Wednesday, May 02, 2012

By Whose Authority

When the religious leaders asked Jesus "by whose authority do you do these things" he didn't give them an answer but redirected their question. In the church today we often ask "by whose authority do you do these things" when it comes to how we worship, musical instruments, elders, the Lord's Supper, etc.

If I want to change how some ritual is performed in our worship, I can see this question being asked of me. I thought of a really good response in the shower one morning but couldn't remember what it was in time to write it down.

But I do have a few questions of my own.

  • By whose authority do you condemn?
  • By whose authority do you bind?
  • By whose authority do you say something is sin?
Growing up in churches of Christ, I had always heard that the silence of scripture was prohibitive. This is also called the Regulative Principle. If scripture is silent on an issue then you can't do that, it is sinful. This never really sat well with me. I kinda understood it, but there was always a cognitive dissonance with how it was applied. There were so many exceptions. There was a distinction between what was an "aid" versus what was an "addition". Pitch pipes, song books, pews, church buildings, driving cars to worship, air conditioning, etc. are all "aids", but for some reason "musical instruments" are an "addition" and that made them taboo. Wow! That's a lot of definition and classification that is nowhere to be found in scripture. And yet we have no trouble spouting it out. What happened to the principle of silence. Speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent. Rather this seems like speaking where the Bible speaks and creating binding laws where the Bible is silent. (My apologies for using a slogan that is itself not found in scripture)

The Bible is silent on the classification of aids and additions and expedients and hermenutics. And yet we have no trouble speaking about them and making up rules about them and binding those rules on all Christians and refusing fellowship with anyone who practices or believes differently. I lump myself in with this group because while I may not agree, I have been looking on silently for all my life. Over the past month, I've done a lot of reading. I've tried to read on all sides of the issues. In doing so, I've not come up with any new revelations but I have really solidified what I have long felt to be true. The principle that silence is always  prohibitive is (to use a word that our modern translations politely translate) rubbish.

[Start random streams of thought]
I'd like to stand up and say "No MORE!" but in reality I'd rather live at peace with those Christians around me than try to convince anyone otherwise. So maybe I'll take the quiet approach, like the gentle rain that waters the earth and eventually stuff grows. Maybe that's just the fear in me talking. Maybe my local world needs a little shake up. Maybe I need to get thrown to the curb and have to work my way back in. Maybe someone else will step up and join me in my fight. Or maybe we shouldn't fight. The false teacher in scripture is one who is divisive. Division within God's body is counter to Jesus' last wishes in his prayer that we would all be one just as he is one with the Father. I realize that I can't change anyone but myself and I am not responsible for anyone's beliefs and actions by my own, but I have great influence on my own family and how my children are shaped to understand God's word. And I have some influence on others around me. I need to use that influence to point to Jesus. Not to a set of rules and doctrines especially when those are man-made. But just Jesus. Let's walk along that path together, hand in hand.
Post a Comment