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Pastoral Authority, Popes, Pat Robertson, and Pelagianism

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Question #1: 

I have always been taught that a man called of God is to not be put on a pedestal, but to be shown proper respect. Our church seems to have many younger people who have no respect for the youth pastor and his role as a man "called of God". There seems to be a campaign to "see him go" and many of us older folks are not in agreement with them. I am having trouble finding the proper scriptures to support any discussions with the younger members on this point. Further, I feel they are not showing proper support for our head pastor, or they would not be causing all this trouble even after he has tried to solve the problems. Thanks for your help!

Response #1: 

I think you have framed the issue well by stating the two extremes here of unquestioning allegiance on the one hand and lack of proper respect for authority on the other – both of which are to be avoided.

It seems to me that there are really two issues here, namely, 1) "calling" and 2) the authority of the pastor(s)/elder(s) and the respect they are due. As far as "calling" is concerned, while this is not unrelated to the second issue in one sense, in the more technical theological sense we are all "called of God", that is, all believers are said to be "called" (e.g., Matt.20:16; Rom.1:6-7; 8:28; 1Cor.1:2; 1:26; 1:24; 7:15; Gal.5:8; 5:18; Eph.1:3; 18; Phil.3:14; Col.3:15; 1Thes.2:12; 4:7; 5:24; Heb.3:1; 1Pet.1:15; 2:21; 3:9; Jude 1:1; Rev.17:14). This is because the doctrine of God's "calling" us as it actually occurs in scripture is almost exclusively focused upon His drawing of us to Himself in order to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom.8:30; 1Cor.7:14-24; Gal.1:6; Eph.4:1-2; 4:4; 2Thes.2:14; 2Tim.1:9; 1Pet.2:9; 2Pet.1:10), rather than to some specific "call to the ministry" (although one hears that phrase all the time outside of the Bible). It is true that there are a few places where Paul refers to his "calling" as an apostle (Rom.1:1; 1Cor.1:1; Gal.1:15), but it will be remembered that the Lord literally “called” him to the work of his unique apostolic ministry through a rare and unforgettable personal epiphany. So when someone says they have been "called" to a particular ministry, we have to understand that all this can mean from a biblical point of view is that in their own personal spiritual development, they came to realize that they had particular spiritual gifts, and have since set themselves to develop those gifts and prepare for ministry, having in addition striven to put themselves into the work of the ministry. Thus their "call" is no more or no less than the guidance of the Spirit empowered through personal spiritual growth, Bible study, and prayer. Of course implementing our spiritual gifts in a manner that will build up Christ's Body is what we all as Christians have been called to do, and the distinction between "professional clergy" and "non-professional laity" in this respect is to some degree an unfortunate, non-biblical development. Now it is true that to be a pastor requires much more preparation than some other ministries for obvious reasons. No pastor can feed his sheep very effectively unless he knows the Bible well, the history of the Church, systematic theology, Greek and Hebrew, and a host of other things (not to mention the development of a certain amount of character and expertise through life experience: Jn.21:15-17; 1Tim.3:1-13; 5:1; Tit.1:5-9; 1Pet.5:1-4). But we have all been "called" to follow Jesus, and in every case to do this most effectively requires that we use our God given spiritual gifts to serve His Body in some way.

Rather than finding the principle of authority in the calling of the individual (for we will never be able to judge whether or not a person has definitively been called of God for a particular ministry except by humble evaluation of that person and his/her effectiveness in said ministry), scripture finds authority in the office a person may occupy, and this authority in the Church today rests exclusively with pastors/elders (and to a lesser extent with the lesser administrative officials, the "deacons"). And beyond all question, what you say is correct: the authority of a pastor/elder is not to be despised. The Bible has relatively little to say about Church governance (see the links below), but it does make quite a point about this issue of pastoral authority. That is why it is so important to exercise great care in selecting and installing such a person in the first place:

"Don't place your hands upon anyone quickly (i.e., to install them in an office), don't [by so doing] share in the sins of others. Keep yourself holy."
1st Timothy 5:22

Likewise, once a person is installed in an office of authority, the procedures for censuring them are delineated in scripture, even though, as I say, there is otherwise little said about the procedures for managing the affairs of the local church:

"Do not accept an accusation against a pastor/elder unless in the case of two or three witnesses. Those who have sinned in the presence of all [the congregation] rebuke in order that the rest may [also] have fear."
1st Timothy 5:19-20

Note that even in this case the "sin" has been a public one, and it is for that reason that open rebuke is required (n.b., most English translations have the word order wrong here).

We remember what happened to Aaron and Miriam when they opposed Moses (Num.12), or to the young hooligans who made fun of Elisha (2Ki.2:23-24), and we see everywhere throughout the New Testament the special care and support our Lord deploys on behalf of the apostles who are suffering so much for His Name. So beyond all question it does not take a very deep or detailed consideration of the scripture to understand that if a person is truly a man or woman of God, doing God's will and carrying out God's particular mission for their lives, that God will be with them:

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to stand him up!
Romans 14:4

This principle is especially true of those who have dedicated their lives to studying and teaching God's Word, and to building up and guiding the flock of God thereby. For this very reason and for this very purpose, the gift of pastor-teacher is the highest one still functioning in the Church today:

And as to those whom God has appointed [as officers] in the Church, [He appointed] apostles first [in rank], second prophets, third teachers (i.e., the only currently functioned authoritative gift) . . .
1st Corinthians 12:28a

Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects, with Christ who is the head of the Church as our model. In this way, the entire body of the Church, fitted and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

This critical purpose and goal of building up the Church discussed in the passages above is why the gift and office of teaching is so highly regarded and so highly encouraged in scripture:

Until I (i.e., Paul) come, devote yourself to [public] reading [of the scriptures], to encouragement [through preaching], to teaching [the Word].
1st Timothy 4:13

Let those elders who lead well be held worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and in teaching.
1st Timothy 5:17

Be zealous to present yourself to God [as one] approved [in what you do], a workman who does not need to be ashamed, [like a skillful carpenter] "cutting straight" the Word of truth.
2nd Timothy 2:15

Proclaim the Word! Keep at it, whether circumstances are favorable or not! Reprove, rebuke, [and] encourage with all patience [in your] teaching!
2nd Timothy 4:2

This is a reliable saying: "If anyone desires the office of overseer (i.e., pastor-teacher), he is seeking [to do] an honorable work".
1st Timothy 3:1

Let no one despise [you on account of] your youth, but make yourself a good example to those who are faithful through your speaking, your behavior, your love, your faith, your holiness.
1st Timothy 4:11

In short, I fully agree with the premise of your question. Pastors/teachers/elders (really one and the same gift in scripture even if the offices occupied by these individuals occasionally have differences) are all a "highly protected class" in God's eyes. This does not mean, as you have pointed out, that they are automatically to be given unquestioning obedience. Rather, their conduct and production should be of such a high standard and so clearly of God that any movement against them will quickly be seen for what it is, spawned by jealousy or some other unholy motivation. If a person in such a position is not really there by God's will and is not really doing a service to the Church of Jesus Christ, that too will be readily apparent. As the scripture quoted above, 1st Timothy 5:19-20, makes clear, however, once such a person is given a position of responsibility by virtue of the office itself one would be well-advised to move with care: the phrase "two or three witnesses" suggests to me that not only is specific proof of wrong-doing required in order to bring an elder etc. up for public rebuke, but also that the quality of the evidence needs to be very solid (i.e., not any "two" but have "three" just in case one of the two proves to be of questionable veracity).

Ultimately, when talking about specific cases, one has to exercise sound judgment informed by scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit through that scripture empowered by prayer. So I commend you for seeking out the biblical perspectives on such things as the place to begin. Here are some other treatments of this and related issues which may prove helpful to you:

        Some Questions on Church Polity

        Church Polity

        Tent Making

        How important is education for a pastor?

        Pay the pastor

        How much should we pay the pastor?

        Pastoral Support

        The Local Church

In our Lord, the Chief Shepherd to whom we all must answer on that great day of days.

Bob Luginbill


Question #2: 

In studying the book of revelation, I have read many interpretations that state the Pope & the catholic church are the religious force behind the antichrist. Is this true?

Response #2:

This is a very popular interpretation of Revelation. I have much to say on this topic in general at the following link: "The Causes of the Great Apostasy". As I understand scripture on this score, during the Tribulation antichrist will be successful in amalgamating virtually all of the world's religions with himself at the head (see part 3B of Coming Tribulation: "Antichrist and his kingdom"). That will entail first and foremost the acceptance of antichrist as the "true Messiah" by Christian organizations generally. Indeed, we may certainly expect that the Roman catholic church will be heavily involved – but most Protestant and other Christian organizations will also become convinced of the beast's divine status. Only those who are determined to stay loyal to Jesus Christ regardless of the cost will avoid the deception and avoid becoming casualties of the Great Apostasy. So while as a life-long Protestant I am no supporter of the Roman catholic church, I find interpretations which seek to cast the pope in the role of antichrist and his organization itself in the role of Babylon as not only wrong-headed, but also potentially dangerous to the extent that they may tend to lull believers into a false sense of security, teaching that unless the pope and his church are in the lead, then there is nothing to fear (and such will certainly not be the case when it comes to the beast's tribulational religion).

See also the following link:

            “The Beast's Prophet and the Worldwide anti-Christian Religion”

In the One who is the only way, the only truth, and the only light, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill


Question #3: 

Pat Robertson has been in the news for his comments on assassination. I emailed the article to my family, reminding them that Jesus said we would know them by their fruits and Pat Robertson is included in that statement. I also mentioned how Christians need to help the hurting, feed the hungry spiritually and physically and I told my family I just didn't see much of that nowadays. Instead I see people who claim to be Christians talking about whom we should "take out" next. I got an email back from a family member saying that I shouldn't judge him and if I haven't sinned, then I can cast the first stone. I then sent them the email where Mr. Robertson apologized but in the article it seem as tho he was just trying to cover up his words. I mentioned that and my family member then told me that I'd better be careful. I don't know where Mr. Robertson will go in the end, that's not for me to decide. I am just saying that we have to watch out to whom we listen. But if I mention anything against anyone this person thinks I am judging him. This hurts my heart as I don't condemn anyone to hell. I don't want anyone to go there. But shouldn't we be careful about whom we listen to? Isn't it right for me to warn them when I think I see danger? This person got awfully defensive with me. Also even tho I listed in the New Testament all the verses that say we shouldn't kill, or that we should treat others the way we'd like to be treated (does Pat Robertson want to be "taken out" by covert ops?) or that what a man says comes out of his heart. I used all these verses to show that a Christian shouldn't be talking like that. The reply was that in the Old Testament God wanted some like David, to kill and that it was right. I am sure there was a reason for that. But if its okay for Pat, then it should be okay for me to say that, and I just don't think it is.

James 1:27 tells us - "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

Response #3:

I try to make it a point to keep politics and any political opinions I might have as completely separate from my Christianity as I can. In the past, more so in the present, and very much so in the future, the devil, who is very adept at using politics and political concerns to distract and ensnare Christians, is going to use politics in a major and unprecedented way to further his goal of world conquest through antichrist. To my way of thinking, we who profess to teach the Word of God have our hands full doing just that. At best, politics is a terrible distraction. At worst, it is an invitation to hand over to Satan control of everything you are trying to accomplish for God. This applies to the entire political spectrum, left, right, center, what have you. We are responsible individually as Christians for what we do individually. We are not responsible for getting involved in mass movements over which by definition we have zero control. It is impossible for any mass movement, political party, pressure group, or the like to act in a truly Christian way, no matter how well intentioned its originators might have been at the start. And this is true even when the Christian leader in question makes political comments which may be true or even courageous (maybe even more so in such cases, because this only gets the “band-wagon” rolling faster).

As far as covert operations and the like are concerned, I think you have hit the nail on the head. Namely, whether or not governments should utilize deadly force is a different question from whether or not Christian leaders should be involved in advocating it. That is a political action, in my view, pure and simple. I am not judging anybody, but I think it is pretty clear that the event you describe and the course it has taken shows just how fraught with potential danger mixing Christianity with politics can be. As I try to show in "Coming Tribulation: Part 3B: Antichrist", the beast will mix the two to a greater degree than anyone has ever attempted to do before – which is saying quite a lot. Pseudo-Christianity, that is. But it really does beg the question of, whether once a person crosses the line into politics and continues to wave the Bible, to what degree such "Christianity" can be considered genuine.

Don't get me wrong. We all have political opinions. We may choose to participate in political activities. We may even feel the need to run for office. We live in a democracy, and those are legitimate activities. What I am wary of is vociferously draping one's politics with the mantle of Christianity, or, alternatively, of vociferously draping one's Christianity with a mantle of politics. To me they are oil and water. One can do both, but that is very different from combining both. We all have to work in secular jobs, and we should all be pursuing spiritual growth. But we would never take to reading our Bibles at our desks instead of doing our work, nor working on our job (cell phone, computer, paper work) while we are sitting in church listening to the teaching of the Word.

I would certainly be very careful of voting for a politician who wanted to read the book of Philippians to me instead of explaining his or her positions on foreign policy. For the same reason, I would be very leery of giving my attention to a teacher of the Word who is more concerned about political issues than the exegesis of Hebrews. There are certainly exceptions to all these general principles, and there is certainly a range of acceptability to consider. I wouldn't demand that a politician never speak about his or her spiritual preferences, nor would I automatically forevermore discount a Bible teacher who made an occasional passing reference to contemporary politics (although I would feel better if I never heard either from either).

There does come a point where one has to decide whether such a person has gone too far in being seduced into concentrating on one instead of the other, or, worse to tell, of deliberately using the one to support the other. It may be the case that a politician is very deeply influenced by his or her religious beliefs, and may come to put too much public stress on these, or that a pastor-teacher may be so concerned about political events that he "preaches" about them overly much. But it is often also the case that some politicians use religion to get more votes and some pastors use politics to get a bigger audience. I leave it to each Christian to make such evaluations on their own.

You are very right to be concerned about this issue when you choose whom to listen to and whom to believe. We are all responsible for determining whose authority we accept in area of Bible teaching. After all, we have the Bible, we have the Holy Spirit, and we have the common sense that God gave us. Eve was deceived in the garden and Adam let himself be unduly influenced. My guess is that if we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked or persuaded when we should not, as an excuse this will carry very little weight with God, and that on that great day He will have no problem showing us where we should have known and should have turned away. This problem or one very similar to it will be responsible in no small measure for the Great Apostasy during the Tribulation's first half (see the link: The Great Apostasy), as many Christians will be so upset with the political situation in the world at that time that they will be willing to believe that the beast is really the Christ, and there is no worse decision that any one will ever be able to make than this!

It is one thing to be judgmental. It is quite another to have the spiritual common sense necessary to avoid the shipwreck of your faith (1Tim.1:19; cf. Heb.2:1).

As far as Pat Robertson is concerned, I have certainly said some things in my life that I regret. If he took back this comment, I guess that means that he thinks he made a mistake. I don't look to Mr. Robertson for spiritual guidance or enlightenment. If I were planning on doing so, I would certainly want to take everything he said/says into account, his Bible teaching as well as his expression of political opinions. It doesn't offend God for us to carefully check, like the Bereans did, whether or not what we are being told has a basis in scripture. And, like all applications of scripture, political opinions are individual judgment calls. One would hope that very soon after salvation we would all have enough basic knowledge of what the Bible says to see what is right and what is wrong for us individually, and to appreciate that what goes on in the world at large is out of our control to effect: God wants us to grow spiritually and help other Christians individually, not change the world politically (see the link: "The Integrated Satanic World System").

If I recall correctly, Mr. Robertson was one of the few Christian leaders who, after 9/11, was willing to state publicly that the disaster just could be divine judgment for our sorry spiritual state. I am not signing on here for his entire analysis, but it did take guts to say that. If memory serves, he was lambasted for the remark and backed off of it in that case as well. This does not mean that I applaud him for making it, even to the extent that I may agree with it. In fact, I think that it proves my point about political involvement undermining ministry.

Yours in Him who is the true Ruler of the universe, who knows the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end, and who is in control of all the currents of history, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


Question #4: 

I am now studying in 'Hamartiology: The Study of Sin' in the section '4. The so-called "imputation of Adam's sin”. You say “Without an understanding of the history of this issue, it may very well appear odd to the reader that such an erroneous teaching ever gained credence at all. Time and space do not allow a detailed revisiting of the story behind it, but suffice it to say that "the imputation of Adam's sin" was a theory developed to combat a particularly pernicious heresy (Pelagianism),” I would very much like to have a better understanding of the history of this issue. Could you please recommend some books or web pages?

Response #4:

The Wikipedia article on Pelagianism is a good place to start. In a nutshell, Pelagius believed that every human being had to sin in a manner similar to Adam in order for the flesh to become corrupt. He believed that he himself was still pure and without sin (which to my mind shows just how divorced from reality he was). As my old seminary professor Dr. Christian remarked, “Pelagius felt he had not sinned as he understood sin”. That really is no doubt the key – Pelagius had never, we suppose, committed overt sexual sin (or murder, etc.). But it is hard for me to see how he could have spent much time in scripture and not have appreciated that sin infects nearly everything we think, say and do (cf. Ex.20-23; Lev.18-20; Prov.6:16-19; Rom.1:18-32; Gal.5:19-21; Eph.5:3-5; 1Tim.1:8-10; 2Tim.3:1-5; cf. 2Thess.2:8-12).

For there is no man on earth who is [so] righteous that he [always] does what is good and [never] sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20

For all sin and fall short of God's glory. Romans 3:23

Here is some other bibliography:

            The Imputation of Adam's Sin, by John Murray (Eerdmans 1959)

            The History of Christian Doctrines by Louis Berkhof (Baker 1937)

            The History of Doctrines by Reinhold Seeberg (Baker 1977)

            A History of the Christian Church by Williston Walker (Scribners 1970)

Also there's a good article about Pelagianism in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. The Murray book is the best, most comprehensive treatment of the issue overall and has a lot on the history of the related issues. It's pretty cerebral and I enjoy Murray, though I have come to quite different conclusions as you see. Any systematic theology would address the issue as well – possibly also most good Bible dictionaries or encyclopediae.

In our Lord.

Bob L.

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