Sunday, September 27, 2015


    A friend wrote me last night some very encouraging words that, while they were very uplifting, also motivated me to continue once again with my plans to tackle a controversial topic. Much of what I have been writing recently has been more universally accepted Christianity; tonight, I want to spend time writing about a topic that is hotly contested in the church today: authority.

    I have been blessed to have parents who have chosen to raise me to recognize that my immediate authority now that I am a teenager is Jesus Christ, and I am answerable to Him for my actions. I still remember one of the most poignant reminders of this was the time my dad told me that if I ever felt God leading me in a direction other than where my dad wanted me to go, I was to disregard what he said and follow God. I honestly, sincerely am so grateful to God for parents who want me to follow God more than they want me to obey them, and trust me to do so.

     However, two years ago I began researching the teachings of a fairly well-known homeschooling speaker, Bill Gothard. While sexual abuse allegations have caused his resignation from the ministry he founded, ATI/IBLP, his writings were what began my research into the concept of extreme authority. My research on Gothard led me to take a much more critical look at the teachings on courtship that I had grown up hearing in my circles, and again, there I ran across a principle of extreme authority.

     What I want to talk about tonight is indeed hotly contested and debated in the church at large. It's a question that has an extraordinary amount of bearing on our lives today, particularly those of us that are teens, because we are at a transition stage between parental authority and what our culture teaches is "independent life". However, many churches have taken a stand against that independence, saying that it contradicts Biblical principles of authority.

     So, what am I talking about? Well, here for example, is a quote by Jennie Chancey which I think quotes very well one section of what I am trying to combat with this post. "Your dad might be a plumber, he might be a carpenter, he might be an accountant. Whatever it is he does, he's your father, and as such he is a reflection of your heavenly father. Submit yourself to him, because you are his beggar maiden, and what glory there is to be a reflection of the choosing grace of God that says, 'I will take these lowly people and I will raise them up to be my bride."

     There you have it. Your father is a reflection of your heavenly Father, so you'd better stay in line! In fact, you are his "beggar maiden" (I'm not sure what that means, but it doesn't really sound good). This is what I would call an extreme authority viewpoint.

     In a nutshell, this view is basically that God has placed authorities in his life (such as parents and church government), and these people are your representation of God on earth. They reveal God's will for you, major life decisions must be checked off on by them, and their veto power is absolute. Now, very rarely will anyone actually say that much. In fact, in most cases, people will not even realize they are believing this.

    Here, for example, Bill Gothard's ministry IBLP (Institute for Basic Life Principles) website has in this article this quote: "God-given authorities can be considered “umbrellas of protection.” By honoring and submitting to authorities, you will receive the privileges of their protection, direction, and accountability. If you resist their instructions and move out from their jurisdictional care, you forfeit your place under their protection and face life’s challenges and temptations on your own." (bold is not mine, but IBLP's). Now, IBLP has an article on their website on how to make an appeal when your authority requests you do something unBiblical, but the implied default is that your authority is right, and unless it is directly contradicted by Scripture, you are under obligation to obey. Is this Biblical?

    Some would argue yes. Rom. 13 is a chapter that speaks in depth about a Christian's duty to obey his government, and many would say that Eph. 6:1-2 lay down the law in regard to a child's duty to obey their parents. Others would emphasize a daughter's need to obey her father, calling out Lev. 30 as their cornerstone. Whatever the position, yes, there are those who believe that the decision of your authorities is, in fact, the will of God for you.

    The clearest quote to that effect I have ever seen (and one of the scariest courtship articles I've ever seen) can be found here while discussing the topic of courtship: "And because earthly authorities themselves are under God's authority, we acknowledge that no daughter is obliged to obey commands from any source bidding her to sin. Yet some would seek to use this concession by arguing, 'What if God tells the daughter to do something her father doesn't approve of? What if, for example, the Lord reveals to her, through various signs and feelings, that she is to marry a particular man? Wouldn't God's will for the girl supersede her earthly, mortal, imperfect father's will? Simply put: No."

     Frankly, that right there is enough to make me stop and lay down because of nauseous feelings in my stomach. What? God's revealed will does not supersede the admittedly "eartly, mortal, imperfect" will of a young lady's father? But it gets worse... much worse. Comments in paranthesis below are mine, not the original author's.

     "As strange as it may sound, in the peculiar relationship of father and daughter, God, as it were, takes a back seat. (Yep, that sounded strange. Anytime you admittedly put God in the backseat to human decisions and mindsets shouts, trumpets, yells, beckons, belts out, and cries "Woohoo, theological problem!") God has created a hierarchy such that the daughter answers to her father, and her father answers to God." The author then writes further down this astounding comment that screams "invite spiritual abuse". "Thus, the will of the father regarding his daughter is the will of God."

     Maybe now you see why I may consider that we have a misunderstanding of authority in our churches today, particularly if we factor in these rather outlandish comments by Jesus after having just read the above comment, "If any man comes to me, and hates not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own lief also, he cannot be my disciple" (Lk. 14:26). Or "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:37).

     Obviously, we have a discrepancy somewhere. These two ideologies are not matching up, and I hope to use the rest of this post to help point these discrepancies out. Please bear with me as to the length of this post. This is not a topic that can be covered sufficiently in a few short pages.

     So, right off the bat, a few verses come to mind to back up the authoritarian position, such as commands of Scripture (Eph. 6:1-2) that children be obedient to parents. However, we see instantly that this verse "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" is prefaced by a direct address, "children". This is not a command applicable to the entirety of the human race, only children, presumably young children at that since we also believe Jesus' words in Lk. 14 and Matt. 10 are inspired and meant for those who had the discernment to listen to and understand His meaning.

     The second verse thrown out there immediately is Ex. 20:12, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you." At first glance, this may seem like an open-and-shut argument for the position of strong authority. But the word "honor" is not synonymous with "obey" like many would try to teach and imply. You can honor, yet still disobey. Honor can mean obey, or it can mean respectfully disagreeing. So this command really has nothing to do with our discussion besides reiterating that whatever our decision may be in regard to parental authority, we must treat them with respect.

     After this, usually the discussion gets harder. The majority of this post will be spent on the concept of parental authority overriding God's will in our lives as teens, so that is the side of the discussion I will spend the most time on here. Usually at this point, the next argument goes something like, "Well, the Bible doesn't necessarily say so, but the father's authority is implied throughout." This is, at best, an argument from silence, since merely stating the cultural heritage and customs of the people at this particular time in history is not the same as a command from God to go and do likewise for the rest of time.

    Around this time, Lev. 30 gets brought into the equation, the passage where a father is allowed to trump a daughter's promise to God if he desires, and the daughter is held as guiltless. However, this is a Levitical principle that is done away with with the dawning of the new Covenant and never mentioned again in Scripture. To draw an entire argument of parental authority on NT believers from one passage in the OT law is shaky in the extreme. While this may reveal God's particular will at this time in history to a particular people, we have no reason to conclude that this is his will for all people for all times throughout history.

    Some of you may now be scratching your heads. "But, Taylor, surely you don't argue that there is no such thing as authority!" No, I do not! I am not an anarchist. But, I would argue that authority, all authority, is under the leadership of Jesus Christ as revealed by the Holy Spirit and His Word, and this is interpreted by each individual believer, not by his authority. Thus, a believer's ultimate authority, over the authority of his pastor and family, is the leading of Jesus Christ.

    Matt. 10 and Lk. 14 make pivotal arguments into our discussion at this point. Christ demands wholehearted surrender and boundless submission, with no boundaries. No other authority or relationship has any right to hold us back from following what Jesus says, to the extent that our allegiance and love for them should appear to be hatred in comparison to our pursuit of Christ and His will.

    IBLP's website spends a bit of time discussing the results of obeying your authority or getting out from under your authority. While they imply that it is possible to disobey your authority in their article on how to make a godly appeal when your authority tells you to do something unScriptural and offer advice on how to stand alone against something wrong, they never outright detail how that truth walks hand in hand with this quote that seems to present a conflicting worldview, "By honoring and submitting to authorities, you will receive the privileges of their protection, direction, and accountability. If you resist their instructions and move out from their jurisdictional care, you forfeit your place under their protection and face life's challenges and temptations on your own."

    What IBLP seems to leave out of their neat equations here is the presence of God and His leading. By disregarding an authority that demands we go in a different direction than God has led us, we do forfeit their protection, but we replace it not with our own, but with a much better one, God's. If I have to choose between a human authorities protection from temptations and life challenges or God's, I'm going with God. Every time.

    Also in IBLP's statement is the assumption that the authority is right, since it results in "protection, direction, and accountability". If we're honest though, there are many times leaders mess up, and if we are simply following blindly, accepting whatever doctrine is espoused by the church or preached from the pulpit, though it changes from week to week, we simply mess up right along with them. Authorities are, unfortunately, not automatically divine. It would be much easier if they were, but they are not; thus the need for an individual and personal relationship with Christ.

    It is ironic to me that authoritarian views such as these are argued for in the Protestant church of all places, where the priesthood of the believer was so adamantly fought for in the Reformation against the authoritarian excesses of the Catholic church that demanded the subservience to its own authority that many Protestants are declaring today should take place in the home. Luther and others argued adamantly that no man, bishop, priest, or pope, can stand between you and God. Each person is directly accountable to God for his or her own actions.

    I am not demanding no authorities. The Bible does declare certain authorities (the husband over the wife in Eph. 5, the parents over the children in Eph. 6, the government in Rom. 13) have powers, but that authority is only firm up to the place it begins to contradict with the shown leading of God. Any time we make the leading of Christ in our own life subservient to the will of man, we have placed man in the place of God in our lives. At the point where our authority begins to contradict God's leading in our own personal lives is the point at which we must obey God rather than men (Acts. 4:19-20). Our ultimate allegiance is to Christ and Christ alone.


  1. First off, yay for this post! I'm happy to see you tackling the hard stuff and doing the best you can do to interpret it and share why you believe what you do about the more controversial and deeper topics. :) I think I agree with your general conclusion, overall. People (I suppose particularly Gothard in this case) have put an over-emphasis on authority in general, rather than the individual. Good job. :)

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    2. Yeah, while I particularly mentioned Gothard, it's because he has been very public on his stance, not because he is the only one. Much of the patriocentric circle have many of the same or similar teachings on authority. Gothard was simply the one I was best schooled on, so the easiest to quote.