Skip to comments.The Problem of Obedience
Posted on 04/26/2006 6:12:04 PM PDT by sionnsar
The sight of bishops demanding blind obedience (PDF) to secondary ordination oaths (secondary, that is, to the priests primary oath which is to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ) and absolute loyalty to ecclesial canons from their priests on the one hand while blithely severing communion with rest of Christendom and rejecting the Word of God along with their oath of obedience to Christ on the other would be comic if it were not tragic.
Bishops who by the their life and teaching ought to be living icons or symbols of the presence of Christ in his Church have, in many diocese, become tyrants, men who see little or no difference between their own will and the will of God and who identify their own councils and conventions as vehicles of divine revelation over and against Christendom as a whole and the revealed Word of God in particular.
These men, these bishops, reduce their office, bringing low what ought to be held in high esteem and reverence by all faithful people. The apostolic office intended and given by God to be a blessing and encouragement to the faithful, a teaching office and a bulwark against heresy has been twisted and defiled by those who use it as a means to amass institutional power and remake the Church in their image.
What a travesty. What a disaster for the Church.
And because these realities have been so very present over the last few weeks, Ive been meditating lately on obedience.
It has generally been stated and accurately so that obedience is owed to religious/secular authority up and until the point where such obedience constitutes disobedience to God (Acts 4).
But the bar for determining when or under what conditions human authorities ought to be disobeyed is high.
I think it fairly well established that the desecration of a good office by tyranny, corruption, and abuse is not necessarily reason enough to disobey the one who occupies it.
When Paul wrote of the obedience owed by believers to governing authorities in Romans 13, he was writing from within an inherently corruptible, violent, and unjust system of the sort western moderns have rarely if ever experienced. And yet, even from within such a system, Paul exhorts us to obey.
So where is the bar? At what point does obedience to human authority (religious or otherwise) become disobedience to God? Its not always, rarely in fact, very clear.
For me, in keeping I hope with classical Christian thought, the issue has come down to one of communion and participation.
When a branch of the Church willfully, unrepentantly and consistently promotes false teaching and openly resists and rejects attempts at community/communion discipline, then continued, unbroken obedience to that branch on any level constitutes participation in open rebellion not only against the Church but also against God.
At that point, when an entire body has apostatized itself, some form of public disassociation and, depending on the circumstances, disobedience becomes not just a possibility, but it becomes an obligation.
For me, this point will come when and if the Episcopal Church rejects the Windsor requests either by obfuscation or half-measure.
This will, to my mind, signal the end of the spiritual/institutional authority of ECUSA bishops as bishops of the Church Christ established.
What then? How will remaining loyal to Christ look on the ground?
I dont know.
Passive resistance? Civil disobedience? Institutional disassociation?
I dont know.
What about property? Can rectors in good conscience allow it to be stolen from their flocks without a fight?
Im not so sure we can.
To share some of my more selfish concerns, I feel a great deal of turmoil in my heart as I contemplate the future. Sometimes I literally feel sick.
Im no prophet, but I know something very ugly is coming. Im not altogether sure what will happen or what Ill do, but Im trying, best I can, to establish/find some biblical principles that will help sort through it when it comes.
The most important of these principles, I know, is loyalty to Christ. As uncertain and clouded as the future may be I pray that I will nnot falter when it comes to this most central duty.
What awful times.
The writer of Hebrews said that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Paul wrote that whatever is not of faith is sin. So, it appears that under the New Testament, faith is obedience, and obedience is faith.
Strong language, but seems an accurate description of the whole "Holy Spirit is doing a new thing" mentality that has gripped the ECUSA leadership.
The Episcopal Church has become Gnostic, it would seem.
If you mean that real faith is obedient faith, I totally agree with you.
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