The Principle of Authority

Find out the principle of authority for a group and you’ve found out what is at the rock-bottom of their belief system. In truth, denominations tolerate a wide range of beliefs as long as what you believe doesn’t compromise their principle of authority.

Take the Catholic church. None of even their far out theologians like Hans Kuhn are ever disciplined, but just let one of them question the authority of the Pope. Bam! He is disciplined sharply, swiftly. The Catholic church as it is currently configured stands or falls with the papacy.

What’s the principle of authority among the Reformed? Reason. God at rock bottom does all things reasonably. You can deny a lot of things among the Reformed, but they won’t allow you to deny that what God does must make sense.

How about the Pentecostal? What is his principle of authority? That the Holy Spirit comes to him directly. You deny that and you’re out of the Pentecostal church.

So what about us Lutheran Church Missourians? We like to think our principle of authority is the Word of God, but is it? You can deny that the Word of God teaches: closed Communion, not to pray with pagans, women aren’t to rule over men, and only wine is to be used in the Lord’s Supper, and you won’t be disciplined in Missouri.

You can deny clear teachings of the Word of God, and nothing happens, so it doesn’t seem to me that God’s Word is our principle of authority. I think democracy is, majority rule is. You can deny a lot of things in the LCMS but you can’t deny the truth of the Trident commercials: 4 out of 5 dentists can’t be wrong.

If the majority of the convention approved Albaze!, you’d better agree. If the majority of the CTCR approves of serial prayer, it must be okay. If the majority of the Commission on Constitutional Matters rules one way, the matter is settled.

Majority rule, achieved by the sacrament of voting, is our law of the Medes and the Persians. It can’t be gainsaid let alone rejected even if the emperor or a synodical president or program has no clothes. Of course he or it does, the majority say so.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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