Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Assumption of Church Authority

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on May 17, 2018

Originally published August 15, 2016

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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).
  4. 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?)

degreeThe answers to these questions should be obvious because this is the assumption: the leadership is assumed to never be wrong because they are the authority! The basis for their self-appointed authority is rooted in the simple notion that they know something that you and I don’t know – the knowledge that man cannot know real truth.  If you ever make the “mistake” of presuming that you know something, that only reinforces the reality of your own depravity and disqualifies you from taking action for good.  It is what testifies to your need for their authority to compel you to good action (“good” as defined by them of course).  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 real difference between you or me and the elder/pastor is the amount of money spent on certification training. The man standing behind the pulpit paid good money for nothing more than a piece of paper that tells him that he knows that man cannot know.  But 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.

~ Andy

A Warning To The Watchmen

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 14, 2018

Today, Facebook’s “On This Day” feature reminded me of a scripture passage I had posted a few years ago from one of my daily Bible readings. It was a blessed reminder to me because when I stumble across verses like this it only serves to affirm or reinforce a scriptural truth I have already learned in my constant study.

1 Timothy chapter 3 lists the qualifications of an “elder” or “bishop”. In the Greek, the word επισκοπος (epi-skope-os) is a compound word. “Epi” means “over”. The word “skopos” is where we get the word “scope”, and it means to look outward; to see from a distance; to watch carefully and attentively. The word is really better translated “overseer.”

The function of an overseer is not one of authority. The etymology of the word actually describes someone who stands at the top of a fortress wall as a sentry looking outward for any signs of danger. A sentry has no authority. He has no power to command or enforce action. His job is simply to send out the warning cry when danger is coming so that appropriate action can be taken by others.

This is the way it is with an elder in an assembly. He may be gifted to teach, but his role is that of a sentry looking out for danger and warning others to take appropriate action. Note: he has no call to compel the action. He cannot force others to take action. All he does is sound the warning cry.

With regard to 1 Timothy 3, in most of your bibles you may see the expression, “if a man desires the office of a bishop.” The manuscript says nothing like that. The word “office” is not in the manuscript. In fact the word “man” isn’t even in there. The way this verse literally reads in the Greek is “if any desire oversight,” or “If any desire to be overseen.” The desire to have an overseer begins with the assembly. Overseers are optional. The assembly gets to decide if it wants an overseer or not.

Paul goes on to say further that if you want an overseer, that is a good thing. It is probably a good idea to have someone on guard duty. If there is danger out there, and there is, you probably want to have someone who is adept at finding it; seeing it early, and warning others to take action. But such a person has no call to exercise authority to compel others to take action.

To help us better understand this role of “overseer”, consider a passage in the Old Testament that uses a similar word: “watchman.”

1Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: 3if when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; 4then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. (5He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him.) But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

6But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.

7So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. 8When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

10Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? 11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

~ Ezekiel 33:1-11

I realize that this is a rather long passage, and I am not going to break down the whole thing, but I wanted you to see the context. God uses a metaphor that Israel can clearly understand: national defense. The implications are clear. If you have a watchman (i.e. overseer) on a wall who sees danger coming on the horizon and does not sound the alarm, that watchman is culpable for any lives that are lost as a direct result of his negligence. God makes it clear to Ezekiel that his role as a prophet is the same as a watchman. He has been given a message by God to deliver to the nation of Israel. It is Ezekiel’s responsibility to sound the warning cry.

But what should be obvious from this passage is that the only responsibility the watchman has is to sound the alarm; to give the warning. It is not his job to compel the action of those who hear his warning. Notice that God did not give any authority to Ezekiel to compel Israel to action. Ezekiel did not have the power to coerce Israel with “church discipline” if they did not heed his warning.

(On a side note, notice that God specifically says in this passage that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked! Yet you have men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Jonathan Edwards who blatantly contradict the plain teaching of scripture.)

The words of Ezekiel should be a stern reminder to both the elders and laity in the institutional church.   Elders have no authority. It is their role as overseers to be on the lookout for false doctrine that would do great harm to Christ’s assembly. Instead it is very often the elders themselves doing the harm; teaching for doctrine the traditions of men rather than the plain sense of scripture and compelling the laity to obey them unconditionally and abusing them for their own self-interest. These men will have to answer to God one day for these things. You who follow these men must understand that they will not be the ones standing in your place giving an account for you in eternity. While they will indeed have to give an account for the miserable failures that they are as watchmen, you will be accountable for your own actions (or inactions) as well.

~ Andy

Making Your Choice From The Authority Smorgasbord

Posted in Authority by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 15, 2018

“Eventually, one central issue brought him to the doorstep of the Eastern Orthodox church. ‘The issue of authority,’ he explains. ‘I felt I was flying by the seat of my pants as a Christian. I would read Scripture and come to conclusions myself. At some point, I felt I had to submit myself to some authority outside of myself.'”

How does one decide what “religion” is the correct one?  How does one find objective truth amid the whirling maelstrom of subjectivism?  Whether it is Baptist or Catholic or Islam or in this case Eastern Orthodox, the progression of thought always begins with the assumption of mass incompetence – man’s “depravity.” If one begins with the premise that man is metaphysically unable to know truth, the conclusion is that he is therefore epistemologically disqualified from being able to make a correct ascertaining of truth.

Once you have bought into the assumption that man is not qualified to make a reasoned decision regarding truth, he MUST then relegate this decision to some authority. The irony then is that whatever “authority” is chosen is STILL a completely subjective decision. Man is still the one choosing which “authority” rules his life.

So who is ultimately to decide which “authority” is the correct one? It comes down to whichever one has the biggest stick, or which one is the most effective in its ability to use force to compel others into compliance. This is always the end result of this progression of thought: a force that must compel dictated good in the name of “God” or “allah” or “buddha” or whoever.

The thought process of the individual in the article linked below is a perfect example.

~ Andy

Theron’s Story: Why I Left Evangelicalism for Eastern Orthodoxy
https://trevinwax.wordpress.com/2006/11/08/therons-story-why-i-left-evangelicalism-for-eastern-orthodoxy/

Holy Schmoly…Who Needs Holiness When You Have Authority?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 5, 2018

afshin-ziafat

Originally published January 5, 2017

Afshin Ziafat holds the title of “lead” pastor and “elder” of Providence Church in Frisco, TX. He was part of a panel discussion along with Conrad Mbewe, John Folmar, and moderated by Kevin DeYoung at the 2016 Cross Conference in Indianapolis, IN. The clip below is an excerpt from that discussion. It happens pretty early on. There are several examples I could have used, but this particular exchange really caught my attention.

Here is a transcript of the above video clip.

KEVIN DEYOUNG: So let’s talk about some of these terms that are often given to describe church. This is sort of Ecclesiology, the study of Church 101. So sometimes there is a reference made to the four attributes of the church. One, holy, catholic, apostolic church. So just jump in who wants to just, 30 seconds, what does it mean, “one church”?

JOHN FOLMAR: Unified in the gospel. United to Christ by the power of the Spirit, and thus united to one another.

DEYOUNG: Okay. So Ephesians 4, there is one spirit, one body, one Lord, one baptism. What about “holy”? Afshin?

AFSHIN ZIAFAT: Um, I’m not sure exactly what you’re wanting from that.

STOP RIGHT THERE! HUH?

I’m not the smartest person in the world, and granted, as I go back and read the transcript, DeYoung doesn’t do a very good job at articulating what he’s asking, but even I understand the question. DeYoung wants to know what it means when we say the church is holy.

Yet here is a man who is supposed to have an academic and theological pedigree which supposedly qualifies him to sit on this panel of “experts”.  Here is a man who is supposedly responsible for the “sheperding” of hundreds if not thousands of people every week.  Here is a man to whom a room full of young people are looking for guidance and direction, a man whom people are supposed to submit to his “authority”.  And yet Ziafat says he’s not sure what DeYoung is wanting?  Does he mean he does not know what it means to say the church is “holy”, or does he not even know the definition of holy?  I am beyond incredulous!

Like I said, I am not the smartest person in the world- I didn’t go to seminary, and I am not the pastor of a church of thousands. I did however give a session on the definition of holiness back at the 2014 TANC conference. Perhaps Mr. Ziafat might find it useful. Here are the links to those sessions.

TANC 2014 – Andy Young, Session 1
TANC 2014 – Andy Young, Session 2
TANC 2014 – Andy Young, Session 3

Now let’s look at the remainder of the transcript:

(ZIAFAT CONTINUING) But I would say just, you know, the fact that, if I may couple with what [FOLMAR] just said, the need for you to be in the church to be shepherded, because, as I see, you know, one catholic church, but yet there’s a need for the local church that you are involved in actually being cared for. Because from the very beginning God is known as a shepherd and His people the sheep of His pasture and Jesus taught His disciples how to shepherd and Peter tells fellow elders that you are to shepherd the flock of God among you. So all that to say, I would tell [the audience] that if they are not in a local church, that’s God’s setup for how He as the shepherd is gonna shepherd them through under-shepherds. And so I think that they need to be in that local church.

Ziafat never answers the question with respect to holiness. Instead he does what politicians do when there is a question they don’t want to answer. They try to distract you by rambling on and on over talking points that you would want to hear, hoping to impress you with their verbosity, all the while saying nothing of any substance (something at which politicians are very adept).

But notice what he does choose to talk about: the authority of the church in the lives of Christians. “…the need for you to be in the church to be shepherded…”, “…need for…actually being cared for…”, a local church is how God is “gonna shepherd them through under-shepherds…”, “…they need to be in that local church.” Authority, authority, authority.

I am not the only one who notices that Ziafat doesn’t answer the question. DeYoung realized it too. But rather than put him on the spot, he bails him out by actually answering the question for him. I mean, these guys have to stick together, right?

DEYOUNG: Right, for the accountability, for, you know, if the leaders of the church are accountable before God for their people you need to have some kind of membership, or to whom or for whom are they accountable, and that holy aspect is called out ones out from the world into this fellowship, shepherded, guided…

This is just one example of how these guys perceive themselves and you. You need to be shepherded for your own good. I am reminded once again of what John Immel said at the 2012 TANC conference regarding the metaphysical assumptions of reformed theology – man is fundamentally incompetent to be able to comprehend truth and know good; he therefore needs have good dictated to him; that dictated good is accomplished by the institutional church through divine mediators who presume to stand in God’s stead. And this is all done under the pretense of being done for your own good, since you poor schlubs don’t know any better.

This was the tenor of this entire panel discussion, that we should just be so thankful that we have these “godly” men to guide us poor incompetent masses though our ignorance, and we should just listen to them so that we don’t screw up our lives. I find such arrogance and condescension appalling, especially since these men are such intellectual pinheads who couldn’t come up with an original thought among the four of them to save their lives. They are simply regurgitating what they themselves have been taught. That much is obvious from this example.

~ Andy

God’s Acknowledgment of “Self” and the Full Circle of the Ten Commandments.

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 12, 2017

Originally Published May 25, 2016

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” ~ Exodus 3:14

When Jehovah (I Am) identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He did more than just tell Moses His name. God made a philosophical statement about reality. God acknowledged His own existence, and in so doing He declared His intrinsic rights because of that existence. Furthermore, by acknowledging His own existence, God also recognized man’s existence. I believe this is at the heart of what the Bible means when it says that man was made in God’s image. We have a right to “self” because God has a right to “self”.   And for us to acknowledge our own right to “self” demands that we by extension must acknowledge others’ right to “self”, just as God acknowledges ours.

Do not misunderstand what I mean by “right to self”. I do not mean “self-ishness”, which the Bible clearly decries. “Selfishness” means to love oneself MORE than another. On the other hand, the Bible never teaches us to love others more than ourselves. Said another way, the Bible doesn’t teach that we should love ourselves LESS than others. It says we are to love others AS MUCH AS we love ourselves. Herein is the way in which we acknowledge another’s right to “self”, we treat others as WE would want to be treated. We see our own value as an individual and in so doing recognize that others have that same value. That value includes one’s right to existence and the means necessary to sustain that existence. The United States’ Declaration of Independence embodied that idea in this way:

“…We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

“That all men are created equal” is to recognize that all men have the same basic right to “self” and to existence, and that equality of individualism is preserved in the rights to seek those things which would secure that existence. No one ever has the right to violate another’s right to “self”, EVEN GOD!

In a conversation with a close friend the other day, I posed the question, “why is stealing wrong?” My friend replied that stealing is wrong because God said so; it’s in the Ten Commandments. Stealing is wrong because God said, “Thou shalt not steal.” I then followed up with the next question, “Why did God say stealing is wrong?” For this my friend had no answer. All he could say was, “I don’t know, I never thought about it before.”

You see for my friend, as it is with most people (particularly Christians), that God “said it” was enough for him. It was nothing more than an appeal to authority. An authority says this or that, so we must do it or not do it. This is the same reasoning that led to the slaughter of 6 million Jews while millions of others gave their tacit approval. People’s behaviors are the product of their assumptions, to paraphrase John Immel. No matter how irrational the behavior may seem, if you find the assumption you will find the reason for the action.

So why DID God say that stealing is wrong? It is a simple question, and once challenged to think, my friend finally did ask it of me. Stealing is wrong because it is a violation of “self”, of the individual. Our possessions are the products of our labors which are an investment of ourselves. Your labor is an exchange of value. You enter into that exchange with an employer who trades you wages for your investment of yourself. Those wages then in turn are exchanged for those things that are necessary to further your existence – food, clothing, shelter, etc. – and if there is any surplus, luxuries – car, mobile phone, flat screen TV, etc. So in reality, everything you produce – labor, wages, food, clothing, car, TV, etc. – is a product of you as an individual. For someone to steal those things from you is to violate “you” (self) because those things represent what the individual produced as a function of “self”. You have a right to them because you produced them because you have a right to “self”.

Contrary to what people/Christians are taught, the Bible is not a theological book. It is a philosophical book. And the Ten Commandments in particular are not simply an authoritative codification of do’s and don’ts. It is a philosophical statement from God to man about the value of the individual. It is a statement about how God values Himself, and it is a statement about how God values man. Conversely it is a statement of how man is to value God and how man is to value man. God’s very first statement to man is an appeal to God’s own sense of “self” and value. God as an individual. “I am God. I exist. I have value.” Therefore, the way we show God that we value Him is to have no other gods before Him! We do not make vain attempts to conceptualize God’s sense of “self” by making an image to represent that. We do not mock God’s name because His name is intrinsically tied to who He is. To violate God’s name is to violate who He is.

Man, too, has value as “self”. Therefore, we honor our parents, we don’t murder, we don’t commit adultery, we don’t steal, we don’t lie, and we don’t covet, not because God said so, but because we acknowledge that this would violate another person’s right to “self”. This is the basis for morality. It can be said then that the definition of morality is anything that does not violate God or man as “self”.

God’s command to not covet seems all-encompassing. The last commandment perfectly reduces everything down to the root motivation for all violations of “self”. And that is self-ISHNESS. A desire to usurp for oneself that which rightfully belongs to another. And as we have said before, that is a desire caused by Sin. The Bible describes Sin as an entity that seeks to control others. It seeks to master and enslave. It seeks to violate another for it’s own benefit, to wield control over another.

The New Testament offers another perspective on covetousness.

“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” ~ Ephesians 5:5

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” ~ Colossians 3:5

The apostle Paul had a unique insight among the other apostles in that he was a certified expert on Jewish law. This perspective gave him an ability to draw parallels between Old Testament and New Testament concepts that the others did not. Peter even declared that many of the things which Paul taught were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).   In these two passages in particular, Paul sees covetousness as being nothing more than idolatry. I’m not exactly sure how he gets there since he doesn’t elaborate on it.

Still, it is an interesting piece to the puzzle. Consider that one of the Ten Commandments speaks to idolatry. When one thinks of graven images, one usually thinks of idolatry. But Paul seems to suggest that idolatry involves more than just “idol worship”. It is a violation of God as “self”. Covetousness is a violation of man as “self”. What Paul has done here is to show the intrinsic relationship between the two. To violate man is to violate God, and to violate God is to violate man. Do not misunderstand, I am in no way suggesting that man IS God. But I do want to point out that there is a mutual recognition between God and man with respect to existence.

So to violate the tenth commandment is to violate the first, and thus we have come full circle. The Ten Commandments then are not statutes in and of themselves. It is not a means for God to show us “filthy rotten sinners” just how “holy He is” and how “sinful we are.”  It is a full-orbed treatise on morality and existence. It is not a law for authority’s sake. It is God instructing us on reality. What we see in the Bible is that LOVE is the motivating factor in all of this. To love someone is to ascribe value to them. Perhaps this is the relationship between idolatry and covetousness. To idolize something is to objectify it, to assign value based on its desirableness to oneself instead of an individual’s intrinsic value as another individual.

Whatever the case may be, when we show love to God and others, we have thus fulfilled the whole law because in this way we demonstrate a like view of both man and God, and we see reality the way God sees it.

Andy

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