In short, I'm not a believer in the Authority "doctrine" (or Submission "doctrine"), a particular feature of pentecostal christianity. But I do believe in leadership.
I'm not a fan of institutional attractional church, I'm more a missional/emerging church kind of guy, but I do believe in structure, gift-based ministry, and many "things" that belong in both styles of church.
Today, I'm struggling specifically with how to respond to leadership that is either
- "ungodly" (terrible word and I'm sorry for it - I think I mean leaders that distort information to maintain power or the status quo, leaders that intimidate or exercise power over others, leaders that misuse their position in any way) - or
- misguided (not as "bad" in my view - I'm refering to the basic human tendency toward personal bias - which I certainly suffer from! - but which may show up in an extreme way when a well-meaning leader nevertheless teaches or acts from a non-biblical worldview, attitude or doctrine: e.g. materialistic success; personal insecurity; prejudice; non-grace)
Phew, that was a mouthful. (Even to read!)
So how should we Christians respond to these leaders when they are plainly wrong?
I read Romans 13:1-7 this morning. If you take it on what it actually says, it seems to teach that even Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, George Bush (heh heh) or ArchBishops who don't believe the resurrection of Christ either happened or is relevant to Christianity - all of these people are simply to be obeyed, kowtowed to, not challenged, trusted. And yet, it refers to governing authorities as holding "no terror for those who do right" and agents of "wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." Yet they clearly don't have a biblical morality ... or, at the very least, condone things the Christian Bible condemns.
So was Paul naive? Was the Holy Spirit suggesting that a dictator or a corrupt pastor or politician is doing the right thing simply because of their position?
Perhaps I can mount a Nuremberg defense at the final Judgement:
"I let my pastor get away with embezzling money, because I was simply following orders. I burnt witches at the stake, because I was simply following orders. I refused to vote against an unjust government, because they ARE the government and must have been put there by God. I kept tithing to my church, even though the pastor publicly intimidates, criticises and insults people while in a fit of rage, because he has the name Pastor on his office door."
I mean, if God is suggesting this, then I have to go along with it. Because I honor God.
But it just doesn't sit right. And it's not just me either.
As an example in this moment, I just picked up the first commentary on Romans on my shelf, a volume from the 1950s that my Dad has passed on to me. The author's take on this passage of scripture includes the following thoughts:
There is great necessity at this hour to emphasize to all Christians this solemn exhortation of the apostle. Lawlessness - contempt for authority - is upon us like a flood.
He is firm proponent of giving absolute fealty to government and (by implication of his writing) church leadership. He gives some familiar examples of the results of contempt for authority: crime and moral breakdown etc etc, then he makes this interesting point:
Perhaps the most glaring of all instances of last-days lawlessness is the tolerance of Red Communism. (This is the 1950s remember). We do not now speak of Russia; but of the fact that Communistic doctrines (which openly declare war upon all divinely appointed order) are held - even by professing Christians ... all over the world! ... (If you prefer communism) you are really settling in on Lenin's and Stalin's path - which ends in hell!- and makes a land a bloody horror meanwhile.
But, weren't Lenin and Stalin leaders, authorities?
Then why weren't they "Divinely appointed order?" Where is the line at which we can say, "This leader is appointed by God and to be spken well of and submitted to" and "This leader is against God's order or standards and must be condemned"?
And am I as bad as the Archbishop I linked to above, refusing to accept the parts of scripture that disturb me personally?
I really am in limbo on this issue and would value your conversation. I mean, I do have very strong views on it - I could just spout them - but I'm wanting to run them through scripture ... and this is where it's becoming very very worrying... your conversation would help...
I don't even know what question to level at y'all - I guess any and every response will be valued...