Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Doctor is In

Appeal has been made to Calvin's "four-office view" to legitimize theological innovation in our churches. "Is there not a place for 'doctors of the church,'" we are asked, "whose job is to labor in the Word, but from the study and not from the pulpit?" Furthermore, it has been urged in this connection that to the trailblazer should go the benefit of the doubt. In other words, if a man is sincerely seeking to further the theological or exegetical conversation, then back off and give him some space.

Some thoughts, if I may....

First, Paul does list "pastors" and "teachers" as abiding New Testament officers given to the church by the ascended Christ. Though many attempt to combine these two into one office using Granville Sharp's canon, the fact is that this Greek rule only applies to singular nouns joined by kai, and poimenas and didaskalous are both plural. It is possible, therefore, that Paul is arguing that there is a teaching office in the church distinct from that of pastor (and to those holding the traditional three-office view, this would not apply to those whom we call "ruling elders").

Secondly, the case could be made that seminary professors fill just such an office. They are ordained ministers of the Word, and yet they do not shepherd a particular flock, but are called by their respective presbyteries or classes to minister in the context of the academy.

Thirdly (building on my second point), these "doctors of the church" are called by their ecclesiastical communions to do what they do, they do not appoint themselves for the task.

Fourthly, "doctors of the church" who are called by their governing bodies to do theology must actually be trained in theology. If you are scratching your head wondering why I feel the need to mention something so obvious, just forget I brought it up and move on....

Given these qualifications, I think that a church's calling gifted and trained men to further our various biblical/theological discussions could be a healthy way to maintain our confessional identity without sticking our collective heads in the sand.