the weblog of Alan Knox

Anabaptist politics and pastoral authority…

Posted by on Aug 2, 2007 in blog links, church history, elders, office, service | 3 comments

Dave Black has published his fourth aritcle about the Anabaptists: “What I Have Learned from the Anabaptists (Part 4)” In this article, Dave discusses the Anabaptists response to politics and governments. He says:

They [the Anabaptists] taught that the church is not only apolitical but antipolitical in the sense that it regards political power as inevitably idolatrous. The church is to seek the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness. It therefore refuses to confer any value on political power but instead radically questions it. With Constantine’s victory at the Milvian Bridge, however, the church became invested with political power, and it has sought political power ever since. It acquiesced where Jesus resisted: the church accepts all the kingdoms of the earth from Satan. It forges an alliance with the state, which it now seeks to Christianize.

On a different topic, Emily Hunter McGowan has written a guest article for SBCOutpost called “Who Should ‘Have Authority Over a Man’?” She begins by discussing 1 Timothy 2:12, but concludes the article by discussing authority in general. She says:

“Pastoral authority” is invoked in support of all kinds of actions, events, and propositions. In more mundane uses, “pastoral authority” becomes a catchphrase signaling the need to acquire permission from the pastor to take action or make a public statement. Along these lines, you might hear someone say, “I disagree with Pastor Tom about this issue, but I don’t want to undermine his pastoral authority.” More extreme applications, of course, include the forceful silencing of dissent and the legitimization of unfortunate personality worship. In this vein, something like this is more likely: “Don’t you know our pastor has authority over you?”

To be clear, in my criticism I do not take away from the responsibility of our local church pastors to shepherd our congregations. The apostles left us careful instructions regarding the need for us to recognize, honor, imitate, and submit to our leaders (1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:7, 17), as well as details regarding the characteristics that qualify and disqualify leaders from service (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

Yet, if you survey the teaching of the NT epistles on the matter of elders, overseers, leaders, or shepherds, you will find no mention of “authority” or “exercising authority over” anyone. In fact, 1 Peter 5:3 contains explicit instruction for shepherds to oversee the people “not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

These are the same conclusions that I’ve reached, as discussed in my posts “Exercising Authority“, “Ruling or Leading?“, and “Obey and Submit? (Hebrews 13:17)“.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-2-2007

    Are ecumenical councils examples of “exercising authority over”?

  2. 8-7-2007


    I think there are many prideful leaders who follow in the footsteps of Diotrephes. Those who want to be in control of the people and prefering them to be in bondage and hearers only.

    There are also many who follow in the footsteps of Moses. He didn’t want the responsibility of leading people. He was the most humble man to walk the earth, but because he had a personal relationship with God and was led by the Spirit he encouraged the people to follow and listen to God. But the irresponsible people put him in bondage by electing him to deal with God and then speaking to them. It was not necessarily Moses’ fault the people didn’t want to take the time to have a personal relationship with the Father and they looked to him instead of to God to lead them. But because of this Moses became pre-occupied with the people and he himself, though being extremely humble, for a moment lost site of his role as a leader, and as a consequence he himself was never allowed to enter into the rest that God prepared.

    Then there are those leaders who want to follow in the footsteps of John the baptist who was, as Jesus said, “the greatest man born of a woman.” Someone who simply shows people they need to repent, they stink, they need to take a bath and cleanse themselves of this baggage they’re carrying, and then go seek out, follow, and listen to Jesus.(This is not meant to be a plug for the “Baptist Denomination”)

    The conclusion I’ve come to is this…

    There are Spirit led people put into bondage by irresponsible “leaders” of the churches.

    There are Spirit led leaders who are put into bondage by irresponsible people in the churches.

    Then there are those in the wilderness who simply walk with God and point to Christ and say, “seek only Him, follow only Him, and Listen to Him.”

    I know, personally, which one I want to imitate.


  3. 8-7-2007


    That is a great observation! If you don’t mind, I think I will expand that into a blog post soon… with credit to you, of course.