As a young minister I was part of a tradition where every minister spoke at the New Year’s Eve service. Each of us was given a grand three minutes to rightly divide and deliver that word of God. This was probably more entertaining than educationally meaningful, I suppose. One of the highlights of the evening was the dreaded bell. One of the mothers of the church, a real stickler for order, had taken to timing each preacher and when his time was up, she would ring the bell.
As a student in a Roman Catholic school I grew accustomed to another use for the bell. Every hour on the hour the bell would ring and thus proclaim that a new hour had begun.
Here I would like to propose yet another new use for the bell. I wish that each church could have a bell that rang every time a preacher lied on God. In other words, I wish there was an error alarm that went off every time a preacher said or signed God’s name to something He didn’t say, or didn’t say to that audience. I think we could give the bell choirs a run for their money.
Here’s the major problem. Pastors and preachers alike, over the course of time purport that when they speak, (from the pulpit), they are speaking for God. I mean, directly for God not merely about God. They are, after all, the man of God, the Voice of God, and some even go further and title themselves the Prophet or Apostle of God. This neat and lofty titling system comes with some things many would like you to assume.
Assume that when the preacher speaks, from the sacred desk, as some like to call it, that it is infallible. Yes, I know that’s a strong word. I think it fits well since we are addressing a strong attitude.
Assume, of course, since the preacher’s words are infallible and all, that the sermon or story was systematic, that is to say a summation of all that the bible has to say on the matter. Unless of course, while in their study time God tells them to tell you, (all of you who ever listen to the sermon), X Y and Z.
Assume that asking questions or downright challenging the truthfulness of these authoritative statements is a gross violation of proper Christian ethic, if not the unforgivable and ex-communicable sin of disloyalty.
WE’VE DANCED THIS DANCE BEFORE
What makes me tremble is the fact that we’ve seen this before. As a matter of fact, the reason that we are not all members of the Church of Rome is exactly because one man in particular, Martin Luther, stood up to the church and said ‘not so’.
The Church of Rome held, and still does today, that when the Pope and the Bishops, or the Pope alone, speaks from the “chair” it is infallible, authoritative, and complete. The problem then is the problem today. That position officially called Sola Ecclesia makes the church leader or leaders’ words equal in authority to the word of God. They become the final authority in all matters of faith and practice since the preacher/pastor/bishop must define and interpret Scripture.
On more than one occasion I have sat down with friends and discussed biblical matters. Their pastors’ opinions presented as sermons might be clearly in opposition to what was supported by scripture. Scripture after scripture, we would go over the issue. They may even concede that, in fact, the bible is clear on the matter and clearly is not saying what the preacher said. Then comes today’s watered down rendering of the Sola Ecclesia position. “But my pastor said…”
What’s not stated in that response is the determination that one’s pastor has more authority than the word of God.
In contrast, here are the words of Luther:
“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.“
It makes we wanna scream!
Acts 17:11 NIV Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true
Anybody remember the third commandment? Do not use the Name of the Lord in vain. No, it does not mean saying God’s name for no apparent reason or in very appalling places. It means, don’t forge God’s signature on your opinion and preach it as his word!
The sad reality is that some preachers are getting more and more comfortable lying on God and people are getting more and more comfortable silencing and unplugging the alarm-bells.
What do you do when you hear opinion preached as prophecy, or bias as biblical fact?
When is the right time to address error, and how much error should you ignore?
At your church, is the Bible or your Pastor the final authority in practice?
Are you at a church where thinking and reasoning of your own is shunned like the devil and demons?
I’d love your feedback here, if you are allowed to share your reasonable opinion.