Vol.IV No.XI Pg.2
January 1968

On "Decision Making"

Robert F. Turner

I have just finished reading a 1964 speech on "Elders", delivered by a well-known preacher and editor of a monthly "Sentinel". (Transcription available through Port Arthur church, 1700 Imhoff Ave., 77640.) He names as a "major fallacy" the idea that elders of a church are to make no decisions in the realm of faith. Quote, "there are decisions in the realm of faith to be made, and it is here that elders, because they are the mature and they are the learned, that they have their greatest task and render their greatest service." He is specific about the matter, saying. "A decision has to be reached relative to the meaning of passages." This is so completely opposite to other statements made that I can't believe he meant it; but a more irresponsible analysis of the subject I have never heard. We deal with one facet only.

By "realm of faith" I mean, and so do hundreds of writers and preachers before me, such matters as must be believed and practiced as part of the faith. It involves things delivered, set forth by inspiration, binding upon all who would be children of God by faith. To say elders, deacons, preachers, or any other men "make no decisions in the realm of faith" is to say their decisions (i.e., conclusions wholly dependent upon them) are NOT to be accepted as binding upon those who would be faithful to God. If this is a "fallacy" we must cease to contend that Christ has sole authority to legislate, bind laws upon us, in "the realm of faith."

If the elders' "decision" concerning the meaning of a passage of scripture is binding upon us (i.e., in the "realm of faith") the whole idea of individual, independent Bible study and responsibility is denied. Roman Catholicism couldn't ask a greater ally than this.

But if the elders' decision is not binding; if they simply tell us what they think the passage means, and they could be wrong in the matter; the "decision" is in the realm of judgement (where we have said it was all along) and all this talk about "decisions in the realm of faith" is a lot of hog-wash. My guess is that the speaker uses "decision" one way, when advocating elder decisions in the "realm of faith"; and uses the word entirely differently when condemning elder "decision" making in what most folk call "the realm of judgement." Such "decisions" we have never felt were the equivalent of a divine mandate. They are simply human judgements that must be made by some one in order to collective action; and may be right, or may be wrong.