The Reconstruction of the Church

Reconstruction of the Church book cover

Looking for a good book on how to reform the church?  Here’s one to start with.  This is a 28-year old volume published (1985) by the old Geneva Ministries of Tyler, Texas, called The Reconstruction of the Church, part of a series called Christianity and Civilization. It was edited by James B. Jordan.

It is a symposium that was held on this topic, the fruits of which are this series of essays written by some of the leading figures in the early years of the Christian Reconstruction movement, dealing with the theme of the Church and its mission and role within the context of society and the modern culture.

The essays are provocative, illuminating, and really do represent the broad range of opinion that has always characterized the movement–no monolithic band of biblical ideologues, this bunch!

James B. Jordan, Peter J. Leithart, Gary North, Ray Sutton, David Chilton and George Grant all contributed along with other lesser known reconstructionists, Lewis Bulkeley, James Michael Peters, Marion Luther McFarland and Jim West.

If you’re familiar with the work of most of these men, you know what gifted writers, teachers and thinkers they are.  And each of the chapters in this book is its own self-contained monograph on its respective topic.  Great reading!

The book is divided into four sections:

PART I: THE CHURCH IN DISARRAY

PART II:RECONSTRUCTING CHURCH GOVERNMENT

PART III: RECONSTRUCTING WORSHIP

PART IV: RECONSTRUCTING MISSION

The essays all have intriguing titles like, “Church Music in Chaos,” “Clothing and Calling,” Culture, “Contextualization and the Kingdom of God.”   Some are historical: “Revivalism and American Protestantism,” “The Church in an Age of Democracy.”  Some are theological/expositional: “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”  And some are a whimsical allegory driving home a larger, powerful point: “Conversations with Nathan.”

The shared conviction of what this collection represents is best summed up in Jordan’s introduction, where he says that there are three principles (“pedagogies”) that need to be at the heart of any real reformation, beginning with the Church: true government (discipline/boundaries), true worship (sacramental liturgy/ritual) and true teaching (doctrine/instruction).

The perspective of the organizers of this symposium is that the reconstruction of the Church requires the reestablishment of all three of these pedagogies… When these things are recovered by the Church, since judgment begins at the house of God, they will also be recovered by society at large. The Church is the nursery of the Kingdom, and there can be no reformation in state, school, or family, until there is reformation in the Church.

Man’s problems are indeed religious, but religion is not just theology, and man’s problem is not just bad theology. Religion is also the discipline of ritual and the restraining virtue of court-enforced boundaries. There must be recovery in all three areas, or there will be recovery in none.

Nothing in this book is pietistic, contemplative or introspective.  All of the essays are powerfully written, practical and forthright, with an appropriate mixture of humor with intense, relentless candor about the graveness and importunity of the subject at hand: the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ in the world to the unconverted and the lost, and the faithful advancement of God’s kingdom and God’s principles implemented in time and in history on earth.

In Part I, James B. Jordan addresses what he calls “the present mess” that he sees in the American Protestant church, with its “anti-ecclesiastical piety.”  Lewis E. Bulkeley talks about church renewal biblically applied to ailing congregations.  Peter J. Leithart discusses how revivalism, despite its positive impact, has undermined our biblical conception of the Church.

Part II is on church government.  Ray R. Sutton defines it and talks about its role in handling church schisms.  Gary North argues for preserving the integrity of the church through “two-tiered” membership.  Jim West talks about the role of excommunication as a curative tool for preserving the health of the ecclesiastical body.

Part III covers worship.  David Chilton crafts a witty and fictitious dialogue between himself and his young son, exposing the liturgical shortcomings and infelicities that he finds in a typical, contemporary American evangelical church service.  Ray R. Sutton discusses formality and informality in worship, and defends the argument for clerical garb as a biblically and historically warranted expression of the minister’s calling.  Gary North draws the theological-biblical parallel between the Lord’s Supper and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  James B. Jordan addresses what he terms “the abominable state of music in the church.”  And James M. Peters explores architecture, imagery and symbolism as it relates to liturgy and worship.

In Part IV, on the outward focus of the mission of the Church, George Grant defines biblical charity and what that should look like in the surrounding culture.  And, finally, Marion Luther McFarland posits a biblical-covenantal approach to transforming culture, “liberating” it through the Gospel and sound doctrine taught and applied, as opposed to the standard, theologically liberal way of “contextualizing” Christianity to fit its native, indigenous setting.

There’s something for everyone here–as long as “everyone” is interested in reconstructing and reforming the Church to the glory of God and in accordance with the Scriptures and historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity!

You can download and read this excellent book by clicking here.

Israel and the Church: Two Sides of the Same Coin–or Two Different Coins?

Does the Bible teach an Israel-Church distinction?

Gary Demar says NO.

Back when I cut my spiritual teeth as a fairly new Christian in the mid-1980s (when I was in my early 20s), dispensationalism and premillennialism were all the rage. In fact, in my Pentecostal-Fundamentalist world, they were running at a fever pitch.  Books, tapes, prophetic conferences, radio, TV, evangelistic ministries, etc., were all talking about the “end times”, the “last days”, the coming Rapture, imminent return of Christ to the earth and the Great Tribulation.

One theme that kept cropping up was what the Bible had to say about Israel in “prophecy” as it relates to what it says about the Church in prophecy, and especially the (apparent) scriptural divide that exists between “the Church”–meaning God’s New Testament body of Christian believers–and “Israel”–meaning God’s Old Testament body of Jewish believers.

In standard dispensational-premillennial theology, these two entities are not the same, and they never will be.  The Church, since the day of Pentecost and the book of Acts, has been and always will be a New Testament phenomenon.  The nation of Israel has been and always will be an ethnically-genetically-geographically-defined group of Old Testament-centric folks who are the physical descendants of Abraham.  And ne’er the twain shall meet, except in heaven, and in the coming earthly, literal “millennial” kingdom (and, of course, in “heretical” Covenant/Reformed theology!)

The crux of the confusion surrounding this controversy involves what the Bible says about the Church and Israel, and hinges on its use of the word “church.”

Church (“ekklesia”) was not a new word invented in the 1st century A.D by Greek-speaking writers of the New Testament to describe believers in Christ in any exclusive sense.

Rather, Ekklesia was a word that had already been in common usage “for several hundred years before the Christian era” in a much more broad, inclusive sense.  Hence,…

There is no Church-Israel distinction in the Bible because the Greek word ekklēsia is not an invention of the New Testament writers. Ekklēsia is a common word that is used to describe an assembly or congregation. It is used this way in the Greek translation of the Old Testament — the Septuagint (LXX) — and the Greek New Testament. This common word is use by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel (the most Jewish of the gospels):

  • “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church [ekklēsia]; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18).[3]
  • “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church [ekklēsia]; and if he refuses to listen even to the church [ekklēsia], let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17).

It was a very generically used word that could apply to both O.T. and N.T. assemblies of God’s people.  Moreover, “promises made to Old Testament Israel are said to be fulfilled in the so-called church age” to New Testament believers.

“For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, andthey shall be My people. . . . And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:16, 18). How can this be when Paul is citing a verse that originally applied to Israel? How can the church be the temple? The temple is strictly Jewish. Second Corinthians 6:18 is a direct citation of Exodus 29:45: “And I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God.” Then there is the statement to the Corinthian ekklēsiato “come out from their midst and be separate.” This, too, is an Old Testament reference to Israel, as is the reference not to touch “what is unclean” (2 Cor. 6:17b; Isa. 52:11). Finally, Paul tells the Corinthians that God will be a Father to them, and they will be “sons and daughters” to Him (2 Cor. 6:18). Once again, Paul draws on passages that were first applied to Israel (Isa. 43:6; Hosea 1:10).

Demar’s point is that Scripture makes no distinction between Israel and the Church, they’re one and the same, but that dispensationalism MUST make this distinction in order to harmonize its teachings with the Bible.

To read the full article, click here.

http://americanvision.org/5637/does-the-bible-teach-an-israel-church-distinction/