Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: A Well-Ordered Church

In their book, A Well-Ordered Church: Laying a Solid Foundation for a Vibrant Church, William Boekestein and Daniel Hyde's goal is "to bring us back to the basics of ecclesiology, or the biblical doctrine of the church," (p. 14).  To accomplish this they focus on four areas of ecclesiology as the foundation of a well-ordered church: identity, authority, ecumenicity, and activity.

This book is written from a Presbyterian view of ecclesiology, which greatly differs from the Reformed Baptist view.  Boekestein and Hyde define the the visible Church as the "kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" taken from the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), Chapter 25, (see p. 20).  However, Jesus Himself tells us that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).  From a Reformed Baptist perspective, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (LBCF), Chapter 26 significantly departs from the WCF.  In paragraph 2, we read that "[a]ll persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it...may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted."  Therefore, the visible Church is not the Kingdom of God because "[t]he purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ," (LBCF, Ch. 26, para. 2).

The main weakness in this book is that Boekestein and Hyde do not always clarify when they are talking about the visible or the invisible church.  For instance, the authors state that "Christ gave his life for his bride, which is the entire body of the elect (Ephesians 5:25-27)," (p. 21).  I agree that Christ gave His life for the elect, but that's not the visible church.  However, the authors go to say that an implication of this truth is that "the church owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Lord," (p. 22).  The true believers of Jesus Christ who make up the invisible church made are thankful for the free gift of salvation, but the unbelievers (who may be members of a local church) cannot be thankful because they are still at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7).

The visible church is a mix of believers and unbelievers.  Because of their loose use of the word, the authors' analysis is not always biblical because at times they imply that all 'church' members are believers.  It is important to differentiate between the visible and invisible church; however, the authors do not keep this distinction.  This oversight significantly impacts the application portion of this book as suggestions are made that unbelieving church members can not accomplish.

The authors also downplay the visible and invisible church distinction and scoff at the idea that believers are members merely of the 'invisible church'", calling it a "Christ-less churchianity," (p. 20).  I agree that local church membership is important, but unbelievers in the local church are not part of the Kingdom of God.  As an example of their inconsistency, they state that "[w]e cannot incorporate non-Christian parts into the body," (p. 56), but then they say that "[a]s individual Christians are part of the local church, the analogy [in 1 Cor. 12:12] can be extended to say that individual churches are part of the universal church of Christ," (p. 59).  Again, not all people in a local church are believers, therefore, all local churches cannot be part of the church of Christ.

Because of the differences in Covenant Theology and church government, I would recommend this book for Presbyterian believers.  As a Reformed Baptist, I had many disagreements with the points of application recommended in A Well-Ordered Church.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.