Friday, August 07, 2009

Response to the House-Church Movement - Followup

I am happy to report at least a few positive changes. Since I first wrote my series responding to the House-Church Movement (HCM), I have discovered that there has been a fair amount of editing of the online material at the New Testament Reformation Foundation (NTRF) website. I didn't notice this over the past year because – due to my wife's battle with ovarian cancer and my own illnesses over the winter – I didn't keep track of what was going on at the site. I was doing well, frankly, to keep my head above water during that time.

Of course, it never dawned on me either that they would have made so many changes – some of them pretty significant – in their online published material. For example, I really took them to task for the Hal Miller article entitled "An Elder's Authority: That of Children and Slaves," and now that article has been taken down from the site. I have already commended Steve Atkerson for this in personal correspondence.

They have also changed the titles to many of the articles, but more than that, they have changed the content significantly at a number of points. It is almost as though they read my articles and made corrections based upon some of my more serious exegetical criticisms. I have no way of knowing with certainty whether my articles had this impact, but I am glad to see some positive things happening. I do suspect, however, that my articles may have had some influence because I had informed a man close to Atkerson about them as I wrote them, and Atkerson has since told me in email correspondence that he was aware of this mutual acquaintance. He informed me of this, by the way, without my having brought it up, so he had to have had some interaction with the man concerning me.

Unfortunately, the many changes to the NTRF articles were not clearly announced along the way, and it has led some to believe that I repeatedly misquoted Steve Atkerson in particular. This is a very frustrating thing about interacting with online material. However, I do have the book published by Atkerson shortly after I wrote the articles, which simply contains all the online material from that time in book form, so I have sufficient proof that I cited him correctly at the time. The book was entitled Ekklesia: To the Roots of Biblical House Church Life. As I indicated above, I have had some contact with Atkerson, who has informed me that there is a new edition of the book with a new title (House Church: Simple, Strategic, Scriptural) and containing numerous changes. I hope these reflect some of the more positive changes I have begun to see on the website. I would also like to provide links to the original articles to which I responded, so that this blog's readers can see for themselves that I did, indeed, cite Steve Atkerson and Hal Miller accurately and fairly. Here are links to the articles from the Internet Archive (Thanks to Stan Reeves for letting me know about this resource!):

1) Were Persecution, Poverty, and Progression the Real Reasons for First Century House Churches? by Steve Atkerson.

This article is now called Toward a House Church Theology.

2) Interactive Meetings by Steve Atkerson.

This article is now called Participatory Church Meetings. Although Atkerson does still argue for "interaction" in church meetings, he has changed the term interactive to the term participatory at a number of points. In my view, this may be intended to soften the force of his argument a bit. It is, after all, a different thing to argue for participation rather than interaction, especially in the sense of a dialog. For example, congregational singing is participatory, but not necessarily interactive, at least not as Atkerson thinks of interaction. But, since he still argues for such interaction, my posts are still on point, I think. However, I do appreciate what appears to be an attempt by Atkerson to be more careful and less extreme in his arguments for his position.

3) The Lord's Supper - Feast or Famine? by Steve Atkerson.

This article is now called The Lord's Supper - Rehearsal Dinner For The Wedding Banquet of The Lamb.

4) An Elder's Authority: That of Children and Slaves by Hal Miller.

This article is no longer available on the NTRF website, and I am glad that it has been taken down. I am not sure why it has been taken down, but I noted in my reaction to it that Miller didn't really seem to agree with Atkerson's view of elder leadership. Atkerson is actually pretty solid on this point, whereas Miller's arguments are ridiculous and nowhere near the Bible's teaching on the subject. If my criticism has led in any way to Atkerson's removal of this article from the website, then I rejoice that I was able to make some positive difference.

5) New Testament Church Leadership by Steve Atkerson (Aug. 19, 2007).

I think this was the edition of the article to which I was responding in parts four and five of my series. It is now called The Ministry of Elders.

6) New Testament Church Leadership by Steve Atkerson (Jan. 28, 2008).

I think this is the version of the above article to which I was responding in part six of my series, although I am not aware of any differences between these two versions of the article. There is, however, a significant difference between these articles and the most recent version. For example, I think the most recent edition leaves out this paragraph completely:

All elders are senator-servants to the whole senate (church). However, the senate will occasionally find itself in grid-lock, unable to resolve an issue. In such cases, the elders serve as predetermined arbitrators, or tie breakers, and in such unusual instances those in opposition are to “submit” to the elder’s leadership and wisdom (see Hebrews 13:17).
I reacted quite strongly to this paragraph here, and now it is gone. I also cannot find the previous arguments based upon the use of peíthō and hupeíkō in Hebrews 13:17, arguments against which I responded quite negatively.

Again, if my response had anything to do with Atkerson's edits, then I praise the Lord that I have been able to be of some small service.

7) Consensus Governing by Steve Atkerson.

This article is now called Elder-Led Congregational Consensus. In the most recent version Atkerson appears to be trying to strengthen his case concerning Jesus' usage of ekklēsía, but in my opinion he still misuses the lexical evidence, ignoring what he doesn't want to admit, and he still doesn't adequately account for the LXX usage either. In short, his work still suffers from the same shortcomings I have pointed out here.

I do appreciate what appears to me to be an effort by Atkerson to soften some of his more extreme statements and arguments and to rid his website completely of a few of the more egregious errors previously found there, but I would like to have seen even more progress with regard to his discussion of ekklēsía.

In closing, I would just like to say how much I appreciate the input I have received here on the blog, and I praise the Lord that by His grace I may have had some small influence for good in this arena, even if it has led some to attack me unfairly. I hope, however, that this post will demonstrate that these attacks are unfounded.

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