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In Memory of Don Smith (1934-2023)

First came mankind, and then came death. These two have been acquainted with one another since Adam and Eve. And since then they’ve been bitter enemies. But because, in that same garden on top of a mountain where man invited death in, God delivered to mankind an amazing promise, and in this promise He promised that the heirs of the promise would be granted victories over death. I say victories because there’s more than one.

Now, battles aren’t fought sitting down and true victories aren’t won without the Lord’s hand in all of it. The story of Don Smith is a story of God in action right from the beginning and all through to the very end.

It all began when Don Gray Smith was born to James Wendell and Vestal Opal Gray Smith on December 23rd 1934 in Bonham Texas. 

Don, the oldest of 5, was brought up in a Christian household where his mother never missed Sunday school. Christ says “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24) Don professed Jesus as his savior as just a boy and, here, at least, we can start tallying victories.

From an early age Don learned to be a hard worker, working for his dad who was a plumber. Every day after school he’d come home and he’d work at the plumbing company, and then even after he graduated highschool and had his own job he’d come home weekends and work for his dad.

Pepa always said it was because of this that he thought his middle name was “Go Dig.” He’d get home from school and his dad would say, “Don, go dig.” Needless to say, God had plans for Don Smith that required a special sort of diligence and grit that only digging lots of ditches can bring. 

Now, I wasn’t around in 1934 so I don’t know much about all that happened then, but there’s one thing certain, by about 1954 Pepa had grown into a handsome-smart-alec ditch-digger and somehow that didn’t manage to scare off one certain girl: Fern Louise Lewis of Lubbock Texas. The only way to account for this is because God knew that Fern Lewis was exactly the woman that Don needed for what He had planned.

The story goes that Don’s daddy got him a warehouse job at the plumbing supplier in Lubbock, the one that Fern worked at as the secretary to the President and Vice President of the company. First sparks came on the day that Fern was given the assignment to update the company’s address book. In comes Don, to the water fountain, and when Fern asked for his information he said “You just want my number so you can call me.” And Fern said “There are some people who are conceited, and then there’s Don Smith.”  Naturally, Don and Fern were married on February 12th 1955. It’s one sort of victory for a man to win a good woman for a wife. We can add that to our tally. But beyond that there’s another type of victory in marriage, the type that is only gained through sharing years of labor and which is bought over decades of dogged faithfulness. Don and Fern were married one month and one day shy of 68 years. Here we see a mighty act of God for “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” (Ps 127:)

Before she met Don, Fern had felt that she was called to marry a preacher. Well Don Smith sure wasn’t a preacher. I guess Don was charming enough and handsome enough and hard working enough that it could have been quite good enough for Fern that he wasn’t a preacher. But God was at work. In 1966, Don Smith, the plumber, electrician, television and radio repair-man, now Sunday school director at 1st Baptist Church in Silver City, and now father to a 9 year old Carrie Francis, at 32 years of age, surrendered himself to preach the Gospel.

The next years were filled with schooling and preaching. Coming from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, God in action again, provided him and Fern both jobs in a matter of days in Fort Worth, Texas where Don began seminary training at the Baptist Seminary. In 1975 Don graduated with his Masters in Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

By all accounts, Don Smith was a Good pastor. If you knew him for a moment you knew that he loved people, and most people that met him couldn’t help but love him too. He was endearing and personable, and always a smart-alec. On entering a room he was known to raise his hands and say “Don’t shoot! I’ll marry the whole family.” Or introduce himself by saying, “My name is Jose Kue Personavich”. And there was his penchant for trying to give people money, something he got from his dad. We all know pastoring doesn’t pay all that much, but it was a good likelihood that on parting he would try to give you a few bucks and if you were having lunch out with him you were almost sure you’d hurt his feelings if you didn’t let him pay the check. These are just a few of many simple ways that he was able to show that it was a small thing for him to sacrifice himself for you.

During Don’s 46 years as a preacher he preached in Silver City New Mexico, in Gila New Mexico, then in Causey New Mexico, during seminary, at Arcadia Park Baptist Church in Dallas, after seminary he preached at John T. White Baptist Church in Fort Worth, then he preached in Albuquerque New Mexico, from there he preached in Kermit Texas, he then preached and built a church in Greeley Colorado. From there he preached in Independence Missouri, then back in Texas again in Lone Camp, and finally when I was about 10 or 11 he and Fern settled down to pastor Annis Chapel Baptist Church in Springtown Texas where he would retire.

The great mission of pastoring is to bring life out of death. Light out of darkness. To make alive! As a preacher Don Smith joyfully dedicated his life to this calling. I don’t know how many souls were saved through his preaching, or how many baptisms he did. But I know that Don Smith faithfully preached to, baptized, married, and laid to rest every soul God entrusted to him and even today bright glints of that legacy shine out in multitudes of lives.

Victory through discipleship is a victory that multiplies generationally. It’s a victory that extends beyond the grave to a thousand generations by God’s promise. While we could never understand the full sense of the impact of God’s work through Don on the generations to come, in our midst right now are great testimonies of Don Smith’s pastoral faithfulness which easily spans backwards more than 50 years from when he first surrendered to preach to his final earthly wedding. Among countless others, Don Smith married Pat and Carry Hurd on January 6th 1979 and then on May 29th 2021 he conducted his last wedding, the marriage of his Grandson, Patrick Hurd to his wife Maci. And in this we can begin to get a tangible sense of what God was up to with Don Smith. Folks that Don married decades ago give a lot of the credit for their faithful marriage to Don Smith and to the marriage counsel he gave. And at the very least, in the form of grandchildren and great-grandchildren the undeniable hand of God can be seen.

Don Smith went to be with the Lord on January 11th, 2023. He is survived by his wife Fern Smith, now 90 years old and who plans to live to at least 100, and by his sisters Elloise and Jesse. His daughter Carrie, 11 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren (not to mention 3 more on the way). 

But “survived by” is such a strange turn of phrase to apply to the company of people who’ve been given so much life by God in action through the life of Don Smith. For friends and family who know God’s promises, we can be sure God is in action in our lives, and we have been given the same manner of calling as Don. That is, the calling to be fruitful and multiply and to make disciples. The calling to garden, cultivate, and to make alive in this world.

Christ came that we might have abundant life. Don Smith wasn’t a shadow walking through an evil world. He was the servant of the Lord, wearing bright armor, prepared and equipped for every good work, and what he did mattered and it made a difference, it abounded. 

The life of Don Smith produced a net increase in the world, he left behind much much more than he came into this world with and much much more than he took out! Oh how the recipients of the gifts poured out by the Lord through him have been abundantly blessed, strengthened and nourished. This fact is manifest to some of us by the simple fact that we’re even alive, it’s demonstrated to others because you’re here and you’re saved, married or baptized, all indelible marks of Don’s earthly service. In the end though, we know it because as we say good-by to Don we feel the grief brought by the sting of death: the loss of fellowship with someone we love. The absence of a husband, a father, a good friend.

Death is an enemy. It has a sting. Death brings grief, this loss of fellowship. But we’re called to a grief that has no sorrow, and we’re called to sadness that is blessed and without bitterness. It’s the kind of sadness that you have when saying good-bye at the airport. We will miss Don, but we will see him again. We can be sure of this because we know a great mystery. The secret’s out, death isn’t the end. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment at the last trumpet and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.

Death is an enemy that we are besieging and those older than us are further up the ladder ready to go over the top of the wall. Don Smith is over the wall, across the river and with Christ in perfect fellowship forever more. He’s heard the words “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” The secret is that in Christ, death is the beginning of true life, life in Christ.

O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that, your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

And so we say rest in paradise, Pepa. We’ll look at you when we see the whites of your eyes.

[Acknowledgements: I have nothing of my own and imitation is the highest form of flattery. Among others I don’t even realize, my thanks to Doug Wilson for two wonderfully hopeful and helpful analogies: the airport and besieging death. ]

A Churchman’s Guide: Elder Appointment And Your Duty


This is a guide written for churchmen, those who are aspiring to churchmanliness, all those who are called to be churchmen. The term “churchman” is of Medieval origin and first was applied only to clergy but came to be used in 17th and 18th century Anglicanism in the context of adherents to “high” and “low” views of ecclesiology, where the High Churchmen valued church history and tradition, perhaps to a fault, and the Low Churchmen came to be pejoratively titled “No Churchmen”, often being characterized as those who wished to cast aside all vestiges of the historical and traditional Church. A movement of men called “broad churchman” soon grew out of this historical moment and soon after could be identified as a movement which assumed the title “Evangelical”. Later, in the 19th and 20th centuries, it then came to be composed of believers who no longer wished to contend on the ecclesiastical grounds of high and low. By the time the Evangelical tide had swept the West the term “ecclesiology” and its modifiers, “high” and “low”, had largely been relegated to the textbooks along with the term “churchman” and thoughts about it were generally left to the realms of higher education and the history department.

There is no doubt that along with the growth of Evangelicalism there was a trend towards apathy in the ranks of the non-clergy towards the institution of the Church. This led to relationships between the Church and the masses that can be easily compared using terms like “corporation” and “consumer” and perhaps “society” and society “member”. The Church became a cultural add-on to life, an optional beneficent club, instead of the center of life–a primary concern of the regular man.

In this transition, what was lost was staunch masculine dedication to the Church and its life and the pejorative title “No Churchman” became realized in the common churchgoer as men set aside any high sense of catholicity and embraced individualism. This individualism has led to the laymen en-masse abdicating their responsibility in the Church to those few men who are seen as having answered their own individual, separate, and specialized call to ministry in the Church, the clergy. In their abdication, the modern Evangelical layman is responsible for the revitalization of an ancient and evil misordering of the duties of priest and the plebian, a practical return of the Church to the state of Roman Catholicism prior to the Reformation: an unholy clericalism which the likes of Martin Luther, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin sought to reform, and it now seems, once again a task requiring the attention of Godly men.

Consequently, or perhaps at the root of this transition, the West has witnessed the feminization of the Church and Her worship in the Evangelical sphere: the 20th century jeer that the Church is now only for little gray haired bitties of both sexes is sadly true as we sense that men are not at home in the Church, and indeed I believe are generally not called to Godly masculinity in or out of the church by the Church.

Here I am calling for the revival of the term “Churchman” as it’s taken on boldly and proudly by men. Not entirely as an ad-fontes initiative, I think Evangelicalism gets many things right, but I pray its revival can act as a call for men to reform and rekindle their passion for the Church and to reacquaint themselves with their masculine duties to her as they are revealed in Scripture. Therefore, I use the term “churchman” to mean a man who loves the mother of us all to the point of death, knows his place in Her and his duty to Her and is willing to render sacrificial service for Her life.[1]

How many passionate sermons have you heard where the pastor urgently pleaded from the Scriptures for the congregation to fulfill their duty to identify, qualify, and raise up Godly elders? What about sermon series carefully expositing 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? How many of your fellow church members could you sit down with and have a competent discussion of the qualifications outlined in these passages? Sadly my estimation is that the answers to these questions are, seldom or never, and very few.

Therefore, a further goal of this paper is to make an urgent plea to church leaders to raise up churchmen who are bold, dangerous, and culturally offensive because they know the Word of God and live it and preach it. My plea is that church leaders will themselves recognize the vital importance of highly qualified church rulers and will faithfully train and engage churchmen in their duty to identify, qualify, and raise up leaders. If the Church and its men do not take this call seriously they are propagating the great dangers that arise from apathy and lethargy to the next generation because the church of a ten thousand years from now is being built today.

The effects of historical ecclesiastical conflicts are still felt today and an imminent cause of churches failing to engage churchmen in elder appointment is the added potential for conflict that may arise during the process and pragmatic desires of leaders to find paths away from as much conflict as possible in the name of “unity”. To this point compassion for church rulers is called for, nonetheless, church rulers are called especially to the hard tasks without falling into the accompanying errors of pragmatism for the sake of avoiding unpleasantness. Churches full of people engaging in their duty will be churches full of righteous, holy, sanctified, and sanctifying conflict. Church rulers should remember that keeping the oxen out of the way may maintain a tidy trough for a while but in the end will only result in thirsty oxen and meager crops. (Prov 14:4).

While a church must take seriously the responsibility to lead its sheep, it is very often an arduous task on account of the sheep. It’s fair to say that the average contemporary church member is seldom eager or readily fit to accept more church responsibilities without much careful discipleship, especially discipleship geared at the reformational work of “deprogramming” cultural presuppositions delivered by the academy of today, secular and especially Christian. Today, it’s likely that he was not trained to consider these greater church responsibilities duty bound and fundamental to life by his father or the church he attended when young. This failure of men to be churchmen falls under the headings, laziness, rebellion, and/or ignorance. As such, this paper is also a plea for men to take seriously their calling as churchmen and to be diligent to grow in it, to be bold, seeking to carefully examine what their Godly duty is and be doggedly faithful to it by the power of the Holy Spirit as it has been presented in His Word.

In the following pages I will demonstrate that the Bible presents a well defined model of elder appointment that calls churchmen to be faithfully engaged in performing their duty to Christ’s Church: identify, qualify, and raise up. An essential element of this duty is for churchmen to comprehend well the Biblical qualifications of elders and to faithfully apply them in the Body. Therefore, I will present an introductory review of the qualifications for eldership laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The purpose of this review is not to be exhaustive or even dogmatic but rather to present the Biblical qualifications in a form that is not abstract, a form that has flesh on it, so to speak, models that are more living caricatures that could be stood up next to men we could know in the Church.

Elder Selection: The Biblical Pattern

More often than not the elder selection process is approached as if the Bible has little to say about elder selection and has left all the details up to the whims of individual churches and their constitutions. While this is of course all in good Evangelical form, the Bible throughout does actually provide a well defined pattern for leader selection. Simply stated, this pattern is elder appointment at the suffrage of the congregation where the proceedings are guided by the elders.

The term “suffrage” is a word originating from the Medieval period that generally means “the right to vote,” and was employed this way during the Reformation and Puritan periods. As recently as a hundred years ago it was used by the Suffragettes to claim the right of Women to vote. Essentially the concept of “suffrage” implies that the people “allow” (suffer) a person to rule by their consent, usually by some manner of casting a vote. The method of “casting a vote” could be by show of hands, by ballot, presenting tokens in favor or against, or by verbal “aye”s or “nay”s. I use it generally to mean a majority or better “aye”, by whatever sign, showing the explicit assent and freely granted submission by the ruled to the rulership of the appointee.[2]

This process of elder selection can have variations but the underlying principle is simple and clear: The appointee rules at the calling and explicit assent of those he rules. Expanding a little, the congregation identifies from among themselves a man for the job that they believe is a qualified representative and presents him in front of the congregation to the existing elders for “ratification” as it were. Along the way there is to be a public examination of the man’s qualifications. Assuming he is qualified it is up to the elders to confirm this man’s qualifications and then to lay hands on him, recognizing the call as God’s work. An overview of scripture will establish explicit appointment and ordination at suffrage as the basic Biblical pattern:

1 Cor 18-19: The traveling companion of Titus is “chosen of the churches”, the verb here is the greek word cheirotoneo, which means “to elect by a show of hands”.[3]

Acts 14:23: The word “appointed” used here in the selection of elders is the same verb, cheirotoneo, as above. These elders were nominated by a showing of the congregation’s hands.[4]

Acts 6:5-6: At the apostles direction, the whole congregation chose seven deacons who met the apostles’ stated qualifications. The apostles were not willing to make the appointment themselves.

Acts 1:23: After Peter’s instructions on qualifications to the larger group of disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem, “the brothers” put forward candidates to replace Judas. Mathias was then selected by lots, the Apostles evidently wished for the greater gathering to bear responsibility to ensure the chosen men met the qualifications.

1 Sam 10:19-24: Once the heads of thousands of the Children of Israel were gathered, Samuel utilized a familiar system of lots to narrow down the nomination of Saul before the people of Israel. Once Saul is brought from hiding Samuel calls for the people’s assent to the selection. In this case especially, the consent of the ruled by their unified voice “long live the king” was required to establish the responsibility of the ruled for the selection.

2 Sam 2:4-9: This passage demonstrates a contrast between a righteous kingdom established and a rebellious kingdom established. The men of Judah anointed David over themselves, but Abner, raised up Ishbosheth over Israel. One was representative and covenantal, having bi-directional sanctions, the other was totalitarian, military, and without representation. One established the rulership of the ruler and the people by a Godward model, the other was modeled like the other nations. The end result was that Judah was loyal to David, and David was faithful to Judah. In contrast Ishbosheth was betrayed by Abner and murdered by his own countrymen.

The case of David’s appointment as king over Judah and then eventually Israel is relevant because it shows the danger of establishing rulers without the explicit suffrage of the people. After Ishbosheth’s death, the tribes of Israel (their selected representatives) came and made David king over them following the example of Judah. If the people to be ruled passively allow a ruler to be placed over them, as did Israel in the case of Ishbosheth, there is no ownership of responsibilities and duties or any call for loyalty on the part of the ruled towards the ruler rather there is only an imposed, implicit, and, therefore, self imposed tyrannical covenant relationship. This puts the ruler in a situation where he must attempt to rule over a people who do not respect or honor him and are not apt to obey him unless he rules harshly which only exacerbates the case.

On the other hand, David’s rule was established as the people consistently saw him coming in and out of their gates and through God’s blessing they had grown to respect and honor him. They chose him gladly and explicitly covenanted to obey him. David was given great confidence and faith that as long as he was faithful, his rule would be blessed and his people would be covenantally bound to obediently honor his leadership.

The Reformer, Martin Bucer likewise states that “it is necessary to have the consensus of the whole church, because ministers are not only to be blameless in the eyes of the Lord’s people, but also well trusted and loved by them.”[5]

What is your Duty?

The more pious and God-fearing Christians must apply all diligence to seeing that elections of the higher and middle orders of ministers are revived, and that those should be elected who are suitable for this ministry, i.e. capable. – Martin Bucer

A congregation whose members do not actively and soberly engage in selecting and qualifying their rulers are robbing their rulers of the confidence that their leadership will be gladly accepted among the body with honor and loyalty. Men who are passive in selecting, examining, and supporting the elders who will rule over them are shirking their responsibility to ensure their family is joined to a church that can effectively rule him and his family faithfully. Furthermore, such a man has deprived all the other members of the church, his closest neighbors, of the full confidence that the elders are qualified, faithful men, worthy of the honor and loyalty due the office. This is a grave failure to love our neighbor and provide for those of our household.

A church that does not have this level of commitment and involvement from their congregants will always produce leaders who are perpetually at risk of falling into the bad graces of the congregation, leaders that have no assurance that their congregation is willing to be ruled by them when things get tough. A chasm may begin to grow between the rulers and the ruled, and before long the two may be pitted against each other in an ugly dispute where there is little hope of reconciliation because the ruler-ruled relationship was one built on an unqualified and uncommitted trust.

As churchmen, from the Biblical pattern, we see that ultimately we bear responsibility for the leaders we choose over us as the Israelites bore the burden of appointing Saul. If we are lazy in our responsibility, elders will be raised up who we can’t be confident will be capable of ruling us well or to whom we’re happy to submit. Therefore, it is an urgent requirement that all men in the church know well what the Biblical qualifications for church rulers are and to be vigilant to qualify the men being raised to that office. This may be one of the most urgent calls needed in the modern Church at large today.

In the process, more men are going to be disqualified than qualified, and it’s a tough thing to look a man in the eyes letting them know that they don’t meet the qualifications. However, it’s a great mercy to them and the congregation, saving both parties from frustration and dire consequences. On the flip side it provides men the grace of opportunity to grow patiently in faithfulness towards those qualifications, deficiencies having been identified.

An Elder’s Biblical Qualifications

Because the stakes are so high and so great a responsibility lies on churchmen to qualify church elders, it is incumbent on all churchmen to have a thorough Biblical understanding of the qualifications for elders. The main passages in scripture that lay out the qualifications for elders are 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Between these two passages there are at least 13 qualifications to which the Bible holds elder candidates. A man who can reasonably be said to fail in one of these areas is not qualified for the position of elder.

My goal here is to address each qualification found in 1 Timothy and Titus. My hope is that by outlining each qualification conversationally and practically, faithful men may be encouraged to put sharper edges on their Biblical understanding of elder qualification and then in turn encourage men around them to engage in this same maturing exercise. My prayer is that they can together begin to faithfully apply these qualifications to the elders being raised up in their church and perhaps some of these men will even aspire to be found faithful in all of these admirable qualities as well, because “This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (1 Tim 3:1)

Below each qualification I’ll list a few example qualifying questions you could ask a potential elder candidate. Note, they are only broadly related to the qualification to which it is paired, there are many more questions that could and perhaps ought to be asked, but the temptation of a multitude of questions is for the questioner to feel the need to use them all to the effect of smothering a potential candidate. The other risk is simply being overwhelmed yourself, so I’ve not made the list overly long, their purpose is to provide an example of excellent qualifying questions. Most of these questions have been shamelessly collected and adapted from elder exams and books.

Blameless (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6)

Sometimes also rendered “above reproach”, the word here evokes the image of a man who believes and behaves in all of life such that nobody could bring a Biblically just (i.e. not frivolous, petty or quarrelsome) accusation against him which could bring reproach upon Christ and His bride. An elder candidate must have it said about him that he is a blameless and harmless son of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom he shines as a light in the world, holding forth the word of life. (Phil 2:15-16)

Qualifying Questions:

  • Is there anything in the pattern of your life which our body needs to know in order to prevent scandal in the Church?
  • Have you ever been under church discipline or involved in any scandal?
  • What are some ways in which you are already demonstrating a commitment to service?
  • Do you believe that you meet the biblical qualifications with regard to the personal character and ability of an elder?
  • How do you plan to make time for the demands of the office as well as for your household?

The Husband of One Wife (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6)

This qualification immediately rules out women as elders because a woman cannot be a husband. Therefore, an elder must be a man, who, if married, is married to one woman. If he’s not married he must exhibit the character of monogamous faithfulness. There is no prohibition against unmarried elders nor is there a prohibition against elders who have been divorced (and perhaps remarried) as long as they are the wronged party[6]. If having been previously divorced contrary to the Biblical stipulations (perhaps before being saved, and perhaps remarried), this man must demonstrate a long history of faithful and staunch repentance from the sin of divorce. Moreover, any practice of polyamory, sodomy, or any other fornication and perversion of marriage or the acceptance thereof, bars a man from the office of elder.

Qualifying Questions:

  • What is the condition of your marriage and does your wife support you in your desire to serve as an Elder?
  • What do you believe the Bible teaches about divorce?
  • Are women qualified to hold office in the church? Why or why not?
  • How would you define pornography?
  • And are you engaged in pornography or have you been recently?

Vigilant, Sober (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8):

When Paul in 1 Timothy 3:2 uses the terms “vigilant” (sometimes rendered “temperate”) and “sober” together, he’s evoking the image of a man who generally carries out life thoughtfully and actively engaged in the goings on of life about him, be it in the church, his home, or in culture, so as not to be caught unawares by false doctrines, divisions, or scandals. Furthermore, he does so with a “sound mind” which is here rendered “sober” and echoed in Titus 1:8, this being a discerning and articulate mind able to grasp subtleties and engage issues with wise judgment. The Greek word used for “vigilant” and “sober” bears a negative contrast to the intoxicating effects of wine. Like an intoxicated man, one who is generally inattentive to, ignorant of, or unaware of prevalent ideological subtleties, dangers, or common temptations encountered in life is not vigilant. A vigilant and sober man should be one who is known to delight in the Law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1) and who is able and ready to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor 10:5-6)

Qualifying Questions:

  • What is the Church and Christians’ calling with regard to cultural involvement according to Scripture?
  • How would you approach a sermon on homosexuality or transgenderism?
  • Explain your understanding of intersectionality and critical race theory and what are your views on it?
  • What is your view on capital punishment in the light of Scripture?
  • What is your stance on war in light of Scripture?
  • What is your stance on women going to war in light of Scripture?
  • What is your view of the historicity, chronology, and length of the six days of creation in Genesis 1?
  • Do you hold to the doctrine of sola Scriptura? How do you understand that doctrine? What is your take on the sufficiency of scripture?

Of Good Behavior, Just, Holy, Temperate (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8)

In 1 Timothy 3:2 Paul follows “vigilant, sober” with “and of good behavior” and leaves it at that. But in Titus 1:8 he follows “sober” with three descriptors of good behavior, “just”, “holy”, and “temperate”. This paints for us a picture of a man who should be known for exercising Biblical justice, not being capricious, and showing no favoritism or partiality. He ought to be holy, therefore not having fellowship with anything that has even the color or taint of evil. A man who is holy will guard himself and his family from profane, lewd, or pornographic entertainment and his standards of holiness will make him a known enemy of many things commonly considered areas of Christian liberty.

The word rendered “temperate” here in Titus is a different Greek word than the one already addressed above which is sometimes rendered “temperate” also. The Greek word used here bears a positive sense of self mastery and control, thus here a man who is not ruled by any sensuality, addiction, or given to any excess fleshly lust (fear, anger, alcohol, coffee, pain-killers, quiet-time, online shopping etc.)

Qualifying Questions:

  • Do you have a problem with anger or fear?
  • Do you have a problem with moodiness, depression, or are you prone to be emotionally “sappy”?
  • Do you ever wake up and say, “I just can’t start my day until…xyz”?
  • Do you have difficulty calling people out on sin?
  • What do you believe is the nature, purpose, and practice of church discipline?

Given To Hospitality, Lover of Good Men (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8)

Paul expands on “hospitable” in Titus adding “lover of good men”. To be hospitable is much more than inviting people into your own home. When Paul adds “lover of good men” he’s especially presenting a picture of a man who seeks out fellowship with good men. It’s no accident that Paul follows this with “apt to teach”, the model he is presenting is of a man who is known to routinely seek out fellowship among good men where he pursues his gifts of teaching, exhortation, and admonition all of which are commonly well received.

Hospitality is more than a willingness to invite folks into the home, it’s also the willingness to go into other folks’ homes. All too often men fail in hospitality by loving their own comfort. Sometimes that’s controlling the environment by only ever inviting people into their own space, where things are predictable. Other times, it means seeking comfort in controlling the situation by only partaking of hospitality in other’s homes where they are able to determine when to end the hospitality.

Some men find it easy to show hospitality to needy people and strangers because it seems holy, but they then neglect to readily engage in hospitality and discipleship of the good men around them. Others may find it difficult engaging in hospitality with people that make them uncomfortable, perhaps strangers, and in doing so they forget the hospitality of angels.

A characteristic of a hospitable man is humility as he must open his life and home to the examination and criticisms of others. Hospitality will naturally provide situations in which others will get to know the flaws of that man and before too long even the most holy will have cause to repent of some failing and will then be known as a repentant man.

Qualifying Questions:

  • Do you love people?
  • How comfortable are you having people into your house?
  • How comfortable are you being in other people’s homes?
  • How regularly do you invite church members into your home? Is it a narrow and select group or a broad and diverse group?
  • Are you known to readily accept invitations for fellowship into the homes of church members and strangers?

Able To Teach (1 Tim 3:2)

In giving similar instruction in 2 Tim 2:24, Paul surrounds the same Greek word used here for “able to teach” between the words “gentle” and “patient”. Therefore, the qualification isn’t just about raw capability to explain things, the qualification is to have enough ability and skill in teaching to confidently nurture others in knowledge with gentleness and patience. An elder must have a teacher’s heart as well as the requisite knowledge.

The phrase here “apt to teach” can also bear the added connotation of “teachable” and as such a candidate must not be prone to unbending dependence on his own understanding. One of the greatest failures of modern education is peer hierarchy and “expert” dependence. The hierarchy and specialization implied in “grades”, “classes” and “degrees” has caused it to be taken for granted that a “Freshmen” will have less wisdom and knowledge than one with their “Doctorate in Divinity.” However, God’s Word has no regard for such modern artificial distinctions and says that the beginning of knowledge is the fear of the Lord. This fear will drive a Godly man to search for and submit to true wisdom wherever and in whomever God bestows it. A man who has too high a regard for “education”, in the modern sense, and easily trusts “academically qualified” purveyors and qualifiers of “knowledge,” is apt to become a blind follower of the blind (Matt 15:14); a haughty lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Tim 3:4)

It’s one thing to have the ability and another to exercise the ability. Here the faithful practice of teaching is certainly implied, yet some men have a capacity which they choose to only exercise discriminately. Isaiah 56:9-11 describes the rebellious shepherds of Israel as dogs that cannot bark. An elder candidate ought to be barking and the sheep should know the sound of it and its purpose and there should be no ambiguity (1 Cor 14:8). Is it a bark that warns of wolves approaching? Is it a bark that points the path to pasture…is it this way or that way? The souls of the sheep depend on clear and bold leadership.

Boldness is another characteristic of “aptness” and ableness in teaching. J.C. Ryle, 150 years ago bewailed, “We have thousands of jellyfish sermons preached every year, sermons without an edge, or a point, or a corner, smooth as billiard balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint.” He said that was the result of jellyfish men who were afraid of “extreme views.” If Ryle could make this statement 150 years ago how much more do we need reformation in this feminized Church? A man whose “bark” is vague, who’s stance is floppy, having no sharp edges, or is afraid of “extreme” views is not suited to be a shepherd because his teaching will be lax and his sheep wayward. Bold obedience to God is always radically “extreme”.

Qualifying Questions:

  • Are you able to be taught?
  • Would regularly preaching an offensive sermon and receiving negative criticism be difficult for you?
  • What issues are you willing to be dogmatic, vocal, or radically extreme on?
  • What do you believe are the primary goals in preaching?
  • What do you feel is the best method of teaching and exhorting the flock?
  • What is your educational background and how has this prepared you or impeded your teaching abilities?

Not Given To Wine, Not Violent, Not Greedy For Money…
(1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)

…but Gentle, Not Quarrelsome, Not Covetous. In Titus 1:7 Paul echoes the first three of these six qualifications found here in 1 Timothy 3:3. The Greek word epieikēs that is rendered “gentle” is often rendered, “patient” or “mild,” and is a word often applied to rulers to denote a weighty moderation, mercy and lenient justice that should bring to mind the admonition of King Lemuel’s mother in Proverbs 31. Renderings such as “gentle” and “mild” often evoke thoughts of mousy-meekness but this word when applied to rulers, as it is here, best portrays the image of a man who has self-mastery and is not a slave to self-indulgence, sensuality, or emotional temperamentality.

Next, by “doubling” qualities on either side of a “but” Paul is signaling his reader to take all six concepts together as three corresponding pairs which together constitute one qualification. By this figure of speech Paul is calling the audience to pay special attention as he highlights this qualification’s importance among all the rest.

“But gentle” is placed as a punctuation that should strike us like a typewriter bell which signals Paul’s arrival at the main point whereupon the reader is invited to return to the beginning of the line and review again the next three concepts, crowned by the royal “gentle”, in the focused beam of the three that have gone before: A ruler who is like a benevolent and just king will not be given to wine, not violent or quarrelsome, and not covetous and greedy for money.

Therefore, a qualified elder then must be of a kingly disposition, ruling over himself in the areas of wine, anger, and covetousness so as to be fit to render unadulterated justice.[7]

Qualification Questions:

  • What is your relationship to alcohol use in your personal life?
  • Is there anything in your life that is immoderate?
  • Do you manage your time well?
  • What is the state of your finances and debt?
  • Does fear of man lead you to any immoderate moderation?

One Who Ruleth Well His Own House (1 Tim 3:4-5; Titus 1:6)

…having his children in subjection with all gravity. (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) With this added parenthetical statement, Paul highlights the importance of this qualification. To Titus, Paul’s first sentence of instruction ends with the qualification that holders have “faithful [or believing] children not accused of riot or unruly.”

Herein lies a set of terms surrounding family rulership that were natural to the Jewish thinker but are less familiar to us modern evangelicals. Paul uses two words “riot” and “unruly” which would have been familiar and specific categorical descriptors applied to moral failures of duty applied to children of the covenant in the Old Testament. These two words are failures by omission or commission on either side of “faithful”. On either side of covenant faithfulness are rebellious children who have their own ideas and act them out (‘riot’) or children who will not act out the moral instruction of their parents (“unruly”).

The Greek word for “riotous” directs us to Proverbs 28:7 which here is probably what was on Paul’s mind and contrasts the law-keeping son against the shame bringing “riotous” son. It is noteworthy that the shame here is upon the father because he is held covenantally responsible for his son’s disobedience to God’s law.

The word for “unruly” is often used to denote insubordination to God’s moral standard (Tit 1:10; Heb 2:8). Here in the context of the collected words we see that Paul is working upon a model of covenantal moral faithfulness to God in child rearing. In other words, fruits of belief by faith, which would harmonize with Deuteronomy 6:4-7 “thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children” and Christ’s proclamation, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 15:10), are expected to be evident in the house of elder candidates.

In 1 Timothy 3:11 the same quality of “faithfulness” is applied to elder and deacon wives. Those who see this verse to mean merely “obedient” rather than “believing” are conveniently inconsistent if they will not gladly install an elder-candidate who is married to a woman that’s dutiful but is not a confessing believer.

Therefore, I believe that it is a qualification of an elder for all his children to have made confessions of faith and show the fruits of their faithfulness. In the case of elder-candidates having pre-teen kids, there should be no unusual behavioral issues evident. In the case of children that have reached the teen years, if they are not believers the elder candidate should perhaps focus first on ministry to his family rather than the church. And if an elder candidate has had even one child (even grown, out of the house, and married) who is manifestly an unbeliever, has been excommunicated, or lives in grievous sin (adultery, fornication, addiction, etc), there ought to be much prayer as to how the candidate stands in light of the biblical qualification that his children must be “faithful.” The passage here is clear that when it comes to soul-care, there is somehow a heavenly correlation between the fruits of a man’s gospel ministry to his household and the fruits of gospel faith one ought to expect in his fatherhood to a congregation.

This qualification is easily handled without wisdom, either too simplistically, woodenly applied like a club, or else limply ignored. Doug Wilson has written a small book dedicated to this topic that is well worth the quick read if the behavior of a candidate’s children gives you concern for his qualifications, before jumping to judgements, check out his book, “Neglected Qualification: Black Sheep in Pastors’ Homes.” I am sensitive to the fact that the position I’ve presented here would seem to require the stuffing of many camels through the eye of a needle, yet this qualification does require more consideration as it is largely ignored on pragmatic grounds.

Qualifying Questions:

  • Are your children faithful?
  • What are your views on corporal discipline in the home?
  • What is your view of Christians sending their children to public school in light of scripture?
  • How would you handle it if one of your children at home denies the faith?

Not A Novice (1 Tim 3:6; Tit 1:9)

…lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Paul expands in Titus saying that the qualified elder “[hold] fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”

Here Paul paints the picture of a man who is not only able to teach gently, but is able to effectively exhort those in error, convincing those who contradict sound doctrine. The purpose of this exhortation is to support the requirement of elders to be ready to defend the flock against both obvious and subtle false doctrines that would creep in as Paul previously exhorted in Acts 20:28-31.

Paul cites the dangers novices are apt to fall into as pride and condemnation of the devil. Here is envisioned a fall into grave doctrinal error brought about by self confident pride in one’s knowledge that leads to the devil being able to levy a just accusation.

Most often this qualification requires that an elder have his skills fermented by experience and time, the sort of experience that only a very few men young in the faith are allowed to fast-track by the power of the Spirit alone. Paul in 2 Corinthians was writing to a Church that had been established perhaps some 20 to 30 years prior to his writing, yet he was still greatly concerned that they could be deceived by the subtlety of doctrines being presented. Paul himself, already a learned man by all accounts, practiced his doctrine for some years before presenting himself to the Apostles in Jerusalem and launching his missionary endeavors in earnest. The healthiest elder boards are usually filled with several hoary heads and only a few younger fiery ones.

It is an all-too-common error that education is substituted for and valued over years of patient faith and grace-granted sanctification. There are many men who receive stellar educations (by contemporary evangelical academic standards) but haven’t yet been granted the wisdom to understand the nature of their education, whether it’s a help or a hindrance. And more often than not the modern seminary graduate requires some years of remedial training under the care of the Holy Spirit before the toxins injected by the academy of the day are rendered inert.

There is a simple way to discern a man’s capacity, it’s by yourself knowing important doctrinal questions that have subtlety that you yourself may be wrestling with and see how they handle it. A man who can’t or won’t spend the time to gently exhort you, teach you and correct you regarding subtle doctrines is probably still a novice.

Qualifying Questions:

  • What is your basic hermeneutical approach to scripture? What about your exegetical methodology?
  • Can you defend the doctrine of the Trinity from Scripture? What about the full deity and humanity of Christ?
  • How would you refute a denial of scriptural authority?
  • What translation of the Bible do you use? Why?
  • What is the difference between infallibility and inerrancy?
  • What is apologetics? What is its importance to a minister of the Word?
  • What is your view of the historicity, chronology, and length of the six days of creation in Genesis 1? What is the importance of the view you hold?
  • What is the practical implication of covenant theology?
  • What’s the difference between the covenant of creation before the Fall and the covenant of grace afterwards?
  • What are your expectations for the future of the church?
  • What is the importance and value of creeds and confessions?
  • What is baptism and what happens to a person who is baptized?
  • What mode of baptism do you believe is defined in scripture and can you defend it?
  • What do you believe happens when the church partakes of the Lord’s Supper?
  • Can you explain your positions on admission to, frequency of, and elements in the Lord’s Supper?

Must Have A Good Report Of Them Which Are Without (1 Tim 3:8)

…lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Here Paul again highlights the importance of this qualification by showing the danger of being without it.

It is obvious that an Elder ought to live a life such that those outside the Church can bring no condemnation upon him, his family, or Christ. However, it may be less obvious that herein is a requirement that an elder must have a report (not to mention a good one) with them which are without in the first place. This having requires that an elder be a man in the city gates as it were, someone who is standing up and preaching and teaching out and about in the community so that he’s known and stands as God’s faithful witness to the world. City gate prominence is much more than being willing to talk to strangers as you go about town, it bears the weighty sense of the man who is more generally in the public eye by speaking at civic meetings, writing in local print circulations, and actively engaging in local public issues online.

This here is a qualification that sadly few men pay much attention to, finding only here a law to keep their noses clean in public, taking no risks.

Qualifying Questions:

  • Do you have a reputation around town, what is it?
  • Do you have any outside ministries you’re engaged in that put you in contact with people around town?
  • Do you take public stands on social issues and politics?
  • Are you willing to stand as a shield to the body of Christ against civil and political encroachments on the rights of the family?

Intermission: What’s Good for the Goose

In 1 Timothy 3:8 Paul shifts his focus to the deacons. However, we must recognize that Paul is working from the greater to the lesser and that all of the principles of the lesser equally apply to the greater. Therefore, anything that is mentioned in the requirements of deacons is equally applicable to elders. However the qualifications of an elder that are not reiterated to the deacon are not requirements for the office of the deacon.

Reverent (1 Tim 3:8)

Reverence here means giving honor to those whom honor is due. This is especially relevant to Deacons who must be reverent to the elders, nonetheless, reverence is a qualification that elders must hold also in their turn. A man who does not readily give honor to God’s elected civil authorities (not necessarily obedience though) is not qualified to be an elder. This rules out elders who think it’s funny to chant thinly veiled insults at the US President.

Qualifying Questions:

  • Have you ever had any difficulty submitting to lawful authority?
  • Have you ever had the opportunity to reverently withstand unlawful authority?
  • How can someone honor the holder of a civil office while righteously disagreeing with them?
  • How would you handle a person who didn’t show you respect or honor?

Not Double Tongued (1 Tim 3:8)

Double tongued here could mean purposely deceptive in speech, but it could also hold the sense of uncertain or undecided. In either case, deacons are called to make judgements and one should be able to understand what they’re saying and expect that what they say they really mean. This also is a qualification for elders. Elders and deacons who cannot or do not address issues under their purview with consistent well articulated speech are not qualified for the office, they are like dogs that cannot bark (Isaiah 56:9-11).

Qualifying Questions:

  • Do you ever use indirect, vague or noncommittal language when communicating?
  • When you’re asked a difficult question, do you have the ability to articulate a clear and precise answer?
  • Do you have a fear of making judgements on situations?
  • Can you explain the difference between Lex Rex and Rex Lex? What are your views?
  • Was the American Revolution an unrighteous civil revolution or a righteous civil reformation?

But Let These Also First Be Tested (1 Tim 3:10)

Here is an admonition that may seem at first to be relegated only to the Deacon, but two things show us that Paul here has in mind the testing of both the Deacons and Elders. First the principle from the greater to the lesser. Therefore, whatever is required of the lesser deacons is also required of the greater elders. But more obviously Paul here uses the word “also,” explicitly combining deacons and elders into this qualification.

You as a churchman have a duty to qualify your elders; you must participate in the testing. Perhaps, this is a formal written and/or public oral exam of which you should know the questions and answers of the candidate prior to giving your assent to their qualification and you should have an opportunity to clarify any of their answers afterwards.

Many churches have formal training and tests established but they abstract it from the view of the congregation because it presents opportunities for quarrelsomeness. However, this is a pragmatic excuse against the duties of the church members and in doing so the church is not training their congregants in mature responsibility, unity, and submission. Rather, they’re setting up elder-candidates for failure to gain the trust and loyalty of the body and depriving them of the opportunity to obtain their office with great confidence.

If your congregation has no formal testing process, you should at the very least be willing to ask many testing questions on your own: use the questions I’ve provided as examples.

Wife Qualifications (1 Tim 3:11)

Once again moving from the greater to the lesser (in authority, not worth), attention is brought to the character of elders’ and deacons’ wives. Qualified deacons, and therefore elders, must have wives who are “reverent, not slanderers, temperate,” and “faithful in all things.”

Here reverent means giving honor to those to whom honor is due. A man who does not have the honor and obedience of his wife is not qualified as an elder.

Here “not slanderers” means also “not a gossip”. A man who has a wife who can’t keep confidence and tells tails is not qualified as an elder.

Here “temperate” has the same meaning as discussed for elders above. A man who has a wife who cannot exercise self rulership is not qualified to be an elder.

“Faithful in all things” has the same meaning as discussed above with faithful children and is a call for being equally yoked and having a common confession. A man who has a wife that does not hold the same confession of Christ is not qualified to be an elder. This also may mean that even if a man has a wife who confesses Christ but they differ further down in their confessional statement, he is disqualified.

Qualifying Questions:

  • Is your wife a believer and does she give the same confession of faith as you?
  • Does your wife honor and obey you?
  • Is your wife a faithful helpmeet and homemaker?
  • Can your wife keep counsel and confidence?
  • How much time does your wife spend on the phone or internet talking with other women? If it’s often, what is the nature of these conversations?
  • Does your wife have any addictions or immoderate behavior (spend too much time watching TV, at the gym, on the internet, etc?)

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: A Destructive Anti-pattern

Congregations where the body either has been given no clear discipleship regarding the qualifications of an elder or no actionable examples of how to profitably apply the Scriptural qualifications, have been deprived of their Godly and joyful service to the Body of Christ. The result of this deprivation is that the voice of the congregation is functionally relegated to a dissentious tone when it manages to vocalize at all.

Tolerating such a model does not take the Biblical pattern seriously and it does a grave disservice to the confidence and faith of the rulers being installed as well as to the sanctification and unity of the Church. The remedy is for church leaders to take responsibility in discipling their flock in the Biblical pattern and for churchmen to take up their duty to identify and raise up qualified elders positively, with joy and thanksgiving in the task at hand, even through difficulty and conflict.


The Bible provides clear principles that Godly churchmen and elders must faithfully implement in their local Church bodies in the pursuit of qualified rulers.

My first prayer is that you will study these requirements diligently and pray for your elders that they would be faithful to grow in the Godly qualities outlined.

My further prayer is that you’ll be diligent to pray for the men around you that that the Lord would awaken them to their calling as churchmen and to their responsibility in the church: first to be engaged in learning well these elder qualifications and how to applying them, and secondly to consider that the Lord is calling all men to growth in righteousness being sanctified in all of these qualities, not just elders.

Next time your church calls for a new elder or deacon, I encourage you to dive right into the process. It may be challenging, uncomfortable, and time-consuming but abdication is not an option for faithful churchmen, only meek fulfillment of duty.

And last of all, perhaps having gone over the qualifications summarized above you’ve thought that your pastor fails in at least one of the qualifications, don’t be discouraged, give them all reverence in the spirit of 1 Peter 2:18, pray for them, and exhort them.


Cheirotoneō: Appointment By The Church

The purpose in examining the Greek word cheirotoneō is that it is used in two New Testament accounts of the selection and appointment of men to ministry, specifically eldership in the Church, and there is disagreement among scholars as to how this word is used in one passage versus the other. Cheirotoneō in its verb form appears in both Acts 14:23 and 2nd Corinthians 8:19. It is granted readily by most scholars that the usage of cheirotoneō in 2 Cor 8:19 describes the election of Titus to his ministry by a congregational show of hands, yet some commentators see this same word as being used differently in Acts 14:23. In order to understand the nature of the disagreement it’s necessary to start off with at least a brief look at the usagas that will be immediately presented upon cracking open the dictionary:

The verb cheirotoneō in brief has three possible usages:

  1. to vote by stretching out the hand
  2. to create or appoint by vote: one to have charge of some office or duty
  3. to elect, create, appoint

Acts 14:23 reads, “And when they [Paul and Barnabas] had ordained them elders in every church…”, where the word cheirotoneō is rendered “ordained”. The disagreement between commentators arises when trying to ask the question, “how were the elders selected?” Two views are offered. The first theory is that cheirotoneō is most likely used in its formal sense, a vote by the stretching out of the hands. The second position posits that the context provides no sense of congregational involvement and therefore it’s most likely that the word had begun being used in a general sense and is used here to mean “appointment” by Paul and Barnabas without any reference to congregational input.

If this exegetical question is not quickly resolved, then controversy must ensue when it comes time for a church to answer the question, “Does the Bible give us a model for elder selection that we ought to follow or do we get to do whatever we want?” Those who hold to the second view, that cheirotoneō in acts Acts 14:23 can and ought to be seen as appointment at the sole discretion of Paul and Barnabaes, feel they can claim that the Bible provides no prescribed model for elder selection and, therefore, elder selection can rightly be accomplished in many ways, these two passages being examples of scriptural diversity and neutrality.

On the other hand, those that hold that cheirotoneō in Acts 14:23 should be read in its formal sense can easily demonstrate that the Bible presents one distinct model: election of rulers at the suffrage of the ruled.

Alexander Strauch argues for the first position:

Other commentators have insisted that the word’s root meaning indicates election by popular vote…They claim that the founders merely presided over the churches’ election of elders. This claim, however, is contradictory to the plain language of the text. Cheirotoneō can mean to vote, but it also means to appoint or choose without reference to voting. Context and usage, not etymology, determine the word’s meaning, and in this case the context is conclusive that “appoint” is the only possible meaning.[8]

Douglas Wilson on the other hand argues for the second position:

Although new officers are ordained through the laying on of hands by the existing elders, they are chosen by the congregation. The Bible teaches that members of the congregation put the prospective elders or deacons forward, which is simply another way of saying they elect them….The verb translated [in 2 Cor 8:18-19] as “chosen” is cheirotoneo, which means “to elect by a show of hands.” The same verb is used when we are told about the selection of elders in Acts 14:23….It is very clear that the elders and deacons were elected by the people of the congregation.[9]

Here we have two knowledgeable men making contradictory claims. How can such a disagreement be resolved? We commit to allow the Bible to be its own interpreter and to submit ourselves to it against our traditions and presuppositions.

To this end let’s look at Acts 14:23 (KJV): “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

Here the author of Acts presents a statement that stands on its own, separated from the previous clause in v. 22 by the word “and” which denotes moving to the next separate event and is followed by another “and,” showing an immediate transition to the next event. Here it should be plain that those who argue that this passage’s immediate context lends no definite sense to the word cheirotoneō have a strong case. It is evident that the context of the passage simply does not demand the word be used in its formal sense. However, neither does the context demand that cheirotoneō must be rendered informally either.

Strauch has overstated his case when he says the “context is conclusive that ‘appoint’ is the only possible meaning.” Having provided no support for such a bold claim, it would appear that Strauch has relied heavily upon the trust of his reader. Perhaps he’s following such commentators as Stagg who states, “The greek word for “appoint” originally referred to election by the show of hands, but it cannot be established that the term was so used when Luke wrote.”[10] Yet even Stagg isn’t quite willing to make the jump from the position that formal usage cannot be established to an unqualified claim that therefore informality must be.

The Interpreter’s Bible comments that, “The word appointed means literally ‘chosen by show of hands’ and, strictly speaking, should imply some form of popular voting. But it had come to be used of choice in general without reference to the means.”[11] Granting, for argument’s sake the truth of this statement, the authors here are only willing to say that the word could have been used generally without reference to the means, not that it necessarily ought to be in this context.

I believe that it is clear that the immediate context of Acts 14:23 does not demand the formal or informal usage of cheirotoneō. I also do not think this is a serious problem. If we are to sort this out we simply need to ask the Bible how we should understand the less clear passages of scripture. The plain answer is through the clear passages and the broader context. I point you immediately to 2 Cor 8:19 which uses the exact same word and that it is commonly agreed that the context demands that the word cheirotoneō be understood in its formal sense. If we shamelessly apply this hermeneutic there is no struggle, that is unless we’re bent on bolstering our traditions or strongly held presuppositions, let God be true and every man a liar.

Examining the greater context, it has been stated that the word cheirotoneō is not provided a definite sense by the immediate context. However, the book of Acts bears several detailed accounts of leader selection at the suffrage of church members. Therefore, it is a more natural reading of Acts 14:23 to allow the overall context of the book, which consistently exhibits congregational involvement in leader selection, to give color to this passage, to do otherwise is to make a rule out of the exception.

A faithful hermeneutic will seek to understand the New Testament as being firmly rooted in Old Testament principles which were naturally presupposed by the authors of the New Testament. Therefore, the Old Testament presents models of elder selection which must inform our reading of all New Testament examples of ruler appointment. It’s not reasonable to assume that the Apostles established churches in an entirely new and distinct model than the synagogue model common in Israel during the first century. Patristic writings recount that elders were appointed to rule over the church on a city basis. This city-church was then composed of many “perishes” constituting as few as 10 households worshiping on the Lord’s day in homes, or even in Jewish synagogues that had altogether converted. Thus it’s easy to see that the Apostles followed a known pattern, one that was established in the Scriptures that they knew well, the Old Testament, and its familiarity would be presupposed throughout the New Testament writings.

This being the case, we can look at the Old Testament patterns to find if it provides examples that coincide. In 1 Sam 10:19-24 we see Samuel presenting Saul to the people for their approval. Here the representatives of the people vote with their voice saying “God save the king.”, this is an example of a ruler being chosen by the “amen” or verbal vote of those who would be ruled. 2 Sam 2:4-9 presents another example in the events leading up to David’s rule over Judah and Israel. Here a helpful contrast is presented as God establishes His king, David, over the people. Judah, playing the character of the obedient people chooses David as their king. Israel playing the part of the wayward people is chastised when Abner establishes Ishbosheth over Israel in Saul’s place. Throughout Samuel we see the lessons in leadership that God presents and see that God blesses clearly representative processes, where the ruled select the ruler.

I believe that an understanding of the Bible as a whole presents a clear picture that representative selection by the congregation is the example of Scripture. Therefore, if we continue to interpret the less clear by the clear we should find no reason to think that in Acts 14:23 the appointment here was done by anything other than the ordinary means regardless of the lack of immediate contextual distinction.

So far we’ve granted the argument that the Greek word cheirotoneō might possibly have been used in a very general sense at the time of the writing of Acts. Some make the claim that it most certainly was the case that the word had generally fallen into a non-formal usage, this deserves a closer look.

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament gives an overview of the usage of the greek word starting with Isocrates, of Athens (436-338 B.C.), Demosthenes, of Athens (384-422 B.C.), and Plato, of Athens (438/7-348/7 B.C.) who used it to denote “raising a hand to vote”. Philo, of Alexandria (20 B.C.-50 A.D.) and Flavius Josephus (37-97 A.D.) used the word quite often in their writing which was contemporary to the New Testament authors and they generally used the term to denote “nomination.” It would appear against those who say the word had fallen into a strictly general usage that the most common usage of the word in the first century is to denote vote by a show of hand or nomination. Having the choice of senses is certainly more general than the strictly formal sense, but certainly not as general as we are led to believe.

In spite of his own evidence, Lohse ends his definition in the TDNT observing: “In Acts 14:23 the reference is not to election by the congregation. The presbyters are nominated by Paul and Barnabas and then with prayer and fasting they are instituted in their offices.”[12] This is a fair commentary as far as it goes. It is true that the passage makes no reference specifically to election by the people, however a “nomination” by Paul and Barnabas does not go against any nomination by the people. The focus here in the passage is on the oversight of the church, not on the internal mechanics of the process. It is saying more than scripture does to claim that certainly the churches in Pisidia and Lycoania did not also nominate or vote on these elders.

So far the discussion has been battled out in a small arena of views, however this passage is commented upon quite frequently by theologians and their broader voices may be helpful. I proffer here a few of many examples, perhaps for no other reason than to demonstrate that the position held by the author is widely and historically orthodox:

The elders ordained by the apostles were elected by the congregations of the churches. This is evidenced by the word which is translated “ordained” in Acts 14:23. The word is from the verb cherotoneo, which means “to make a show of hands” as in voting.” –Buswell, James Oliver; (1962) A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Zondervan

[Acts 15:23 and Titus 1:5] need not imply that the apostles alone made the selection, but could certainly include congregational consultation and even consent before an official appointment or installation was made (as was the appointment in Acts 6:3, 6). – Grudem, Wayne; (2000) Systematic Theology. Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI. pg. 921

“23, 24. when they had ordained them elders–lit., ‘chosen by show of hands.’ But as that would imply that this was done by the apostles’ own hands, many render the word, as in our version “ordained.” Still, as there is no evidence in the New Testament that the word had then lost its proper meaning, as this is beyond doubt its meaning in II Corinthians 8:19, and as there is indisputable evidence that the concurrence of the people was required in all elections to sacred office in the earliest ages of the Church, it is perhaps better to understand the words to mean, ‘when they had made a choice of elders,’ i.e., superintended such choice on the part of the disciples. – Jamison, Fausset, and Brown; (1961) Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Zenervan, Grand Rapids MI. pg 1103

External Calling. This is the call that comes to one through the instrumentality of the Church. It is not issued by the Pope (Roman Catholic) nor by a bishop or college of bishops (Episcopalion), but by the local church. Both the officers and the ordinary members of the church have a part in it. That the officers have a guiding hand in it, but not to the exclusion of the people is evident from such passages as Acts 1:15-26; 6:2-6; 14:23. The people were recognized even in the choice of the apostle, according to Acts 1:15-26. It would seem that in the apostolic age the officers guided the choice of the people by calling attention to the necessary qualifications that were required for the office, but allowed the people to take part in the choosing, Acts 1:15-26; 6:1-6; I Tim 3:2-13. Of course in the case of Matthias God himself made the final choice. – Berkhof, Louis; (1958) Systematic Theology. Banner of Truth. Edinburgh, UK pg. 587

The primitive apostolic church observed this order of calling so that it was not done without the consent of the church (Acts 1:23). The whole church selects two who cast lots for the apostleship and, the lot having fallet no Matthias, he was added to the number of the apostles by common consent. The whole multitude of the pious select seven deacons, who are confirmed by the apostles by the impositions of hands (6:3, 5, 6) The apostles in every city ordain presbyters by the cheirotonian of the people (14:23) or by their free suffrages (the word being derived from the Greek custom of those who voted with stretched out and extended hands; hence transferred to any elections, sacred as well as political, it signifies to appaint by vote). And although the verb cheirotonein is sometimes taken more broadly for any creation and election;…still it cannot be used in that sense here, but it must be understood properly of a creation by suffrage. – Turretin, Francis; (1976) Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg NJ. pg. 229

…by this manner of speech is very excellently expressed the right way to ordain pastors. Paul and Barnabas are said to choose elders. Do they this alone by their private office? Nay, rather they suffer the matter to be decided by the consent of them all. Therefore, in ordaining pastors the people had their free election, but lest there should any tumult arise, Paul and Barnabas sit as chief moderators. – Calvin, John; Commentary on Acts 14:23

“[1 Tim 6:22 and Titus 1:6] does not mean, as many maintain, that St. Paul command Timothy and Titus as the leaders to appoint as bishops on the basis of their own authority and will those whom they wanted, irrespective of the will and consensus of the congregation. Because in all the ecclesiastical statutes it is especially laid down that no one should be given to be bishop of any church against its will…For because the elders and bishops are to be so fruitful in their ministry, and must have the confidence and approval of the people the deair ancient fathers were diligent in maintaining and ordering that it should be maintained, tho no-one was to be ordained to this ministry without the consensus of the ministers, the people and the leadership.” – Martin Bucer, Concerning the True Care of Souls; tr. Peter Beale 2009, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh p. 65

I’ve subtitled this study Appointment by the Church because I believe that sums up the essence of the Biblically defined model: The elders oversee and shepherd the church in the calling of qualified leaders through a nomination and election process after which the elders lay hands on the candidate ordaining them at the suffrage of the congregants. This may run contrary to Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and sundry congregational traditions, but it is the model shown most clearly throughout the Bible in spite of attempts by those married to their traditions to nominalize the Scripture by bringing trifling contentions.

  1. Recommended reading: The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity by Leon J. Podles
  2. This position does not set aside the calling of the Lord on men. Such callings from the Lord ought always to inform the suffrage of the ruled and the ordination by elders.
  3. Douglas Wilson, Mother Kirk (Canon Press, 2001), 174
  4. This is a somewhat contested verse, see the appendix.
  5. Martin Bucer, Concerning the True Care of Souls; tr. Peter Beale 2009, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh p. 63
  6. See Martin Bucer’s comments in Concerning the True Care of Souls, tr. Peter Beale, 2009, Banner of Truth Trust, Edenburg, page 51
  7. A note about abstinence from wine: “not being given to wine” does not mandate abstinence from wine (or other alcoholic beverages.) In fact, complete abstinence from wine, while it may appear holy, can just as often be immoderate: being manwardly driven to appear moderate, often demonstrates an inability or unwillingness to actually exercise this essential character of kingly self-rule or lead in a life that demonstrates such “gentleness” through moderate use. A man who’s mode of operation is to avoid every potential danger is one who may have no skill in battling with the associated dangers or in practically teaching war against such sins: there is no royalty in flight. One who abstains from wine for fear of man’s perception is just as ruled by wine as the man who is ruled by the wine itself (Col 2:23).
  8. Strauch, Alexander. (1995) Biblical Eldership, Lewis & Roth Publishing, Colorado Springs CO. pg. 136
  9. Wilson, Douglas. (2001) Mother Kirk, Canon Press, Moscow ID. pg. 174
  10. Stagg, F. The Book of Acts. Broadman Press, Nashville TN. pg. 151
  11. Et al. (1954) The Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon Press, Nashville, New York. Vol IX pg. 193
  12. Kittel, Gehrard, ed. (1964-1976), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids Co. IX pg. 437.

Year of 2021 Reading: A Rapid Retrospective, Part 1

When I started this I imagined that I’d fly through the 33 books I read in 2021 and give a short one sentence sentiment and move on, but it became clear that I have more that that to say about each book. So I’ve broken this up into parts, this is part 1.

In 2018 I began to consider my own personal improvement and the fact that I enjoyed reading and I had commonly expressed my views that a healthy habit of reading is very important, but in actually examining it, I wasn’t myself being disciplined in my approach and therefore my talk was rather cheap. In 2019 I decided to put more effort into it and was pleased to be able to manage a rate of reading of nearly 2 books a month at a pace I felt was very manageable, so I made a goal of 50 books in 2020, I achieved that goal but much of it had to do with the fact that I began actively reading to Emmelia who was getting to the age where she could maintain some engagement in rather complex books. A hefty percentage of the books I read in 2020 were to her, which was a great joy and I’ve not felt that was any less beneficial reading than reading for myself, therefore I’ve happily counted the majority of those towards my yearly count as well. This year hasn’t been any different, I set the same goal of 50 books and and have overshot that goal with much aid to a growth of reading to my kids, see the retrospective I posted on the kids books if you’re interested.

This year I was able to complete 33 books outside of my reading to the girls, 2020 was a busier year and reading time was hard to come by, especially between February and July for some reason. It wasn’t all just being busy, I think there was a little loss of enthusiasm or interest in my own reading that I had to regain. I was saved somewhat by audio books which I began to take in at 15 to 30 minutes chunks every time I traveled alone anywhere or mowed the lawn; this time optimization was key to meeting my goal this year. Next year my reading goal is to read 5 books a month, for an even 60. I’ll still count quality “kids” books, so I’m positive I can nail it and exceed it if I can stick to the habits I’ve been trying to form.

With the background taken care of, below I intend to list the books that I read this year in order of reading and give a sentence or two on my impression of the book, the impact it had on me, and what value I perceived.

Against the Protestant Gnostics by Philip J. Lee

Gnosticism in it’s various forms and derivatives in history and it’s impact on the Church was incidentally a theme that kept coming up in my conversations and in reading during 2020 and particularly Flight From Humanity by Rushdoony spurred the conversation. My good friend Clayton recommended this book to me and I was very pleased with the suggestion.

I believe this book is very valuable in giving insight and perspective into the historical struggle the Western Protestant Church has had with gnosticism from Plato to now. Where I felt the author fell a little flat was in his application of the cure for gnosticism in the Church and in culture today, but that doesn’t diminish this books positive utility. It’s a fair generalization to say that most Christians are hardly aware (or care to be) of gnostic tendencies that are practically baked into our thinking. Die gnosticism die!

The Flight From Humanity by R.J. Rushdoony

This book appears after Against the Protestant Gnostics because I read it as a part of a book study group lead by my good friend Clayton. We started the book earlier in 2020 but didn’t finish it til April.

This is a small book that’s not particularly hard to read and certainly offers more than it’s brevity might lead one to think. It deals with the modern and historical error of falling into neoplatonic dialecticism, a particular form of gnostic thinking that the world has commonly utilized throughout history and has generally infiltrated the church through it’s syncretic proclivities. The categories that Rushdoony presents are valuable for everyone to engage with and understand. Though, you will have to read through the chapter on the miserable Wigglesworth, but no spoilers here.

The Idea of Decline in Western History by Arthur Herman

This is a fascinating history of a perception of history and the part man plays in it that is absolutely eye opening. While Herman is no Christian and therefore fails to recognize the influence of the fall and sin on man or the sovereignty of God in his conclusions, it’s an indictment of the brokenness of the modern evangelical man that fallen man may recognize the historical consistency and inevitability of the upward trend of the world in spite of man’s natural pessimism.

This book reads well with Against the Protestant Gnostics and Flight From Humanity, it traces the perception that the demise of the world and/or society is right around the corner and man’s attempts at solving the problem. Most importantly it notes that this view in every single generation has been patently disproved by history.

The proliferation of manachean pessimillennialism (all ahmillennial and premillennial eschatologies) can largely be attributed to the heritage of sinful man’s lack of faith in Christ and hence his inability to see God’s redemptive plan working it’s way out of the Church to all nations in time and history. If the predominant presupposition is that history is winding down then it of necessity must exclude any cosmically and culturally hopeful eschatological position as anything but irrational.

Dress Codes, How the Laws of Fashion Made History by Richard Thompson Ford

I heard the author of this book interviewed in NPR, and yes, you’ve caught me, ever so often I tune in to see what the liberals are up to. The premise of this book arrested my attention and I ordered the book and had a great deal of fun reading it. The author is no longer a Christian as far as I can tell, but his father was a Presbyterian minister and the author gives a lot of credit to his father for forming his sartorial perspectives.

One thing that I will gladly claim must have come from a borrowed Christian worldview is the idea that clothes say something about who you are and what you want. Christians should think more about their sartorial language and this book gives an entertaining history of this language.

On the despicable side, the author felt compelled to make homage to the sodomites and transvestites and their particular sartorial language today. What a Christian would have readily been able to point out here is the that their clothing screams rebellion against how God fashioned them and the responsibility to faithfulness to His design.

Devoured by Cannabis by Douglas Wilson

I was of course interested to see what Wilson had to say about Cannabis. I suspected that I would agree with him somewhat on some things and disagree with him a lot of most things. Needless to say I walked away agreeing with him on most things and disagreeing on only a few.

I particularly thought his view on the “legalization” of marijuana was a valuable discussion in relation to Godly protection of society from what I’ll call legalized dissipation in the workforce. What I disagreed with Doug on was the implementation of some sort of marijuana courts that would impose fines. Anyone want to discuss hit me up.

Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God by Adolf Harnack

A couple of years ago I was introduced to the impact of semi-marcionite hermeneutics, probably by Peter Leithart, and had been intending to get to know more about Marcion since then. Primarily because his influence in the early Church seemed interesting and relevant, especially because Marcion was wrapped up in the gnostic tendency that the early church battled and as such it played well with books I was already reading (see above). The history was interesting, but Harnacks’ conclusions were more interesting: it turns out that Harnack is more than semi-marcion himself, and I quote “…since the law pervades the entire Old Testament, including the prophets, the entire book [the Bible] as a unity is below the level of Christianity.”

Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

This is a philosophical work that’s not about leisure in the sense of vacations. It’s a theological work in that it calls man to faith in thankfulness to God. It’s not a long book and It was well worth the read, it’s on my desk to come back to again soon.

The End Times Made Simple by Sam Waldron

Ahmillennial eschatology and manacheanism meet here. In the struggle between good and evil Waldron has failed to realize that Christ has already conquered completely, there is no struggle here and now, not for Christ. The Church is engaged only in victorious conquest of what has already been given to the Son by the Father. However, Waldron’s commitment to the view that readings of “this age” in the New Testament are still to be read as “this age” by the post 70AD world drive his conclusions. What did Christ usher in by his death? For Waldron the order of the world is the same as it always was, Christ hasn’t yet made all things new, but somehow the Church is radically new all by itself yet it’s culturally and cosmically neutered and it will never prevail, it’s fighting a losing battle pregnantly waiting for “that age”. Welcome all you saints to the mostly impotent church, the pregnant barefoot, frustrated, and harried bride with no future in sight…no matter, she’s got a spiritual hope and can smile. As a matter of fact, Waldron believes so firmly in a fundamental reality where world is characterized by “this age” that it’s only blessing is a mysterious backwards leakage of purely spiritual grace coming from this “net yet”-reachable age to come, “that age”, into “this age”. The Author’s entire premise hangs on one passage which he reads conveniently (Luke 20:34-36). If he happens to have read that incorrectly (and I’m confident he has) then the entire book falls flat. Needless to say it is true that it’s an awfully simple book that has a single passage as it’s linchpin.

But Waldron offers another sort variety of simplicity in this simple smorgasbord, throughout our author depends on the simplicity of his reader and their willingness to summarily buy into his eisegesis. why having already bought into the eschatological system one can easily sense the contradictional tensions between chapters 5 and 6. The contradictions cease when you and me, now, as believers in Christ, read Luke 20:34-36 as those who have been handed the keys to the all-encompassing kingdom that fully belongs to Christ and take on the task of being Christ’s workers and soldiers in thin redemption and the salvation of the world, having done this it is easy to see that Christ has made us worthy here and now to be active and potent in the attainment of “that age” spoken of which is now “this age” that we’re in now. And when the attainment is complete the resurrection well come about and then we’ll be like the angels. But instead what you get is the mortal conflict between the other-worldly spiritual good and present worldly evil. Die gnosticsm die.

Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation

This might have been more of a stat’s padding book. It was full of little charts and graphs, and a few articles and commentaries by folks. But one thing that the book points out and makes clear is that American culture is no longer “Christian” this is Babylon. I don’t think you need Barna’s studies to see it, but it’s interesting to see the numbers all the same.

Theopolitan Reading by Peter Leithart

This is a small book, one in a series of 4 I think put out by the Theopolis Institute. It’s essentially a more condensed take on Through New Eyes by James Jordan. Bad hermeneutics leads to bad theology, reading the Bible the way it’s intended to be read is crucial and I highly recommend both these books to help keep the Godly principles of reading His word in view.

Toward a Christian Marriage by R. J. Rushdoony

A Biblically based understanding of marriage is fundamental to society. When marriage is marginalized the structure of the family is at risk and when it begins to crack the integrity of the Church is compromised, and then cultural revolution and anarchy or some form tyranny will be the order of the day. We see it now. Toby Sumpter is correct to point to strong marriages as being Molotov: when Christian men and women look honorably upon marriage and take it’s reformation seriously they can be prepared to witness the the designs of the devil go up in flames.

David’s Harp by Alfred Sendry & Mildred Norton

This is an overview of Biblical music. It’s broad and thorough. I particularly enjoyed the sections related to musical renascence brought about by Samuel and David in the development of tabernacle worship. Furthermore the history and purpose of the Psalms was of worth. There is a great need to look at the Psalms liturgically and “eucharistically”, while Sendry and Norton aren’t here to make that point, their observations paint a picture of the purpose and use of music in the Old and New Testament Church showing that it was intended for corporate liturgical worship. Often in the search for the “real David” the Psalms are stripped of the corporate liturgical utility which was the basis of their canonization and the Scripture is thus reduced to the the individual and personal “dear diary” thoughts of the “real author.” David was the king-shephard, and his verses were always intended as a rod and reproof to the nation of Isreal as a corporate entity.

Part 2 coming soon. I know you can’t wait.

Below I’ve appended the complete list of books I read this year not including books I read to me kids:

  • Against the Protestant Gnostics by Philip J. Lee
  • The Flight From Humanity by R. J. Rushdoony
  • The Idea of Decline in Western History by Arthur Herman
  • Devoured by Cannabis by Douglas Wilson
  • Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God by Adolf Harnack
  • Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper
  • The End Times Made Simple by Samuel E Waldron
  • Theopolitan Reading by Peter Leithart
  • Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation by Barna
  • Toward a Christian Marriage by R. J. Rushdoony
  • David’s Harp by Alfred Sendry and Mildred Norton
  • The Divine Right of Resistance: Biblical Options for Apposing Tyranny by Phillip Kayser
  • The Household And The War For The Cosmos by C.R. Wiley
  • Notes From a Tilt-A-Whirl by N. D. Wilson
  • Critique of Modern Youth Ministry by Christopher Schlect
  • How to Exasperate Your Wife by Douglas Wilson
  • Overcoming Masturbation and Impure Thoughts by Phillip Kayser
  • Pastors and Their Critics: A Guide to Coping with Criticism in the Ministry by Joel R. Beeke and Nick Thompson
  • The Ecclesiastical Text by Theodore P. Letis
  • On Secular Education by R. L. Dabney
  • The King James Only Controversy by James R. White
  • Against All Opposition by Greg L . Bahnsen
  • Revision or New Translation by Oswald T. Allis
  • Heaven Misplaced: Christs Kingdom on Earth by Douglas Wilson
  • Conspiracy, A Biblical View by Gary North
  • The King James Version Defended Edward F. Hills
  • Evanjellyfish by Douglas Wilson
  • No Mere Mortals: Marriage for People Who Will Live Forever by Toby Sumpter
  • The Neglected Qualification: Black Sheep in Pastors’ Homes by Douglas Wilson
  • Against Christianity by Peter J. Leithart
  • Against the Church by Douglas Wilson
  • The Institutes of Biblical Law by R. J. Rushdoony

Year of 2021 Reading, A Retrospective: “Kids” Books

It’s been my goal for the last few years to read more and I’ve managed to accomplish this largely with help of my children: because of their joy of stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading them many great story books this year, most of which have been as much for me as for them. Together we’ve managed to read 26 large books this year, and I wanted to share my thoughts and impressions on these books with you, see below a few words about each series we read.

A note about reading to little kids, every child will arrive at the ability to sit and listen to a chapter of a longer book at a different time, it’s been a joy to me that Emmelia particularly has enjoyed from the time she was about 3 the process of listening to me read while sitting in my lap and it’s become evident that her ability to comprehend and engage in stories has rapidly grown so that, while all concepts are not mastered by any means, the flow of the narrative is meaningful and compelling for her. Isla on the other hand still comprehends and remembers less, but she’s starting to relate with the characters and their struggles and events that occurred, she doesn’t still as long but still enjoys the process. The point being that your kids might not enjoy these books or the process…yet…but if you love the process and engage your children in it patiently, I think your children may also get lots out of these books even if they’re very young. And remember, books are wonderful because you can read them over and over again.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

For the past 3 years we’ve included reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe into our Advent season. Because of have how readily Emmelia (3 at the time) engaged with the story it became evident that I should read the rest of them to her as well, and she loved it. Following in that same tradition, starting in December of 2020 we read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, then finished the other 5 in January and February. This year I began reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe specifically to Isla, we finished it before Christmas and are currently in the middle of Prince Caspian. And of course we read them in the correct order: that in which they were written.

I love these books because they are written for Children, while the themes are complex and rich they’re themes and thoughts that are established in such truth that they grow with, I know because they’ve grown with me as I’ve read them over the years and especially as I have been able to read them out loud to my own Children.

(Last year it was recommended to me by my brother in law to read Planet Narnia by Michael Ward, while it’s a pretty scholarly work and therefore can be a little on the tedious side, it greatly improved my grasp of Lewis’s goal behind these books and gave me a greater appreciation and regard for them, I highly recommend this book too.)

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

My girls have greatly enjoyed this series, in fact this is the second year we’ve read through the entire series. It’s an adventure book featuring kids ages 9-12 and it’s just fun, funny, and only a little scary. I think the humorous writing style makes this one especially fun for parents to read and the themes of sin, guilt, responsibility, redemption, adoption, betrayal etc are quite rich.

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

I read these as a boy and it wasn’t until I began reading them to my girls that I realized the greatness of these books. The import of these books is the author’s (a Christian) self conscience call to young men to be men and young women to be women. My children enjoyed these books greatly. I also enjoyed learning how to pronounce all the names.

100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson

Up to this point in our reading I’ve been pretty confident that the books were accessible to Emmelia and not completely irrelevant to Isla, but I was worried that this book might lose their interest, I am so thankful that I moved forward, these books were a joy to read. The word I would use is thematically “rich”. Emmelia especially was thoroughly engaged and together she and I found ourselves in constant story grip, we read every spare moment we could find and when we reached the end we both felt it was too soon. We’ll be reading these again this year.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone

Rachel and I obtained the Harry Potter series as they became popular, red them, generally enjoyed them, and mostly forgot about them, but they happen to be printed quite large and therefore have some prominence on our bookshelf, this along with the nature of the cover art has caused Emmelia to ask about them frequently. Therefore after the Chronicles of Prydain we decided to give it a try, overall she enjoyed it, as far as fun stories go, I did too but having spent the year reading Lewis, Tolkien, Alexander, ND and Peterson the story was readily shown to lack the life brought by homage to Christ. I’m not against reading them, and I’ll probably read more of them to my kids as I judge age appropriate, but they’re not high on the list.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

At first I wasn’t sure if Emmelia at least wasn’t old enough to appreciate or have the patience to sit through the beautiful but slow sections of these books. We began by reading the Hobbit last year and Emmelia loved it and so she insisted that we read it again this year, and so great was her enthusiasm that I felt risking a venture into the next three books was worthwhile, and I was not disappointed, Emmelia couldn’t get enough. Isla on the other hand used most of the time to play without older sister interference, I think it was a good arrangement.

I took the opportunity to try to make all of the moments as engaging as possible, I was greatly gratified at Emmelia’s dismay in tears at the loss of Gandalf in Mordor, and her wonder at his return. Our tears joined the grief of the company on the shores of the Nimrodel and I think inspired a fitful mode for the Lay of Nimrodel which I come up with on the spot and am quite proud of. We will be returning to these books often I think.

Interspersed through our serial series reading we read some possibly more age appropriate books, mostly because I remember reading them when I was a kid.

  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  • The Story of Doctor Dolittle
  • Stuart Little

It was a very full and rich year of reading to the girls, precious time spent that I already cherish even though I know I’ve got much more if it in front of me. My encouragement to parents is to grow in this type of quality time with your kids, it’s an rewarding investment in the stewardship of your Godly calling towards your children.

Infant Baptism: Its Nature and Objects by James Lumsden (1810-1875)

In 2019 I became very much interested in the fact that there were many works on the subject of paedobaptism/communion which have fallen out of print and contemporary memory; perhaps merely because of a lack of general interest, or perhaps some other work covered the same ground. Whatever the case, this work published in 1856 by a Scottish Presbyterian minister caught my attention and I could not find a modern printing readily available or even old manuscripts easily acquired. Seeing as it wasn’t a very long book and it’s contents had been scanned into the internet archive I reproduced it for more ready consumption by any who might be interested along with a biography of the author, enjoy.

(I am certain that there are more than a few formatting and editing errors, if you find one please let me know.)

Infant Baptism, Its Nature and Objects by James Lumsden D.D.

The questions regarding the mode and subjects of Baptism, though the more ordinary and prominent, are not the only ones which the discussion of this topic involves. Even after these are settled, there remains the not less important inquiry, What is the use or meaning of Baptism, especially of Infant Baptism? What good purpose does it serve? What spiritual benefit does it confer?
This Tract was drawn up by the appointment of the Free Presbytery of Arbroath; and
having been read as a Presbyterial exercise at their last meeting, it is now, in a slightly extended form, published at their request.

The object was simply to provide a statement which might aid parents in understanding
the nature and obligations of Baptism, and thus contribute to their acceptable and profitable observance of the sacrament when administered to their children.

- Rev James Lumsden, D.D. July 18, 1856