There is an interesting synergy going on in my spiritual life, but then isn’t that what we expect if we try to be open to God in our lives, to see his providence at work? In the sermon yesterday morning, on Paul’s interaction with the Thessalonians and Bereans in Acts 17, my friend Martin Eppard discussed the problem of how to deal with the plethora of “Christian” preachers and teachers our media age makes accessible, some of whom are outright charlatans. Then this morning while doing some browsing I ran across a post by Dr. Mike at Eternal Perspectives where he deals with his concerns about people in the Christian blogoshere (Blogdom of God) speaking authoritatively on areas they know very little (see The PoMo Undercurrent in the Blogdom of God).
On one hand, Martin was concerned about how easily some Christians accept something when it is clergy, ministry leader, or priest who says it coupled with how little discernment is exercised by all of us at times. Martin argued for the necessity of being Bereans in our approach to what we see and hear as Christians.
On the other hand, Dr. Mike was concerned about those with little expertise in a given area speaking out authoritatively with what he sees as facile answers to complicated problems. His specific example cited pornography and questioned the apparent simplistic approach given to the problem. In a way, both of these concerns are linked to how we view authority and who and what we trust to speak to us on a spiritual level.
I told Martin after the service that in getting my security clearance, one of the watchwords was “trust and verify”. Sources are no good if you don’t trust them, but having said that you must verify everything. Without a certain degree of trust we would not listen to anything and it would be difficult for God to pierce the shell of our existence, since it seems to be a biblical constant that God uses our brothers and sisters in the faith to help challenge and change us. You could use Peter and Paul as an example of the wisdom of Proverbs being demonstrated showing how God uses one person to deal with another.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:11-14
But having said we should evidence some trust, we also need to verify the veracity of what we hear and read. The Bereans are our example and anyone who cant accept honest questions of what they say, well then how can they expect to engender trust.
That said, the concerns raised by Martin and Dr. Mike are not easy issues and they go to the heart of how we live out our faith. Dr. Mike’s concern is even broader than Martin ‘s because while Martin was talking most about television and radio personalities, Dr. Mike is addresses the Christian blogosphere, a place where any Christian can hang up a shingle (website) and start speaking (blogging) on any subject of interest to them. This ability to easily publish whatever is on ones mind raises important questions about authority in the body of Christ. When does someone step beyond being a friend in the pew (or blog that you read) and move into the role of teacher? Or when does the mantle of authority descend on a person writing a blog and who bestows it? On one hand we have the historic biblical tradition of God calling out his speakers of the truth who are often at odds with the current religious establishment (pick your Old Testament prophet) and Paul’s call to the Church of Jesus Christ to do everything in decency and in order, with recognized authorities, including deacons, presbyters, and episcopes (bishops). Sometimes the gifts and the calling match the official offices and sometimes they do not. One of the problems that both Martin Luther and Calvin had, for example, was their lack of standing to make the demands that they made on the Church. Why were they to be listened to? Indeed.
So, what council I can give and what guides me to the best of my ability is to be as Berean as possible, to trust and verify everything I can, while at the same time trying never to throw the baby out with the bath water (clichés exist because they speak repeated truth). Let me say that there is error in everyone, so I cannot accept anything in toto. However, even wormwoods often have something to teach us, but we must be on guard for deceptive arguments at all times. If God wasn’t concerned about us dealing with deception then why else put the arguments between Job and his counselors or Jesus and Satan in the Scriptures. They are there to help us to see through the trickery.
In closing I would suggest that you never take a word I say as “gospel” and that you question everything, holding fast to what is good and rejecting the rest. We all see through a mirror darkly, but whatever we do see, we must trust and verify, always asking for the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth.
Have a blessed day. I am off to work on Moses. Please remember me in your prayers and if so inclined, remember Joy Doddigarla also.
I would like to underscore and clarify something you mentioned that I did not emphasize in my own post on the subject.
There is a difference between standing and authority. Luther did not have the standing to effect the change he desired, but he had the authority to do so. He was a priest, after all, and had some training. Most importantly, however, he had the backing of the Bible: those who “went Berean” on Luther found that he was correct (mostly). That is where true authority comes from and that is why, as you commented, we have to search the Scriptures for ourselves to see if these things be so.
Synergy is an incredible, awesome thing and has been happening to me this week too. Sunday, I wrote out some thoughts (not blogged) about the hefty impurities within some churches…I don’t mean the insignificant errors. Sure enough, I check out the Carnival and find Joe Missionary’s thoughts on accountability in the blogosphere and his reference to Tim Challies (sorry i am inept at linking here) on the subject. Ironically, your thoughts here fit right in! Yep, God’s at work! In the end, which i think is this last comment, I see more accountability in blogging than ever seen in the institutional church, which is nil. There’s very little checking of blogs, I guess, but atleast we’re talking. We can all do each other a favor by rebuking and correcting, with grace and the double-edged sword of God’s Word. I suppose I’ll get around to blogging what I wrote, eventually. God is Good.