Thursday, March 22, 2007

Theology on Tap Presentation on the Church

Would you believe I forgot one of your posts yesterday? I'm surprised there wasn't a riot. Anyway, on Tuesday night I was speaking to the young people about why we need the Church, and I meant to give you my notes on Wednesday. So here they are. This isn't a transcript like my gargantuan post on the Old Testament. It's very short, and I'm even going to make you look up the biblical references yourself, sort of like those John 3:16 signs at baseball games.

Oh, and by the way, the blog's going on hiatus. Now, before you all beat your heads against your monitors wondering where you'll get your daily sf+religion, let me hastily add that it's only going on hiatus until Tuesday because I'm going to be out of town this weekend. On Tuesday, I'll be back and badder than ever.

Read and discuss Catechism 845, 846.

It must be understood that Christ did not come only to teach a moral message. And Christ did not come only to die for sins. He came to save men, and he prepared an organization on Earth in which he would dwell and through which he would offer his grace to men. That organization is the Church.

Read Matthew 16.13-20.

This passage indicates Jesus’ clear intent to establish a Church. He says that he will build it, and that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (NRSV). In this same passage, he delegates authority in his Church. He says to Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (NRSV). There’s been some confusion over this passage, so here’s some information it’s good to have:

The word for Peter’s name in Greek is Petros. The word for rock used is petra. For this reason, some have claimed that the rock to which Jesus refers is not Peter. However,

1. The language Jesus spoke was not Greek but Aramaic. We know that Peter’s Aramaic name was Kepha, Rock, because he is called Cephas, a transliteration of Kepha, elsewhere in the New Testament. Kepha is masculine. In koine Greek, the Greek of the New Testament, the word for rock is petra, a feminine. Matthew here alters the gender of the noun when applying it to Peter because it would be inappropriate to give a man a feminine name.

2. Some argue that the word petros refers to a small pebble while petra refers to a boulder, so that Jesus is calling Peter a pebble and himself a boulder. This difference in terms is known in classical Greek, but not in the koine Greek of the New Testament.

3. Petros as a proper name is otherwise unattested. It would be odd for Jesus to change Peter’s name if it did not have significance directly bearing on this passage.

4. Even good Protestant scholars agree that rock must refer to Peter because of the grammar of the passage. Evangelical scholar D. A. Carson spends time debunking the error of attributing rock to something other than Peter in his book Exegetical Fallacies.

The reference to keys harkens back to Isaiah 22.20-22 (read).

You see this passage has similar language to that of the passage in Matthew. The passage in Matthew refers to the majordomo of the king’s household, responsible for managing the household. Jesus in Matthew is clearly giving the same authority to Peter.

So this tells us that Christ intended to found a church, and to give it authority in Peter.

Read Acts 6.5-6, 1 Timothy 4.14, 2 Timothy 1.6.

We see in these passages that laying on of hands is not merely a pleasant ritual, but an actual conveyance of power.

The commissioning of ministers with laying on of hands to convey power from God appears in the Old Testament as well, in Numbers 27.18-23.

In this passage, Moses gives some of his authority to a priest by laying hands on him. The practice of this ritual in the New Testament shows that the apostles intended to convey some of their authority and power to the ministers they commissioned. This is the basis for a hierarchy in the Church; the Church is not intended to be a democracy or an anarchy, but is intended to have ordained ministers who carry power passed down from the apostles. This is what we call Apostolic Succession. Because this authority from the apostles is necessary, the Church must have valid bishops who have received this commissioning. That is why any sect that breaks from the Catholic Church, if it does not have validly ordained bishops, cannot be considered a church of Christ.

Read Acts 14.23 and Titus 1.5.

These passages indicate the importance of the churches having ordained ministers with authority passed from the apostles.

The scriptures have high things to say about the authority and place of the Church:

Read 1 Timothy 3.15.

The Church in this passage is called the household of God. It is not depicted here as an invisible, unrecognizable spiritual entity, as some Evangelicals maintain, but as a visible organization. It is also called the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (NRSV), indicating that the Church upholds and defends the truth that has been entrusted to it.

Read Matthew 18.18.

Here Christ imbues the Church with power and authority to teach, excommunicate, define doctrines, and so forth. This is why the Church teaches indefectibility and, in some limited circumstances, infallibility. If the Church were not a single entity with a single teaching, it could not be pillar and bulwark of the truth, because it wouldn’t be teaching the one truth.

Colossians 1.18-24 (read vs. 18, 24) describes Christ as the head of the Church, and the Church as the body of Christ, meaning that Christ dwells in a special way in the Church, that Christ guides the Church, and that the Church is responsible for continuing Christ’s work on Earth. If a person wishes to be close to Christ, it is necessary for him to be in the Church.

Read passages from Church Fathers on sheet, under “Authoritative Church.”

The Church is intended to be one single body, not a smattering of “denominations.” Read Jn 10.16, Romans 16.17, 1 Corinthians 1.10, John 17.17-23, 1 Corinthians 12.13.

Read passages from Church Fathers under “The Church Must be One” and discuss.
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