Catholics look to the Catholic Church to show the way regarding true Christian faith and morals. The rejection of 1,500 years of continuous heritage and doctrinal development by the Protestant Reformers in favor of scripture has only led to disunity and chaos. We must look to the apostles and their successors to light the way.
There are really only five choices for Christian authority. Certainly everyone agrees that the teachings of Jesus and the apostles are the source of Christian truth:
(2 Peter 2:10) But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government [authority]. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Is Peter referring to civil authority?
If Peter is referring to church authority, is he assuming that those in authority are orthodox and just? Or does he expect us to obey anyone who happens to be a strong leader even if they are unholy, heretical, abusive, or worldly?
If Peter is speaking of obedience to civil authority he is being very short-sighted. Soon after he wrote this the Roman government would begin persecuting Christians and would eventually outlaw it altogether. Should Christians abandon their faith because the civil authorities command them to? Of course not.
Peter must be speaking of spiritual authority, of religious authority. In the context of addressing the topic of false teachers, Peter reiterates that there is such a thing as apostolic authority and that it is a trustworthy source of truth. By disobeying the apostles, these false teachers are disobeying Christ. This is so because the apostles are passing-on the gospel truth.
(Jude 8) Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
False teachers hate submitting to apostolic authority. They listen to their dreams, speculations, and imaginations rather than the authentic gospel. Typically, they speak badly of church leaders.
(3 John 9,10) I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
The whole reason the apostles speak out against those who reject spiritual and religious authority is because without it they will teach falsehood and lead people astray. The assumption is that these church leaders in authority are teaching the true gospel of Christ faithfully passed-on by the apostles.
Soon after these New Testament writings, bishops could no longer be trusted as a group to teach the true Christian faith. They started adding things and changing things and changing the emphasis. The Catholic Church claims to be the true church which has faithfully passed-on the apostolic teaching,and this is true to a degree, but it has also added and changed and distorted. We have no other alternative than to accept the Holy Spirit-inspired, infallible teaching authority of those who taught truth, who truly passed-on the apostolic teaching.
Another assumption of the apostles is that Church leaders are holy men, good shepherds of the flock, honest, and faith-filled. But it wasn't too long before the bishops became "fat cats" who exploited the flock, who lived sinful materialistic lives, and who had no concern whatsoever for the spiritual well-being of the Christians they were supposedly overseeing.
It sounds so easy. Unfortunately, I have difficulties finding a church that qualifies.
Problems with the Catholic Church:
Problems with the Orthodox Church:
Problems with the local Protestant Churches:
Problems with the fundamentalist evangelical Churches:
I should mention that there is a lot good about Christian churches, but it is not the purpose of this article to discuss this. Positive articles:
Obey Civil Rulers
(Romans 13:1-4) Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Christians are to obey civil government. But there are several assumptions to this:
If these conditions are not true for the rulers in question then all bets are off. Christians have no obligation to unjust, evil rulers. This does not mean we must rebel — doing so might be unwise and accomplish nothing.
(1 Peter 2:13,14) Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
Same as above. If the civil rulers are not just than our submission to them is certainly not for the Lord's sake. If we must violate God's commands to follow the rulers then that is not for the Lord's sake.
(Matthew 27:32) And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
(Matthew 5:41) And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Jesus teaches that we should allow ourselves to be oppressed and mistreated and to not seek revenge on those who harm us. So, if we are living under unjust civil rulers or unholy Christian leaders we should bravely endure it and pray for them.
(1 Corinthians 7:21) Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
We are to accept our lot in life. But if there is something we can do to change it, then by all means we have the freedom to do so.
I think the basic message is that we are often powerless to change unfair and unjust situations. We should only revolt if these situations are terrible and if there is enough public outcry with strong leaders to lead a resistance movement with some chance of success. God doesn't want us to launch Crusades in which everyone is slaughtered to no good purpose.