Recent Investigations Into The Organization Of The Apostolic And Post-Apostolic Churches -- By: Hugh M. Scott

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 044:174 (Apr 1887)
Article: Recent Investigations Into The Organization Of The Apostolic And Post-Apostolic Churches
Author: Hugh M. Scott

Recent Investigations Into The Organization Of The Apostolic
And Post-Apostolic Churches

Prof. Hugh M. Scott

The true theory of Church Polity is a problem which the Providence of God and the course of history seem to present to the Modern Church for solution. The great central doctrines of theology were finally settled long ago, and have received proper expression in the ecumenical symbols. The Greek Church, with its peculiar gift of philosophical thinking and subtlety of distinction, formulated the Christian doctrines of God, the Trinity, and the Person of Christ. The practical sense of the West turned to human life, its needs and sorrows, and the Latin Church expressed for all time what we are to believe concerning sin in man and grace in God. It was reserved for the Germanic Church of the Reformation to set in the foreground, between the Theology of the Greeks and the Anthropology of the Latin, for the first time, the true teaching on Soteriology, or justification by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel of liberty was set forth with great power; the priesthood of all believers was proclaimed in opposition to all papal and hierarchical assumptions; and the rights of the local Church were everywhere recognized. And yet when papal allegiance was denied and the bishops fell, a most alarming gap was left in the social and religious life of Europe. Those were troublous days in which to be left without rules and authority in the house of the Lord. There were Anabaptists and other sectaries, preaching ecclesiastical communism and anarchy. There was persecution from without; there were heretical and schismatic movements within the church. The result was that the Reformers turned to the civil power for help, and put the princes

more or less in the place of the bishops. The polity of the established churches was thus both theoretically and practically very closely associated with the theories and methods of the state. In some cases, such as the Episcopal Church in England, and still more the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and elsewhere, the divine right claimed for the order of church government led to much sharper discussion of the points at issue; but in all these discussions, the presuppositions of a jus divinum for the polity upheld prevented any thoroughly historic apprehension of the whole subject. Other churches, born of religious revival, such as the Moravian Brethren in Germany and the Methodists in England, naturally laid such stress upon the new birth, genuine conversion, and a religious life, that they were quite inclined to regard church organization as simply a question of practical expediency, or to work within the framework of the church wherein they were born. This ‘‘Pietistic’’ reaction, both on ...

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