Monday, August 06, 2018

Christian Liberty and Its Relationship to Church Autonomy and Sola Scriptura

Parts One and Two

The fundamental of Christian liberty is that we are free from something unto something else, which is that we are free from bondage to sin, including the causal factors, the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are no longer citizens of this world, but heaven. Our god isn't our belly any longer. We don't mind earthly things, as someone who is building his own kingdom on this earth through his own efforts.  Our affections are set on things above -- we are free to do that. We get to do that.

Christian liberty is liberty not to sin. We don't have to sin anymore and don't even want to sin anymore. In Romans 7, Paul said, when he would do good, that is when the law of sin in members rises up against that desire.  You are worshiping and serving the Creator rather than the creature.  God didn't save you to serve the creature, yourself.  Liberty isn't being able to serve your self now; it's being able to serve God.

Hebrews 2:2 divides sin into two categories:  transgression and disobedience.  Those are the categories of sins of commission, doing what you aren't supposed to do, and disobedience, not doing what you are supposed to do.  Sin isn't just not doing wrong.  It is also not doing right.  Liberty isn't getting to do what you want, but doing what God wants, what pleases Him, which is of the highest value.  Your life takes on greater value, eternal value, versus the bondage to temporal things, which waste your life.

All of what I said above is what Christian liberty is about, that is, finding out what God said and doing it, because you can do it now that you've been set free to do so.  This lines up with the great sections on Christian liberty by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11:1 and Romans 14.  It also fits into what we read about in Galatians 3-6.  Your liberty serves others, not yourself.  As his prime example of this in Galatians, Paul says it is restoring someone taken in a fault (6:1).  That requires confronting someone for doing something wrong.

Liberty is contrasted in the New Testament with license. Liberty isn't license. License is permission and some today confuse it with liberty.  They think and then say that you are restricting their liberties in a kind of legalistic fashion, because you are not giving them license.  They want to do something that they don't have liberty to do, and when you say, no, they say that you are teaching some type of salvation by works.  They are depending on grace, which is why, they might explain, you can't bring that restriction.  By doing so, they feign that you are an opponent of the grace of God.  This is an abuse of God's grace, turning it into a garbage can into which pours their own lust.


Alright.  Think about what I've written so far, but I want to relate Christian liberty to church autonomy.  We don't have liberty to disobey scripture, even if our church takes an unscriptural position.  The Bible is the final authority.  Church is about the Bible and not vice versa.  Church isn't an excuse for being unscriptural.  Quite a few independent or even unaffiliated Baptist churches seem to treat scripture as if it has a major purpose of protecting church authority, sort of putting the cart ahead of the horse.

In Acts 15, correction of the Jersualem church came from Antioch.  You see this at the beginning of Galatians when Paul came in to correct Peter.  I've heard something to the effect, "You can't talk to me about that, because I'm not part of your church, so it's none of your business."  Because of the nature of the media and social networking, churches have more effect on each other than ever.  One church can harm another church, because of the connection between members, and it is rampant.  What one church is "allowed to do," which isn't in fact a Christian liberty, can affect another church, when one of its members is influenced by the membership of another church.  Very often, it spreads through family members who are in various other churches.

Church members are going to go outside of their church for teaching and materials.  They will watch or listen to podcasts.  Most of the time today, they're going to get a bad influence from outside of the church.  As a pastor, I don't want my church to get a bad influence from outside of the church.  It happens.  They can hear almost anything that disagrees with what our church teaches.  A church member doesn't have liberty to listen to or watch harmful materials.  Autonomy of a church is justified here, because it protects someone from unscriptural belief and practice.

In a less significant way today, one church could affect another church in a stronger way or in a biblical way.  Someone is sinning.  He doesn't have liberty to sin.  He needs to change.  He reads that in a blog or receives that influence from another family member on social networking.  Maybe he believes it or receives it and it clashes with the teaching of his church, so that now he puts his own pastor on the radar.  The pastor of his own church is being judged by this teaching that he hasn't taught.

Let me give you an example.  Our church sings psalms.  We use the versification of a psalter.  It isn't the King James translation that we're singing to God.  By the way, that would make me not KJVO, even though I take credit for being KJVO.  It's obvious that technically I'm not.  I think that the versification we sing of the Hebrew Masoretic text is scripture.  However, it's hard to sing psalms if you haven't done it.  It's not like riding a bike.  You have to acquire the ability through some labor, because you believe in it.  Lots of churches won't want it, sometimes because they want those 7-11 songs, the same seven verses sung eleven times.  They'll want to stick with something else that people like and is easier for them to do.

So the church member of the psalm singing church through social networking affects the member of a non-psalm-singing church.  He quotes Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19.  The influence leads the member to pressure his pastor toward psalm singing.  The pastor doesn't want to sing psalms for whatever reason.  This seems to trouble a church.  The church can do what it wants to do because it is autonomous.  It isn't required to do what some other church is doing.  It has liberty not to sing psalms based upon its own autonomy.  Or does it?  Autonomy is not for disobeying scripture.  Finding out something you are not doing, that you could and should be doing, is not trouble for you.  That's a good thing happening to a church, to find out how to be more scriptural.  Autonomy is for protecting a church against unscriptural practices not scriptural ones.

Autonomy doesn't guide Christian liberty.  The Bible does.  We are all under the same truth and the same authority.  Churches are not allowed to function in a different way just because they want their own way, that they call autonomy.  If someone can prove something from scripture, the answer to the argument isn't church autonomy.  Churches are not to protect themselves from biblical practice.  Professing Christians shouldn't join a church or even stay for the cover it gives them for their sin or lust.


I ended the last post with the biblical and historical teaching of sola scriptura.  Scripture itself does not denude a church or individual Christian from the influence of the church past and present.  Scripture doesn't start teaching something different after centuries.  The displacement of the church from its agreement with the past teachings of the church is differentiated from sola scriptura with the terminology, nuda scriptura.  The same Holy Spirit who guided the church four hundred years ago and two hundred years ago is the same Holy Spirit today.  Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit considers the unity with the church five hundred years ago in its application of scripture.  Divorce from former teaching is divorce from reliance on scripture.  That is not sola scriptura, but nuda scriptura.

Sometimes you'll hear of the "heresy" of a particular false religion.  Heresy is division.  I see in scripture two types of heresy.  There is the factiousness in a church, dividing from the unity of a church and the leadership of its pastor.  This is the heresy of Titus 3:9-11.  However, it is heresy to divide from historic, established, orthodox teaching and practice.  The new teaching that differs from biblical belief and behavior is the heretical teaching.  The Bible teaches this.  This is one of the aspects of Paul's teaching, walking disorderly against the traditions that you received.  These are not the traditions of men, but the means by which God delivers His one faith or doctrine to you.  You don't have liberty to veer off already established teachings, unless you can show how that those people had been wrong all those centuries.

A human tradition is one originated outside of scripture, like infant sprinkling or transubstantiation.  You can see when those entered into the belief and practice of churches.  They didn't start with the Bible.  Something that has been believed and practiced from the Bible isn't a human tradition, but it is a tradition nonetheless, like the ones that the Thessalonian churches received from Paul.  We don't have liberty to disobey those traditions.  They are part of sola scriptura, because teachings of scripture cannot be nor should be extricated from the context of the church, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Sola scriptura does not rightly justify dropping the rightful applications of the bible by the church for centuries.  Immodesty then was immodesty now.  Forbidden gender indistinction then should be the same now.  Skirts or dresses on women then should be skirts or dresses on women now.  Scripture is being either transgressed or disobeyed because it isn't being applied like it has been for all of church history.  This is a violation of Christian liberty.

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