One of the central topics in my novel is the issue of church authority. When a pastor stands before a congregation claiming to be teaching the truth of God’s word, on what authority does he stand? Did God truly place him in that position or did he place himself in that position? Is the validity of his authority based on the consent of his followers or has it been bestowed upon him from On High? In other words, is his authority given by God or created by man? And how do we know?
I do not generally have a problem with authority. I am not a rebel. If I am asked by my boss to perform a task that I am not particularly fond of, I will do it so long as it is not illegal or immoral. I respect his authority because it was bestowed upon him by the president of our company. The president signs my paychecks and has the power to fire and hire at will. Likewise, I respect the authority of law enforcement in this country even thought I may not appreciate being pulled over and cited for speeding. The authority to enforce the law is given to police officers by the police chief who is usually appointed by the mayor. The mayor is elected by the people or by the city council. The chain of authority is clear.
But that chain of authority is often not so clear in the church world, especially amongst non-denominational evangelicals. If a man or woman steps up behind a pulpit and speaks to us authoritatively on matters of theology, why do we automatically accept this authority? Is it because we like what we hear? Or do we validate the authority because the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible jives with our own understanding? But who are we to even make that judgement? Why is our interpretation of the Bible any better than the person sitting next to us on the pew? And if we disagree with an aspect of the pastor’s views, do we have a right to question him? Or do we have to accept what he says because we have already consented to his authority?
Thus, I argue in my book that the question of authority is a slippery one in many churches; it cannot be pinned down or defined with any certainty. The claim of authority can be made and it can be accepted but this does not mean that it is valid.
In my upcoming book, Pastor Tom not only uses his authority to preach from the pulpit, but he also uses it to tell his followers how they should live their lives. Because his followers believe in his authority, they unquestionably obey him.
Your comments are welcome below. Let’s keep it civil!