Dear Bogdan,bogdan said:This thread is fascinating. This is where I am at:
I do see where David is coming from, and for this post I will accept his premise that the Baptist administrative model dominated the Church at the beginning.
The problem is, as katherineofdixie has shown above, and others previously, that administrative model could have existed at most for 20 or 30 years. Clearly the Apostles developed the current structure during the time of the Epistles (based on Scripture as well as Ss. Clement, Ignatius, et al.), and by the time the last Apostle, St John, died around AD 95, the three-tiered structure had replaced the "Baptist-style" structure.
So these are my questions:
- Did the Apostles themselves go apostate by creating this administrative structure?
- Why is this administrative structure disregarded by Baptists in favor of the primordial structure, when the three-tiered structure was established under the Apostles' own administration of the Church? It cannot be for lack of evidence.
I don't think you can make an argument for the Baptism model being an early version of the Church, since we still don't have an accurate description of the Baptist model to work from. I assume that there is more than one 'Baptist structure' since there are several Baptist communions.
Second, the Apostle Paul very clearly establishes a hierarchy of servants in the Church, while St. Luke gives us indications regarding the first Synod (of Apostles) in Jerusalem.
Third, it is clear from any careful reading (I discuss this briefly in a previous post) that St. Paul uses 'Presbyters' and 'Bishop' to mean two different things, the latter appearing to have more authority in the community.
Fourth, David's claim to have no need for Bishops flies in the face of his own theology. Let's remember that:
a. The Bishops of the Church administered the ancient communities of the Church which preserved and passed on the Tradition he aspires to.
b. The Bishops of the Church established the canon of Scriptures.
c. The Bishops of the Church decided on the proper theological terms to express the Faith (i.e. 'Trinity' etc.).
d. The Bishops of the Church supplied missionaries and even themselves missionized David's forefathers so that they could hear the Gospel.
e. The Bishops of the Church provided for the preservation of historical documents and for the educational institutions that allow us, to this day, peer back to the earliest of days in the Church.
f. The Bishops of the Church propagated the ideas of free-will and respect for humanity that led to the notions of human rights that now allow David to practice any religion he chooses, Christian or otherwise.
g. The Bishops of the Church helped unite the Body of Christ from community to community so that they would not zoom off after heresies and foolishness that would have eventually robbed them of their Faith and eventually doomed the Church.
If you want to say that Bishops are not critical, then one only need to look back at the history of Christianity to see the works of the Holy Spirit through the Episcopacy to realize that the Bishops of the Church have indeed been critical not only to the lives of we Orthodox, but also to non-Orthodox such as David.
Now, if someone should say, 'Well, times have changed and we don't need Bishops anymore,' I would answer that the same challenges to the Faith that St. Paul and the Bishops he consecrated faced in the First Century are still with us today. We are still beset with moral weakness, heresy and laziness. We are still challenged with pernicious heresies. In essence, the devil is still after us.
To denigrate the necessity of the Episcopacy is to not only denigrate the Tradition, but God's work and thus, one can conclude, the judgment of God Himself.
In conclusion, I will say that one cannot escape enjoying the fruits of the Episcopacy while remaining a Christian. Therefore, to dismiss the office is to deny the benefits one has received through this Office.