Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blind Acceptance

I have been working on this post in my mind for some time.

What really sparked it was something that happened in my small-group (really just another word for Sunday School) last Sunday. We came into the class in the middle of a series by Charles Stanley called, Developing a Servants Heart or something like that.

After someone read this week’s passage and the study question was asked, I was the first one to speak up. I simply asked if everyone agreed with what was posited. I certainly didn’t. There were a couple of others who spoke up and that really started the discussion.

Therein, I think, is the issue I want to address. Until I asked the question, it was assumed that we all agreed on what was read and we would build on that. I, for one, am over simply hearing something taught in church, be it a sermon or small-group (i.e. “official” teaching) and taking what was said as true purely because it was taught in church or written by a so-called Man of God.

Just because Charles Stanley wrote it, doesn’t make it true. I am done with blind loyalty to any man.

(The lesson had something to do with preserving your reputation in order to be an effective servant, or some such nonsense. It said NOTHING about Christ as the sole source of our service. As a matter of fact, it never even mentioned the One from which all life flows).

I believe that is one of the main problems with the modern Church – no one questions teaching. If it is said from the authority of the Pulpit (does ANYONE stop and think about that phrase? Where does it mention the pulpit in the Bible and what give it its authority?), then in the eyes of most evangelicals, it has the same authority as ex cathedra does for Catholics (no offense meant here to my Catholic brothers and sisters).

The Pastor/Preacher has too much authority in the modern church. If you will notice in Paul’s letters, when he went to Jerusalem after the church had been around for almost 20 years, he met with people who “appeared” to be leaders. We are talking about Peter, James, and John! “Appeared” to be leaders? That means that there was no clear Bishop/Pastor/Preacher – AND, apparently, no jealousy.

And this brings me to something that Bino was kind enough to share with me. It has to do with my post about Biblicism and the fact that the Bible has become the “god” that the fundamental/evangelical church worships today. Bino provided a link to this site (christinyou) that has some great quotes about this subject.

Here is a sampling of some:

"The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts." (A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God. Christian Publications. 1948. pg. 10).

"One of the dangers from which the Church should pray to be delivered is idolatry of the letter of Scripture. The letter exists for the spirit, not the spirit for the letter. Literalism is the grave in which spiritual religion is buried. The New Testament is a book which is to be spiritually interpreted. It has no greater enemy than the thorough-going literalist who would fetter its free thought by confining it within obsolete forms. It has no greater friend than the teacher who can give to its time-worn metaphors freshness and power by translating them into the language of the present." (James M. Campbell - The Heart of the Gospel: A Popular Exposition of the Doctrine of the Atonement. Fleming H. Revell Co. 1907. pg. 19)

This one will rattle the cage:

"The purpose of all Scripture is to bear witness to Christ (John 5:39; 20:31). The Bible in itself is not the Word of God. The Word of God is a person (John 1:1). Neither does the Bible have life, power or light in itself any more than did the Jewish Torah. These attributes may be ascribed to the Bible only by virtue of its relationship to Him who is Word, Life, Power and Light. Life is not in the book, as the Pharisees supposed, but only in the Man of the book (John 5:39) (Brinsmead, Robert D., "A Freedom from Biblicism" in The Christian Verdict, Essay 14, 1984. Fallbrook: Verdict Publications. Pg. 12).

Grace and Peace to all


Alison Fincher said...

Thanks for your post. I just wanted to clarify about a statement being spoken ex cathedra. (Ex cathedra means from the chair' of Saint Peter which the Pope is supposed to occupy, giving him his authority).

The Pope's infallibility is usually exaggerated. Very few things are actually spoken ex cathedra--only things which are formally spoken ex cathdra are supposed to be infallible. In most cases, Catholics can exercise freedom of thought and freedom of conscience without necessarily departing from Catholic teaching.

Like other Christians, Catholics are also supposed to struggle and ask questions about their faith--it's the only way to engage with faith on an intellectual level. In fact, 'fides quarens intellectum' is a great maxim of the Church--'faith seeking understanding.' Saint Thomas, one of the smartest men who ever lived said, 'If you teach by means of authority, sure you have the truth, but in empty heads.'

I hope it doesn't seem like I'm picking a fight or anything. I just wanted to explain what 'ex cathedra' means to a Catholic on a more personal level. I agree with you that it is very important to be cautious about taking things at face-value.

Bino M. said...

I think you are talking a lot of 'heresy' here! :) Just kidding!

I am done with blind loyalty to any man.

Wow! That surely is a sign of growth. In Christendom, we are never taught to think for ourselves, which is very contrary to the Bible. Bible says His Spirit can reveal the things to US (not just to the clergy).

The pulpit-pew system is man-made. Today's clergies are man-made. The 'ordination' is man-made. The tradition of 'pastoral-authority' is man-made.

I am done with those 'traditions of men', I am only interested in authentic, vibrant, dynamic relationship with Christ Jesus and as He does His living in and through me, I am able to extend His love and grace to others. There is no religion in love, no legalism, no law; it's ONLY JESUS and His grace!

John Fincher said...

Emailed by Gary and posted with permission:

John, I am e-mailing because I didn't have time to do this in one sitting. Feel free to post it if you want.

I see two different points here. The first being Pastoral authority, or blindly following a Pastor, Teacher, ect. We should all be accountable for our own Christian walk and growth. There are definately those who can help lead us but ultimately we are responsible for where we are spiritually. I have a great Pastor but I haven't agreed with everything he has taught over the 17 years I have been there. I don't think you will ever find someone you will agree with 100 percent of the time.

I also teach a Sunday School class and I encourage discussion and never claim to be without error in my teaching. I do try to make a distinction in those teachings that are clear in the Bible as opposed to those that are my own thoughts. Some people love my class and will never leave and some have left because they want a more structured environment. I think there are also some people that don't want to think for themselves. (I know I'm getting off topic here) Regardless people respond to different type of teaching. I think that is why the institutional Church will continue to be in God's plan. It can meet the needs of a wider variety of people. You may be right where you need to be to grow. Your small group sounds alot like my Sunday School class which I love. But I can't pickup 70 kids on a bus and bring them to a small group study.

Back to topic. I am where I am because I trust my Pastor (not blindly) and I do agree with him most of the time. However he will be the first to tell you study for yourself anything that is taught.

I have more to write about the Bible but will have to get to that later. I know I am in the minority with most of my posts on your blog but I hope you don't mind the differing opinion.


John Fincher said...

Thank you for the clarification on the term ex cathedra. Again, I don't mean to offend, but I don't understand how something uttered by a man on this earth can (even if not often) be considered infallible. Paul rebuked Peter openly as he relates in Galatians.

Evangelicals SAY that you are supposed to think and search for yourself, but when it comes down to it, you ultimately must agree with the Pastor - in the name of "unity".

Thanks for the encouragement. I now ask people to SHOW me in the Bible where it says we are supposed to be doing what we do. Where are the words pulpit, pews, sermon (in the modern sense, anyway), sanctuary, pastor (again, in the modern sense), etc., et. al.

To all, I always appreciate the varied insights that we have here.

And Gary, please don't ever think that you can't share what you believe here just because you think you might be the minority. That would make me what I've come to dispise - a close-minded, orthodox automoton. ;-)

Bino M. said...

Hey John, Just wondering if you ever read 'Pagan Christianity?' by Frank Viola. They did an incredible amount of research finding how most of the modern church practices were evolved over the decades and centuries. Sine you seems to be questioning many of today's church practices, I thought I would just share with you about this book.

Grace and peace to you,

Adam said...


Came to look at your blog after your comments on mine!

I've sort of sworn off making comments on others blogs but seeing as we have a similar view of reality here goes. :-)

You say "The Pastor/Preacher has too much authority in the modern church".

Well actually, No!, he doesn't have too much authority. He has exactly as much as his "sheep" give him, which usually equates to how much he chooses to impose.

Church, modern or otherwise, has always placed authority in a man whatever he is/was called. This is as true of the "one man church" as it is of those headed by a Pope, a Monarch, Arch-bishop etc., etc..

At least the scriptures are not the invention of man (translations may be?) but the Church is and always will be. It is a mistake to look back at the original believers and call them, or what they did, or where they gathered, "Church". The word in the original scriptures, "ecclesia" just doesn't translate as anything like "church" and trying to force the meaning just doesn't work.

Just because we have experienced 1700 years of what is "Church" and called it that in English for about 400 years does not lend it validity.

Just because most societies thought the earth was flat for hundreds and thousands of years does not mean it is or was.

Well I especially appreciated the last quote you gave.

a brother

Joel B. said...

Hey John,

I'm way behind on my blog reading and I'm just doing a little bit of catching up tonight. At the moment I don't have anything of value to add to what you have said here, or to the conversation overall, but just wanted to say I enjoyed the post and ensuing comments!