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Who Runs the Church?: 4 Views on Church Government (Counterpoints: Church Life) Paperback – August 26, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: Counterpoints: Church Life
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (August 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310246075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310246077
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Churches have split and denominations have formed over the issue of church government. Yet while many Christians can explain their particular church’s form of rule and may staunchly uphold it, few have a truly biblical understanding of it. What model for governing the church does the Bible provide? Is there room for different methods? Or is just one way the right way?

In Who Runs the Church? Four predominant approaches to church government are presented by respected proponents:

• Episcopalianism (Peter Toon) • Presbyterianism (L. Roy Taylor) • Single-Elder Congregationalism (Paige Patterson) • Plural-Elder Congregationalism (Samuel E. Waldron).

As in other Counterpoints books, each view is followed by critiques from the other contributors, and its advocate then responds. The interactive and fair-minded nature of the Counterpoints format allows the reader to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each view and draw informed, personal conclusions.

About the Author

Stanley N. Gundry is executive vice president and editor-in-chief for the Zondervan Corporation. He has been an influential figure in the Evangelical Theological Society, serving as president of ETS and on its executive committee, and is adjunct professor of Historical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of seven books and has written many articles appearing in popular and academic periodicals.



Steven B. Cowan (M.Div.; Ph.D.) is associate professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, AL.

Peter Toon (Ph.D., Oxford University) is rector of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, Diocese of Lichfield, in the Church of England.

Dr. L. Roy Taylor is a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He has served as a Presbyterian Churches in America (PCA) pastor for sixteen years, as a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary for ten years, and as stated clerk of the General Assembly of the PCA since 1998. He has written various article and is the author of several books, including Four Views on Church Government (Countperpoints series, Zondervan). He and his wife, Donna, have two children and five grandchildren.

Paige Patterson (Th.D., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) is president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.

Samuel E. Waldron is currently a PhD candidate in systematic theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

More About the Author

Dr. L. Roy Taylor is a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He has served as a Presbyterian Churches in America (PCA) pastor for sixteen years, as a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary for ten years, and as stated clerk of the General Assembly of the PCA since 1998. He has written various article and is the author of several books, including Four Views on Church Government (Countperpoints series, Zondervan). He and his wife, Donna, have two children and five grandchildren.

Customer Reviews

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I found it to be very informative and insightful.
L. Phimsoutham
This book is a great overview of different forms of church governance from practitioners of the various forms presented.
A. Paul Paige
Highly recommend for anyone interested in the topic.
Ted Borowski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Curtis Parton on December 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book should be helpful to anyone seeking to better understand the different views of church government. It follows the classic Counterpoints style of having advocates for each of the four positions state their case, and then the other three critique each presentation. There is also a "Closing Remarks" section that provides a final opportunity for each contributor to respond to their critics. This approach allows the reader to examine the varying church government models as explained and defended by people who actually hold the respective views, and to listen in as these scholars interact with and challenge each other. It's proven to be an enlightening approach in other works, and no less so with this book.

The book begins with a readable introduction to the topic by the editor Steven Cowan. This section is thorough, but concise, getting right to the point. I thought this was very well-written, a pleasure to read, and serves to draw the reader into the discussion.

Fairly quickly, we get an idea of the dividing lines between the various views. Peter Toon (presenting Episcopalianism) doesn't spend much time defending his view scripturally. He feels that the Bible doesn't give us a definitive model of church government. He also believes that the early history of the church was providentially guided by the Holy Spirit, and is thus an authoritative guide for later generations. All of the other participants note the lack of biblical support for Toon's view---even noting that it contradicts the New Testament's equating the terms 'elder/presbyter' and 'bishop/overseer/episcopos' as referring to the same office. This is an important issue because the other three all claim that Scripture does, in fact, teach a definite model of church polity.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
One of the divisive matters in many churches today is the subject of church polity. In particular, what is the appropriate form of church government? In Who Runs the Church?: 4 Views on Church Government the editors compile the views of representatives of the four predominant types of church government. Just about every form of church government is some variation of one of these four. The four views discussed are Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, Single-Elder Congregationalism, and Plural-Elder Congregationalism.

Arguing for Episcopalianism is Dr. Peter Toon, rector of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor, Diocese of Lichfield, in the Church of England. Arguing the position of Presbyterianism is Dr. L. Roy Taylor the clerk/coordinator of administration of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. Presenting the position of Single-Elder Congregationalism is Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. And presenting the case for Plural-Elder Congregationalism is Samuel E. Waldron, Ph.D. candidate in systematic theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

A typical chapter starts with one of them presenting their position on their chosen form of church government and why it is the most appropriate one. This presentation is then followed by commentary by each of the people with differing views.

Each presents their case with passion and argues it well. If you want to understand why some churches choose one form of government or why others feel that position is wrong you will find excellent explanations in this book. Who Runs the Church? 4 Views on Church Government is highly recommended to anyone interested in this area.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on April 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
What does the Bible say about Church government? Is there such a thing as a "Biblical" Church government, and if so, what is it?

"Who runs the Church" addresses these issues. It contains contributions from four authors, each defending a different view of Church polity. All four are Protestants, but there the similarity ends. Peter Toon, a minister in the Church of England, argues in support of episcopalianism. The Presbyterian L. Roy Taylor defends presbyteranism (of course), while the Southern Baptists Paige Patterson and Samuel E. Waldron both believe that congregationalism is the correct position. Patterson believes that the congregation should be led by a single elder, while Waldron supports a plural-elder system.

Toon's argument for the episcopate is largely based on the first five centuries of Church history and tradition, rather than on the New Testament. He does believe that the seeds of an episcopalian system are present already in the New Testament writings, but concedes that a fully evolved episcopalianism belongs to the patristic period. However, Toon doesn't see this as a problem, since the canon of Scripture and the main creeds are also products of this period. If Christians accept this, why not accept a Church led by bishops?

By contrast, Taylor, Paige and Waldron attempt to prove their preferred forms of Church government by direct appeals to the New Testament (Taylor also mentions the Old Testament). They believe that the Reformation restored the true Biblical foundations of the Church, and therefore place less emphasis on the patristic age. They spend more time discussing Reformed or Baptist history.

There is a certain amount of frustration visible in the contributions.
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