Saturday, July 13, 2013

Steve Hays' Triablogue Takes Exception To Frank Turk in Defense of AHA

One of Steve Hays' bloggers, Rhology, is a huge AHA proponent. Recently Frank Turk pointed out some basic problems with AHA that I have also pointed out in the past. Frank's post can be viewed HERE.

Steve Hays' response can be viewed HERE.

I want to address some of Steve's responses to Frank in light of Scripture and a biblical ecclesiology.

Hays's first point is as follows:

Frank takes for granted a certain ecclesiology. If members of AHA don't share his ecclesiology, in principle or practice, then that must mean they lack a "mature view of Scripture."

Frank never says that "because" their specific ecclesiology disagrees with his own, then they must not have a mature view of Scripture. Rather, Frank's point seems to be that because AHA is ACTUALLY structured the way it is, it lacks a mature view on the matter of ecclesiology. Frank says without ambiguity,

"there is no visible, accountable leadership structure.  After inquiring with someone who knows, I was able to get a short list of fellows who are sort of running AHA, but that list is not readily visible to the public."

Hays' comments are much more general than Frank's as one can see. I think this is unfair. But this seems to be Hays' preferred method. In other words, Frank has pinpointed a specific practice that would likely NOT be the case IF AHA had bothered to develop a biblical ecclesiology. Hays' rebuttal misses the point and can be characterized as an ad hominem response from my perspective.

Hays then makes the following statement:

Now, I don't have any opinion about AHA in general. For one thing, I don't know much about the organization. For another thing, to the extent that AHA is a national organization with many members, it's not possible to generalize about their ecclesiastical views or ecclesiastical affiliations.

Quite frankly, I find this very hard to believe. Rhology posts AHA videos and articles on Triablogue ALL THE TIME. In addition, I have been attacked by Hays myself over my criticism of AHA which follows the same line that Turk employs. It is hard to believe that Hays' is as in as much darkness on the matter of AHA as he infers. Moreover, if Hays' is as uninformed about AHA as he claims, how is it that he can come to their defense. Secondly, just because an organization is national, that does not mean that we cannot pinpoint their ecclesiastical views. Of course an organization can establish clearly biblical views on its ecclesiology the same as it can for any other doctrine of Scripture. Such a statement makes very little sense.

Hays then trots out a Red Herring. If you have interacted with Hays much, you will recognize this as one of his favorite arguments. He quotes F.F. Bruce:
Is it correct to say that no local company of Christians has the right to the designation "church" unless and until elders and deacons are in evidence? 
Is this the situation in modern American churches? Are we really just getting the Church going so much so that we have 15 people who are newly regenerated in some remote village and they are without leadership...yet? Of course not! This is apples and oranges, folks. But it is a tactic Hays seems to love to employ. AHA members CLAIM to be part of local bodies. The leaders claim to be part of local bodies and accountable to those bodies. But where are those pastors and elders and bodies listed on AHA's site? Turk is spot on in his comments. This has been my experience with AHA. Hays' Red Herring is obvious.

Hays then references Walter Liefeld's study dealing with the differences between office and position.There is essentially no real distinction made in the NT between the position, office, or gift of the pastor, elder, and other gifts. That the elder stands in a distinct position of authority is undeniable. That we are to submit to that authority as we submit to Christ is also undeniable. I recognize that the authority of the elder is limited by the authority of sound doctrine. No elder has the authority to arbitrarily direct the goings on of members. This would be an abuse of power and is strictly forbidden. For instance, a elder cannot forbid a person to have a glass of wine because he thinks it is wrong. On the other hand, an elder can forbid a member to publicly pronounce the gospel in a formal way when he thinks that person has not be adequately prepared or examined for the task. And that is exactly what we talking about in this case. Hays seems to be oblivious to the Scripture's teaching on the authority of the Church. I do not know if his position is a reaction to the abuses of Catholic ecclesiology of if they are attributed to something else.

The fact is that Frank Turk was not only spot-on in his review of AHA, but also in his view of what a sound ecclesiology actually looks like. If AHA really is interested in working within the Church, it must submit to the authority of that body it says it so desperate loves. There is no other way. 

A biblically sound ecclesiology informs us that no man should set out on a mission to establish any official ministry or to set himself up as a preacher of any sort unless he has been expressly examined and approved by his elders. Rejection of this safeguard, established by God, leads to confusion, division, discord, and in many cases, outright heresy. The first sign that a man is NOT called by God is that he questions the very process by which God Himself calls men to serve in such capacities: recognition, examination, training, and approval by his elders. Acts 20 is enough. Great caution is the only prudent course of action for anyone we send out to handle the gospel before the world in such capacities. A casual attitude in this respect reveals a lack of appreciation for the work of ministry itself. Such a disposition is entirely unacceptable for the work of the kingdom, and for any laborers who hold themselves out as self-appointed leaders. Quite simply put, there are no self-appointed leaders in the Church, regardless of their ministry activity. You are either appointed or you are not. God uses a specific method for appointing men to these leadership positions. No appointment by a plurality of elders to a position equals no appointment by God to that position. There are no other options.

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