By What Authority?
I've been reading "Discovering Biblical Equality" of which Gordon Fee is a consulting editor. It's a fascinating book designed as an egalitarian rebuttal to Piper and Grudem. (Yes I'm aware of the horror stories from the Evangelical Now magazine by the way! ) When I finish it I will review it properly because it highlights some important discrepancies in the Piper/Grudem view of manhood and womanhood.
But I was gripped by one chapter that Fee contributed on "Hermaneutics". He raised the whole question of where do we get our authority from?
This question has been buzzing around my head for some time; my previous blog entry touched on it. My home church totally changed their pneumatology because of it. I received a letter yesterday from the SGM hierarchy ignoring the serious pastoral implications in their ranks but accusing me of not being "biblical" in my concerns about their ecclesiology. And so on and so on... It touches all aspects of Christian life.
Fee sketched out the following model as to where and by what authority we operate both corporately and personally:
Religious Authority - External.
1. A Sacred Book.
2. An Authoratative Person.
3. A Community of Persons.
Religious Authority - Internal.
I found this model quite comprehensive. Fee notes problems with both standards of authority. If you lay claim to external authority in your life, then the obvious question is why one particular one and not another. If you lay claim to the internal - the issue clearly is of absoluteness. Who can critique personal experience?
I found this model quite illuminating. It is possible to see various evangelicals laying claim to both, and in particular to different aspects within those groups. Yet the disturbing thing to me is that not all evangelicals de facto would stand on the authority of Scripture. I submit that the "authoratative person" still holds sway in many churches today. Why is this? Is it because much of the congregation does not have the time or patience to get into the Word of God and find out what God has to say? Similiarly for the congregations.
Therefore I am asking - by WHAT authority do we stand? Are we going to stand firmly and soley on the Word of God? Or are we going to allow trust in our pastor or minister to begin to replace that? Should that replace that? Should the views and standards and expressions of the congregation where we fellowship have some authority in our lives?
It seems to me that if we move away even one iota from holding the Word of God as soley sufficient for all, then there is a gradual slide where we will take authority from all influences in our lives.
A quote of Gordon Fee's to close:
"On such matters, evangelical Christians are deeply divided because the theological positions are derived by implication not by explicit Scriptural instruction".