Thoughts on Pastoral Authority

Updated: Apr 23

During this pandemic there have been efforts by governments to balance the safety of its citizens against their civil liberties – a balancing act that will never have universal agreement – but one which actually provides an interesting backdrop for the inaugural post of this website, and that is: what does Scripture say about another type of authority - namely, “pastoral authority”? While our civil governments have to balance their authority against the need for civil liberties, what are the balancing acts that those in church authority have to exercise?

(Skip the rest of the intro and get straight to the document here.)

In the civil realm such questions are resolved by looking to the constitution as interpreted by judges. In the Christian realm such questions are answered, obviously, by the Word of God which, as could be expected, provides much certainty about the limits and benefits of pastoral authority.

In fact, this question would seem to be a very important one to God inasmuch as Jesus spent A LOT of his time engaging with and rebuking the religious leaders of his day. And there are many, many warnings and rebukes in Scripture about those who mislead others (Isaiah 9:6), who abuse their position in order to get followers after themselves (Acts 20:29), hypocritical teachers who invade other men’s wives and family structure for their own gain (2 Timothy 3:5), and on and on and on. In fact I wonder if, due to the sheer number of warnings in both the Old and the New Testament, we have allowed ourselves to become numb to how many warnings there are and how careful we have to be. The warnings are everywhere. So the ubiquity of these warnings must mean that we are to be incredibly careful and on guard – that not all elders rule well and not all teachers teach with personal and scriptural integrity.

Up until about a year ago this was a subject I basically never thought about (pastoral authority) mainly because there was never an extremely compelling reason to force me to study it. However, I became aware of a rather unusual situation in this past year which then caused me to sit down and document what seemed to be what Scripture teaches on the subject.

I then had the document reviewed by several men whom I trust and whom others would also trust as well if I shared their names. Since this can be a sensitive subject, I will keep the names of the reviewers to myself for now, but they included

· A pastor

· An elder

· A respected teacher from the brethren tradition

· A respectable older man who has raised a nice family, and though not a theologian by nature his spirit and walk are admirable

In their review these men found no objections as to the accuracy of the teaching (except for one place as noted in the document on page 19), but of course if you find something inaccurate please do tell me.

This topic will serve as a base point for much of what I want to discuss in the near term on this website, so please read it – and tell me your thoughts.

As a note: though this website has the ability to have comments that feature will be turned off for now in part due to the fact that I can’t monitor comments 24 / 7 and I don’t want someone to have the ability to post inappropriate content in the comment section during the night or some other time when I cannot actively monitor the comments. However, I do want to receive comments which you can provide through the email provided on the first page of the document.

Perhaps at a future date I can find a way to have the comments turned on only during business hours, etc. – but until then I do hope you engage with me as we flesh out our understanding of this important subject.

Please download the PDF here.

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