#3: Representative of how the Protestant Church of Christ utilizes Scripture to argue for its positions, Wharton referred to a Bible passage to prove strict local church autonomy without supplying its actual corresponding text (more examples forthcoming). He wrote, “The local church selected her own ministers (Acts 6:1-6).” Wharton’s practice is common; Protestant Church of Christ ministers posit a preference/theory, allude to a passage from the Bible, and the act of referencing (not quoting) a passage somehow provides ample credibility for the preference; or the citation is intended to imply that the text reads as such, when really, it does not. If a writer summarizes her belief of what a Bible passage means, then the reference should include “cf.” (confer/compare); it is less than forthright to provide a citation to Scripture when it is not Scripture that is quoted. The passage at hand, which is a product of the hierarchy, of course, supports its creator, and not a model that in fact teaches, “The local church selected her own ministers.” The passage, not Protestant commentary, reads:Continue reading
#2: Protestant Church of Christ teachers assert, by quoting 1 Peter 5:1-2, So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder . . . Tend the flock of God that is in your charge . . . , that St. Peter lays a limitation on the oversight of elders.Continue reading
#1: The Protestant Church of Christ presents St. Paul’s address to the elders of the church at Ephesus as proof for local church autonomy—in essence, proof that there is no Christian hierarchy tying the Church together; and therefore, all churches are autonomous and without external influence. Wharton quotes Scripture to suggest the scope of an elder’s oversight is limited to his local church:Continue reading
The Christian ecclesial hierarchy is found even within the smallest local church (parish); every properly ordained priest (elder) is able to trace his pedigree back to the Apostles, and therefore Christ. Priests are ordained by their bishops; not all priests are bishops, but all bishops are priests—just as it is reflected in the New Testament.
Every detailed ecclesial (governmental) description in the New Testament reflects the already-existing Catholic paradigm, and I will show you how your group’s best arguments fail to prove autonomous local church structures because they all presuppose the Catholic hierarchy. Your arguments are few, and so your best arguments are fewer. Edward Wharton’s book, The Church of Christ, with one and one half pages, presents what I have found to be your group’s most-used (indicative) and best arguments,14 all of which I will present to you, and I will show how a reasonable reading of his arguments’ scriptural material undermines your group’s forced conclusion.
14 Wharton, 85-87.
The Protestant Church of Christ also calls itself the Churches (or “churches”; lowercase “c”) of Christ. The names grant the group flexibility. “Church” (singular) communicates unity, and “Churches” (plural) communicates the autonomous nature of each local congregation. It makes sense; the Catholic Church has used the same names for centuries, but the Catholic Church’s use of the words does not indicate autonomy, but rather, unity even amongst its individual assemblies.Continue reading