Saturday, March 31, 2012


These words are someone else's  but need to be heard by all of us. Enjoy!

Where then did we get the concept that bishops are rulers? [For our purposes you can substitute elders/pastors for bishops for the rest of the article since biblically all three words refer to the same person.] Perhaps a lesson in history would help the modern person to better understand how it is that we inherited the current hierarchical system of church leadership.

From the first century until now, the political mindset of each era of history was adopted by the church of that particular era. Hence the concept of ruling bishops [pastors/elders] evolved with each generation and nation adding its own peculiar twist. When the church falls to the level of a mere institution it will always adopt the political style of the nation where it resides. 

Generally speaking, the bent of the natural man was to make the word bishop [pastor/elder] a title of a ruling position instead of the function of a caregiver and servant, such as the godly elderly of the early church. It was somewhat due to the influence of Ignatius in the 2nd century that this concept arose. 

It began with Ignatius who held the concept that the Bishop (overseer) was a different person from the elder (which means an older wiser one). Ignatius was received well because of his affiliation with the Lord's aged disciple John. He over-emphasized obedience to bishops and stressed the unbiblical clergy-laity distinction, which was already spreading throughout the world.

Eventually the concept of a head Bishop over the other bishops in each city began to evolve, which developed further into a mother church concept in that a bigger city held reign over its smaller surrounding cities and villages. This eventually led to the invention of such grandiose titles as archbishop, cardinal, and pope. None of these titles are found in the scriptures or in the writings of the early church fathers. 

After this the local character of the ekklesia was lost because there was now one worldwide hierarchy, with the pope at the top. The concept of one Catholic (meaning universal) church was brought into full swing, divided into administrative districts known as dioceses, another concept that was borrowed from the Roman government.

Then there was the European influence. The prevailing political and economical system of Europe was the feudal system. The lands were all owned by either the king or his lords. The common man was permitted to live on that land that surrounded the castle of each lord, and the peasants were taxed on what they produced as well as paying rent to the lord. In exchange, the serfs could run to the shelter of the castle and its moat if there was an invasion of the land by another army, or they could turn to the gerefa, (sheriff, who also doubled as tax collector) to keep the thieves at bay and maintain order.

The Roman model of the church coat-tailed on this system. The bishop or archbishop reigned from a cathedral. These were very political positions often occupied by members of the ruling class. The right of primogeniture was part and parcel of the feudal system. The king and his lords gave the entire inheritance to the oldest son. As a result the younger sons, disgruntled and rejected, often sought power and identity by gaining office in the church. These two systems worked hand in hand to maintain control over the serfs. One used the threat of an army and sheriffs; the other threatened the heavenly displeasure of God Himself. 

The very possibility of being branded a heretic and having to face the torment of the church's inquisitors and their various methods of torture often kept would-be dissenters at bay. After all, the church could always depend on the armies of the kings to back it up in time of need, just as Herod and Pontius Pilate came to the aid of the Jewish Sanhedrin when it came time to crucify Jesus.

The American Church is an amalgamation of all of the above influences, and adds its own unique cultural bias to the mix. Hence the American church is run like a corporation and its leadership is modeled after the entrepreneurial CEO.

None of these influences can be found in the Lord's teachings or the example of the early church. The presence of such societal values in the church indicates that the world has been more influential in shaping the church and its leadership, particularly the present day brand, than has the Spirit of the lowly Christ, who said, "My kingdom is not of this world."

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


You have such good aim! You'd make a good carpenter the way you hit the nail on the head!

IMO,broadly speaking,Christians are ignorant of the facts of church history, apart from that of their own highly edited traditional versions.

There is a potted history, worth reading, at,

'........the world has been more influential in shaping the church and its leadership, particularly the present day brand, than has the Spirit of the lowly Christ, who said, "My kingdom is not of this world." ' (have you been reading some of my old sermons? :)

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I had a feeling that this writer was already in your arsenal of information. ;)

Aussie John said...


A few years ago,I was surprised to find that more and more were beginning to find historical evidences for what I had found regarding the traditional church. The writers of that site were among those.

Kristen said...

I love this.

Paul Burleson said...


I'm sure that you like I have noticed the fact that "Fundamentalists" [Notice the capital F] wind up embracing culture into their theological filters and systems more than any one else...and are blind to it. [As in their position on women for example.]

Kristen said...

Paul-- yes, and then they say anyone who disagrees with them is "capitulating to modern culture" --while they themselves are living out a capitulation to culture by the Church, that took place around 300-400 AD.

Rex Ray said...

You wrote “Ignatius was received well because of his affiliation with the Lord’s aged disciple John.”

What made John “aged”?

Did Jesus choose ‘The Sons of Thunder’ (James and John) because they were old? Does not the ‘bold’ tend to be ‘young and foolish’? (They wanted Jesus to call fire from heaven…) How old were they when their mother asked Jesus for her boys to sit on either sided of him in his Kingdom?

I doubt any of the apostles were older than Jesus, and for Ignatius to be exchanging letters with Mary, the apostles were far from being old.

Paul, below is from Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Wheaton College.

Mary wrote to Ignatius: “The lowly handmaid of Jesus to Ignatius, her beloved fellow-disciple. The things which thou has heard and learned from John concerning Jesus are true. Believe them, cling to them...stand fast in the faith...Amen”
Ignatius wrote to John: “Well-know persons, relate that Mary is full of all graces and all virtues...She is the lady of our new religion...there is in Mary, the mother of Jesus, an angelic purity of nature allied with the nature of humanity. Such reports have greatly urged us to desire a sight of this heavenly prodigy and most sacred marvel.
I desire to see the venerable James, who is surnamed Just, whom they relate to be like Christ Jesus in appearance, in life, in method of conduct, as if he were a twin-brother of the same womb.
We ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself.”

From The Trail of Blood J.M. Carroll, p.12:
“Great churches began [about 90 A.D.] to claim authority over smaller churches...their many elders began to lord it over God’s heritage (3 John 1:9). Here was the beginning of an error…practiced by others as well as Catholics.”

Ignatius was appointed as bishop and I believe was the answer to Paul’s question:

“…What magician has hypnotized you and cast an evil spell upon you? (Galatians 3:1 Living Bible) “Then have you gone completely crazy? For if trying to obey the Jewish laws never gave you spiritual life in the first place, why do you think that trying to obey them now will make you stronger Christians?” (Galatians 1:3 Living)

Scott Leonard said...

Two thoughts: 1. I believe Jesus is submited to the Father in a way that is not reciprocated by the Father, though perhaps one could propose that there is mutual submission there, too. Don't know of any scripture that specifically teaches it. John 17 does beautifully reveal Jesus saying He and the Father are one, have all things in comon possession, and are in each other. I do see that the Son is eternally submitted to the Father, and it is eternally glorious! I dont see anywhere that it is stated that the Father is submitted to the Son. Yet some times I think the objections I hear about submission lead to the conclusion that Jesus submitting to the Father is a bad thing. Am I confused when I say that it sounds like some of you might think it is bad if Jesus is subordinated to the Father?

2. If husbands were being the lovers Paul and Peter describe, there would be no debate on wives submitting as the church is submitted to Christ. Seriously. Yet I do believe scripture at least hints that the flesh of the man uniquely struggles with loving his wife properly, and that the wife's flesh uniquely struggles with submitting to her husband.

It's late, so I may be assuming too much from your discussion. Help me out!

Paul Burleson said...


I will give you the "what" I believe and later write a post with biblical exegesis on "why" i believe it. The "what" is rather short and the "why" is far too lengthy.

My personal belief is the Father, Son, and Spirit are indivisible in power and authority. Since each divine person is fully God, each is omnipotent WITHOUT ANY CAVEATS. If the divine persons are one in being, equal God, they must of necessity be one in power and authority.

If they are not one in power and authority they are not one in being and divinity. The Son would be subordinated God, not just in function but in his person. [The will of one becomes lesser in being given over.]

So the idea that the Son must eternally obey the Father implies that the Father and the Son each have their own will. The Son must submit his will to the will of the Father. If the divine three each have their own will, then divine unity is breached and tritheism follows. [The will of one becomes lesser in being given over.]

To argue in reply that the Son can do no other than obey the Father, thus having one will—such language of compulsion is not appropriate—does not solve the problem. If the Father and the Son (and the Spirit) have one will, the actions of one cannot be conceived as obedience to another without there being a lesser will given over.

In the NT, Christ is obedient as a human. The Son is subordinated in the incarnation because in taking human flesh the Son of God voluntarily relinquished his status, not his divinity or being as God, assuming the form of a servant. [Assumed is the key word.]

What is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth is true and provides an accurate knowledge of God, but it is a revelation of God in kenotic form, of God in human flesh, of self-subordinated God. This means what is creaturely in Christ must not be read back into the eternal or immanent Trinity.

Paul Burleson said...


For openness sake, how I phrase what I believe about ES of the Son is something I've gleaned from sources that I have in my "folder" of beliefs to which I hold and is easily accessible to me for moments EXACTLY like this comment.

That folder is made up of people like Zens, Reisinger, [Dave] Johnson, Giles, Grudem, [with whom I disagree] and a host of other men and women who have studied this issue. Check the out. They are great. Who said what is sometimes lost.