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The Bible's central role in the Christian faith
Last month, I pointed out that you cannot argue Christian doctrine without the Bible. Why is this so important? Primarily, the Bible is critical because without an objective set of standards, we are left to the whims of sinful men for how to practice our faith. History shows us this can be incredibly destructive, from the Inquisition to modern cults where a single person rules without question, such as the Branch Davidian cult.
We see throughout the New Testament that it is critical to be faithful to Scripture. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for not knowing Scripture in Matthew 21:42 and Matthew 22:29. Keep in mind that these were the people who were supposed to know Scripture better than anyone. That would be like Jesus rebuking seminary professors today.
Submission to Scripture is key in preventing abuse of power by sinful men. While the law of God is perfect, men are sinners. Jeremiah 17:9 teaches that the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked. Even the early Christians were described as "noble" in Acts 17:10-12 because they searched the Scriptures to confirm that what the Apostles were teaching was true. How many Christians today can say the same thing when they listen to sermons?
Now, this is where we as Americans fall into our own heresy, in that we deny the authority of the church, and the authority of specific men set apart by God as elders and pastors. If you read the New Testament, the context of worship is never "me and Jesus." It is always within the context of a church with flesh and blood pastors and elders - not a video screen or MP3 files. We hate authority, especially within the church. But we should remember that God could have had us taught directly by angels rather than sinful men, and He instead chose to have us taught by sinners.
So, we are to strike a balance. We should seek out churches where the pastors and elders are in submission to the authority of scripture, and then submit cheerfully to the authority of those pastors and elders.