[Originally posted in Dec. 2005]
I came across an interesting article by John Reisinger that explains why Reformed Baptist churches are more at risk of ecclesial tyranny and abuse of elder authority than other Protestant forms of church government. His article can be read here (I found this link courtesy of the "Billy Goat Blog", here). It is the third article in a series of five about the "ekklesia" or "church" of Christ; parts one, two, four and five can be read here and here and here and here.
His premise is that many Reformed Baptists eliminate the concept of checks and balances inherent in both Presbyterian (the presbytery is a check to the session) and congregational (the body is a check to the elders) forms of government, leaving their specific "elder rule" government as autonomous, answering neither to their own body nor to other church bodies. The church leadership, even in the hands of godly men, is positioned as a law unto itself. Tyranny is often the result. Although I disagree with Reisinger on a number of points about the nature and practice of Christ's church, I think he sheds some much needed light on the issue of church government. I've previously held to, and subsequently abandoned, the idea that everything in a Christian's life must be "subject to the authority of the local church."
I believe that all forms of human government, whether self, family, church, state, or any other government, are subject to checks and balances from others. Nobody is their own (or anybody else's) Lord in any area of life. I plan to address this many times in the future.