I want to comment on an article that was brought up at PPT in this post Calvinism and the Cultural Spoon Feeding of Control and Tyranny. There an article by Jonathan Leeman that used to exist on the 9marks webpage is mentioned. The article used to be hosted at http://www.9marks.org/blog/what-are-keys-kingdom (link doesn’t work now; it gives you a “Page not found” page).
Basically what the article amounts to is some Calvinist philosopher kings arguing that the Roman Catholic conception of the power of the keys is right, but that rather than belonging to the Roman Catholic priesthood by apostolic succession, it belongs to the Calvinist elders of every “local church.”
I’m guessing that Paul D didn’t have the full article anymore when he wrote his analysis at PPT, and that he only had a few quotes that he copy-and-pasted before it was taken down. Why? Because I resurrected the article with the wayback machine and found a quote he should have included. Right after Leeman says “This authority begins the moment a person shows up in the church building doors claiming, like Peter did, that Jesus is the Christ” there is this gem:
The state’s representative authority, we said in chapter one, is seen most clearly in its ability to end a person’s life. Likewise, the church’s representative authority in Christ’s kingdom is seen most clearly in its ability to remove a person from citizenship in Christ’s kingdom.
So in their conception of the “local church” it has the ability to execute a capital punishment of sorts! Only this one is much worse, because it means eternal condemnation. These guys are nuts. The church does not now and never has had this kind of authority.
Also looking at Leeman’s article, I see that this is an article excepted from a book which Crossway apparently owns the sole rights to, since at the end of the article it says “Excerpt end. Used by permission. Thank you to Crossway.” That also explains the reference to “Chapter one” above. Yes, thanks a lot Crossway; everything you guys put out is just “wonderful.” (Lol) Anyway, the book is Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches) by Jonathan Leeman with a forward by Michael Horton. Don’t buy it, as that would support these wolves, but take a look at it in the library if you need to just verify the content of this article and don’t know how to use the wayback machine. I’m reticent to post a link to the wayback machine as I don’t want these guys to try and sue that wonderful resource, so knowledge of it should remain arcane.
[The article also refers the reader to a “significantly longer discussion of the keys” (i.e. a more intense brain-washing-session) found in chapter 4 of another book coauthored by Jonathan Leeman and Mark Dever called The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (9Marks). Don’t buy that one either. There is an admission implicit in this title, obviously, that they are reintroducing a doctrine which has already been debunked over and over again.]
There are some comments on the article as it stood on 9marks site when it was there:
I like the idea that each congregation holds the keys of the kingdom for its members, but I see a problem in the initial assumption.
Matthew 16:19 says that the keys of the kingdom were not given to the apostles, but to Peter (singular).
Leeman gave a lame response to that, of course.
Greg Rice said, in part:
How do you know who Jesus is addressing here ?? How can you be so sure about your application of the words to the local church and not the church universal ??
Jonathan Leeman’s response to this one is telling. In part:
1) How can the universal church bind and loose today? Who exactly speaks on behalf of the universal church today?
In other words, if indeed the power of the keys derives to the church at all, its obvious to any idiot that it would derive to the universal church not the local. But since there is no earthly head of the universal church per Protestant definition, that can’t be. Yet, we can’t (or the “Reformed” can’t) allow that the power of the keys ceased with the apostles (who were like heads of the universal church) and so they unilaterally without the consent of God seek to transfer this power of the keys to the local church, a power that by all right could only ever have belonged to the universal church if it ever belonged to the church at all.
Now Greg Rice also responds to the first comment by Jack, saying:
@Jacks comment : if you go with PETER as the rock, then you have to deal with apostolic succession. HMMM, I smell incense…… and hear the sound of chimes… 🙂
Which is not true at all, since Tertullian (circa 208 AD) used the very fact of Jesus giving the power of the keys to Peter alone in order to demonstrate that the power only ever belonged to Peter and was not transferable to any “successors.” He argues that Peter used the power of the keys once and for all in the sermon found in Acts 2, and that by that sermon he loosed the sins of all who will believe and be baptized and bound the sins of all who will not. (I’ve already blogged about Tertullian’s view before, at Calvin’s papistical power of the keys versus Tertullian.)
Now, nobody in their right mind would argue that the local church does not have the power to excommunicate or disfellowship, that is, to decide that a particular person is not to be viewed as in full communion with them. But what these guys are doing is saying that if a local church decides this then that person is now damned to hell! That’s completely different. Every group has the right to kick members out, and so the church, just like any other group, has a similar right. But one’s eternal destination is not affected by the church’s decision on this; only God can decide that. Any idiot would see that. Really, this is not something on which any argument ought to even be deemed necessary, and so I won’t go into any long winded argument on it.
Edit: I will note that the best review of the book at amazon is the most negative, the one written by “A Berean” and it closes with the following:
Church Membership’s subtitle is How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus. Jesus, in talking to his disciples at the Last Supper, says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Babam! What more needs to be said? Excommunication wars do not show the world who truly represents Jesus.