Friday, January 8, 2010

Is Scripture REALLY their authority?

In a telephone survey of 1,002 senior church leaders conducted in October 2008, LifeWay Research discovered some surprising - and conflicting - results. Here's one sample:

"Among pastors who strongly disagree that gay marriage should be legal, 98 percent strongly agree with the statement "Our church considers Scripture to be the authority for our church and our lives." In contrast, among pastors who do not strongly disagree that gay marriage should be legal, 71 percent strongly agree that Scripture is their authority.

Similar differences occur between pro-life and pro-choice pastors. Ninety-seven percent of pro-life pastors, compared to 65 percent of pro-choice pastors, strongly agree with the above statement regarding Scriptural authority. Also, 97 percent of pastors who speak to their church on the unborn several times a year or more strongly agree Scripture is their authority."
So if I understand correctly, some who claim "Scripture is their authority" are diametrically opposed to others who also claim "Scripture is their authority."

Of course, there is always an element of interpretation in the reading of Scripture. We have to consider the human author, the original audience, the historical setting, etc. This is all a part of doing proper exegesis.

But there is a limit. The historical context, for example, can't be used as an excuse for "these verses just don't apply to us today." Some verses have been superseded and don't apply (such as the ceremonial laws) - not because the historical context of the Old Testament is irrelevent to today's "enlightened" readers, but because of the death of Christ on the cross.

Perhaps these differing interpretations are due more to faulty worldviews and differing definitions about just what they mean by "Scripture is their authority." Far too many people (including pastors, it appears) define that phrase to mean "Scripture is my authority in all things related to 'spiritual' matters: prayer, devotions, church matters, etc." Instead of this very myopic understanding of the word "authority," we need to understand Colossians 1:15-20 where Paul teaches about the preeminence of Christ over all things:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Call me crazy, but I take the phrase "all things" to mean "all things." I realize that's a radical - even dangerous - interpretation!


Unknown said...

I will have to step beside you and be as radical and dogmatic as you are.

There is a grave movement to personalize the Bible to meet our individual preferences, and then justify that our position is Biblically endorsed. Which cannot be the case.

What definition God meant for one He meant for all and that cannot not be divested for the self serving of personal opinion or views.

Proper exegesis, means reading the text in proper context; the context and meaning though emanate from God Himself and it is our responsibility to pursue what He meant and not invalidate His statements by being self-serving.

Baird boy said...

I am with you brother. I think even the ceremonial laws which were superseded by Christ's work on the cross are still valuable and relevant to Christians since they foreshadow Christ in the Old Testament. That is one of the things that has always excited me about the Bible. Over huge periods of times and with different authors it is a book that amazingly has a common theme from start to finish, Jesus Christ.