One of the realities I’ve come accept is that not everyone who acts as if scripture is their authority really believes in scripture as an authority. That might seem obvious to some but it seems rather hard for people to identify in an abusive church situation.
In churches where dubious teachings are promoted like Coverings or the Prosperity gospel the scriptures are often quoted but not accurately represented or properly applied. Many people in these churches who have suffered from obvious unbiblical behavior try to challenge the leaders with scripture but are completely rejected.
There is one good explanation for this.
Many of these abusive church leaders don’t care about scripture in any material way. Some undoubtedly have deceived themselves in to believing some kind of false theology because it benefits them in some way. Others are nothing more than scam artists.
When confronted with the obvious errors of their teaching they will try all sorts of tactics to avoid dealing with the reality the critic they are facing.
They might deflect by denying what they truly believe. Others will try to say that they simply have a different and more valid interpretation of scripture. They might appeal to some toothless accountability mechanism. More often than not valid biblical critiques are met with harsh resistance, defamation and counter accusations. Surprisingly a lot of Christians will endure this because they were taught not to “touch the Lord’s anointed” and live in fear of being a “rebel.”
If the scriptures truly are an authority in someone’s life you will observe the following:
- A real effort is made to interpret the scriptures accurately
- Hearts, minds and actions are changed by interacting with scripture
- People will endure pain, discomfort or loss in order to follow the teachings of scripture
- Humility of heart and recognition that interpreting scripture accurately can hindered by one’s cultural context, personal agendas and bias
- Recognition that there can be several valid interpretations
If the scriptures are not a true authority you will observe the following:
- Scriptures are patched together in order to make a point without regard to context
- The scriptures are used only to provide weight to the leader’s agenda
- There is no willingness to change or sacrifice based on the instruction of scripture
- Scriptures are interpreted with reckless confidence without recognition of bias
- Recognition of other valid interpretations is rare
- Biblical concepts are infused with meaning that doesn’t reflect their biblical usage often to serve the agenda of the leader. In scripture the phrase “touch not the Lord’s anointed” is far more about not physically harming the king of Israel than disagreeing with a spiritual leader.