‘I am thrilled to see this classic work on Presbyterian polity being reissued. And if you think “thrilled” and “Presbyterian polity” don’t belong in the same sentence, that’s just one more reason we need Bannerman’s book. In a day where the doctrine of the church is often thought obscure, irrelevant, and even divisive, Bannerman reminds us just how much our forefathers thought about this topic and just how much the Bible has to say on these issues. This big book on the nature and order of the church is more helpful, more contemporary, and more important than you might think.’– KEVIN DEYOUNG
‘The great thing about Bannerman’s The Church of Christ is that it will stimulate the reader to reflect on the nature of the church in a profoundly biblical and historically sensitive way. At a point in history when the church in the West is finding herself for the first time in 1,500 years to be marginal and often unwelcome, clear thinking on the nature and purpose of the church is vital. I do not think there is a better way to sharpen one’s thinking on these matters than thoughtful and deep refection upon this work of James Bannerman.’– CARL R. TRUEMAN
As we head into a world very similar to Paul’s own context, in which pluralism dominates and Christianity is regarded with intellectual and moral suspicion, it is vital that Christians have a clear understanding of what the church actually is.
James Bannerman’s The Church of Christ is one of the key historic texts of the doctrine of the church. Few will agree with everything the author has to say, but as Carl Trueman states in his foreword, ‘the great thing about the book is that it will stimulate the reader to reflect on the nature of the church in a profoundly biblical and historically sensitive way’.
After dealing with basic principles and distinctions, such as the contrast between the visible and invisible church, and between the local and universal church, Bannerman takes up the important and far-reaching question of the relation between church and state. But the body of the work is really a treatise on church power—the nature, limits and exercise of Christ’s power in the church in its connexional and local aspects. In what does the ordained ministry consist? Should the church micro-manage the lives of her members? To what extent should the church campaign for wider political or social causes? Is the church to be an agent for the transformation of society as a whole? What tools does the church have for making disciples and, if necessary, disciplining them? Answers to these questions can only come from a correct understanding of the nature of the church’s power.
Although Presbyterian in conviction, the author has undertaken a ‘comparative’ study of the various classic positions on each issue under consideration as these are expressed in the confessional symbols and standard authors. It is this method which makes the book so useful for all serious-minded readers. The appendix also contains valuable bibliographical material.
This is classic Scottish theology at its best, and those who take the time to digest it will be richly rewarded.
In the Bible they found also the mighty doctrine of the sovereignty of God, which taught them not to approach their problems in a subjective manner as you and I are prone to do. Their concern was not, how can I get a bit of help, how can I get some physical healing, how can I get guidance, how can I get happiness and peace, how can I get a friend who will help me in my loneliness? No, they saw themselves before this almighty, sovereign God and the one question was, How can a man be just with God? They bowed before him! They were godly men; they were God-fearing men. God was at the center of their thoughts, the controller of their activities and their lives. The sovereignty of God! They did not talk much about free will, as I read them, but they knew that God was over all, and he was to be worshipped and to be feared.