Which Authority…

I’ve had a little email back and forth this weekend with an old friend over the authority of Scripture, combined with a little discussion about the role of our Presbyterian Book of Order.  My friend has stated publically that we cannot speak “unequivocally” about what the Bible says.  The authority with which we speak on matters of scripture is completely conditional and never unequivocal, he says. When we believe we can speak unequivocally on behalf of scripture they have made an idol out of something.  In other words, we can never really say for certain and with authority any one thing about the God’s word, because it is all dependant upon our particular cultural context.

The problem with such Post-Modern, Deconstructionist Relativism is that it gives us nothing to say at all.  The Bible is simply the story of God revealing Himself to a particular people, but it does not speak authoritatively to us today.  We can gather principles, but no clear word to apply to our lives.  As Francis Schaeffer said in “How Then Should We Live?”, they “do not see the Bible as giving truth which can be stated in contentful propositions, especially regarding the cosmos and history, that is, as making statements which are open to any verification.  And for many of them the Bible does not give moral absolutes either.  For these theologians, it is not faith in something; it is faith in faith.”

Hard enough as that is to accept, my friend later went on to say that he fully embraces the Book of Order (the constitution of the PC(USA), and the new revisions to the constitution in regard to its position on the Word of God.  There is a full embrace of the Book of Order, but a qualified embrace of the Word of God.  Something is wrong here.

I mentioned to my friend that I had little to no faith in our Book of Order, because I have seen it used to punish and drive away innocent and faithful members and pastors.  This prompted a response that I was close to “renouncing jurisdiction,” an action that would permanently remove me from the church and my ministry.

So let me clarify my position.

I do not believe that I speak unequivocally about Scripture; Scripture does. Scripture tells us with one voice that we were created for God’s glory, but all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Scripture tells us with one voice that God has given us new life in Christ, and that all who call upon the Lord will be saved. Scripture tells us with one voice that the Christian life is lived in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, overcoming sin and immorality – for this is God’s will for our lives. Scripture tells us unequivocally that as sure as Christ came once before, He is coming again to judge the world and to recieve his own.

God’s Word does not change, even though the heavens and the earth will pass away (Psalm 119:89, Matthew 24:34-35).  The Book of Order changes every time we have a General Assembly. 

Like Scripture, does the Book of Order lead me to a saving knowledge of God and His love for me in Christ Jesus my Lord?  No.

Like Scripture, does the Book of Order contain the full revelation of God, and as such, is man’s only rule for faith and life? No.

Like Scripture, does the Book of Order, by the power of the Holy Spirit, reveal my sin, and lead me to trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ?  No.

Therefore, my heart and my mind must be held captive to the Word of God.  As a Presbyterian, I am goverened by the church’s policy and will abide by its discipline as I perform my ministry in the Presbyterian Church.  I do not renounce the jurisdiction of the church, rather I claim that the church is first and foremost under the jurisdiction of Christ Jesus her Lord and King, and must not stray from His will, as revealed to us in His Word.  Counsels of men are prone to sin and error, only God’s word is infallible and inerrant.

You tell me, which should I accept without qualification or scruple?

3 thoughts on “Which Authority…

  1. I dont think you should question the authority of Scripture. I do, however, think it might be helpful to question one’s hermaneutical perspective at times though. We don’t need to throw out Scripture, but I believe their is a time to get outside the lens that we come to Scripture with, often without even thinking about that perspective.

  2. The scripture alone rules “over All” church order, The Scripture, Not “my reading” of scripture. For every hour we read the church order, 10 hrs should be spent in “Scripture” checking “the church” against the “Word of God”.

  3. Just reading some Calvin this morning and thought I’d add the following quotes:
    “What devilish madness is it to pretend that the use of Scripture, which leads the children of God even to the final goal, is fleeting or temporal? The Spirit has not the task of inventing new and unheard of revelations, or of forging a new kind of doctrine, to lead us away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but of sealing our minds with that very doctrine which is commended my the gospel.”
    “God did not bring forth his Word among men for the sake of a momentary display, intending at the coming of his Spirit to abolish it. Rather, he sent down the same Spirit by whose power he had dispensed the Word, to complete his work by the efficacious confirmation of the Word.”

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