The Assumption of Church Authority
The word “assumption” can have at least two meanings. It can mean to take on or take over for oneself as a responsibility. It can also refer to a starting point of an argument; a premise from which a logical conclusion is drawn. In the case of “church authority”, both definitions are applicable.
Protestants must be aware of the assumption, the beginning premise, held by the “church leadership”, the logical conclusions of which produce the resulting behavior observed by so many who come to this ministry seeking answers. Those in so-called “church leadership” have an assumption (self-appointed) of authority based on a faulty assumption (premise).
As a result there are some questions that must be asked:
- Is it reasonable to assume that elders and pastors, being fallible men (because after all doesn’t “total depravity” apply to them as well?), could ever possibly be in error regarding doctrine and Biblical interpretation?
- If the answer is yes, then what mechanism is there in place, either from Scripture itself or a “church’s” own documented governing principles, to be able to determine if the leadership is in error, thereby making their claim to authority void?
- Maybe the same question only stated another way, if a discerning church member were honestly persuaded by his own personal study and illumination of the Holy Spirit that a pastor or elder was in error and promoting false doctrine, and the elder/pastor refuses to hear him, what recourse does that church member have (aside from leaving the church)? (The assumption here being that the member loves his church so much that he is concerned for the spiritual well-being of the church in general and the pastor, elders, and the rest of the laity in particular).
- If, on the off chance that an elder or pastor ever conceded the fact that the possibility exists that he himself could be in error concerning doctrine or Biblical interpretation, how would he know that? How would an elder or pastor know if he was wrong? (Of course that begs the question, would he ever admit to it?)
The answers are obvious because this is the assumption: the leadership is assumed to never be wrong because they are the authority! Their basis for authority IS authority. This of course is a logical fallacy. Nevertheless, an elder or pastor will ALWAYS defer to some other authority. His answers regarding doctrine and interpretation are never going to be based on sound reason from his own personal study. He will always make an appeal to the authority that instructed him (i.e. seminary, et al).
The only difference between you or me and the elder/pastor is the amount of money spent on certification training. The Bible clearly states that all authority rests with Christ. The elder/pastor gets his authority from a framed document hanging on a wall in his office.
Whenever the basis for truth is an appeal to authority, there is no need for persuasion or reasoned debate. Only force and coercion.