Nov 272017
 

Essentials

The Letters of Ignatius of Antioch

And as I walked on

Through troubled times

My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes

So where are the strong

And who are the trusted?

And where is the harmony?

Nick Lowe

At some point, in the first two decades of the second century of the Christian era, the bishop of Antioch in Asia Minor was arrested by the authorities.  His name was Ignatius. Apparently, he was a man of some importance as he was not immediately put to death in his home city but, instead, was sent to Rome where he expected to be killed in the arena by wild beasts. In the course of his journey he stopped first in Philadelphia (in Phrygia) and then in Smyrna where Polycarp (also later to be martyred) was the Bishop.  While there he received visits from the bishops of Ephesus, Tralles and Magnesia, and gave to each a letter to be read to their churches.  During this period, he also sent a letter to the church in Rome, alerting them to his coming and enjoining them to do nothing to prevent the martyrdom that awaited him. Traveling on to Troas, he sent letters to the churches in Philadelphia and Smyrna, and a final letter to Polycarp himself.  We are told by the church historian, Eusebius, that is was reported that Ignatius eventually arrived in Rome and there suffered martyrdom, likely during later years of the reign of the Emperor Trajan (98-117) or slightly thereafter.

The seven letters of Ignatius of Antioch are short and all seven can easily be read in the course of an hour or two.  They provide us with a small snapshot of the first and second generations of Christians that followed the time of the apostles.  It is said that Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, sat at the feet of the Apostle John to be instructed in the faith. Owing to his reception by other churches and the authority with which he writes, it would seem that Ignatius was also of this immediate post-apostolic generation.

The writing of these letters took place in a time of persecution, yet it was not consistent or empire-wide in its scope or in its ferocity.  We might think of it as similar to the persecution of Jews in the last two centuries.  Many cities in Europe and America had large Jewish populations that were often integrated into the life of the cities in which they lived. Yet, on occasion, virulent anti-semitic outbreaks took place as in the pogroms of Russia. At other times laws curtailing Jewish life and activities could be found in other countries, including the United States.  (The Holocaust in Europe, of course, looked to its final destruction.)  This very much mirrors (apart from absolute numbers) the local and regional nature of the persecution of the Church in the first three centuries of its existence. It also helps us to understand how Ignatius could be on his way to be martyred in Rome, guarded by Roman soldiers, but, at the same time, be allowed to stop in various cities and communicate with other Christian leaders.  Yet, as Ignatius’ fellow bishop, Polycarp, was to find out, death for the faith could be just around the corner, even when all seemed safe. This was the reality that was lived out by Christians for over three centuries.

So, in light of such a precarious position, how is the Church to conduct itself?  Perhaps more to the point, as Ignatius is facing his own death, what are his principal concerns with regard to the Church?

Firstly, it is important to note one very important thing in these letters, the Church is “presupposed”.  That is, Ignatius is not trying to “invent” the Church.  It is there.  It has a structure. It has a life as a worshipping community, with baptism and the eucharist seen as normative. It had all of this… and the first apostles were still within the living memory of many in the Church.  Just to make the point, some readers may remember the evangelical youth revival of the late 1960s and 1970s.  You may have heard, or even known personally, some of the leaders of the time.  Writing in 2017 we are no more distant from them than Ignatius was from the apostles and the first followers of Christ. He is not writing about something that is “new”, he is writing about something that is “known”.

In Ignatius we see the struggle of the early Church with schismatic movements.  In his letter to the Philadelphians, for example, he indicates that there are schismatic movements that are growing like “evil plants” (Phil. 3).  In writing to the Magnesians, he writes that there is a group which advocates the keeping of the Jewish sabbath (in preference to the “first day of the week”) and yet another offshoot of Docetists who denied or disregarded the physical aspects of Christ’s life, such as his physical birth, death and physical resurrection.  Ignatius counters both groups in grounding Christian faith in the physical resurrection which is celebrated each Sunday (Magn. 8, 12).  Elsewhere, in opposing a non-physical Christianity, Ignatius makes use of stark realistic language concerning the elements of the Eucharist, calling the bread the “flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins” (Smyrn. 7,1).  Equally, however, Ignatius is willing to use symbolic language in reference to the Eucharist when he speaks of Christ’s body being the “bread of God” and “his blood” as “incorruptible love” (Rom. 7,3).  In each case, he uses the language suitable for his readers and his message and should not be seen as mutually exclusive.

Above all, however, the message of Ignatius is that of Church unity. Alone, of all the Apostolic Fathers, he sees unity as the ground and being of what it means to be the Church.  While he writes very little of individual spirituality, in the course of the seven letters, Ignatius uses the noun form of unity eleven times and the verb form of unity six times.  For Ignatius of Antioch, “unity” was the primary mark of the Church – that is, to be one with Christ, to be one with the leadership of the Church and to be one with one another.

Ignatius desired the Church to be one with Christ and to show that spiritual unity in faith and love (Eph. 14, 1) in imitation of the unity of Christ and the Father (Eph. 5, 1; Magn. 7, 1; Smyrn. 3, 3).  Mindful of his coming martyrdom and the oft-persecuted Church, Ignatius saw this as yet another opportunity  for oneness with Christ as individually and corporately Christians imitated Christ’s passion and suffering in their own (Eph. 8, 2).  Moreover, when we celebrate the Eucharist (which is itself the Church’s celebration of the passion of Christ) as we break the one bread together, we receive a “medicine” which creates unity (Eph. 20) among all the members of the Church. 

For Ignatius, this unity is exemplified by the leadership of the Church.  Earlier Christian writings, including the Pauline epistles, indicated the presence of elders or presbyters or, as in the Didache, bishops and deacons.  In Ignatius, for the first time, there appears a three-fold ministry of bishops, presbyters (elder or priests) and deacons.  While much ink has been spilled through the centuries on the exact duties of these three orders of leadership, perhaps it is enough to say that at this juncture the bishop is the primary leader who presides over baptisms, the Eucharist and marriages. (This would grow, in time, to oversight of several churches within a region.) All these functions, somewhat in the range of any local congregational leader, belong to the Bishop as the representative of God (Magn. 3,1 and 6, 1) or of Christ (Tral. 2,1; Eph. 6,1).  Most importantly, however, the Bishop stands as a sign of unity for the Church – not just the local church – but the Church universal or, as Ignatius says for the first time in a Christian document, the “Church catholic”; i.e. the whole or complete Church. This, of course, carried the responsibility of reflecting the holiness of the union of Christ and the Church in the conduct and practice of the bishop.

Much more could be said about the theology of Ignatius of Antioch, most especially his theology of martyrdom and I encourage you to read the letters for yourself.  I hope, however,  that this short article will at least give you a taste of the treasures that can be found in these seven short letters written in a time not wholly unlike our own.  

We live in an age of fragmentation.  Churches and denominations split and split again.  We look for absolutes of purity and/or practice.  The building of walls and fences, keeping people out and keeping people in, seems to be the model of the age.  We custom design our “shibboleths” designed to determine and protect our own brand of “orthodoxy”.  Yet, here in the early Church is the longing for unity.  A unity not merely of doctrine, but a unity of heart and of spirit. Unity is the sign of the kingdom and of Christ’s Church, although it now seems densely veiled.  Yet in spite of all evidence to the contrary, for those of you who will be attending or celebrating the Lord’s Supper this coming Sunday, on the first day of the week, the day of resurrection, be mindful… all the Church will be there with you. 

Unity happens, whether we like it or not.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

  89 Responses to ““Essentials”: The Letters of Ignatius of Antioch by Duane Arnold, PhD”

  1. “Please the Captain in whose army ye serve, from
    whom also ye will receive your pay. Let none of you be
    found a deserter. Let your baptism abide with you as
    you shield; your faith as your helmet; your love as
    your spear; your patience as your body armour. Let
    your works be your deposits, that ye may receive your
    assets due to you. Be ye therefore long-suffering one
    with another in gentleness, as God is with you. May I
    have joy of you always.”

    I would note here that the practice of referring back to ones baptism as an entry into the faith was already present before the Lutherans… 🙂

  2. “But mark ye those who hold strange doctrine
    touching the grace of Jesus Christ which came to us,
    how that they are contrary to the mind of God. They
    have no care for love, none for the widow, none for
    the orphan, none for the afflicted, none for the
    prisoner, none for the hungry or thirsty. They abstain
    from eucharist (thanksgiving) and prayer, because they
    allow not that the eucharist is the flesh of our
    Saviour Jesus Christ, which flesh suffered for our
    sins, and which the Father of His goodness raised up.”

    False teachers are marked by the lack of good works…and the denial of the Real Presence in the Eucharist…

  3. I wouldn’t translate Ignatius to be talking about Real Presence.

  4. That’s anachronistic, is it not?

  5. They abstain from eucharist (thanksgiving) and prayer, because they
    allow not that the eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which flesh suffered for our sins, and which the Father of His goodness raised up.”

    How would you translate that?

  6. “Be ye careful therefore to observe one eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup unto union in His blood; there is one altar,as there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and the deacons my fellow-servants), that whatsoever ye do, ye may do it after God.”

  7. Literal flesh and blood.

  8. Real Presence wasn’t invented for another 1200 years, right?

  9. #3 Josh

    Sorry, but I think Ignatius is using very literal language. He does, however, also use symbolic language.

    BTW, you should take a look at the Syriac ms. With your Hebrew, you might be surprised at how much you can glean…

  10. Josh,

    I’m using the term as a general view that Christ is present in the Eucharist .

  11. #8 Josh

    Aquinas only placed it into a philosophical/theological framework. He didn’t invent it…

  12. I think Ignatius is using Transubstantiation type language here. I think you have to read it through a 1500 lens to see anything else.

  13. Invent was the wrong word. Developed may have been better. Aquinas talked about Real Presence?

  14. Josh

    Using the Thomistic category of “transubstantiation” in reading Ignatius is anachronistic. Real Presence might be a better, more useful term.

  15. Josh,

    What I think I see in these writings (and others) is that the very early church held a sacramental view of baptism and the Eucharist.

    Would you agree or disagree?

  16. Isn’t Real Presence a Lutheran term though? And if by Real Presence we mean what Luther meant, I don’t think that is what Ignatius meant.

  17. @15 – Totally agree.

  18. #13 Josh

    Yes, Aquinas really put the category together, but he used Aristotelian concepts of forms and accidents, which, in my opinion, creates problems…

  19. Duane, I’m looking at a Syriac MS on Harvard’s library site right now…ummm…does this read right to left? 🙂

  20. Josh,

    In my opinion the attempt by various groups to define how Christ is present in the Eucharist are mainly all folly.

    He is, and it’s a mystery I can’t explain, just accept.

  21. #16 Josh

    Luther used the phrase to escape the Aristotelian categories…

  22. Josh,

    If you agree that the early church was sacramental, on what basis do we now reject that teaching?

  23. #19 Josh

    Have fun… there are some real similarities…

  24. What do your churches do with the leftover communion elements?

  25. #22 – We recognize several things that the Church has gotten wrong throughout the years and depart from those teachings. We try to be completely scriptural in our worship, and of course church history would rank below scripture in our levels of authority.

    That being said, it is something to wrestle with. The early assemblies did not look much like any of our churches today. That should cause us to think twice, for sure. And unless we do some real rationalizing, it doesn’t appear that Ignatius is speaking about The Lord’s Supper in the same way anyone here understands it.

  26. to what purpose are the real body and real blood at the eucharist? do we re-crucify our Lord? i won’t concede that the early Christians had the Faith all figured out – what i will concede is that the Holy Spirit was at work among them in a greater and necessary support of their simple faith than we allow Him today with our embroidered faith….

    I’ve never doubted that Christ was present at communion or that the admonition to not participate unworthily has real meaning, but to what purpose do the elements become Jesus’ real flesh (long since transformed in His resurrection)? To pause and enter into a remembrance of the price and the gift and our obligation to live in Christ makes sense and does include a mystery, but to ingest into my corrupted flesh my Lord’s glorified body …. just makes no sense, beyond mystery indeed
    that said, is it really a debate worth having? you are welcome at “my” communion table, but i respect yours… from a distance…

    God keep

  27. And unless we do some real rationalizing, it doesn’t appear that Ignatius is speaking about The Lord’s Supper in the same way anyone here understands it.<<<

    Don't be so sure!

  28. #24 Xenia

    In mine, the hosts are reserved to commune the sick and homebound…

  29. Xenia’s #24 reminds me of a popular book written by an Irishman a few years back whose name escapes me…
    as a R.C. child, after taking communion he was sick to his stomach and threw up – his Irish grandmother was in a tizzy because he had vomited the body and blood of her Lord…

  30. Xenia, we have had this discussion in the past, but I don’t remember the Orthodox holding to literal body and blood at the supper. That is what Ignatius is calling for.

    Forgive me if I am remembering incorrectly.

    We don’t have much leftover in communion. We will save it for the next time if possible.

  31. Em, this happened at our parish a few months ago. A toddler, who tends to be hyper-active anyway, threw up right after receiving the Eucharist. There is a procedure, done very calmly and not in a tizzy, that takes care of situations like this.

  32. I am a bandmate of Duane’s. You may find this prayer of Ignatius an enjoyable listening supplement to this article. The song “Ignatius” is from our album “Martyrs’ Prayers” by The Project. https://soundcloud.com/themartyrsproject/04-ignatius
    It can also be listened to on The Project’s website: http://www.themartyrsproject.com

  33. Josh, yes, we believe in the literal Body and Blood. We do not attempt to explain it.

    St. Ignatius is one of our proof texts, you might say.

  34. #25 Josh

    I first read Ignatius when I was about 21. I read it as “church history”. In those days, 30 or 40 years removed from the Apostles seemed to be two lifetimes. Now, at 64, I reminisce with my friend DavidM about things that took place 45 years ago! We can remember conversation, incidents… even jokes! So when I read Ignatius today, I realize that I’m reading the theology of a man who likely knew the Apostles, remembered the conversations, the incidents, etc. It may be as close as we get to what the Apostles thought of the shape of the Church.

  35. Tradition says that St. Ignatius was the little child that Christ took upon His lap when he said “Let the children come unto Me.”

  36. In Orthodox churches, any leftovers are consumed after the Liturgy by the priest or the deacon. Some is reserved for hospital visits.

  37. #36 Xenia

    Yes, much the same…

  38. @33 – Thanks Xenia. Must have forgotten.

  39. You’re welcome, Josh.

  40. Duane @ 34 – I first read early church writings for a church history class, maybe 15 years ago. I was stunned at how far the early church seemed from scripture, and how far I seemed from the early church. It really shook my faith. I had no clue.

  41. #40 Josh

    My experience was much the same. Then it got worse… I suddenly thought, “What if the early Church had it right?” Then I found people like Bob Webber at Wheaton who told me I wasn’t crazy. And so began the journey…

  42. it is interesting that we are still having the same arguments that Jesus and his disciples did as outlined in John 6:25…. and many deserted him after this.

    My view is “treat the Host as if it were” because God said it was, and not get bogged down into whether His resurrected Body loses substance (that the above passage proceeds the feeding of the 5000 makes this question irrelevant anyway) or if the elements can be scientifically tested.

    Thanks for the link to the letters, DA. I recently read Polycarp’s Epistle and was surprised (though not at the same time) how much he quoted the Gospels.

  43. @ 41 – Similar process, though not all the same conclusions. Still on the journey though.

  44. Michael,

    “I would note here that the practice of referring back to ones baptism as an entry into the faith was already present before the Lutherans…”

    Thank you. The the purpose of the Reformation was not to innovate, but recover the apostolic faith. And I’m sure you’re aware that Paul, also, reminds his congregations constantly to remember what Baptism has accomplished for them.

  45. #43 Josh

    As I look back on my journey, I’ve noted one issue that kept arising – “When I encounter new evidence, what do I do with it?” I couldn’t ignore it and be intellectually honest. I think that struggle with what we find to be true (and it is a struggle at times) is really what theology is all about… Like you, I’m still on the journey.

  46. Was it only a year ago that I was trying to get everyone to read St. Ignatius?

  47. The other thing that the evangelical church would find problematic in these writings is the importance and authority of the bishop.

    The bishopric was of primary importance to the church…

  48. @ 47 – Very true. The rapid development of the hierarchy was tough for me the first time I read it.

  49. Josh,

    The place of the bishop was to zealously guard doctrine and practice.
    What has replaced this position…if indeed it has been replaced?

  50. #47 Michael

    Yes… and the involvement of the Church in marriage as this involves the province of the bishop. Some commentators believe it was about the prevention of “mixed marriages” (believers and unbelievers) while others think this indicates a sacramental view of marriage. I’m undecided on this one…

  51. Duane,

    Could it be both?

  52. #49 Michael

    … AND to be a sign of unity!

  53. #51 Michael

    Perhaps… placing it in the context of baptism and the Eucharist makes me think it was more than “vetting” the couple!

  54. Well, I don’t want to be seen to be arguing the counterpoint to Duane’s focus on the church fathers. I think it the study is very valuable, and Duane an able teacher.

    But to answer #49 – I think evangelicals would not see a hierarchy in the New Testament, and seeing it developing later ( though not much later), and finally finding its abusive end in the pope.

    Baptists see the highest position for guarding doctrine in the local church. We don’t acknowledge any authority above it.

  55. #54 Josh

    There are indications in the NT. My question is, in the first generation, within living memory of the Apostles, would they have been able to so quickly have this threefold hierarchical structure without some apostolic sanction? I know it is an argument from silence, but I think someone would have said, “Hold on, this isn’t what we were taught!”

  56. Maybe. Or maybe sinful men saw an opportunity to grab power.

    Like you said, it is an argument from silence.

    We see the Apostles being given the authority to set doctrine and practice, and we have their writings. We try to stick to those as much as possible.

  57. Josh – at #54 – your pastor is the final word?

  58. #56 Josh

    I hear you, but then I have to consider men like Polycarp (also from the apostolic age) occupying the same sort of office as Ignatius. And then the other bishops coming from other cities… I think a “power grab” unlikely (unless it was a “grand conspiracy” – then we’ll need to call Dan Brown!)…

  59. Duane @ 55… I find that a compelling argument as well.

  60. @ 57 – No. The local church. We can fire the pastor.

  61. Do we all agree that by the time this hierarchy reached the Pope, it was abhorrent?

  62. #59 Michael

    When we also consider the inability to travel quickly (note the journey of Ignatius) the fact that this structure was already in place, in numerous cities (including Rome) at the time of Ignatius writing the letters, pushes it back right into the apostolic age…

  63. Josh,

    Certainly there were corrupt popes through Roman Catholic history.

    However, Rome is not the only church with a bishopric.

    The concept itself, I find to be both biblical, historical, and necessary.

  64. Back to the article…the question of unity has to be the most vexing issue of the church.

    One need only read one thread here to know that we’re nowhere close to such…

  65. Biblical, no. Historical, absolutely.

    All good though. We disagree. No need to get bogged down with my objections. Good talking to you guys!

  66. Josh,

    You’re performing a valuable service here…as most of our other evangelical brethren have either left or are silent.

    You represent them well…

  67. Lutherans like the Church Fathers and quote from them freely in the Confessions. Modern day, the Fathers are quoted in the Treasury of Daily Prayer (CPH) and in the study notes of The Lutheran Study Bible (CPH)

  68. #67 MLD

    One of the best people on the Church Fathers is a Lutheran – Bill Wienrich at Concordia, Ft. Wayne. His early work on martyrdom is incredible. More than that, a genuine believer and a dear friend.

  69. Do we all agree that by the time this hierarchy reached the Pope, it was abhorrent?<<<

    No, we don't agree. Why are you confining your discussion to the admittedly corrupt Roman Catholic hierarchy?

  70. Duane,
    Bill Wienrich is in the middle of writting a 3 vol commentary on John. Volume 1 is out.
    Here is an interview with him discussing John but he begins speaking about Ignatius.

    https://kfuo.org/2016/10/14/bt-2016-10-14/

  71. @ 69. You sort of sound like you agree with me? The Roman Catholic hierarchy is what Protestants were protesting against.

  72. Josh, “The Roman Catholic hierarchy is what Protestants were protesting against.”
    Not the Lutherans – the issue was not the Pope but the teachings and practices of the church.

    If the RCC leadership had responded properly to Luther he would have been fine with the state of the papacy and every thing would have been OK. Think of it, then Luther would not have been forced into referring to the pope as a fart.!

  73. #70 MLD

    Yes, the first volume is superb….

  74. Duane, I have 10 of the Concordia Commentaries – but I can’t afford them any longer (well I could but my wife would beat me for spending $55 for a book.)
    I am holding out for Jeffrey Gibbs’ 3rd volume of Mathew and I am done. 😉

  75. I wholeheartedly agree that Josh is performing a valuable service here. I still read here almost every day, but feel it’s best to bless the PP with silence.

  76. With regard to bishops, presbyters and deacons… I think most of us in the West are fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea of “hierarchic authority”. This would not have been the case in the first century. Yet, we cannot disregard the evidence of Scripture (overseers, presbyters and deacons are indicated) nor the witness of writings from the post-apostolic age (the Didache, Ignatius, etc.). Perhaps the question that needs to be asked is, “Using the historic model of a three-fold ministry of Bishops (overseers), presbyters (elders) and deacons, what would that model look like in the 21st century West?”

    I think most of us would say that it would not be “monarchial”. The positions may be invested with authority within the Church, but perhaps the authority would be based upon service, rather than “right of place”. I don’t think this issue is limited to Anglicans, RCC or EO. There are many evangelical churches with “monarchial” pastors invested with much greater authority than you might find in historic hierarchical communities.

    Again, just some thoughts…

  77. “Using the historic model of a three-fold ministry of Bishops (overseers), presbyters (elders) and deacons, what would that model look like in the 21st century West?”

    We see that as pastor / elders / deacons.

  78. #77 Josh

    Does it rise “higher” in any way (district, conference, etc.) or is it completely local for your church?

  79. Local, as far as “authority” goes. That is the Southern Baptist belief. The association and convention are where we cooperate with other SBC churches for missions.

  80. Should explain, the association is local. Convention is national.

    The associational minister, or even convention president, have no say as far as what goes on in my church. Now, if we are teaching false doctrine or promoting sin or something, they can vote to not cooperate with us any longer.

  81. #80 Josh

    So essentially the polity is congregational. Firstly, is that a good thing, bad thing or neutral? Secondly, it seems to be a different polity from what we see in Ignatius – again, good, bad or indifferent?

    I’ve had really great bishops in my church and I’ve had (and seen) some really bad bishops. I’ve had friends in the RCC and EO who have said the same. On the other hand, all of us have seen local pastors, accountable only to a hand picked board of elders who have been less than stellar. It’s still that issue of authority/accountability…

  82. Yes we are congregational, as are most SBC’s. Some are elder led, some probably do other things, but all are autonomous.

    I do think Congregational polity is the best way, though we don’t see it in the fathers, and it is only hinted at in the New Testament.

  83. Duane,

    Of course I am biased, but I think the LCMS has as good a structure as any. It is congregational, except that built into the by-laws and required for associating with the Synod and the rostering of any pastor, is (1) agreement to follow the confessional writings in the Book of Concord; and (2) a formal seminary education at an approved Lutheran Seminary.

    The congregation is responsible for (1) calling only ordained Lutheran pastors and (2) making sure that the pastor does not deviate from the Book of Concord. If he does, he is in breach of his call letter and the congregation’s by-laws. This subjects him to removal.

    If the congregation follows the pastor in violating the confessions, then the Synod can break affiliation with the pastor and the congregation.

    Of all the structures I’m aware of, this one makes the most sense to me. The problem with a bishop or pope overseeing many congregations is that if you get one false teacher, he can lead many congregations astray, as we see with Rome, Church of England, UMC, etc. On the other hand, with no foundation in confessional writings, a strict congregational system is very hit or miss based almost entirely on local factors.

    I don’t know a lot about the EO structure, but as between the structures seen in UMC, Church of England and RCC, I would just as soon go with a congregational system.

  84. Jumping in late with my thoughts. With my evangelical background, I do lean more towards Josh’s thinking when it comes to church/ecclesiastical polity. I do appreciate the discussion here along with the original article as it helps me to learn as I do not nearly have the knowledge on the subject that many here do have.

    Although I do favor more local autonomy as opposed to a bishop-type set-up presiding over a bunch of churches, I do get disturbed by the level of division in the Church. Some is necessary, but I think some is unnecessary, especially in attitude. A bishop-led church could help with some division, but certainly isn’t a cure-all. We all could use greater doses of humility at times and I think that would go a long way in helping to mend (or avoid in the first place) some of our unnecessary division.

  85. One thing about LCMS polity is that we vote in even the bosses. There are 35 district presidents (really bishops, but the LCMS didn’t like bishops) and the Synod President and 5 vice presidents. They all have some ruling authority but they need to stand for reelection.

  86. #83 Jean

    Yes, you’ve hit the problem in the “modern age” – accountability. The Book of Concord provides for accountability, or a standard of belief and conduct. In the Anglican world, Bishops at consecration take vows (as do priests) to be “faithful to the doctrine and discipline” of the Church. The problem comes, however, when they are not faithful. This has happened often with disastrous results. Of course there are LCMS churches which, at least to my eye, are, shall I say, very different from what I might expect to find in an LCMS church. Usually it has to do with the pastor.

    I think we worship “success” to such a degree, that if a pastor is successful, it is an end in and of itself.

    Perhaps if being consecrated a bishop or chosen as a pastor meant that you were first in line for martyrdom (as in the early Church) it might be different!

  87. #84 Kevin

    “We all could use greater doses of humility at times and I think that would go a long way in helping to mend (or avoid in the first place) some of our unnecessary division.”

    Could not agree more…

  88. “I think we worship “success” to such a degree, that if a pastor is successful, it is an end in and of itself.”

    100% true.

  89. Some food for thought….

    One of the qualifications of an elder according to Scripture is “Able or Apt to Teach”. But it does necessarily mean that all elders teach or all elders are required to teach (and Scripture does not say if they do not teach at all or only at some point).

    Scripture lists Pastor and Teacher in the office list, but it could it not also be argued from the Greek that it is actually Pastor-Teacher. So instead of pastor, elder, and deacon, it may be elder and deacon. In the category of elder, there are elders who teach and those who do not.

    Thus, could it be the pastor-teacher is an elder whose duties gives him more prominence than the other elder, not that he is higher up in a hierarchical structure or some org chart. One crude analogy would the relationship of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court (yes I know the Chief Justice presides over Impeachment Trials of the President in the Senate).

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)

%d bloggers like this: