peace, and the suppression of heresy and schism.”

    Given the state of the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Church England today (namely, almost entirely apostate), this is a rather amusing question. And even some of the more supposedly “conservative” continuing Anglican denominations don’t seem to be all that great at preserving truth and orthodoxy (for example, women’s ordination, charismaticism, sacerdotalism, etc., are either permitted or endorsed by some of these communions). So much for Episcopal government being the more effectual means of preserving truth, peace and orthodoxy.

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  8. To my many fans & a precious few friends–

    Mysteriously, for the past week I haven’t been able to comment here at Old Life from my home computer. [I’m on vacation at the moment.]

    This is undoubtedly due to divine intervention–or the work of some devil. Or perhaps some human mischief, although that’s hard to believe of you, Dr. Hart. You are always permitted a fair hearing in alien if not hostile climes such as “Called to Communion” and First Things, and you’ve always been gracious in returning the favor to me.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever violated internet protocol here or any unwritten rules of comportment that would earn a banning. [Neither did I at the Bayly Bros. blog, but…Therefore this computer problem must be the work of God or Satan. Perhaps I have not told enough truth, or perhaps too much.

    Maybe this technical problem will resolve itself. Enquiring minds want to know!

    Otherwise, I suppose this is somewhat of a goodbye. Many of you have contacted me privately, and I’ll continue to act as though we don’t know each other personally. [As a headhunter, I keep confidences for a living.]

    To the rest of my buds, feel free to hit me up privately at esqtvd at aol.com. I’m always complimented when somebody asks me what I think about this or that. I like you guys. Even you, D. Too much posturing and defending of professional or ecclesiastical status to actually seek truth, though.

    Not anybody’s fault, D. Richard Rorty said as much of “professional” philosophers. Too much at risk to actually let it all hang out. Now that everything is not only public on the internet but lasts forever as well, a “theological society” isn’t really possible.

    Peace, me brothers. I have learned much here, between the lines.

    Love, Tom

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  9. D. G. Hart
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 1:03 am | Permalink
    victor delta, tango, have you thought about plugging in the power cord?

    Don’t seek truth. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

    Cool. You didn’t ban me then, Dr. Hart? What a relief. Looking forward to our future correspondence.

    On a trip w/Mrs. TVD to celebrate our 28th anniversary. We prayed together to thank God for whatever you want to call it. That’s a one glimpse I’ll give you of my private life, if you’d like to start over, seventy times seven, my brother.

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  10. Hey, Tom — I’m at 29 years of marital “bliss” but you may yet catch me. That “whatever you want to call it” may be common grace or may prove to be actual judgment one day. I hope you know it’s not a reward for good behavior. Make peace with your adversary (hint — it’s not Darryl).

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  11. D. G. Hart
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 5:09 am | Permalink
    vd, t, quit while you’re ahead (you reveal more than you know; hint – paranoia).

    Chortles weakly
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink
    Hey, Tom — I’m at 29 years of marital “bliss” but you may yet catch me. That “whatever you want to call it” may be common grace or may prove to be actual judgment one day. I hope you know it’s not a reward for good behavior. Make peace with your adversary (hint — it’s not Darryl).

    The “whatever you want to call it” was merely a locution per Mt 7:6, CW. Re your hint, though y’all are apparently convinced you’re already going to heaven, I take nothing for granted–not for this life or the next. One thing we firmly agree upon, though, is that there’s nothing we can do to “deserve” God’s goodness to us.

    After all, how can you “deserve” the gift of life itself? That does not compute. All we can do is be grateful.

    [However, as for not being banned here, I’m not equally as grateful, sorry. It’s you who needs the eggs, bro, and it’s not out of paranoia I lay them for you.]

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