part one part two
Without being unaffiliated, a church will disobey something in the Bible. The history of unaffiliated Baptist churches is essentially seeing a disobedience to scripture that can't be avoided without ceasing the affiliation. Those churches recognized the necessity to be pure for the Lord and turned unaffiliated for that purpose. Unaffiliated doesn't mean not fellowshiping. Unaffiliated Baptist churches do fellowship, but they separate from those associations that result in disobedience.
You don't see conventions or associations or boards in scripture. Those are added to scripture. They smack of something akin to Roman Catholicism or even originate from Roman Catholicism. These extra-biblical entities are often justified with a faulty view of the church. The unaffiliated churches see this and know this.
I'm promoting unaffiliated Baptist churches. Out of loving consideration and correction I write this about where I see weakness. The comment section of part one digressed to thoughts about Baptist successionism and authority. I would like to dovetail some criticism of unaffiliated churches with those topics in the comment section. Where I went with my analysis was with the dubious emphasis that causes problems for these churches. I parked on the influence of Keswick theology.
Unaffiliated Baptist churches much concern themselves with individual church authority. They are criticized for this, as if authority doesn't matter. At the same time, for their concern with authority, unaffiliated churches often get their authority wrong according to an influence of Keswick theology or just because of keswick theology, which I'll address later in this post.
It would take a series of posts to represent a biblical view of authority. Unaffiliated Baptist churches (of which ours is) don't believe a baptism is valid without proper authority -- a proper, authoritative administrator of the baptism. Only a church can baptize. They also define a church that possesses authority, a historical basis for which the concern of unaffiliated Baptist churches exists. Roman Catholicism doesn't have authority and, therefore, the churches that proceeded from them, Protestant churches, don't have it either. They would baptize someone even who had been baptized in a Protestant church, saying this was "alien immersion."
The above has led some to think that an unaffiliated type of Baptist church believes in only visible, chain-link authority back to the first church in Jerusalem. It would be to say that if you don't accept non-authoritative baptism, then you must by necessity believe in traceable, visible authority. Any break in the chain would mean the absence of authority. That's an argument against "proper administrator." If there is no horizontal authority, people can pretty much operate as free agents out there.
The goal here is to obey the Bible. The Bible can be obeyed. God didn't write a book that suffers from such contradictions that you can't trust what it says to do. The key here is to do what it says and not to extrapolate new teachings from human assumptions. Flaws will arise from conclusions that don't follow scriptural premises. The contradictions people find then often excuse them for doing what they want and how they want to do it. The "Lord leads men" to start parachurch organizations and they're justified. The "Lord leads men" to go somewhere to start a church with no sending church or appointment. The "Lord leads a man" to pastor and that should just be accepted.
Let's assume someone is baptized by a true church. His employer says to move, so he does, and when he doesn't find a good church at his new location, he feels the Lord has led him to start one. He believes the Lord is leading him to pastor there. He sees being a part of a church in the Bible, part of obedience to scripture. It starts with his family. He and his family members evangelize and he baptizes. The group grows. He decides to call it, "New City Church," after the name of the town. He trains someone else to pastor before he dies, and after he dies, that man pastors. This process occurs a few generations. Is that a true church? Evaluating based upon scriptural belief and practice, let's say that it is very good, and even way better than any other church around -- exemplary -- seeming the place to be. It's now into several generations of faithful belief and practice of scripture. Shouldn't that count for something? Why would that church need any other authority than what scripture says?
I arrive after the four generations. I'm unaffiliated. I say it's not a true church. My first hint is that it is not called Baptist. I'm suspect of a church called, "New City Church." I don't think it probably has proper authority or else it would be called a Baptist church. I ask some questions. I find the answers insufficient. Based on what they say, I tell them they are not a church, the pastor isn't a pastor, and none of them are baptized. The New City Church people call me crazy. No church can trace its authority back to Jerusalem anyway. Since no church can find a chain-link visible line of authority, no one really needs authority. I'm told that God has shown His approval of New City Church by how great they've done for several generations. That's their authority.
Church authority, if it exists, could affect a lot. Are you baptized without it? Can you pastor without it? Are you a church without it? According to an even bigger picture, do we have a perfect Bible without it?
Let's start with the following. Did Jesus appoint Himself as Head of the church? Did Jesus say, "I think I'll start a church on my own on my own authority with my own prerogative as the Son of God"? Did Jesus even self-appoint Himself to be King, the Messiah? The answer is "no" to all of those. Nobody promoted Himself into the rightful office of King. You were not King by self-promotion. That is a big deal in the Bible. The whole line of authority in scripture is very, very important.
Look at Israel. How important was being anointed as King? It was huge. Even the issue of the birthright, the appointed heir, that was important. Scripture is replete with this. It is a very, very common teaching. It is the teaching of the Bible. I could give you multiple examples. The Apostles themselves weren't self-promoted nor launched out on their own. It's actually the consistent teaching all the way through the Bible, found everywhere. Jesus traveled to John the Baptist for baptism, because John had authoritative baptism. Jesus did only what He did because that was what the Father had him to do. When men did something other than what God authorized in scripture, they were in trouble, sometimes even killed.
If someone really is scriptural, then he will see that this authority issue is a biblical teaching, not some extraneous sidebar. The lack of historical evidence, the absence of evidence, is not the evidence of absence. A believer will act in faith regarding authority. If he sees he doesn't have it, he will want it. Jesus gave the "keys of the kingdom." He said, "all power (authority) has been given me." Paul writes, "How will they hear unless they be sent?" Becoming a pastor requires the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Those with authority provide authority. It's very serious to challenge authority, a very serious aberration. Those who move outside of authority are the actual heretics of Titus 3.
If you say "Bible sole authority," you are not more biblical if you deny or avoid human authority. The Bible has taught it. The Bible has put its belief and practice under the authority of the church. Canonicity involves the church. Scripture is what the church says it is. It is because scripture says that it is because the church says it is. The church authority is scriptural. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth.
We live in a rebellious age, where people like the idea of God moving unilaterally, and this is another where I witness another iteration of Keswick. I see unaffiliated men usurp authority, how God works, an objective authority of the church, through the "Lord led me." How does God lead? He leads through authority. "God gave me this new method, and God is really using it." "God is using it;" that's the authority for it. It can't be questioned, because God gave it. God doesn't work that way.
I see contemporary Christian music in unaffiliated churches and it is acceptable in those churches. Because God has "worked" through that music and God is "working" through that music, it must be fine. Is there authority for this new measure? Why is something churches didn't approve now approved? Where is the authority for this? There isn't scriptural authority, but this is something new, authority by means of the outcome of experience.
Unaffiliated churches emphasize, it's true, the authority for baptism. What about the authority for contemporary and/or southern gospel music? Is this the historic worship of Baptist churches? The Bible was passed down, but why not, for instance, psalm singing?
I told you I was going to dovetail authority and Keswick. A man is a pastor not because of a subjective experience, but because of the agreement of men who see that he fulfills the qualifications. He has a desire, not a feeling, a desire that emerges from preaching. The desire is good. If he wants it, then objective standards can be ascertained, not some mystical call immeasurable except by a feeling, perhaps the same one the same churches experience from carnal music. They feel something they call the Holy Spirit, but the feeling arises from the flesh.