How is anti-authoritarianism expressed in the church?

In the church this rebellious, anti-authority mindset is evidenced by the following:

[1] The authority and relevance of the Bible is questioned. Many preachers, teachers and leaders no longer hold to the Bible as the written word of God. For many it is just a collection of human writings, which may or may not give spiritual and ethical guidance. It has little or no authority.

[2] The Biblical standards are considered out-dated. The moral and ethical standards and laws contained in the Bible are seen to belong to past eras, with little or nothing to say to the current generation. They are chopped about and changed to make them more acceptable, less authoritative. They are relativised and amended to fit into the current norms of behaviour. Churches, officially or unofficially, condone behaviour clearly outlawed by the Bible.

[3] Jesus is presented as Saviour, with little or no reference to his Lordship. The majority of evangelistic ‘appeals’ tells us to accept Jesus as ‘Saviour’, which is something the Bible never does. What the Bible commands is that we acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and to those who so acknowledge him it promises salvation. But the concept of Jesus as Lord is too authoritarian, too demanding. People do not want to submit to One who is Lord. In this subtle but significant shift the church has knowingly or unknowingly given in to the anti-authoritarian spirit of our age.

[4] False assurance of salvation is given; people with no evidence of repentance are assured that they are going to heaven. The Bible indicates that the necessary response to the Gospel is repentance and faith, and it is only to those who come to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith that the promises of the Gospel are given. Yet many churches today tell people they are saved and going to heaven irrespective of the fact that they have not called these people to repentance, which, of necessity, involves putting oneself back under the authority of the Lord.

[5] Godly living is seen as optional. This goes hand in hand with (4). The absence of an initial command to repent is accompanied by a lax attitude towards God’s commands. Congregations are given no indication that their claim to be believers in Christ should be confirmed by an accompanying obedience.

[6] The concept of church discipline is almost absent. Only rarely do we hear of churches putting the New Testament guidelines into practice in relation to a church member who has deliberately and consistently sinned according to Biblical standards. When such discipline does occur the church’s right to impose such discipline is hotly debated or even denied. This rejection of the authority of the church is fundamentally a rejection of the authority of God, an expression of the anti-authoritarian mindset.

How is anti-authoritarianism affecting individual Christians?

Influenced by both the anti-authoritarian mentality of our age, and the rejection of the authority of the Bible by many church leaders, many individuals who consider themselves Christian believers

[1] reject the authority of the Church,
[2] refuse to submit to the authority of the Word of God,
[3] refuse to submit to God,
[4] have a self-centred, rather than a Christ-centred, concept of the Gospel,
[5] lack humility in the presence of God,
[6] think they can ‘come to Jesus’ then do as they please,
[7] have a reduced concept of the holiness of God,
[8] have a reduced concept of their own sinfulness,
[9] have a reduced concept of the gravity of the situation for the non-believer, and
[10] have a reduced concept of salvation, thinking God’s grace is cheap and easy.

What can we do to strengthen ourselves and our families against this anti-authoritarian mentality?

To protect ourselves against these insidious, destructive and God-dishonouring attitudes we need to constantly
[1] remember that Jesus Christ is the Almighty Sovereign Lord as well as our Saviour; his authority is not something we can take or leave as it pleases us;
[2] remember that our salvation has a purpose: the glory of God; we foul up this purpose every time we reject his authority;
[3] maintain a Biblical concept of God, refusing to reduce his power and authority;
[4] remember that salvation is not our right, but a gift;
[5] take our cue from the example of Jesus Christ, who, though he is the divine Son, submitted to the authority of his Father, of the written Word, and the law of the land.

For your study:
For the original rebellion against authority: Genesis 3.
For an indication of what God thinks of rebellion against his authority: Deuteronomy 9:6,7,13,24; 31:27; Nehemiah 9:16,17; Isaiah 1:2-4; 53:6a; 63:10; Jeremiah 5:23; Ezekiel 2:3-8; 12:2; Romans 1:18-31; 3:10-18.  
For the attitude God commands: James 4:7a; 1 Peter 2:1-17; Philippians 2:1-11; 2 Corinthians 10:5b; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Romans 12:1,2; 13:1-7; John 14:15; Matthew 7:21-23.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012