Seeking authority in modern times.
I have followed the history of men seeking authority within churches beginning from the first century. Unfortunately, the problem still exist today. It is in man’s nature to want to control events, people and wealth. Sadly, much of modern Christianity still practices the methods developed within the Catholic church and honed to a fine art.
Thus far, in this series, I have not dealt with how one goes to the Bible to find God’s will for man, that is another subject altogether. However, the subjects are closely linked. So, I will conclude the series by dealing with how some use “methods of interpretation” to claim authority over other Christians.
We have today, in many churches, men/women who claim to have exact knowledge of God’s will for man, and thereby subjugate their members with their interpretations.
- Some claim direct apostolic linage of authority. (Mormons, Catholics.)
- Others claim the Holy Spirit, in such measure, that they have unique knowledge of God’s will. (Pentecostals and others.)
- Others have claimed tradition and church edicts and creeds as having equal standing in authority as the Bible itself. (Mormons, Catholics, many protestants.)
- Still others have developed extra-biblical systems and hermeneutics whereby they claim they can determine the exact will of God in all matters of doctrine.
The forth group concerns me most, because it is so interwoven with the history of the Restoration Movement, and because I have personally seen much misuse. In this short article there isn’t room for a full definition and discussion of hermeneutics. If you are reading this, and are familiar with the Restoration Movement, you should remember the most common ones used.
While the application of hermeneutics can be useful, hermeneutics are, in fact, systems devised and defined by men. Therefore, they are subject to flaws and human frailty, not only within their creation, but also in application by humans. Before applying hermeneutics to the Bible, I would suggest that the Bible student consider these points:
- The history/evolution of the selected hermeneutic.
- Does the user of the hermeneutic also consider all factors and verses applicable?
- Is the selected hermeneutic taught as the only way to accurate doctrine?
- Is allegiance to the hermeneutic itself, required by the leadership?
- What does the leadership do, if one does not agree with their interpretation/edict?
This is where the use of a hermeneutic, an extra-biblical “system of interpretation,” can become dangerous. If a particular “method of interpretation” becomes a “tool” to wield authority, there is a problem. I posted the preceding three posts on authority, as a background to show the sad history of men seeking authority over other men within the Christian religion.
Despite all the claims promoting the value of certain hermeneutics within the Restoration Movement, the sad history is this; Unity has not been established, and Perfect theology has not been determined.
Yet… again… the use of hermeneutics can be helpful… in determining doctrine, (the will of God for man). But the use of a particular “system,” does not guarantee that any man has found all truth.
I admonish all Christians to be wary of leaders attempting to “bind” their “doctrine” as “the final ruling.” No man on earth has that “authority” today!
30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.
26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave–
28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”