Monday, March 27, 2006

James Jordan on Hierarchy

Alastair wrote a post last April quoting from James Jordan's The Sociology of the Church. We should all be grateful for the terrific material available at Gary North's freebooks.com . I looked up the original quote in Jordan's book, and thought it was perfect for my purposes here at UO. One of my goals is to compile an updated biblical defense of the institution of monarchy, and Jordan is second to none in his ability to mine the depths of Scripture.

There is much to ponder here, but I'd like the reader to consider the fifth paragraph especially. There, Jordan likens kingship to parenthood. It is one of my contentions that all human government is basically an extension of familial (covenantal) authority. Adam was a king, and all fathers are kings in a real sense. Kingship reaches its highest perfection when a king becomes like a father to his people. This theory essentially denies that family and state are sovereign spheres, hermetically sealed from one another. For it is also a contention of mine that the usual way of conceiving the various relations between church, state, and family is guilty of artificially dividing what naturally belong together in one commonwealth.

"Americans (evangelical) like to believe the myth that society is transformed from the “bottom up” and not from the “top down.” This flies squarely in the face both of history and of Scripture. The history of Israel, as recorded in Scripture, is not a history of revivals from the bottom up, but of kings and their actions. Good kings produced a good nation; bad kings a bad nation. The order is always seen from the top down, though of course with real feedback from the bottom up.

"This is no surprise. From Genesis 3 onwards, society is likened to a large man, with a head and hands and feet. The head obviously governs the rest of the members. To destroy the body, you crush the head. This is seen over and over in the book of Judges. Sometimes the head is literally crushed, as with Sisera and Abimelech. Sometimes it is the social head that is crushed, as with Eglon, Oreb and Zeeb, Zebah and Zalmunna, and the five lords of the Philistines.

"Christ is the head of the church, the New Testament repeatedly tells us. The church, however, is also a body politic, with eyes, hands, and feet (1 Cor. 12). Each part is necessary, but each part does not have the same function. There are rulers and governors — a hierarchy — in the church. There is no virtue in trying to evade this obvious fact, by objecting to the term “hierarchy,” or by ignoring the issue. Clearly, the greatest danger to the church comes not from wayward sheep, but from false leaders, savage wolves (Acts 20:30, etc.).

"Of course, we must say by way of a comprehensive philosophy of history that the Triune God always moves all at once, reforming from the top down at the same time as He reforms from the bottom up. The point, however, is that there is a small group of elite leaders and controllers — a hierarchy — in every society. There always will be. Whoever ministers to that elite group will control society. Paul knew that. That is why he wanted so badly to get to Rome. The Episcopalians also know know it. The Presbyterians and Baptists have tried to pretend that this is not so, and have thus left the elite to others, as much by default as by anything else.

"Life and death flow from the head. This is true of Adam and his posterity, and of Christ and His. In smaller ways, the same principle is true in all of life. Good kings bring up a good nation; bad kings a bad one. That is why kings are likened to fathers and mothers in Scripture (Is. 49:23). Influence, for good or bad, flows from the head. People imitate those who are high and mighty.

"This is the invariable posture of Scripture. It was the belief of the early church, which arranged its elders, each of which had the same power, in ranks according to the pattern of Exodus 18. Modern presbyterians, infected with the heresy of democracy, try to make all elders equal in function as well as in office. This does not work, of course, as lay elders do not have the same time nor the same degree of concern for the day to day workings of the church as do fulltime elders. Their speciality lies elsewhere. Modern presbyterians, arguing against the Episcopalian notion of the bishop as a separate office, have gotten rid of higher ranks of elders (bishops) altogether, so that age is not really respected, and a truly spiritual hierarchy is never groomed. One bad result, because hierarchy is inescapable, is that power often, though not always, falls to those least qualified to wield it. Another bad result is that the Biblical pastoral hierarchy is replaced, in democratically- infected denominations, with impersonal bureaucracies.

James B. Jordan, The Sociology of the Church (pp.17-19)

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