Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 11, 1983
NUMBER 38, PAGE 3,11

Authority In Religion - (No. I)

Asa M. Plyler

Religion is a system of "re-binding" man back to God. Sin came into the garden of Eden and caused a separation between man and God. "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear " (Isa. 59:2) In that separated and sinful state man is lost and doomed to eternal destruction. Only by becoming reunited with God may he have God's protection and promises.

In the history of the race God has inaugurated three different systems of religion. The first was the patriarchal, which lasted from Adam to Moses; the second was the Mosaical, which lasted from Moses till the giving of the New Covenant; the third began on the first pentecost after the resurrection of Christ and will last till time shall be no more.

Under no system of religion, nor in any age of the world, has God ever left the law or covenant for man's redemption up to the discretion or stipulation of man — the sinner. It was man who separated himself from God and caused God's face to be hidden; and it is man who must accept God's plan for coming back and being "re-bound" to God. In this current age of the world there are three classes of religious people, all of which claim Christ as their King, and all of which seek Heaven as their eternal home. These three doctrines, each claiming to have divine sanction, can be no honor either to God nor credit to the integrity of man. Three differing and contradictory doctrines can no more rightfully come from one divine book than three kinds of water can flow from the same fountain head. Let us evaluate these three systems, and look into the source of authority which each claims for the propagation of its doctrine and for the whole structure of its existence.

The first that we consider are the Catholics, commonly called Roman Catholics. Of course no such name is found anywhere in the book divine. Hence, we could hardly expect them to claim the Bible as their source of authority and guidance. Catholics do not claim that their church is an outgrowth of Bible teaching or preaching. On the contrary, they claim that the Catholic Church is older than the Bible and the Bible is a product of their church. It is, therefore, useless to appeal to a Catholic on the basis of Bible teaching. The Bible is not his source of authority. You must depend on something else if you hope to get him to listen to you.

What then is the source of authority for a devout Catholic? The answer is very simple. This man will accept nothing as final authority except that which is decreed by the Pope. When the Pope with his Cardinals and other church dignitaries decide a matter, and issue a proclamation on it, then and only then do you have an authority which the devout Catholic will recognize.

The second class of religious people we notice are the Protestants. In this class belong most of the well known denominations of the land. Originally given to certain German) princes who had "protested" against an unfair and unequal ruling by the Diet at Spires in 1529, the name came to be applied to all those who "protested" against the doctrines and teachings of the Catholic Church. What does the Protestant claim as his source of authority? Does he accept the Bible, or does he, like the Catholic, openly repudiate and reject the Bible as final authority? We find here a fundamental difference. The Protestant does indeed claim to accept the Bible as authority. He is radically different from the Catholic in this respect. Hence, you may appeal to a Protestant on the basis of what the Bible has to say.

But, once again, we find ourselves facing a difficulty. For the Protestant has a second source of authority, apart from and in addition to the Bible — his conscience When you talk with a Protestant, if he finds what the Bible has to say is in harmony with his "conscience," then he accepts the Bible but if there is a disagreement between what the Bible says and what his "conscience" tells him, then he accepts his conscience rather than the Bible. If the Bible, for example, tells him that a man must be baptized in order to be saved, and his "conscience" tells him that God will save a good man without regard to baptism, then he will take his conscience over the Bible.

There is still a third class of people, however, who consider themselves as neither Catholics nor Protestants. They count themselves as Christians and Christians only. The very names of the three great groups are indicative of their differences. The names "Catholic" and "Protestant" are of human origin. "Catholic" means universal, and 'Protestant" means one who protests. But the name "Christian" is a Bible name, and means a follower of Christ. This name was given to the disciples of Christ first at Antioch (Acts 11:26), and has been worn by them ever since.

A Christian who is a "Christian only" accepts Jesus Christ as he is portrayed and revealed in the Bible. He has no creed but the Bible, no leader but Christ. He honors no authority save that set forth in the Bible. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16,17) "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." (2 Peter 1:3)

Christ claimed for himself all authority. "And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All authority hath been given unto me in Heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18) Again, "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings the people were astonished at his doctrine, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matt. 7:28) Nicodemus recognized that this was truly a teacher from heaven, for he said, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." (John 3:2)

Since Christ has all authority, we, his followers, neither need nor seek for any other authority. To do so would be to dishonor Him, and would place the doctrines of men above the doctrine of Christ. It is a sad thing to contemplate, but nevertheless true, that in recent years there seems to have grown up some idea or doctrine even among those who claim to be "Christians only" that we do not need Bible authority for all things we do in religion. To this writer this appears as one of the most ruinous doctrines ever taught to mortals in this world. Satan never invented a teaching more sinful and destructive. We have one reason, and only one, to exist as a distinct people in the religious world — and that is our complete and total acceptance of the authority of Christ. When we surrender this, we have lost all.

This foolish and dangerous doctrine has been worked up, of course, by brethren who could find no Bible authority for certain things they wanted to practice. Hence, they began to make excuses, and to claim that we have liberty to do many things for which we have no Bible authority. They say that God does not tell us everything he wants us to do.

But if we do not need Bible authority for all we do, then we have no right to criticize the Catholic for counting his beads, or for any of the other things he may be doing without Bible authority. If we do not need Bible authority for all we do, then what right have we to criticize our digressive brethren and debate with them over the use of instrumental music in the worship?

If we do not need Bible authority for all we do, then any denominational doctrine is as good, and as safe eternally, as anything that any of us may teach and practice. If Bible authority is not necessary, then the long relentless battle against the doctrines and commandments of men for these one hundred and fifty years gone by has been) without right, cause, or reason.

— Parrish, Alabama