The Babies Are Murdered Here page (ie, Marcus Pittman of Crown Rights Media and Pastor Jon Speed of Syracuse, NY) continues to embarrass themselves and go back on their word by continuing to comment with considerable frequency on Abolish Human Abortion even though they said over a month ago that no matter what AHA would say, they were done talking about it.
Yet just today they have revealed their quasi-papist ecclesiology in a very strange statement. (In all fairness, it probably seems so strange because the men behind the BAMH documentary have shown themselves to be loose cannons who easily fall into foolish statements when caught off-the-cuff on Facebook.)
There is nothing that can be done to make this a true church.The "this" refers to the church to which a fair number of abolitionists in Norman, OK belong.
This raises a number of questions for the author of this statement.
1) What is the author's answer to Matthew Martellus' article regarding the unbiblical nature of the "true church/false church" distinction?
2) What is the author's answer to the recent related questions raised by Steve Hays?
3) What precisely are the biblical requirements to be a true church to which the author refers?
Might they agree with what 9Marks says about what a church is and does?
The church is the God-ordained local assembly of believers who have committed themselves to each other. They gather regularly, they teach the Word, celebrate communion and baptism, discipline their members, establish a biblical structure of leadership, they pray and give together. Certainly the church may do more, but it is not less than this.The church to which the BAMH author refers does all of these things, and yet it is not a "true church" in his estimation. One could be forgiven for figuring that he won't allow it the title of "true church" because of personal animus, obstinacy, and/or a personal motivation to diminish AHA.
From other statements Pittman and Pastor Speed have made, I know that their stated reason for saying things like this is that the church doesn't currently have elders, and it is unbiblical for a local church to appoint elders by itself, from within its own congregation.
How does this make sense, however?
a. Imagine three Algerian men who separately receive an Arabic New Testament while traveling in France, take a ferry back to Algeria, then the Lord saves all three of them in a short span of time.
Later, in God's providence, the men meet each other and discover they are followers of Jesus, and resolve to follow the NT pattern and commands and meet together regularly for fellowship, encouragement, prayer, worship, and Bible study. Yet because of their isolation and the persecution around them in society, they don't meet another Christian for 10 years, and no Christian older than them for their entire life.
A church? Or not-a-church?
b. Where is the prescriptive teaching in the NT, anywhere, that elders/overseers are only valid when they are appointed by pre-existing elders?
Counterexamples are obvious in history.
Who appointed Martin Luther? Zwingli? Calvin? Do you count by-then apostate Roman ordinations? That's pretty ironic.
Athanasius was removed from his bishopric several times and exiled, yet came back. Does BAMH have some evidence that another elder came alongside and re-appointed him? Does excommunication not mean anything? If church structures are only to be followed in some cases, where is BAMH's definition and explanation?
c. On a related note, Pastor Speed is a Baptist. Does he claim an unbroken chain of elder-to-elder ordination all the way back to the apostles?
Why wouldn't the same criticism be applicable to whoever his episcopal (small-e) forebear was? And wouldn't that mean that his own ordination as elder is invalid, as there would have been nothing that could make that earlier church a true church?
d. Why is it that the men of the earliest church in Acts didn't show an above-all-else interest in establishing elders?
Acts 11:19-25 - Barnabas goes and helps preach the Gospel in Antioch, and yet doesn't stay to establish elders. Rather, he leaves to look for Paul. And yet there comes to be a church in Antioch (as soon as Acts 15:30). How?
Acts 13:44-52 - Paul and Barnabas are driven out of Pisidian Antioch after only about a week.
According to the qualifications for elders in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, an elder can't be a new convert. I suppose we are to assume that no church existed in Pisidian Antioch at that time? Just... a ragtag bunch of people who loved Jesus?
Acts 17:32-18:1 - Paul sees converts in Athens but doesn't stay to train any elders.
e. The Ethiopian eunuch, converted by Philip on the way back to Ethiopia, could never have been a member of a true church, at least not for the years until someone in the chain of ordination running back to the apostles also made it down to Ethiopia to be the elder.
Acts 8:39 - When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.
I guess the Holy Spirit got a little impatient and forgot that it's a good and wonderful thing for believers to worship together in local churches. He had a brilliant opportunity to delay whisking Philip away until Philip had been able to train the eunuch as an elder himself, then officially ordain him. Instead, the Holy Spirit wasted His chance.
f. Of course, that raises the question of when Philip himself was ordained to do evangelism work. Acts 6:5 indicates that he was selected to serve the daily allotment to the widows on the Jerusalem church's support rolls. No indication is given that he was duly appointed for evangelism ministry.
g. Which means the Holy Spirit was in error for sending him to the eunuch in the first place in Acts 8:29.
h. Which also means that Philip did an evil, rebellious, cowboy thing by preaching the Gospel all by himself in Samaria in Acts 8:5-8.
i. Which means that Peter and John should have rebuked Philip for going way above his pay grade when they arrived in Acts 8:14-17. But they didn't. Another opportunity wasted!
j. Speaking of which, not just Philip but a whole bunch of people were in sin for preaching the Gospel without a license in Acts 8:4. The text seems to speak commendably of them, however. Hmm. Weird.
k. Titus 1:5 - For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you...
There weren't elders in Crete before Paul sent Titus to appoint them.
Were there no churches? Where then were the Christians at that time?
l. Why do the long lists of qualifications for the office of overseer in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 include such things as "if anyone desires to be an overseer" but mention nothing about another elder of some other visible local church, unrelated to the church in question and not a member of it, appointing the elder? Is it not, rather, true that if someone is qualified and if one desires to be an overseer, he has fulfilled the biblical qualification?
This statement from BAMH reveals a pharisaical attitude - binding on the conscience of believers a requirement that the Bible does not itself impose.