What is the subject of church power?

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83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
A friend and I have been reading through Bannerman's The Church of Christ together, and we are finishing up part 2 at the moment. The final chapter is on the subject of church power. I was surprised by this section, and was hoping for some clarification and your thoughts!

My understanding: he puts forth three theories of the subject of church power. 1) The officers (prelacy), 2) The whole church (independency), and 3) to both in different ways (presbyterian).

My confusion is in the distinction between the first and third theories, as they seem to be fairly similar. The first, with the considerations of extent/limits brought in a previous chapter seems to be identical to the third, and it is only without those previous considerations that the first becomes subject to abuse and turns into prelacy. Bannerman does concede that many presbyterians have held the first theory as well (pg 281 in the new hardback Banner of Truth edition). So is there really a great difference between the first and third, except that the third makes explicit the extent/limits that were previously discussed, whereas the first may or may not have those features present? Is this a difference between the English and Scottish Presbyterians?

My surprise was in the third theory. He makes the entire church possess church power in the first instance (in essence), and then the office-bearers possess it in the second instance (for exercise and administration). While I think I understand his reasons for putting the church body before the office-bearers, I had expected to see him say that Christ is the primary subject of church power, in line with what he says in the earlier chapter on the rule of church power that office-bearers are "but the instruments in the hands of Christ Himself" (p230). So is he saying that Christ commits power to the church directly, and the office-bearers indirectly through the church?
 

Von

Puritan Board Sophomore
Good questions - BUMP before it disappears from the PB landing page...
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Bannerman is who I point to to explain this; not sure Im smart enough to make him clearer. But the subject of the primary recipient of church power from Christ was a 'big deal' topic at the time of the Westminster Assembly. I deal with it briefly in my introduction to Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici, mainly because I had to in order to deal with potential reasons for why the work was altered in the second edition, which argues from the standpoint of the first position, and additionally overlays other concerns that the English Presbyterians found attractive, made newly by Samuel Hudson about the same time. Here is a snippet:
p21JDRE.png p22-23JDRE.png
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
Bannerman is who I point to to explain this; not sure Im smart enough to make him clearer. But the subject of the primary recipient of church power from Christ was a 'big deal' topic at the time of the Westminster Assembly. I deal with it briefly in my introduction to Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici, mainly because I had to in order to deal with potential reasons for why the work was altered in the second edition, which argues from the standpoint of the first position, and additionally overlays other concerns that the English Presbyterians found attractive, made newly by Samuel Hudson about the same time. Here is a snippet:
View attachment 7397View attachment 7398

Thanks for this, it provides some missing historical context that helps clarify. So the reason there is a distinction between the first and third theories is mainly because of the second. The first is a less balanced articulation of the third, because the third as it stood while correct, was not strictly anti-independent, which the first is. I like your phrasing "while not of necessity, does lend itself to such errors." So they took a more clearly anti-independent view that wasn't liable to misinterpretation/abuse from the independents, but it ended up becoming the error of the "high churchmen" that Bannerman discusses. Does this track?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks for this, it provides some missing historical context that helps clarify. So the reason there is a distinction between the first and third theories is mainly because of the second. The first is a less balanced articulation of the third, because the third as it stood while correct, was not strictly anti-independent, which the first is. I like your phrasing "while not of necessity, does lend itself to such errors." So they took a more clearly anti-independent view that wasn't liable to misinterpretation/abuse from the independents, but it ended up becoming the error of the "high churchmen" that Bannerman discusses. Does this track?
I would agree with all but the last bit on "ended up;" the first is the high churchmen view and always has been; they would have no interest in the other two since they are by definition taking all the power to themselves.
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
I would agree with all but the last bit on "ended up;" the first is the high churchmen view and always has been; they would have no interest in the other two since they are by definition taking all the power to themselves.

Gotcha, thanks much! That clears up my confusion.
 
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