wHat tHis book is—and is not
What is this book supposed to be? This work makes no claim to give exhaustive treatments of the full range of the topics of Presbyterian polity. It will not try to give the definitive word on some of the nagging questions relating to church polity that have been with the church for decades, even centuries. Neither does it try to offer thorough rebuttals of such other forms of church government as episcopacy and congregationalism. Nor is this work an extensive commentary on the Book of Church Order of the PCA or on the forms of government of other Presbyterian bodies. The book is not intended exclusively for members and officers of the PCA. While the author is part of the PCA, my goal is that non-PCA Presbyterians would learn from this work and apply what they learn from the Scriptures in their own denominational settings.
This book, rather, intends to accomplish two related goals. It offers a biblical case for the Presbyterian form of church government. I believe that the government that Christ has appointed for his church is Presbyterian in nature, and that the Scriptures bear out this fact. In saying this, I want to be clear that I do not believe that every (or even most) of the details of, say, the Book of Church Order are explicitly taught in some passage of Scripture or another. As we shall argue, this claim itself is rooted in biblical teaching.
In making this case, I make no claim to originality or ingenuity. I stand on the shoulders of giants. My debt to older writers on the subject of church government will be everywhere evident. My desire is to give classic arguments their biblical expression for a contemporary audience. If I am able to articulate Presbyterianism from the Scriptures to the church at the dawn of the twenty-first century, then I have accomplished what I have set out to do.
My second goal is to make this case as accessible as possible. I have above urged that knowledge of the church’s government is beneficial not only to the officers of the church, but also to each of her members. I realize that ministers, elders, and seminary students have particular interest in the government of the church. My desire in writing this book, however, is that members and officers, Presbyterians and non-Presbyterians alike would read, study, consider, and weigh its contents.
For those who come to the Presbyterian church from a non-Presbyterian background, church polity can be something of a puzzle. This was certainly true to my own experience as a non-Presbyterian new believer coming to Presbyterianism. What’s more, there are few contemporary resources available that lay out the biblical foundations of Presbyterian polity. I have intended this book to be just such a resource.
I am privileged to serve on the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, and to teach church polity to seminary students each year. I hold membership, as a minister, in a PCA presbytery and am given opportunities to serve the church at many levels. I have witnessed Presbyterian government work to my own spiritual good and to the good of the church that I am privileged to serve.
It is my hope that readers will see both the biblical truth and the practical implications of the Presbyterian form of government. I am not arguing that Presbyterianism is true because it works. I am arguing, rather, that Presbyterianism is true and that, by the blessing of Christ, it can and does work to his glory and to the good of his people. It is my hope and desire that this work may play some role, however small, to assist and to equip the people of God in serving our great and glorious Savior and King.