So you may have noticed the parody that I published yesterday of this article in Christianity Today. Parody and satire are great for blowing off steam, but they don’t quite explain how the steam came to rise in the first place. So I want to talk more about this article by Tish Warren and address where I think the problem is.
To sum up the article, Warren points out that, just like the printing press, the advent of online blogging has created a “crisis of authority.” Namely, if someone is using the Internet to publish their personal take on the Bible, who holds them accountable? Where did they get their knowledge? Who ensures they aren’t damaging the church or leading people astray? Which, granted, are fair questions to ask. (And there are biblical answers. More on that in a minute.)
The first problem I had was the focus on women bloggers in particular. Warren admits that, historically, the institutional church has marginalized women, forcing them to step into the cyber sphere in order to have a voice. She also suggests that the church has done a poor job of giving women theological training with real teeth–choosing instead to entertain us with “funny stories, relatable prose, or charming turns of phrase.” All stuff I heartily agree with. But…Continue reading →
* A parody of this article in Christianity Today, inspired by a tweet from Thomas Horrocks (@thomaslhorrocks).
The rise of church doors in the early 1500s has yielded the genre of the “church reformer.” From the comfort of their studies, these heretical monks can pen lengthy criticisms of Catholicism and affix them to church doors for any passing peasant to see. This advent of literacy, printing and architecture has created a crisis of authority that we haven’t hitherto seen before.
One of the most prominent examples of this crisis involves the popular Martin Luther, who last year announced his opposition to selling indulgences for the absolution of sin. He was cheered by some and denounced by others. The Pope has called for his writings to be burned. Aside from the debate about faith vs. works, broader questions have emerged: Where do scholars like Luther derive their authority to speak and teach? And who holds them accountable for their teaching? How can the average peasant know whom to trust?
You may be wondering why I chose to reference Galatians 6:7 in the title of my series. Here is why:
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Those that sow to the flesh reap corruption. In other words, corruption is proof that someone is ignoring the Spirit and indulging the flesh. And it seems that day by day, more corruption is coming to light in America’s churches. Ministries under investigation for tax fraud. Prominent pastors accused of sexual harassment and assault. Elders exposed for turning a blind eye to pedophiles in the pews. Church discipline that has been flagged as damaging and discriminatory. The scandals continue to pile up.
For decades, many of the leaders embroiled in these scandals have written hundreds of books and preached countless sermons on “spiritual authority.” They have presented themselves as being near the top of a “God-ordained” hierarchy that requires lay believers to submit—unquestioningly—to their direction. They have then used their subsequent success in ministry to “prove” that they have God’s blessing and approval in this system of power and control.
But God is not mocked. The laws of sowing and reaping cannot be subverted. Sowing unto unbiblical authority is sowing unto pride, and pride always reaps corruption. Always. As the Bible says, a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit (Matthew 7:17). Unbiblical church authority is churning out bad fruit by the bushels. It is not God’s will for His Church. Continue reading →
Trigger warning for victims of sexual assault and abuse.
The other day, I published a post on what spiritual authority really means and how the evangelical church has abused the term. It seems rather timely that, shortly afterward, a huge uproar would arise over Christianity Today‘s decision to publish the story of a youth minister who sexually exploited one of the girls in his youth group. Of course, the ex-youth pastor doesn’t call it statutory rape or exploitation; rather it was a “extra-marital relationship” where both had “fallen into sin.” Many Christian bloggers, myself included, are calling for the story to be taken down.
Thankfully, that former youth pastor is in prison and, hopefully, his victim is receiving help. But if you want to know why sexual abuse is so prevalent in the Church, or why things like rape and pedophilia can be labeled “consensual extra-marital affairs,” or why it’s so darn difficult for victims to come forward and receive justice, the misuse of “spiritual authority” is a big reason.
Walken must have heard the phrase “spiritual authority.” I know. I’ve looked this way often.
If I asked some of you to name the spiritual authority in your life, what would you say? Would you be confused that I only asked for one and give multiple answers? I ask, because the concept of “spiritual authority” is huge in the evangelical church. You can find whole books on the subject. Unfortunately, most of what they teach is wrong.
The Bible references three types of authority that humans can wield in this life: Continue reading →