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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Who's the Boss?

Everyone is under authority. Everyone. Well, everyone but God, I suppose. The question is what authority? What I'm considering here is what authority in matters of the faith?

I know a lot of people calling themselves Christians who are under their own authority. Their Christianity is formed by their own sense of right and wrong, their own sense of good and bad, their own sense of fair. If you say, "You know, the Bible says ..." and contradict their view, they'll look at you like you're crazy. What difference does the Bible make? Oh, sure, they don't say that ... because they're Christians, right? But that's what it comes down to. So they read their Bibles by the light of their own standards and come to their own conclusions. "This part is myth. That part is legend. Most of this section over here is metaphor -- like most of the Old Testament. You can't take this thing at face value, you know." And they serve as their own ultimate authority.

I know others who are bound to their Bibles. I will exaggerate to make the point. "It says Jesus is the door, so we believe He is an actual door, with latch and hinges." There is no room for context, for literary style, for variation. Many of these are the "KJV Only" types where it's not merely a woodenly literal version that they demand, but the King James woodenly literal version. It doesn't matter if it makes sense. It doesn't matter if it contradicts itself. It says it; that's the end of it.

I know some who are careful to follow their particular teachers. Maybe it's some Pentecostal favorite or some Word of Faith preacher. Almost always it's someone who tells them what they want to hear. Good things. Pleasant things. "God will make you healthy and wealthy." Things like that. Because it sounds so pleasant. These teachers will pull it from skewed texts and personal revelation. "God told me so." For these people their teachers are their authority. To be more clear, their appetites are their authority and their teachers feed those appetites.

All of us operate under some authority in our Christianity. Maybe it's a favorite teacher. Maybe it's what we were brought up with. A lot of people only recognize themselves as the authority. They do what seems good to them. All other authorities are subject to this highest authority. And while we all suggest our highest authority is God, I think that remains to be seen. If that teacher or that upbringing or our own preferences serve as the authority, can it really be counted as God? If my final authority is my own thinking and judgment, who is my final authority? My own thinking and judgment.

We need to be careful as believers. We have one ultimate authority -- God. He has spoken in His Word in a miraculous and unparalleled way. No skillful reasoning or special revelation or alternate authority claim can match up to the God-breathed Word (2 Tim 3:16-17). Any other authority is less. It's important that we learn to rightly handle His Word and rightly submit ourselves to His Word. He is the authority, not our history and upbringing, our teachers, or even our own clever minds. When we substitute anything for God and His Word, we substitute an idol for God.


Stan said...

How many times have you heard, "Oh, yeah? Well that's your opinion"? You know, "The Bible is our authority," they might claim and then they'll say something like, "but your opinion about what it means is not", thus placing themselves as their own ultimate authority. They argue that we each interpret Scripture and explicitly or implicitly hold that there is no higher authority than our own interpretation. Of course, this breaks down very quickly. They seem to argue for "my interpretation of Scripture as authority" ... except, of course, that they deny every other such interpretation. They go out of their way, for instance, to tell me I'm wrong. They're not; I am. That is, "Personal interpretation is authoritative ... unless it is yours over mine." They take on a sort of materialistic deism, where only "my logic" and "my reason" are the proper and reliable methods of interpretation (except, as I've said, when someone else's interpretation violates their own).

I go to great lengths to explain what I see in Scripture, why, and for what biblical reasons. I know it's great lengths because I've had more than one comment from friends and otherwise about how lengthy some of these things are. Conversely, most of those who disagree with "my interpretation" don't offer another, better one. They simply reject mine. A sort of "nanny, nanny, boo-boo" response. "Give me biblical reasons I'm wrong," I'll ask and all they can offer is "What makes you think I need to?" In the end, then, while trying to sound wise and erudite, they simply offer "the sound of one hand clapping" -- foolishness and nonsense. And "my interpretation"? I'm offering texts and support texts and historical orthodoxy and longstanding church understanding. That's "opinion"? If you say so. But without "Here's what Scripture says and here's where you're wrong", it's only noise without reason or logic or support, rejecting biblical exegesis without anything more than "I don't think so" accompanied by "and I have the authority to say you're wrong and tell you to change." I think I'll wait until Scripture proves me wrong.

Anonymous said...

What makes you think I need to? is a vital question. You have formed/bought into a human opinion that says that God wants us to use the Bible to decide our opinions, who has told you this? The Bible, you might say (meaning your interpretation of the Bible), but that is a human opinion, and one that uses self-serving circular reasoning.

Why not answer that question, instead of denigrating those who ask it?

Stan said...

You answered the question, and it isn't "a human opinion" when the Bible says "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
(2 Tim 3:16-17)

There is, of course, an alternative. The Bible is no authority ... and, as such, must be considered false. Religion is of human making and ought to be eliminated entirely even though it provides so many valuable features. And, of course, all those valuable features (think morality, human value, charity, kindness, a large portion of the legal system, etc.) would need to be set aside as well, being found to be baseless.

You would argue (with all the anti-Christian world) that we are our own authority. At that point, you eliminate your option of telling me I'm wrong. I'm not denigrating anyone. I'm simply pointing out the logical conclusion of the argument.

Stan said...

My mistake. Turns out the "anonymous" questioner is the banned one hiding behind "anonymous" to dodge my ban. End of conversation.

Craig said...

My what a forthright and honest attempt at rational conversation.