Thus far, myself and the JW apologist “Rotherham” have gone through almost 80 comments in discussion on this topic. While one can only take a discussion so far before the dead horse gets beaten some more, I really think this topic is central to our differences with the JW’s.
Unfortunately, i’m going to be out of commission for 2-3 weeks and won’t be able to carry the discussion forward during this time. This is due to my wedding, honeymoon, moving, etc. And who knows what my blogging/discussion activities will be like after that because i’ll be entering a new and foreign stage in life. So we’ll just have to see when we get there. In addition, I have a lot of plans upcoming with CARM, so that may take priority over what goes on here.
At any rate, i’ll reproduce Rotherham’s most recent comment here, just for my own accountability purposes (and bad memory!). I don’t view this as between myself and Rotherham only, so anyone is welcome to leave their comments here.
The question I asked is relevant to the discussion, so please take time to answer it. Although I have and will again offer an exegesis of Ephesians 4:11-17, I also think it is important to interact with the person who is in opposition to the view. Since so much of modern day teaching is based upon opinion and sometimes personal whim, it is important to know their views so as what to address and what not to address.
Yes, the GB is following first century practices with one very significant difference. They are not inspired and they do not possess the gifts of the spirit, in particular the gift of discerning inspired utterances. In the first century, through the combination of those two things, the inspired library of books was established. We certainly are not establishing inspired writings today. What we are establishing is the correct understanding of that library which has been corrupted by the weeds during the growing season. It is a “process” to continue to rid those things which cause stumbling and/or persons who do the same. Naturally, the need of the existence of a governing element should become readily apparent in order to accomplish the refinement that would take place during the harvest period, which is where we believe we are in the stream of time. Refinements can come about through the efforts and personal research of the individual members of the GB or through their collective efforts, but always, these new understandings are presented before the body for their perusal and either rejection or acceptance. I don’t know why you would think that to be so odd or why you think I am off on that estimation.
With that in mind, Ephesians 4:11-17 clearly establishes that there would be gifts in/to men that would be responsible for readjusting the holy ones until that full stature arrives. And it should be readily clear from the context that the purpose was for the unity to be maintained so that the congregation would not be torn by every wind of teaching. I’m not really sure what more there is to exegete than that. I think we actually agree that this is what it says. I think your disagreement is in relation to how strongly we should adhere to the teachings of those gifts in men.
The way we have things arranged within our modern organization of Christianity is that we are trying to maintain the same stance toward unity as was maintained in the first century. As I stated before, without the very beneficial aid of direct inspiration, given that we are in the process of digging out from age-old errors and discovering more and more about the ancient languages used, I don’t see any other way to maintain earthwide unity except in the fashion that we do so. I am sure that there is some room for variation, but the basic principle is Biblically sound. If such a thing can be carried out on a local level, why in the world would we think that the same thing would not be necessary on a worldwide scale? Without it, Christianity would indeed be a perfect example of different congregations being carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching based on the cunning and contriving errors of men.
We believe that this reflects the spirit of what is stated in numerous places within the Bible. Ephesians 4:11-17 surely doesn’t stand alone. And any exegesis of that passage must be seen to harmonize with everything else that is stated on the topic.
The scriptures often reiterate the stance that there should be no divisions or sects among you. The only allowance ever spoken of for the existence of sects was for the purpose of establishing those who were approved by God. It was prophecied more than once that wolves would sneak in and even arise from within to mislead the congregation and possibly even wreck their faith. Without a centralized authority, that is exactly what happens in the world of religion.
From the things that we have established, which are:
1. An unrelenting heretic should be removed from the congregation.
2. We should surrender our views to those taking the lead over us as long as those views do not violate what the scriptures teach.
3. Ephesians 4:11-17 is an active and current process to be fully realized in the future.
we should be able to readily perceive that one who would take an unrelenting stance against those giftsof men, and therefore create disuntiy and possibly a sect, they should be removed from the congregation after a second admonition.