We cannot pit the spiritual life against the logical life. We don’t grow spiritually just by getting our emotions all worked up and feeling good about how close we are to God. We grow spiritually when we grow intellectually. Now, that is not to say that our relationship with Jesus can be reduced to just thinking about religious concepts, or that somehow we can do it on our own without His Grace. No, His Grace is essential for intellectual growth that enables us to know God better so that we might follow Him more closely. Our openness to the Holy Spirit cannot be measured by how spontaneous and emotional we are, rather the Holy Spirit calls us to be logical, constant, faithful, persistent and diligent. True love for God produces a desire to know Him more deeply so that we might gain insight into His Wisdom in order that we might fulfill His will in our lives. We use our intellect to find God’s will as opposed to just accepting whatever makes us feel good. [John Hellman]
The mature human mind is made by God for the strong meat of objective truth, not merely for the milk of subjective sincerity. [Fr. Brian W. Harrison]
Without knowledge even zeal is not good; and he who acts hastily, blunders. [Proverbs 19:2]Introduction:
The topics of authority and unity are the largest stones of stumbling to the credibility of Christianity today and have been for a long time. Since truth by its very nature unites, without unity either truth cannot exist or (when it does) apparent internal inconsistency gives the appearance of compromise. This presents a problem for Christendom because it is clearly not united and Our Lord spoke of the unity of His followers giving witness to the Son's mission from the Father (Matt. 28:19-20; John 10:16, 11:51-52, 15:1-5, 17:23). Likewise the Apostles spoke of this as a necessity as well (1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:1-6; 1 Tim. 1:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:21-22; 2 Pet. 2:1-2; James 3:13-18, 4:1-3; Jude 1:11-12). There are two possible reasons for this disunity: either the work-plan is faulty or the workers to varying degrees are at fault. Christians of different backgrounds can be very devout yet refuse to consider the viability of any point that challenges a position that they find comfortable. Therefore, the problems cannot be the work-plan unless someone has the temerity to accuse God of sin. Surely if we are going to call ourselves Christians then we should start by not presuming that anyone who disagrees with us is necessarily doing so in bad faith. In fact, most of the time this is not the case at all. This is why it is important to learn about these matters on equal footing to avoid taking a prejudicial attitude towards even what seems to be 'obviously' wrong to us for appearances often are deceiving.
It is imperative to remember that truth is not afraid of scrutiny and in fact can withstand all scrutiny thrown at it. Christendom is either a maze of people and groups where most groups are wrong (and someone or some groups are right in varying degrees of completeness) or the whole philosophy is erroneous. To begin any examination on the right foot, it helps to make sure that everyone is speaking the same language. This is most likely the area that is more problematic then any other.
I - The Necessity of Unity:
Truth by its very nature is unitive not divisive and Our Lord not only prayed for unity among His believers (John 17) but He also warned that divided houses could not stand (Matt. 12:25-29; Mark 3:23-26; Luke 11:14-20). There is a fundamental rule to logic that is called the "Law of Non-Contradiction" and it could be argued that by implication Our Lord was teaching it when he spoke about Satan casting out Satan. The Law of Non-Contradiction applies perfectly in these passages because it basically states that something cannot be both true and false. This is what happens if Satan casts out Satan- he contradicts himself. Therefore through self-contradiction his kingdom cannot stand. Well, what is happening when you have thousands of Christian groups professing different beliefs and all claiming to follow "the Bible"??? How does this square with the exhortations not only from the Scriptures but also from the writings of the early Church Fathers about the necessity of maintaining unity???
Unfortunately most Christians — regardless of affiliation — are ill-equipped for fostering an atmosphere of greater understanding. This is primarily because most Christians do not seem willing to take the time to learn what their fellow Christians believe. In addition, they have the view that "it does not matter what you say because I am right anyway" which of course only causes more problems and exasperates the scandal of Christian disunity further. It is important to remember that how truths are spoken about to others is just as important as the truths themselves. This cannot be a focus on individual doctrines but instead must go deeper then that to the very core of the differences in religious paradigms. Otherwise, the same methods or understandings will drive every area of difference and the result is constantly reinventing the wheel. Therefore, as authority is the subject that affects all areas of difference, its relationship to achieving and maintaining unity is one of the subjects that this essay seeks to examine. To the extent that it is possible, please check your personal biases at the door and approach this subject humbly with a desire to do a part to repair the tattered cloak of Christendom. Only then can true progress actually be made because it is God that will reunite those who profess His name, not us. But we have to do our part to allow Him to work through us (Eph. 2:10; Gal. 2:20). Otherwise ,we will only aid in continuing the scandal of disunity, which compromises the credibility of Christ to the rest of the world.
II - The Scandal of Disunity:
How problematic is the disunity among Christians??? It is among the largest scandals of all because it contradicts the very Scriptures that all true Christians claim to reverence. Before his arrest, Our Lord is recorded as praying the following prayer, which is sometimes referred to as a "priestly prayer for unity". Here are some passages of that prayer from the Gospel of John (all emphasis of either caps or bold in the citations of this essay are those of the author unless otherwise noted):
These things Jesus spoke: and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said: the hour is come. Glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he may give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent…I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me: because they are thine. And all my things are thine, and thine are mine: and I am glorified in them. And now I am not in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou hast given me: that they may be one, as we also are. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou gavest me have I kept: and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition: that the scripture may be fulfilled. And now I come to thee: and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy filled in themselves. I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them: because they are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil. They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 17:20. And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me. That they may all be one, as thou Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them: that they may be one, as we also are one. I in them, and thou in me: that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me. 
One thing, meanwhile, she [the Faith] anxiously desires of earthly rulers--not to be condemned unknown. What harm can it do to the laws, supreme in their domain, to give her a hearing? Nay, for that part of it, will not their absolute supremacy be more conspicuous in their condemning her, even after she has made her plea? But if, unheard, sentence is pronounced against her, besides the odium of an unjust deed, you will incur the merited suspicion of doing it with some idea that it is unjust, as not wishing to hear what you may not be able to hear and condemn.
We lay this before you as the first ground on which we urge that your hatred to the name of Christian is unjust. And the very reason which seems to excuse this injustice (I mean ignorance) at once aggravates and convicts it. For what is there more unfair than to hate a thing of which you know nothing, even though it deserve to be hated? Hatred is only merited when it is known to be merited. But without that knowledge, whence is its justice to be vindicated? For that is to be proved, not from the mere fact that an aversion exists, but from acquaintance with the subject. When men, then, give way to a dislike simply because they are entirely ignorant of the nature of the thing disliked, why may it not be precisely the very sort of thing they should not dislike? So we maintain that they are both ignorant while they hate us, and hate us unrighteously while they continue in ignorance, the one thing being the result of the other either way of it. Granted Christians today are not killing one another over differences anymore in most of the world (thankfully). However there is still the same stubborn unwillingness to listen to their brethren in Christ. Since all Christians believe that it is God who is the builder of His Church (Matt. 16:18) and that we are his workmanship (Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 3:10-15), the problems must be attributed to us. Otherwise, we would be imputing the possibility of error unto the Lord. To use an analogy it must be confessed by one and all that the map of Christendom is not faulty and that it is the readers of the map who are at fault. After all, God is perfect while our own wills are so often being clouded by sin. The Scriptures mention the errors of man's pride in many areas and all Christians would confess that this is the reason for the disunity (as pride is the beginning of all sin or dissension). Over time, the different copies of the same map have become smudged in some areas — sometimes intentionally and sometimes accidentally - this is one problem indeed. The astute among us would probably note that every map has a legend so if we follow the legend, we can find our way. This is certainly true. However, many people feel that they can provide their own interpretations of the map legend and its symbols. The reason for this is because they were either raised to believe this or have been persuaded to believe that the symbols of the map could be whatever they wanted them to be. (Or they fall in with others who do this and they accept their interpretations as being the "true interpretations".)
Christendom is basically dividable into roughly 3 groups. One of these groups has a wide doctrinal spectrum to it [Protestants]. The other two [Orthodox and Catholics] have a much greater degree of unity between them even though they seem often times to want to exaggerate the extent of their disunity as much as the first group wants to exaggerate their degree of unity. Obviously all cannot move in the same direction without some unifying interpretation of the symbols in the legend and the more agreement as to the meanings of the symbols the greater degree of unity will result because truth unifies. Among the first group there is a wide diversity of interpretations of the 'map' because they do not believe that there is an official interpretation of the symbols in the map legend. This is despite the fact that most of the first group accepts an official interpretation of some parts of the legend [Trinity, New Testament (NT) Canon of Scripture, Hypostatic Union, Original Sin] but not others [Apostolic Succession, Real Presence, Old Testament (OT) Canon of Scripture, etc]. In doing this the members of the first group defend this inconsistency by deluding themselves into believing that the official interpretations they accept are because they discerned them from a "plain reading" of the map.
Compounding this problem further, many of these people in the first group actually claim that the legend contradicts the "plain meaning" of the map. The reason why there are so many different and contradictory ways of interpreting the "perspicuous" map should be obvious. This anarchy is inexcusable and is frankly sinful for it makes the word of God a joke to those who do not believe. The source of this discord was pointed out by Tertullian in a masterpiece titled A Prescription Against Heretics written 1800 years ago and within earshot of Apostolic times. (Tertullian himself was a Christian convert within two generations of the death of the Apostle John.)
Where diversity of doctrine is found, there then must [be] the corruption both of the Scriptures and the expositions thereof be regarded as existing…They could not possibly have effected their diversity of teaching in any other way than by having a difference in the means whereby they taught. As in their case, corruption in doctrine could not possibly have succeeded without a corruption also of its instruments, so to ourselves also integrity of doctrine could not have accrued, without integrity in those means by which doctrine is managed...one man perverts the Scriptures with his hand, another their meaning by his exposition. The object of this essay is to look at authority and Christian unity. The author hopes that in examining these topics some common misconceptions that all sides have of one another can be put to rest. This is a greater necessity then ever before because human society is crumbling because of a lack of a unified witness of truth. In this age of skepticism, the world has abandoned the philosophical moorings of Christian morality wholesale. Christendom itself has spent the twentieth century for the most part going the way "free thinking" went in the nineteenth century. As the latter questioned the validity of any human thought, the former has been doing the same with Revelation. The problem at the core of both extremes is (at different levels) the rejection of a binding authority above the individual. For the "free thinker" the rejected authority is the absolute principle of Deity while for most Christians the rejected authority is any understanding of the Deity that strips the individual Christian from believing what they want to hold as truth. Just as the validity of absolutes in the sphere of rational thought were abandoned by the "free thinkers" of the nineteenth century, the absolutes of Divine Revelation have been abandoned in the twentieth century. Of course, as God sent prophets to Israel to warn and to guide her back to the straight path, this has happened in our society as well. One of these "prophets of sanity" was G.K. Chesterton who at the end of the nineteenth century (and start of the twentieth century) was alerting people to the danger of "free thinking":
The sages, it is often said, can see no answer to the riddle of religion. But the trouble with our sages is not that they cannot see the answer; it is that they cannot even see the riddle. They are like children so stupid as to notice nothing paradoxical in the playful assertion that a door is not a door. The modern latitudinarians speak, for instance, about authority in religion not only as if there were no reason in it, but as if there had never been any reason for it. Apart from seeing its philosophical basis, they cannot even see its historical cause. Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (and especially our present one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. For there is a great and possible peril to the human mind: a peril as practical as burglary. Against it religious authority was reared, rightly or wrongly, as a barrier. And against it something certainly must be reared as a barrier, if our race is to avoid ruin.
That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought. It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, ‘Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?’ The young sceptic says, ‘I have a right to think for myself.’ But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, ‘I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.’
There is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped. That is the ultimate evil against which all religious authority was aimed. It only appears at the end of decadent ages like our own: and already Mr. H. G. Wells has raised its ruinous banner; he has written a delicate piece of scepticism called ‘Doubts of the Instrument.’ In this he questions the brain itself, and endeavours to remove all reality from all his own assertions, past, present, and to come. But it was against this remote ruin that all the military systems in religion were originally ranked and ruled. The creeds and the crusades, the hierarchies and the horrible persecutions were not organized, as is ignorantly said, for the suppression of reason. They were organized for the difficult defence of reason. Man, by a blind instinct, knew that if once things were wildly questioned, reason could be questioned first. The authority of priests to absolve, the authority of popes to define, the authority even of inquisitors to terrify: these were all only dark defences erected round one central authority, more undemonstrable, more supernatural than all -- the authority of a man to think. We know now that this is so; we have no excuse for not knowing it. For we can hear scepticism crashing through the old ring of authorities, and at the same moment we can see reason swaying upon her throne. In so far as religion is gone, reason is going. For they are both of the same primary and authoritative kind. They are both methods of proof which cannot themselves be proved. And in the act of destroying the idea of Divine authority we have largely destroyed the idea of that human authority by which we do a long-division sum. With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it. To re-establish Christianity as a force that can overcome the evils of society, there is a need for Christians to unite. However, this is not of a mere "least common denominator" kind of unity (referred to by C.S. Lewis as 'Mere Christianity'). No to avoid further ruin what is needed is to again establish a substantial unity akin to what Jesus prayed for in John 17. This will not be possible unless there is a unifying force above the individual not only in theory but also in practice. Unity though does not just happen but it must be held together by some kind of authority structure. The next several sections will look at the different sources referred to as authoritative as well as ancillary areas where misunderstandings often play a strong role in fomenting discord.
III - The 'Private Judgment' Accusation:
The Catholic or Orthodox apologist in seeking to discredit the Protestant presupposition of "Sola Scriptura", can at times use an approach which is quite frankly inconsistent. Catholic apologists are particularly prone to this method of playing the "private judgment" card in a manner that casts the Protestant as exercising "private judgment" with their views while the Catholic (or Orthodox) merely "submits to the Church". The implication made by this is that the Protestant party is the only one using private judgment. Of course, Catholics and Orthodox take this same view towards one another in areas of difference too but most of the time it is a standard applied to the Protestant paradigm.
Now on one level, it is a fair criticism but in most cases, the parties using this criticism are much too broad in their utilization of it. The condemnation of private judgment is indeed a potent weapon properly wielded in the hands of the Apostolic Christian; however it is a weapon, which requires a degree of caution in its application to avoid self-destruction. The Apostolic Christian in referring to private judgment should only be referring to it in the sense that the individual chooses for themselves to believe from the Bible only those doctrines which they want to see in it. This is radically different from the concept of making an informed assent of faith to a vested authority from which the judgments of that authority assented to without question. An assent of faith properly rendered cannot take place without some utilization of the thinking mechanism. The reason is that it is through the process of gathering information, weighing it, and deciding if a proposed belief system contains enough of a motive to render an assent of faith. There is in short a private interpretation of the constituent evidences gathered that goes into the process at the very beginning. As this cannot be anything but a personal choice, this level of the process must remain unscathed from the criticism of "private judgment". Indeed this is not what the Apostolic Christian means by "private judgment" if they are applying the criteria properly. To be critical at the early stages of formation is tantamount to abdicating the thinking mechanism thus rendering an informed assent of faith impossible. This is the problem that criticism of private judgment at the initial stages of thought formation causes - a problem that Protestants in general fall prey to. The most notable of the Protestant groups to utilize this principle is the one that perhaps has the highest regard for the intellect and its role in ascertaining truth: the Reformed Protestant.
The Reformeds in addressing the Catholic criticism of private judgment generally end up in practice (though not in theory) affirming a separation between reason and belief. To explain this statement will involve the definition of the terms "ontology" and "epistemology". Ontology is the study of being or the nature of God (or the grounds for belief in the existence of God). Epistemology is the study of the grounds of knowledge as well as the validity and limits of said knowledge. Epistemology is intimately wove into the very grounds of acquiring knowledge, which is required for establishing the motives for rendering an assent of faith. However, to engage a Reformed apologist is to see them seek to refute the arguments of their opposition using methods that if applied consistently will backfire on them. Thus to circumvent this problem (which crops up when the issue of the final authority and how it is known is brought forward) results in answers being given that are both inconsistent and circular. Thus in practice the Reformed Protestant (and all Protestants who argue in a similar fashion) have affirmed a radical separation between ontology and epistemology.
This is not to say that the Reformed paradigm does not have its fine points. Many admirable Reformed adherents have made invaluable contributions to apologetical discourse in general. Covenant theology has received a tremendous influx of Reformed thinking that has proven beneficial to those of us who are adherents to that form of viewing biblical soteriology. Likewise, the eminently Biblical eschatological system of preterism developed almost completely (initially) in Reformed circles. It is also notable that the very-valuable element of transcendental theology was initially utilized in an apologetical setting by Reformed thinkers Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen. Of these three, the focus in this section will be on the third point (transcendentalism) because this methodology indirectly benefits the position of Apostolic Christians.
Van Til and Bahnsen used presupposition argumentation to postulate that all thinking to some extent presupposes Christian theism. It was a means proclaiming God as a transcendental concept - His Presence being a necessity to exist regardless of what else did or did not exist. Though probably not as effective as Thomas Aquinas' 5 points, presupposition argument does work well to establish the existence of God. But of course in an attempt to apply the principle in a broader context, this method was also used by the same thinkers to try to verify the unique authority of the Bible. Since many authorities can fit into the same sequence of transcendental arguments used to justify the authority Reformeds and other Protestants accord to the Bible, the latter endeavour the principle falls apart quite noticeably.
Interestingly enough, Catholic evangelist Dr. Art Sippo has used the transcendental entity argument in arguing for the authority of the Catholic Church. His claim in essence is that orthodox Christianity can defend itself rationally (including justifying the inspiration, authority, and Canon of Scripture) using a transcendental method. However, as Dr. Sippo has noted, "such a method cannot be done successfully apart from a transcendental defense of the Church and the Magisterium". Dr. Sippo sees a transcendental defense of the Church and the Magisterium as necessary presuppositions to the Bible. His rationale in essence is "the Church by her authority wrote and/or compiled the Bible. The Bible did not create the Church". This explanation is at least as valid of an assertion as making these kinds of arguments for the Bible (assuming that the Reformed response to his claims is not one bordering on bibliolatry). For the Reformed Protestant to claim that the Bible is God's Word and that therefore there is a difference between the two is of course to beg the question. After all, they are presuming what they have yet to prove by resorting to this form of argumentation: the very essence of question-begging methodology. In light of the claims being made (that the Bible alone is the sole final authority for all revealed truth), these assertions should not be accepted without some form of sustainable proof.
This defect manifests itself in the underlying Fideism that permeates all Protestant theologies at their foundation to varying degrees depending on the particular groups' aversion to the use of reason. It is thus a form of "mutually assured destruction" because the end-result of Reformed theology is tantamount to intellectual suicide in the realm of the 'free thinkers'. It cannot be any other way when the core of the theology is a circular reference back to itself. This point will be covered in a later section when this theme will be revised a bit but the essence of the result is that the person has two choices: become an agnostic/skeptic or become fideistic. Consistently applying the Reformed paradigm would be to destroy the very foundation of all human thought; thus, the alternative is a form of fideism. However, in applying the same principles to the existence of God they could conceivably end up as agnostics or skeptics too. Both propositions for obvious reasons should be considered as unacceptable.
The Apostolic Christian is right to point out that the manifold sects which have multiplied into the thousands since 1517 predicated on the same notion (Sola Scriptura) call into serious question the veracity of this proposition. After all, under this system what they proclaimed as doctrinal truth yesterday ends up denounced as false today (and vice versa). Therefore, of this methodology it is therefore impossible to sustain certainty in any proposition because the very philosophy cannot ultimately render anything free from speculation or questioning if the adherent applies the criteria they use with consistency.
Because it is not possible to render anything free from speculation
or questioning (in a manner that is not arbitrary), there ultimately is
no true faith in the primitive and theological understanding of it contained
within the Protestant paradigm. Faith in its primitive understanding is
a belief predicated on the veracity of God that a given truth revealed
cannot be rejected but is true for all time. Faith, to quote Cardinal John
H. Newman, in its theological sense is specific. It "includes a belief,
not only in the thing believed, but also in the ground of believing; that
is, not only belief in certain doctrines, but belief in them expressly
because God has revealed them" (Grammar of Assent pg. 101). Therefore,
if God reveals a truth, it cannot later be false and vice versa. Yet this
is precisely what Protestantism at its core does (in all of its manifestations)
albeit not intentionally. In short, the Apostolic Christian needs to be
careful to make the crucial separation approaching this subject between
reasons for rendering an assent and the process of deduction after the
assent has been made. This distinction needs clarifying before they throw
around the words "private judgment" when speaking to Protestants. Without
properly quantifying their terms, they destroy the very foundation of their
own criticisms because everyone who embraces a particular belief makes
a private choice to embrace it. Therefore, this concession on all sides
is necessary before examining the extent to which all proposed rules of
faith (such as Scripture, Tradition, or the Church) play on this decision.
 Tertullian: "A Prescription Against Heretics" §38 (c. 200 AD)
 G K Chesterton: "Orthodoxy", Ch. 3 excerpts (c.
The biblical citations were originally taken from an online Douay-Rheims Bible no longer available on the Internet. However, the Douay Rheims Bible located at the following site is similar in many ways to the one originally used: http://www.scriptours.com/bible/
The citations from Tertullian's treatise "An Apology" and his masterwork "Prescription Against Heretics" were obtained at the following site: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/
The citation from G K Chesterton's masterpiece "Orthodoxy" was obtained
at the following link: http://www.ccel.org/c/chesterton/orthodoxy/orthodoxy.html
©2001,"Christian Unity and the Role of Authority", written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.
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