Monday, 18 October 2010

Church of obedience as opposed to a Church that is self-governed

Sphere: Related Content ‘The decision in favour of a Church of obedience as opposed to a Church that is self-governed is necessarily and unavoidably imposed upon us by the fact that the Christian Church cannot reflect on its own being, or live by it, without seeing itself confronted by the Lord, who is present to it as its real Lord, with a real authority which transcends its own authority. Its Lord is Jesus Christ. He has called it into life and He maintains it in life. In Him it believes. Him it proclaims. To Him it prays.’ K. Barth, Church Dogmatics, I/2, 576.

This statement by K. Barth is outstanding especially in this age where there are lots of re-definitions. In the church today, we see lordship as if it rests intrinsically in a certain person and has no reference to Jesus Christ who indeed is the Lord of the church. Members are taught not to ask questions concerning how the exercise of the so called ‘lordship’ conforms to both the Word of God as they know it and the character of the church’s Lord as they understand it.

When a church is self-governed without reference to the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the Lord of the church, it operates just like every other secular institution in the world applying worldly principles. In the eighteenth century, Hooker talked about the authority with tree-legged stool of scripture, tradition and reason. This is a very unfortunate postulation which some liberal theologians hold very dear to heart because it helps them to question every thing the scripture says and tend to conclude that scriptures have no absolutes. In the first place, it is a misplacement to hold the scripture at the same authority level with the traditions set by men and the reasons generated by the fallen man. Being saved does not change the fact that we are fallen creatures with all kinds of limitations. It is only when we leave this world and enter into His perfection that we can truly be free from the fallen and fallible nature we inherited from the Fall. The place of the authority of the scriptures must be at the apex of the authority hierarchy. All other authority must draw from it. In contrast, a self-governed church tend to elevate tradition (as defined by them), and reason above the authority of the scripture.

A church of obedience is ‘constrained’ by the instructions in the word of God. Its liberty is within the bounds of the scriptures. The bible becomes the final authority for faith and practice. Hence, its behaviour is weighed by the scale of what the bible says. If Jesus is Lord at all, then His authority must be absolute and His words unquestionable. As obedient followers, we are only to obey. No man in the church of obedience has absolute powers no matter his/her designation.

Finally, let me mention that the bible is not a ‘secret book’ which you must have some ranks in church before you understand it. Just as Cranmer laid out in one of the homilies, no man can fall into error if he/she approaches the bible prayerfully and with all humility so as to understand it and know what his Lord wants him to do. No wonder the recommendations that the bible be read in churches whereby people just listen to what the Holy Spirit says to them. The picture being painted today as if members of the church need ‘intermediaries’ between them and God in order to know the mind of God is alien to what we see in scriptures. The Borean Christians are a good example of people who went home and searched the scriptures to make sure what Paul was preaching to them agreed with it. Paul instead of rebuking, commended them. They did this without any ‘intermediary’. There is room for teachers but every redeemed child of God has access to what God is saying in the scripture and is supposed to order his/her life accordingly.

When we all place the authority of the scriptures above all and strive to know what the Lord of the church is saying both individually and collectively, we can set out to obey Him and order our lives according to His instructions instead of governing ourselves by our own means. Like K. Barth concludes, Its (The church’s) Lord is Jesus Christ. He has called it into life and He maintains it in life. In Him it believes. Him it proclaims. To Him it prays”
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