Whatever Happened to Ecclesiastical Government?
I know you might think this is crazy. But bear with me, and see if the logic fits.
While driving through Canada in 2009 I listened to a lecture Dr. Rushdoony gave somewhere. It was an introduction to lectures on Corinthians, and he had one vitally interesting point that I cannot get over.
Rushdoony pointed out that the word ekklesia in the Greek — usually translated ‘church’ or ‘congregation’ in the New Testament — has its origins in Greek culture. The ekklesia were the ‘called out ones’. This would be a group in a city or town who were ‘called out’ to deal with issues of the township.
In other words, the ekklesia was the governing body of the township. In antiquity, they met sometimes 30-40 times in a year, and usually discussed issues that involved a change to the law, appointments to official positions, contracts, peace, war, and finance. (You can read more on this in Colin Brown’s, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols.)
Got that? Now extend your thinking a little.
If this is the meaning of ekklesia then it is not too hard to figure out why the early Christians were using the word to describe themselves. They were the new governing body of the township or city — governing in terms of God’s law not the law of either Greece or Rome.
Think a little more on this. How on earth could we have a governing body of ekklesia — called out ones from the Christian community — in any town today when Christians are divided into a myriad of denominations whose raison d’etre is to be ‘separated’ from their Christian brothers and sisters who do not see eye-to-eye with them on some point in theology?
Do you get the direction of my thinking here? The church is so disunited it cannot possibly put together a governing team of called out ones who are unanimous in how to address issues form a biblical perspective.
Maybe this, in part, explains why the earlier church — undivided by so many denominations — was able to transform parts of the Western World and thus create Christendom.
How on earth are we going to duplicate that feat when we are united on only one thing, the need to to be separated from everyone who disagrees with us?
Figure that one out, if you can. I can’t. But Rushdoony’s insightful comments on the ekklesia have helped me understand where the problem lies, and why we are losing the culture war.
It’s simple, really. The modern church, if it has forsaken its ekkelsia origins, becomes little more than a holy huddle where people escape from the real world and indulge in ‘spiritual’ fantasia. There is very little real ekklesia today in the sense that Rushdoony describes. And because there is no ekklesia contemporary Christianity too often looks to politics to transform culture. As my friend John says: “This is nuts”.
And that is just another reason why Christianity is failing.
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