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40 Questions About Elders and Deacons (40 Questions & Answers Series) Paperback – November 29, 2007
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From the Back Cover
"This is a superb treatment of crucial issues related to ecclesiology. It is clear, concise, and biblical. This will be a valuable resource in the years ahead as we seek to think theologically and practically about the church."
--Daniel L. Akin
President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
"Very accessible and readable. . . . Merkle bases his conclusions solely upon Scripture and is ready to make changes, where necessary and biblical, to the way things have always been done."
Pastor, Grace Bible Church, Escondido, CA
Director, Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship
"Merkle clearly possesses a mastery of the subject matter and the important literature. It is a delight to read a book that combines competency and readability such as we find in 40 Questions About Elders and Deacons. Pastors, students, and lay leaders of the church will find it most useful."
--Robert H. Stein
Senior Professor of New Testament Interpretation,
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"This work is lucid, biblically grounded, and well argued. Scholars, pastors, and serious readers will profit from this work, which is clearly relevant to how we organize our churches."
--Thomas R. Schreiner
James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation,
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
About the Author
Benjamin L. Merkle is Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of numerous articles, which have appeared in journals such as Bulletin for Biblical Research, The Journal for the Evangelical Theological Society, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Quarterly, Bibliotheca Sacra, and Trinity Journal. He earned his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he wrote his dissertation on elders and overseers.
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Top customer reviews
In general, I find myself agreeing with Merkle's answers to the important questions about deacons and elders. I agree that the biblical model is that there are 2 offices in the church--elder (also called overseer or pastor) and deacon--and that a church should have a plurality of elders. I also agree that the office of elder is rightly biblically restricted to men, though such a restriction is in no way a claim of male superiority.
I appreciate very much Merkle's handling of the qualifications of elders and deacons. In those chapters, as in much of the rest of the book, the author has thoughtfully organized his material in a way that would greatly benefit a church looking into these issues. I found his discussion of the phrase "husband of one wife" to be solid and helpful. Personally (and perhaps a bit on the self-congratulatory side), I was excited to see Merkle make an argument against polygamy as the only meaning behind "husband of one wife" that I had often thought but had never seen in print (see chapter 16).
The 40 questions format, while great for reference and readability, necessarily limits the author's ability to discuss certain issues in depth. For example, in a discussion of women in ministry, Merkle makes a sweeping statement about the gift of prophecy, "Wayne Grudem has convincingly demonstrated that prophecy was a spontaneous utterance and thus distinct from teaching or preaching" (143). Full volumes are written in an attempt to convincingly argue the meaning of New Testament prophecy. Thus, to put in the word "convincingly" in a single sentence on the topic is not sufficient. Of course I recognize that Merkle was not intending to write on the issue of prophecy, and he was limited by the brevity of his chapters, but these explanations for the weakness do not make the weakness not present.
I also know that not all readers will find Merkle convincing on the more controversial issues regarding elders and deacons. Such issues may include discussions of women as deacons or of parity of elders. I think that I would enjoy reading Merkle on these topics in a larger format so that he could make a more convincing argument for his position.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Though the book has strengths and weaknesses, I would highly recommend 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons as a solid resource for churches that are looking into biblical church structure. If your church is considering a move to elders, or if you are curious about the issue in more than a cursory way, you will benefit strongly from reading through Merkle's introduction of the important issues.
This is one of the very few books that I am really excited about. I do think every elder, deacon, and serious saint of the Living Lord Jesus ought to read this book.
Let us who claim Christ NOT rely on our understanding, but in all our ways, look to Him. This book helps us do that with some vitally important questions facing every church.