2007March19, Monday

Second Helvetic Confession on Proper Ministers of the Gospel

Posted in The Church at 14:38 by Trey Austin

Heinrich Bullinger, Second Helvetic Confession (c. 1564), chapter 18, On Ministers of the Church, Their Institution and Duties: 

And those who are elected are to be ordained by the elders with public prayer and laying on of hands. Here we condemn all those who go off of their own accord, being nether chosen, sent, nor ordained (Jer., ch. 23). We condemn unfit ministers and those not furnished with the necessary gifts of a pastor.

Of course, this follows the typical course of Reformed and Presbyterian practice of proper ordination by the presbytery. And today, just as in the Medieval Church, it is right to draw attention to the problem of ministers who set out on their own, with no connection to any Church, and just start “ministry.”

However, that having been said, what is interesting to me is how applicable the second paragraph of this section is to our context, even in American Reformed and Presbyterian life.

In the meantime we acknowledge that the harmless simplicity of some pastors in the primitive Church sometimes profited the Church more than the many-sided, refined and fastidious, but a little too esoteric learning of others. For this reason we do not reject even today the honest, yet by no means ignorant, simplicity of some. 

Bullinger admits that “simple” pastors that were often seen in the primitive Church (i.e., uneducated pastors, without proper minsiterial training that we typically expect from pastors and other ministers) were much more beneficial than ones who, through “esoteric learning” become “fastidious” and seemingly “refined.”

Now, is it just me, or do we have alot of ministers in Reformed and Presbyterian life who are more concerned over esoteric matters–the minutiae of theological distinctions, meticulous attempts at doctrinal precision, and demands that all other ministers follow their own hypercritical concerns–than they are with ministering to the sheep entrusted to their care.

Now, lest i am accused by someone of falsely distinguishing between wanting to maintain proper doctrine and ministering to people, i admit that it’s possible to have both. However, in the current context of the eccelsiastical wrangling; the overabundance of writing articles, books, and internet entries; and with the tendency of many pastors to pursue courses of prosecution or examination of other ministers in good standing in Presbyterian and Reformed Churches: it seems to me that we have come upon some very fastidious folks, who do more for their own concerns than the welfare of the Church at large, and certainly than for the welfare of their own flocks. Really, those “many-sided” or “multi-faceted” pastors who try to be everything really end up being nothing at all. How can someone be a husband, a father, a denominational official, a presbytery official, a full-time pastor, a full-time seminary professor, and a writer who churns out more books and articles every year than he does converts or catechumenae do any of those with any kind of skill and precision? I am just a small-town pastor, and i do my best to keep up with what goes on in my denomination (as messed up as it is), but i have a hard time keeping up with my own little sheepfold and what they need. How can i try and second-guess the minute details of some other pastor’s ministry in a state i’ve never lived in?

The best pastors i know are honest and simple pastors, who are more worried about the welfare and health of their congregants than they are about what some other minister in some other presbytery might be teaching on the worst possible reading of it. I’d take that simple but honest man man over the multi-sided, fastidious, and esoteric one any day of the week…and twice on Sunday.



  1. brocseaman said,

    This is a very appropriate post for the current climate in pres/reformed circles. It also encourages me as carpenter aspiring to go into full time ministry (After I finish my education). Can a carpenter really lead the people of God???

    Thanks for post.

  2. […] Here is a post I recommend. It is thoughtful, pastoral, and encouraging post written by waterfromarock given the current climate in reformedom. Read it. […]

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