Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Anti-Authoritarianism in the Church

If your head is not in the sand, then you probably know that the culture at large is in rebellion against authority. We of the postmodern era distrust authority in all its forms. We don't trust the government, we don't trust written texts, we don't trust the author's original intent, we don't trust the police, we ignore basic rules and regulations of society, we don't vote, we are cynical toward those who are in leadership roles, and the list goes on. We, in the words of a video game company, "question everything."

As Christians, we should recognize this fundamental attitude not only in society but in ourselves. It's very easy for us to shake a finger at a disobedient world. It's not so easy to point that finger at ourselves. Yet if we look deeply enough, we'll see that we are not, as we might think, isolated from the sins of our generation. Most of us have actually imbibed a fair amount of prevailing generational thought, though we don't realize it. So think for a moment: how do you naturally distrust and dislike authority? How do you express these tendencies? If you look deeply enough, I'm guessing you'll find some native rebellion in your heart, rebellion that exists for no good reason--but that exists nonetheless.

To apply this to the church (which I'll do in subsequent posts), I can clearly see how my generation is anti-authority. We were raised amidst rancor for tradition and clamor that Christianity is about relationship, not religion. There are seeds of truth in both of these statements, to be sure. There are also seeds of anti-authoritarianism. I don't think most of us know that. We just go our merry way and think that church should be structured as best we see fit and that church is for us--not that we are for the church. This tendency has splashed itself all over Christianity in this age. I recall being quite befuddled when a fellow college student suggested to my men's small group that we not have a leader, because leaders dominate things and repress others. I didn't understand then as I do now the roots of such a statement, but I did know that such a notion was ridiculous. Now, I understand that it also shows a heart allergic to authority, one unable to submit itself to a leader. This is a huge problem, because our fundamental need in life is to submit ourselves to God.

Sadly, my generation thinks it is doing so if it is honest with God. Because we've made ourselves and our desires the center of our world, we don't think it's most important to obey God's authority. We think it's most important to obey our own intangible wills and worship God as we see fit. Strangely, we pat ourselves on the back for such action, because we're being authentic, and being authentic, instead of being obedient, is the cardinal principle for us. We don't realize that the back we pat is turning itself away from authority--and perhaps, away from God.


Blogger Dad said...

Interesting, and hopefully, an edifying post, at least so far.

I have had some experience with people (churches) following a vision, and well, if the Word gets in the way, to bad.

Jed comments were also right to the point. While every believer is a priest not every believer is gifted with discernment, is a pastor/teacher, etc. And indeed, the idea of each of us being a priest has been a factor leading to a sense of equality with absolute disregard of the gifts.

Romans 12:3-6 (ESV) 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: . . .

I like the way Paul starts his comments . . . by the grace given to me - not "I am so and so, standing on equal footing with everyone else. God had given Paul grace to be an apostle. He wase exercising his gift.

In 1 Cor. Paul is addressing this same issue, from a several angles I think, may I suggest that 11:29 is particularly important to this issue. (Context is each eating his own meal with disregard to needs of others in the body.)

Al (not Owen's Dad, and not that "Al".)

9:46 AM  

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