Congregational Priesthood And The Inventio Or Invention Of Authority -- By: Malcolm Yarnell

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 03:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: Congregational Priesthood And The Inventio Or Invention Of Authority
Author: Malcolm Yarnell


Congregational Priesthood And The Inventio Or Invention Of Authority

Malcolm Yarnell

Assistant Dean for Theological Studies
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
P.O. Box 22000
Ft. Worth, TX 76122

Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

(Revelation 1:4b-6; NASB)

This essay is composed of two parts. First, a paradigm is offered for understanding the problem of doctrinal development. This paradigm differentiates between true and false developments, inventio and invention. Second, this paradigm is applied to the location of authority in various doctrines of priesthood, and argues for congregational priesthood as the preferred doctrine of royal priesthood.

Defining Inventio And Invention

In his provocative book, Augustine’s Invention of the Inner Self, Phillip Cary argues that Augustine garnered his concept of the inner man more from his reading of Neo-Platonism than from his reading of Scripture. Although Cary demonstrated Augustine’s appropriation of Plotinus, he did not adequately deal with Augustine’s dependence on Scripture. Cary did, however, introduce a paradigm that is fruitful for research into Baptist ecclesiology, or any number of doctrines. He notes that new ideas appear in human history when intellectual

traditions encounter problems in the transition between generations. In addressing what we would consider to be eternal truth in a new temporal context, Cary says a “finding” must be made. “Originally, the Latin word inventio meant finding the right word or thought for an occasion, hence also finding the solution to a problem.” Inventio does not convey the sense of novelty but of discovery, a temporal discovery of a pre-existing truth. In modernity, however, the Latin inventio became the English “invention” and underwent a profound but important shift in meaning. “Ancient inventio eventually became modern ‘invention’—the making up of something new rather than the finding of something already there.” With this distinction between inventio as discovery of an established truth versus invention as making up something new, w...

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