Saturday, February 02, 2013

Leaving Your Church vs. Leaving Your Infallible Authorty

Whenever any “church” or “pastor” does not conform to what by one’s own judgment the Spirit is speaking in one’s own heart, through one’s own study of Scripture, one is both free and obligated to reject and disobey the “church” or “pastor.” (Otherwise one cuts off the very act of Luther by which Protestantism justifies its entire existence as separate from the Catholic Church.) So the teachings and decisions of the “church” and “pastor” are always subject to the individual’s internal judgment concerning what the Spirit is speaking in the Scriptures. For that reason, the individual’s interpretive authority *is* ultimate, because the “church” and “pastor” can never trump it, but it can at any time trump that of the “church” and “pastor.”
Why did you choose to attend a Reformed church, rather than a Baptist church, a Methodist church, a Pentecostal church, a Church of Christ church, a Lutheran church, etc., etc., etc., …. etc.
So says CTC's Bryan Cross.

As finite human beings, we never escape interpreting anything, be it an infallible Bible or an infallible church.

1. Did Mr. Cross use his own internal judgement when he chose the Roman church?  If so, was this judgment "subject to the individual’s internal judgment concerning what the Spirit is speaking in the Scriptures"? That is, fundamentally, did Mr. Cross compare his reading of the Bible to what various churches believed, and then choose which church he wanted?

2. How is it that Mr.Cross isn't himself now a private interpreter of what Rome teaches? Why is he the correct interpreter of Rome, and someone like Gerry Matatics is not?

Sentiment as that put forth by Mr. Cross defines the context of the discussion. Don’t allow that. The discussion is not about joining this or that church. It’s about ultimate infallible authorities. Either Rome is the infallible authority or the Bible is the infallible authority. Whether or not one leaves this or that church isn’t the issue. I can certainly leave my infallible authority (the Bible) just as Mr. Cross could leave his infallible authority (the Roman church). Mr. Cross could use his private judgment and choose another infallible authority like the Mormon church. I could choose the Koran.

 I choose not to leave my infallible authority. Sure, I might leave my church and join another, but this is not done at the expense of leaving my infallible authority. Mr. Cross could likewise choose to leave his particular flavor of Romanism for another flavor (a group in communion with Rome). He could do this without leaving Romanism. He would be using his private judgment… which he’s never stopped using.


RPV said...

Nice post, James
First saw it over at GB

Bob Suden

Nick said...

There is a misunderstanding/equivocation going on with the term "interpret". Really, there are two distinct things going on:

(1) Studying the Evidence and coming to a fallible but plausible conclusion.

(2) Authoritatively teaching a binding doctrine, including authoritatively interpreting a text of Scripture.

Everyone must engage in #1. That's not the issue. The issue is #2. When it comes to addressing #2, one must see that there either is an authoritative teaching body ("Magisterium") or there is not. If there is no Magisterium, then there are no definitive doctrines, only fallible but plausible opinions. That's basically the state of Protestantism and why fewer and fewer doctrines are seen as "essential". If there is a Magisterium, one must engage in #1 to locate and eventually submit to which Magisterium is the most credible.

Let me give an example of the problem with Protestantism. Let's say that St Paul came down from Heaven into your denomination and told your pastor that your pastor was teaching incorrect doctrines and rather your pastor should be teaching these other doctrines. In the Protestant view, your pastor could theoretically disagree with St Paul if your pastor felt Paul's comments did not align with your pastor's interpretation of Scripture. In the Protestant mind, both your pastor and St Paul were in the category #1 above: they were both fallible men doing their best to discern what the Spirit was telling them through Scripture. Neither could or were teaching authoritatively.

The problem with the above example is obviously that we know St Paul is not on par with your pastor, and in fact St Paul was entrusted by God with the role of #2 above. This means your pastor and his congregation, who are all in category #1, are not free to overturn Paul's teaching should they come to a different interpretation of the Bible. They'd be in the wrong and Paul would be in the right.

What you and other Protestants do is think that a Christian in category #1 has the (optional) duty of locating a denomination and pastor also in category #1. And since everyone is in category #1, then it's possible there could come a time when you disagree with your pastor's fallible but plausible interpretation of Scripture on a doctrine you plausibly but fallibly believe is important, and at that point you could leave to find another denomination or start your own. All the Protestant is doing is shifting between denominations of category #1, completely oblivious to or denying the existence of someone of category #2.