Prophets, Priests, Kings, Frame, Keller And Driscoll
And John Frame said, “Let there be triperspectivalism.” And there was triperspectivalism. And Frame separated the works of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. And the work of the Father he called Authority, and the work of the Son he called Control, and the work of the Spirit he called Presence. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.
And Frame said, “Let there be a distinction in the Lordship of God in the Old Testament, to separate out the Authority from the Control and the Presence.” And it was so. And historical accounts of God’s power he called Control, and the commands of law he called Authority, and the intimacy and covenant sanctions he called Presence. And there was evening, and there was morning, the second day.
And Frame said, “Let the Reformed confessions be gathered together into one place, and let the offices of Christ appear.” And it was so. The Reformed confessions brought forth the kingly function of Christ, in which was Control, and the prophetic ministry of Christ, in which was Authority, and the priestly function of Christ, in which was Presence. And Frame saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the third day.
And Frame said, “Let there be threefold distinctions in the functions of church leaders, and let them separate out the kings and the prophets and the priests, and let them be for shedding light on the government of the church.” And it was so. And Frame made the two great lights—the Kings to rule with Control and the Prophets to rule with Authority—and also the Priests. The Kings and the Prophets he called Elders, and the Priests he called Deacons. And Frame saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the fourth day.
And Tim Keller said, “Let church leaders combine kingly, prophetic and priestly qualities, in order to be fully rounded elders.” And it was so. And Keller explained this in terms of ministerial competence (Kings), theological conviction (Prophets) and godly character (Priests), and said that when he hired new staff members, he was looking for all three. And there was evening, and there was morning, the fifth day.
And Mark Driscoll said, “Let triperspectivalism bring forth leaders according to their kinds—Prophets, Priests and Kings according to their kinds.” And it was so. And the neo-Reformed movement brought forth leaders who self-identified as Kings (strategic leaders), and Prophets (Bible teachers) and Priests (pastoral carers), rather than leaders who saw all three as essential in Christian ministry. And the Resurgence produced a guide to identifying which office best fitted each leader’s ministry style, headed by the question, “which are you?” And some said, “Let large churches be led by Prophet-Kings who focus on strategy and preaching, rather than by Priests who focus on pastoral care.” And it was so.
(To cut to the chase: I think the prophet / priest / king way of expressing different ministry gifts is potentially quite unhelpful. Frame’s triperspectival approach itself is a bit forced in places; the New Testament never uses these words of church leaders’ responsibilities; the word “prophet” is used in a noncharismatic sense, which creates confusion in the local church as to what exactly it means; the word “priest” causes more confusion, given how the word has been used in church history; the word “king” risks muddling up the rule of Christ with strategy, administration and systems; and many modern practitioners have encouraged leaders to think of themselves as one or other of the three, rather than pursuing all of them, as is implied by Acts 20, the Pastorals, and the like.
For my money, we’d be better sticking with the language of spiritual gifts (leadership, government, teaching, prophecy, showing mercy, helping), or the language of church government offices (leaders, overseers, teachers, prophets, elders, pastors), than bringing in Old Testament offices on the basis of a triperspectival approach which, if we’re honest, is fairly tenuous in places. Are covenant sanctions really about presence? Are authority and control that distinguishable? Is authority / control / presence actually the best way of considering the Lordship of Yahweh in the Old Testament – better, say, than sovereignty / holiness / steadfast love? Do the New Testament writers consider Christ’s priesthood in terms of presence, rather than perhaps mediation, prayer and sacrifice? Can we move seamlessly from priestly to existential to character-based leadership? And so on.)
And God said, “Let us now make elders in our image, after our likeness. And let them govern the church well, and be able to teach, and shepherd the flock of God, and bring order to the church, and wield biblical authority, and care for the people.” So God created elders in his own image; in the image of God he created them; for leadership, teaching, protecting and caring he created them. And God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.
And on the seventh day, the triperspectivalists rested from the work that they had done.
(Note: It’s entirely possible that I’m being a bit of a curmudgeon here, that I’ve uncritically taken sides in the Reformation 21 vs The Resurgence debate in favour of the former’s longer and more esoteric articles, and that all of this is because I’m over-English, over-prophetish, over thirty and [thus] over the hill. I have several friends who find triperspectivalism useful, and others who defend it theologically. So take this article with a pinch of salt. And make sure you consider it from at least three angles.)