Five Solas


Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, pp.747-748

Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, pp.747-748

XIV. The Church

Rousas John Rushdoony

The Institutes of Biblical Law: A Chalcedon Study, Nutley, N.J.: Craig Press, 1973, pp.739-781

1. The Meaning of Eldership
2. The Office of Elder in the Church
3. The Christian Passover
4. Circumcision and Baptism
5. The Priesthood of All Believers
6. Discipline
7. Rebukes and Excommunication
8. Power and Authority
9. Peace


 A second consideration, apart from that of basic function, must be noted. The church today has fallen prey to the heresy of democracy. For many laymen and women, and for many elders, the essence of their Christian duty is to speak their mind. The pastor or bishop is continually hamstrung by a democratic impulse which makes him the errand boy of the congregation. The Apostolic Constitutions makes an interesting statement here: “It is not equitable that thou, O bishop, who art the head, shouldst submit to the tail, that is, to some seditious person among the laity, to the destruction of another, but to God alone. For it is thy privilege to govern those under thee, but not to be governed by them.”13 In brief, the church is a monarchy, not a democracy. Christ is the King, and all offices derive their authority from Him, not from the people. The assent and vote of the people is a part of their assent to Christ. Unless the pastor or elder is disobedient to the Lord, he must be obeyed and respected. But we cannot be perfectionist in our demands of office-bearers. Thus, the patristic literature states, “Hear your bishop, and do not weary of giving all honour to him; knowing that, by showing it to him, it is borne to Christ, and from Christ it is borne to God; and to him who offers it, it is requited manifold. Honour, therefore, the throne of Christ.”14 Granted that an exaggeration of this attitude led to Roman Catholic authoritarianism, but is it not also a perversion when some champions of Presbyterianism cite their church as the cradle of democracy? The church of Jesus Christ is a monarchy, and the purpose of its representative form of government is to strengthen the preservation of the “Crown Rights of King Jesus.” Not the rights of the people but the sovereign rights of Christ the Lord are to be championed by members, deacons, elders, and pastors or bishops. The session, or consistory, or vestry is not a democratic forum but a ruling body for Christ. Pastors or bishops are examined by presbytery in terms of the canon or rule of Scripture in order to preserve the dominion of Christ. Unless the church purposes to be a democracy, a similar examination for the office of elder is a necessity. (pp.747-748)

13. Apostolic Constitutions, bk. II, sec. III, xiv.
14. The Clementine Homilies, ch. LXX. (p.748)