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Do evangelicals need a Pope?

January 30, 2014

It all started when Candace Cameron Bure gave an interview explaining why she chose to submit to her husband in her marriage.  She was speaking very personally, about her own marriage, and did a fair job of explaining her reasons.  She did, however, call her choice biblical and I went “uh-oh” when I heard those words.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before people started to get upset with her and to express contrary opinions.  Sarah Bessy wrote a rebuttal of sorts on her blog.  Her analysis, which matched Cameron Bure’s for graciousness, was a more general dissent focused on the concept of what is a biblical marriage.  But I was pretty sure that graciousness would not last in the dispute.

It didn’t.  Next up was Denny Burk and his forceful rebuttal to Bessy’s rebuttal.  In it he accused Bessy of “unblushing error”, of a “stark denial of the straightforward teaching of scripture” and, my favorite, a “waving of the hermeneutical wand.”  In doing this Burk demonstrated that characteristic that others find so charming in evangelicals; the calling of anyone who disagrees with us either stupid or “unblushing” liars.

Of course it didn’t stop there either.  Rebuttals to the rebuttal to the other rebuttal are out there.  You can find several if you want but I am only going to link to one of them.  In addition, over on Denny’s blog there is a rip roaring debate in the commentary section that is still going on as well.

I must admit it almost makes me a little envious of Catholics.  They have Pope Francis, who everyone likes, and, while he doesn’t seem prone to using it much, carries the ultimate epistemological gun, the right to speak for God and declare everyone else wrong.  His followers have no choice but to agree or get out of town.

We evangelicals have no such final word-giver.  Instead, we confidently proclaim the priesthood of all believers and our steadfast assurance that there is only one “plain meaning of scripture” and we all have an obligation to know it.  Usually we insist that it is not that hard to know it and that anyone who wants to can find it.

Yet somehow that “plain meaning” seems so elusive.  Maybe that elusive quality, coupled with our belief that it shouldn’t exist, is what makes Burk and other evangelicals so testy when people disagree with them.  They see no solution to the problem other than declaring anyone who reads Scripture differently than they do to be someone outside the family.

Ah, but if we only had a pope.  Never mind that we’ve been railing against the idea of a pope for centuries, it would really come in handy to have one.  I’ve seen people called the “Baptist Pope.”  W.A.Criswell was given that honorary title several years ago.  Of late, Al Mohler has been called that.  Sadly, it seems that neither man was ready to accept the title.  Of course, if they had it wouldn’t have solved the problem; there are too many non-Baptist evangelicals out there.

OK, so we have to go popeless.  I guess that means that these arguments will go on.  If they must, perhaps we can agree on some ground rules.  Here is the one I propose:

Admit that everyone who is a Christian is trying to faithfully follow what they understand the Bible to teach.  There is no need to use prejudicial or harsh language such as “unblushing error” in talking of the views of others.  If we truly believe that our view of scripture is right, let’s trust that it can speak for itself and seek to persuade with grace, not turn disagreeing with us into some sort of moral crime.


From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. You can find good ground rules in scripture … although perhaps even those verses will cause controversy. I like Romans 16:17.

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