Sunday, January 29, 2006

What Happened to Biblical Authority?

"To reform the Church a sufficient authority had to be found to replace the all-embracing authority of the medieval Church. It had to be absolute and unquestioned, having its source in itself and not in the Church which had determined its precise form. It was John Wyclif who persuaded those who were willing to hear that the Bible was such an authority, and this conviction of his came to be accepted by the leaders of the Reformation in the sixteenth century." John Stacey, John Wyclif and Reform. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1964, p. 87.

Much discussion goes on these days, especially in fundamentalist circles, about the reliability of the Bibles we use and their faithfulness to the original Hebrew and Greek Texts. There is a difference in the underlying texts that are available today: one stream that has been preserved by believing men and one stream that is the product of unbelieving "scholarship." Caveat emptor.

I am convinced that the lack of authority in American evangelicalism and fundamentalism can be traced back to this issue: real doubt regarding the reliability, authenticity and infallibility of the book they hold in their hands and call God's words.

Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have been duped into accepting as legitimate "scholarship" which finds its beginning, middle and end based on humanistic rationalism. As they clamor for acceptance by the "be like all the other nations..." they cut their own throats and display an arrogance unsurpassed in modern history. They become subject to the cultures around them, as Israel in the book of Judges, at the hand of God and are oppressed by them...and they wonder why.

There must be an external, authoritative immutable point of reference which is the judge of all men and their actions, as Stacey says above, an authority not determined by the church and not subject to it. Otherwise, as has happened here in America, Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism becomes the shill for greedy, immoral American corporate leaders whose one goal seems to be the exploitation of any and all who can provide the resources for the succes of their pursuit of profit. (I watched The Constant Gardner last nite. If you really want to see what our right-wing, conservative politics produces take a look at this film.)

Corporate American exploitation and global imperialism must end. American Christianity must get a grip on reality and return to the authority which is unchangeable, is not "right-wing," does not originate in Texas, does not mouthe adherence to Biblical precept and with every act and action show itself for what it truly is: gross avarice and greed.

So why all the fuss about having a Bible which one can be sure contains the words of God? Well, we were commanded to "keep (guard and preserve) that which is committed to thy trust (deposit), avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called (pseudo-science): Which some professing have erred (deviated) concerning the faith (truthfulness of God). Grace be with thee. Amen." I Timothy 6: 20.

John Wyclliffe believed that the Church could and should be reformed so as to align again with that eternal standard which is the measure of all and the judge of all. To know what God thinks we must know what He has said...

Wycliffe...On Giving An Account

“Further, since all Christians, as the apostle teaches in 2 Cor. v. 10, must stand before Christ’s tribunal and give and account of all the gifts He bestowed upon them, it is necessary that all the faithful should know those gifts and their use, so that their answer may be plain. No answer by a prelate or attorney will then avail, but each will be required to answer for himself.”
John Wyclif, Speculum Secularium Dominorum, (as found in John Wyclif, Select English Writings, Edited by Herbert E. Winn. London: Oxford University Press, 1929, P. 6) P. 74.