Functional Authority of Scripture

Many people who identify themselves as Christ-followers claim to believe the Bible is God’s revelation of himself to us, and, in the words of a famous confession, is the only sure guide as to what God would have us believe about him and what duty he requires of us.

Yet one author has pointed out that the claimed authority of Scripture is much different than the ‘functional authority of the Bible,’ that is, whether Scripture actually governs faith and practice in the life of the church.

Judging by what people say, there is not much functional authority goin’ on out there. Some of the most revealing statements come from church leaders, such as deacons. I collect anecdotes of the things leaders say, and for a long time the winner (loser?) in this area was the following:

Anecdote #1: The deacons at a church were discussing the formation of a search committee for pastor, and worldly standards of education, prominence, and so forth had been governing which members had been suggested to serve. One deacon then stood and read the various passages of Scripture teaching that the body is made up of various parts, each one fulfilling a specific role, and suggested that the deacons look to the spiritual qualifications and giftedness of its members to determine who should comprise the search committee. There was no discussion, but another deacon stood and began his defense of the former option with, “I don’t want to disagree with the Scriptures, but…”

That example has been relegated to position number two by the following:

Anecdote #2: The pastor had expressed his objection to the proposed Christmas program, which was more “It’s a Wonderful Life” than Advent, and a deacon, obviously growing tired of the preacher’s explanations, said “Biblical, biblical, biblical. Does everything this church does have to be ‘biblical’?”

Well, one would hope so…

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