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The Fullness of Christ: J.H. Yoder – Part IV

Posted by Radical Resurgence | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 18-01-2012


6.    Wellhausen’s  Children.

(The concept of multiple ministry) has not been one of the classic options in the inter-denominational arguments of the last four centuries…….Some of these are implicitly or explicitly arguments in favour of the abandonment of the multiplicity  in favour of the mono-pastoral pattern, and to these we turn first.

It is one of the commonly held beliefs of N.T. scholarship in recent years that one can discern within the documents of the N.T. literature itself the signs of a marked evolution in patterns of ministry.  In the young churches which arose directly out of the ministry of Paul, whose life we see reflected in his correspondence with them while they were still very young,  – for example, in the Corinthian letters – there was great spontaneity, even confusion, of enthusiasm and creativity, with a variety of “gifts” and “ministries” which  to our tastes would appear to be chaotic.  Paul did not deplore this enthusiasm (they say), but neither did he prescribe it.

In the Pastoral Epistles (they say), written much later, the picture changes.  Here there is a bishop chosen according to certain prescribed criteria, exercising a defined function. Thus in the space of the time between these two sets of writing the apostolic church had already gone most of the way toward the “Early Catholicism” which made the bishop, by virtue of his office and independently of the congregation, the guarantor of apostolicity……Many would apply this argument not to the ministerial question alone, but also to the larger questions of order and orderliness: maturation means movement away  from charismatic confusion to prescribed, routinized institutions, and the church should not let a false spirituality  frighten her away from such responsible sociological adulthood.

(However), if we do not posit a rigid uniformity of pattern in each age and do not distort interpretation by extrapolating backward from the next century, nothing in the Pastorals negates the generally pluralistic structure we see elsewhere in the N.T.

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