Skip to comments.Issue of Authority
Posted on 10/09/2005 6:14:37 PM PDT by sionnsar
The issue of authority is certainly one that the entire Christian world needs to re-visit. These days many people believe it is a valid reason to claim God told me so, or I felt God leading me to for whatever actions they understake. My roomate, who has been pursuing a girl, was recently told by the girls parents that God did not confirm to them that he was the one for her to marry and they not only forbid him to date her, but to even talk with her ever again. This was after meeting him one time. Instead of giving reasons, that was their excuse. Now in their defense, they probably do have a crypto-charismatic belief system that they are working from, which probably explains why they hate organized religion. A shabby defense though, huh?
This issue of authority comes up every time Protestants and Catholics discuss their differences, also. Just reading All Too Common for the past couple of weeks will reveal Protestant Type-A disagreeing both with Catholics, and with Protestants Type-B and Type-C. Aaron Adams is planning on making another attempt at defending Baptismal Memorialism against what I had written
to him a while back. Do you think he will appeal to what the Bible clearly says about this and how I am not in line with the it? You betcha! Do you think he will reject the authority of those who have gone before us and, as G.K. Chesterton said, giv[e] votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors[?] Do you think Adams believes that tradition is the democracy of the dead[?]; that [t]radition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about[?] Sadly, he hardly comes even close.
Canon John Heidt, whom I first came into contact with at the ordination of Fr. Lee Nelson (and who preached this amazing sermon), discusses this issue of authority, I think, very succinctly. He posted it on his new blog a while back, which is well worth your time. In fact, just go read his blog; unlike this lowly blogger, Dr. Heidt is full of wisdom and experience.
In his writing on the issue of authority, Heidt uses the current debates in the Anglican Communion to demonstrate his point:
What some of us have been saying for years has now been placed in the public domain by no less a person than Archbishop Roberts Eames, At Virginia Seminary he has finally asked if issues of authority are dividing us rather than issues of sexuality. Not just authority in terms of the authority or interpretation of Holy Scripture, but authority to be in communion among diverse and autonomous Provinces There are, he continues, parameters to divergence in scriptural interpretation, there are boundaries to ecclesiological autonomy and there are limitations to what a world family of vague technical relationship can endure and still remain a cohesive entity. Therefore, he concludes, in times of crisis an appeal to bonds of affection is just not good enough, noting not only the benefits but also the dangers of bonds of affection alone. Then comes the crucial question: Are there essentials on which there must be universal acceptance if Provinces are to be in complete communion? and Who decides into which category [essential or non-essential] any action by an individual Church should fall? (Canon Heidt, A Question of Authority)
Following that paragraph, Heidt gets more to the point. This is the underlying issue or difference between Anglicans fighting amongst themselves and between Protestant and Catholic theology:
The source of Anglican authority must lie beyond the confines of Anglicanism if we are to survive as an authentic Christian communion of churches. Only two options are open to us. Either we embrace ARCICs report: The Gift of Authority and move on from there, or else we revert to an individualistic form of Protestantism in which the ultimate source of authority resides in the individual. If we take the former course we shall move further into communion with the whole Catholic Church East and West. But if the latter, what remains of our present bonds of affection will degenerate into an uneasy toleration of unacceptable opinions and a pluriformity of contradictory dogmas a juridical communion with no-one holding universal jurisdiction, a mission with no message to proclaim. (Canon Heidt, A Question of Authority)
To all dissenters of Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, I can only ask you what Canon Heidt asks you:
What think you of Christ, whose son is He? Is He the filial revelation of a transcendent God known to us through scripture, interpreted by tradition, and understood through enlightened reason, or is He merely the outward sign of subjective feelings and desires known through private experience and proclaimed by political confrontation? (Canon Heidt, A Question of Authority)
Deo Soli Gloria
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