Religious Authority: Does Your Standard Measure Up? GA-NOV

Why is the Bible our Authority? by Dan Owen, p. 12

This is a really good article about the authority of the Apostles (not just because Dan Owen is from Paducah).  He doesn’t refer to the mentality, but some seem to think that what Jesus said in red has more authority than what the Apostles wrote.  But Owen does a good job showing how the NT writers were speaking for Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

The Berean Yardstick by David Gibson, p. 14

This article is not much different from the first except for an amazing bit of irony.  He makes a great point about the standard that exists.  He also brings up Acts 17:11-12, the Berean example of studying to make sure the things Paul had taught were true.  In my opinion, and from the perspective of many others, that is exactly what many Church of Christ members have done with traditions and teachings which have existed among us for a long time.  It is the same attitude of the Bereans and the Campbells to re-evaluate our understandings based solely on the Word of God and then make changes.

Many whom the GA would consider liberal/progressive/emergent are actually following this example.  They have not rejected the standard of Scripture as THE Authority.  They have studied the Scripture to make sure the teachings of previous generations are true, and found them lacking or outright wrong.

The All-Sufficiency of Scripture by Sellers Crain, Jr., p. 16

In another interesting piece of quoting, Craddock said, “Never in the history of the church have so many periods slumped into commas, and so many triumphant exclamation points curled into question marks.”  Yes, but Craddock would be surprised at some of Crain’s periods and exclamation points.

There are two parts to this article.  One dealing with hermeneutic (FINALLY!) and the second half dealing with views of inspiration.  Interpretation truly is the issue.  Many have rejected conclusions of CENI (command, example, necessary inference, or in Italian, second person singular of cenare, “to dine”) and others have rejected parts of it or all of it.

A hermeneutic is like a language.  The miscommunication that arises when discussing instrumental music or the 5 Acts of Worship comes when one person is speaking French and the other is speaking Chinese.

Until/unless our basic, foundational presuppositions are resolved, the gulf will grow greater.  The dialogue is minimal.  Texts are fired at each other from a distance with disdain.  Each side grows weary of rehashing the same arguments and misunderstanding, and sadly, we tire of each other.

The Question of Authority by Alvin Jennings, p. 19

He gives a list of the usual suspects (Lord’s Supper, worship assembly, etc.) which are all important, but simply writes our unwritten creed on these topics. This is after a fantastic quote: “Perhaps of greater importance for those of us who worship in the body of Christ are some basic principles of discernment or interpretation of biblical authority.”  Yes!… but then we get Gopher Wood.

A good example  (which I am stealing from someone I can’t remember) to show the inconsistency of CENI is what the Bible teaches about sickness.  James 5:14 says to call the elders to pray over the sick person and anoint him with oil.  Paul tells Timothy to use wine for his stomache issue.  Anointing with oil and drinking wine are two things that will get you in trouble with many churches of Christ.  Yet we rationalize that it is okay to call 911, visit a doctor, and take anti-biotics.

We don’t invoke the prohibition of silence.  We rationalize what seems right, and would look at someone cross-eyed if they thought it was wrong to see a doctor or take medicine on religious grounds.

The is my concern with “necessary inference.”  Too much subjective reasoning enters in.  What appears necessary to me, doesn’t to you, and vice-versa.

Generic and Specific authority.  Gopher wood.  Nadab and Abihu.  Expediency.  Sigh.

Not helping the issue.  Just ways we defend our traditions and opinions and attempt to enforce them on others.

Authority in Christianity by Phil Sanders, p. 22

Brother Sanders makes good points about the necessity for standard and the rebellious spirit that exists in all humans.  Submission to God’s Word is key.

The problem as usual, is assuming that people who disagree with me are in rebellion to Scripture.  He says, “Amazingly, some people read God’s will in the Bible and still do and believe what they want.”  Well, yes, this is true of most of us at some point.  He lists views of denominations, modes of baptism, and instrumental music as examples.  Without commenting on those specific issues, we have to realize that we all struggle with that.  Men who are just as sincere, honest, and godly as Sanders believe differently.  We have to recognize that.



I believe in the authority of Scripture.

I also believe in the Fallenness of mankind because of Adam’s sin.  I believe that our minds are just as messed up as our bodies because of the Fall.

I don’t believe a perfect understanding of the Bible is necessary for salvation.  Neither do I believe that a perfect agreement with ME is necessary for either fellowship or salvation.

I believe we have been inconsistent with our hermeneutics, which has opened enough doubt to cause us to re-evaluate, be Bereans, seek even older paths concerning Church of Christ doctrine and tradition.

I know that some in churches of Christ have developed a Catholic concept of having to have the imprimatur of some preacher, periodical or college for books or ideas in order to even read or consider them.  What I mean is, some understand faithfulness as not reading or considering anything different from what has been taught or believe in my circles for the last few generations.

Others will consider, but only to debate and defeat.  And some sincerely and honestly will disagree because of the language difference. I am not referring to one side or another, just all of us in general.

I think that interpretation is not” perhaps”, but indeed the second most important thing.

The first, IMHO, is LOVE!

Love is patient and kind.  Love wants to understand.  As Phil Sanders states, concerning God, “Love always listens.”


9 thoughts on “Religious Authority: Does Your Standard Measure Up? GA-NOV

  1. nick gill

    well done, my friend. Balanced and gracious.

    it’s a shame that the GA won’t publish articles that disagree with Br. Owen or Br. Sanders. I’m glad we have the blogosphere to offer gracious places for discussion and disagreement, because the days of the editor-bishops encouraging critical thinking and sharpening of one another are long gone.

  2. Thanks for the research and time you have put into this Bro! I agree mostly with this section “The Question of Authority by Alvin Jennings”
    What has aggravated me the most about some of the teachings in the coc and elsewhere is that we have often made the text say what we want it to say in order to fit how we want to believe it. All of this Brian is so so true, it is what a lot of us have been thinking for so so long yet remaining silent in fear.
    Thanks Bro!

  3. Nick,

    About 15 years ago, I sent the first article in a two-part series to an editor of a Churches of Christ publication. I had worked really hard to polish up the first article and, apparently, it was immediately sent to the printer to be included in an upcoming issue of the magazine. Within a couple of weeks after sending in the first article, I sent the second and concluding article. The second piece contained a bit of what might be called unconventional thinking. I wasn’t picking a fight. I was just saying what I thought. Anway, much to my surprise (I was even dumber then) the second article was never published. Mind you, the first article appeared as the first in a two-part series.

    So I wrote to the editor complaining that he never should have published the first article if there was any question about publishing the second one. I also said that I felt sort of embarrassed because it would appear that I just didn’t bother finishing my public project. Seems like I wrote more than one of those letters. I never got a reply. The impression I got was that I had made the mistake of crossing a line and ignoring me was therefore justified.

  4. Interestingly enough, I posted yesterday on the problem of the Ephesian church in Revelation 2. Fits in well here.

    To quote myself: “Without love, the truth ceases to be truth. Without truth, there can be no true love. We need both. We must resist false teachers, but never at the expense of love.” (I like quoting myself because I almost always agree with what I write)

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  5. Brian

    come on, Tim
    can’t you quote anybody more respected than yourself to back yourself up.

    kidding, that is a great quote, and I look forward to reading the book

  6. laymond

    Brian and Frank, I used to write articles and send to those on the internet who wished to read what I had to say. A CoC in Knoxville Tn. saw some of them and asked if they could use them on their devotional page, naturally I was pleased to comply. I wrote for this Church the full year of 2005, I was glad to do it and they were happy to publish them. UNTIL I made the mistake of writing that I didn’t think a musical instrument could send one’s soul to hell. Well one of the Elders who believed differently, stopped associating with a heretic such as myself. But fortunately many churches in middle Tennessee still carry them on their pages.

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