This is a continuation of a previous blog: "What I Wished Apostolics Would Do." If you have not read that blog, then you should read it before you continue reading this one. Go on. Go read it. I will be waiting on you right here when you return.
Now that you know that I wish that Apostolics would have intramural debates about our differences, I will give you a few reasons why I don't think it will happen in some circles. Recently a couple Apostolic brothers were making posts on Instagram and other forms of social media about Christmas. I noticed as one person in particular began to interact with them about their views that they were not interested in dialoguing with others. They were only interested in dictating to others what they wanted them to hear. The attitude was: "My mind is made up and nothing is going to change me." This is not an attitude that is characteristic of truth seekers. Honest truth seekers always have the capacity to humbly hear the other side of the argument.
The following reasons may not be listed in the proper order of importance, but they are all factors that keep some Apostolics from debating.
- OVEREMPHASIS ON PASTORAL AUTHORITY: This reason could very well be the most important reason of all the ones I will list. Many Apostolic pastors would never engage in a public debate or a public discussion about differences for fear of losing authority. We have created a dangerous climate in the Apostolic movement where the pastor has unchecked and unlimited authority. We claim that we have elders, but for the most part it is a facade when push comes to shove. We have created a climate in which the pastor is always right. In fact, as I have heard it said, he is right even when he is wrong. What does this have to do with the reason that we won't debate? This culture of pastoral authority is not conducive to debate because it does not allow for leadership to be questioned or wrong. If it can be demonstrate that the pastor holds an inaccurate or unbiblical view, then his infallibility is undermined and his entire system of authority crashes. Yes, pastors have authority over the congregation. But as with all levels of authority, there are limits. Therefore, what I am pointing out here as the obstacle to in-house debating is not pastoral authority, but "overemphasis" on pastoral authority. I certainly believe that pastors have God-given and Scripture-mandated authority. But when pastoral authority comes to mean to a pastor that he can never admit to being wrong or change his mind, then he has abused his authority as a pastor. A pastor that has created a culture where he can never admit to his congregation that he has been wrong about an issue will find himself in the unenviable position not being able to follow the Spirit in crucial moments in his church's history. The truly sad part is this is a self-imposed and unnecessary limitation. The Apostolic movement is in need of God-fearing and transparent leaders who are only concerned with truth. However, in an attempt to preserve our pseudo, overreaching authority, we are perpetuating doctrines and traditions that are less than accurate, biblical and productive. Open dialogue in the form of debate would expose them. And that's the thing of which the abuser of pastoral authority is most afraid.
- WE ARE AFRAID WE MIGHT BE WRONG: For some, the reason they are uncomfortable with debating their position is because they are uncomfortable with their position. While they preach it long and loud when no one can respond, questions are screaming in the back of their own heads. They are--in the words of a friend do mine--trying to drown out those voice with their own screaming voice. Or as the late great Marvin Hicks said about one of his debate opponents: "He is just whistling in the graveyard to keep his courage up." The problem is: the voices in one's head pick the most inconvenient times to talk. They couldn't care less that you have to get up early in the morning. They will keep you up half the night. Pesky little fellas! The fearful person is so afraid to be wrong because everything they believe is interconnected. They are afraid that if one thing they believe is found to be untrue then everything they believe is untrue. So they revert to an all-or-nothing defense of what they believe as a coping mechanism. This is why we need to understand the hierarchy of doctrine. Not everything we believe need to hold the same level of significance. I have some opinions about scriptures that I could not care less if they turned out to be wrong. Then I hold other views about scripture that are at the core of who I am as a christian.
- WE DON'T HAVE A HIGH VIEW OF SCRIPTURE: Some Apostolics don't want to debate because they do not have a high view of scripture. In other words, for some Apostolics it doesn't really matters what the Bible says. They have a higher source of authority--their own opinions manifest as traditions. The reason that I know that they value their opinions above scripture is because when confronted with scripture they admit that scripture is at odds with their opinions yet they maintain them anyway. Some have even gone so far as to say, "I don't care what the Bible says." When one places their own opinions above scripture, then their view of scripture is low. Why debate when your views are set regardless of what scripture say?!
- PEER PRESSURE: This is a significant reason that we don't engage in intramural debate. At least not honest debate. We defend the consensus vigorously. But when it comes to defending what we really believe, he hide. I fully understand the impulse and have been guilty of it many times. We have to create a culture where we are free to safely discuss scripture with other Apostolics. This is especially true for Apostolic preachers. If we cannot have honest debate, we will continue to lose men to extreme positions. They will keep their concerns to themselves until they cant take it an longer. Then in an explosion of freedom they will over react.
These are some of the reasons that Apostolics will not engage in discussion about in-house issues that face our movement. Brothers and sisters: this must change. As always feel free to rebuke me, shoot me full of holes and call me a heretic.