Christian Voices of Authority

voice So have you been following the politics and back-door scheming currently going on in the Roman Catholic Church lately?  Myself, I haven’t been keeping real close tabs on it all, but the general movement of what’s going on has been of some interest to me simply because it has so much to do with theological framework.  And since the theological framework of we Protestants has been also changing over the last few decades, I find it all a bit fascinating.  Granted, it’s that kind of “train wreck in slow motion” fascinating, but still fascinating nonetheless.

Before I share my 2 cents worth, please allow me to explain how I see the frameworks of the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths (and yes, I see them as two very distinct and separate faiths (but only because they are)).  It all has to do with authoritative voices.  The Roman Catholic has three authoritative voices that they allow when it comes to telling them what to believe,  why to believe it, and how those beliefs are to be carried out.  They accept the authority of the Bible, church tradition, and Rome with the Pope being the center of that voice as he is the infallible vicar or spokesperson for Christ.  The Protestant rejects both tradition and Rome, hanging all authority on the Bible alone.  “Sola Scriptura” was the battle-cry of the Reformation and comparing Scripture to the other two voices is exactly what led to that uprising.  Their purpose was to reform the Roman Catholic church so that it might once again align itself with Biblical teachings and practices.  This reforming didn’t work as the existing establishment refused to abandon their other voices of authority (in fact, they went double-down on them) and the rest, as they say, is history.  The Roman Catholic religion went one way and the Protestant religion went another.

So now we come to the modern-day antics we are seeing around us.  If you don’t find the both the Roman Catholic and Protestant positions somewhat ironic (and maybe even alarming) may I suggest that you take a moment to think about what’s really going on.  In Roman Catholicism the current Pope (in practicality the highest of their three voices) is leading his people in a very different direction than both tradition and Scripture teach.  While he repeatedly states he wants no change to the core beliefs, he is pushing for pastoral practices that use every conceivable argument to get around those beliefs and thereby, in practice, effectively change them.  This puts the rest of his organization into a serious quandary! He is one of the three voices, and they have all fought for centuries to make it understood that he is to be followed without question.  And yet now, he is leading them down liberal paths that they don’t want to tread.  You can imagine the confusion and angst they must feel!  Should they protest?  Well, that isn’t really an option in their framework, not to mention that’s what the Reformers did when they saw some very similar problems.  So that’s where they are all at today – in a quandary – with no clue as to where it will all end up.

In the other camp we see the vast majority of Protestant churches in a very similar quandary because they have the exact same problem.  While most of these churches dogmatically proclaim that they accept Scripture alone as their authority, for the bulk of them there are three voices in charge of their framework as well.  The common Protestant authorities are the Bible, culture, and their pastor/leader.    This would be a good place to point out how the liberal denominations have completely abandoned Scripture and submitted almost whole-heatedly to cultural mandates, but those folks really aren’t representatives of the mainstream (yet), so I won’t address them much.  From my view in the cheap-seats, I see most evangelical protestant churches claiming Sola Scriptura, resisting the loudest criticisms and most demanding calls for change from culture but still making a fatal error in the back room.  They have made the culture of lost and sinful men an authority.  I heard that!  You called me crazy!!  Let me explain…

How do churches format their worship services?  How do they select music styles and duration? What do they keep in mind when decorating the interior and exterior of the building?  For many, many churches the answer to those questions is this – they are aiming to make unbelievers, the core of the sinful culture around them, comfortable.  “Ahhh,” you might say, “that is to reach out to them with the Gospel!”  Well, I’m glad you brought that up.  What is the gospel preached to them at the “man-church” events and concert style worship?  Is it repentance and the forgiveness of sins through the atonement made possible on a blood-soaked Cross?  Not usually, if we’re to be honest.  Usually the plan is to not address the gospel at all.  The idea is to get them to feel comfortable which will progress to a feeling of belonging and encourage regular attendance.  This at some point will open doors for more serious conversation down the road (maybe).  The problem with this is that the whole plan revolves around having unbelievers as not only a core part of the church every week, but the group that is in primary focus.  While Scripture is still given lip-service as the ultimate authority, the cultural norms have to speak to the function and practice of the church or the unbeliever will never even consider sticking around.  This practice elevates culture to the position of an authoritative voice in church practice (even though most pastors would angrily deny it).  The third voice of authority in the common evangelical church is the pastor.  It’s become the prevailing belief that the pastor is to “cast the vision” for church direction, focus and practice.  This vision is given to the pastor directly from God, and he is to unify the church and lead them the proper direction.  While every one of these vision-casting leaders claims that the path given to them by God is in full alignment with Scripture, it cannot be ignored that Scripture is brought in after the vision “download” as a means of justifying it to the people.  If the path came from Scripture and was then explained to the people, that would put Scripture in the driver’s seat, but that isn’t the case.  The vision comes from God to a leader, the leader gives it to the people, and if questions are raised Scripture is used to refute.  Of course since Scripture wasn’t used as the origin of the church’s practice and direction it make it almost a certainty that any Scriptural defense will be taken out of context and the original meaning modified to align with defense of the vision.  And woe unto any who might call the pastor’s direction into question, for the vision came from God and so is infallible with the pastor simply being the spokesperson.  Wait a minute…that sounds familiar…didn’t we already discuss a spokesman of Christ who wasn’t to be questioned in any substantive way, one who has the highest voice in church direction and practice?  I think that might have been in the paragraph about Rome…

So there you have the irony and tragedy of what we see in the religious landscape around us.  The Roman Catholics have three voices and one of them is causing trouble.  The Protestants also have three voices and two of them are causing trouble.  The voice in both camps that is being marginalized if not outright ignored is Scripture, the only voice the really has any authority at all!  Then add to the mix people like Rick Warren, Beth Moore and a host of others saying we are just different styles of the same faith and we should really think about coming together, and you have a boiling cauldron of confusion, angst and heresy.  All of this leads to the same path the liberal Protestants have already taken.  No gospel preaching, alignment with the culture, declining memberships because the worth of their organizations has itself declined into nothingness.  Instead of offering truth, salvation and a beacon of light they have simply become a club promoting as much morality as the culture will allow them.

In my mind I have no doubt that in the future all of these groups will unite.  They will hammer out which voice has the most authority <<Spoiler Alert: all authorities will be given lip service but only culture will have authority in practice>> and the ones left on the outside will be biblical Christians.  Clinging to salvation through faith alone, in Christ alone and accepting authority from Scripture alone they will persecuted and will undergo it willingly with the cry “Solo de Gloria” on their lips (for the glory of God alone).  If all this religious turmoil in the news tells us anything it is this – it’s about to get real lonely!

 

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4 Comments on “Christian Voices of Authority”

  1. Eliza Says:

    Great post by the way! Loved it!

    Reply

  2. Eliza Says:

    About to? Try it already is! Here are a couple of posts about the foolishness that is going on within in the religious world around us if you would like to read them. God bless you!

    https://holdingforthhisword.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/whose-authority/

    https://holdingforthhisword.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/whose-authority-part-two/

    Reply

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