I am an advocate for congregationalism. I dislike any form or system that undermines the priesthood of the believer. Creating classes within the brotherhood undermines the supreme glory of Christ, our ONLY Teacher and Master.
[The Pharisees love] to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. …Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
– Matt 23:7-12
So then, why do we give ‘Masters’ degrees (a ridiculous proposition) to students of Scripture as a qualification for eldership – a qualification not to be found in Scripture?
For this reason, should a congregation determine that an Elder candidate requires theological training for the office which the local church cannot provide, the student should consider a distance learning format where he can continue to be mentored and developed by the local pastor/elders of the congregation he has been selected to serve. We must always bear in mind that the purpose of theological training is to learn how to understand and rightly handle the Scriptures properly for ministry. The awarding of secular degrees and titles for studying the Scriptures is unneeded, unhelpful, and carnal.
My friend JM has a good post from Brother Pink today regarding his decision to NOT accept the title “Doctor” as offered to him by a theological institution. Read the post HERE. Pink’s key arguments are given below:
FIRST, to the false comforters of Job, Elihu (God’s representative) said. “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give FLATTERING TITLES unto men” (Job 32:31). SECOND, “Be NOT ye called Rabbi” or teacher” (Matthew 23:8), which is what “Doctor” signifies. THIRD, John 5:44 reproves those who “receive honor one of another” and bids us seek “the honor that cometh from God ONLY.” FOURTH, none of the Lord’s servants in the New Testament ever employed a title. “Paul, an apostle, “but never “the apostle Paul.” FIFTH, the Son of God “made Himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7); is it then fitting that His servants should now follow an opposite course? SIXTH, Christ bids us learn of Him who was “meek and lowly” (Matthew 11:29). SEVENTH, one of the marks of the apostasy as “having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” (Jude 17). EIGHTH, we are bidden to go forth unto Christ outside the camp “bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13).
You call me Doctor Professor Karlstadt. No more! From this day forward, I am Brother Andreas.
– Congregationalist, Baptizer, Church Reformer Andreas Rudolff-Bodenstein von Karlstadt