You Will Respect My Authoritare…

Here’s an interesting post I found over at ccblogs from Bob Cornwall.

He explains how the homosexual controversy is really rooted in the larger protestant conundrum of authority. Boiled down, gay ordination is just more questions about sola scriptura, he argues. These are two issues we’ve discussed at length at theophiliacs so I thought this was an interesting perspective.



  1. thanks for the link, this was a great post. How do you feel about the imminent demise of biblical authority that he projects. This would be an interesting debate to have.


  2. I think in an effort to correct the shortfalls of sola scriptura many have disregarded scripture as having any authority.

    They practice selective Authority just like anyone else.


  3. Thanks for the link.

    Let me say that I’m not denying (necessarily)the authority of Scripture. But, I am raising questions of sola scriptura — that is the authority and sufficiency of scripture alone to guide us in matters of faith. There are just too many questions and issues that either were not addressed or they were not addressed in a way that is helpful in the 21st century.

    Ultimately our debates about Scripture have more to do with interpretation than they do with the authority of the text itself!

    Therefore, we must ask how Scripture speaks to homosexuality in a way that is helpful in this day and age. Years ago, when we were debating the role of women we discovered that context and culture must be considered. Is not the same true now?


  4. I feel like we have a celebrity in our midst. Pastor Bob I really enjoy your blog and your solemn, thoughtful posts.

    I myself have argued that the principle of sola scriptura is not universally applicable even to those who support it fully.

    But, and perhaps if I may be so bold, as your post is a testament to, many new talks about this seem to revolve around the issue of homosexuality. And though this is a very important issue, I so dislike all roads leading to this one topic.

    Perhaps we might ask, if we are using this deconstruction of sola scriptura to bring about the blessing of homosexual practice, how then do we use it to elevate or denounce other practices which we might be of one mind on? More blunty put, how might we use it at all since we (rightly) recognize that we all come to the text with different perspectives and worldviews? Is unity only achievable from the safety of an infallable authority, be it The Church, Tradition, the Pope, or Scripture?


  5. Tony,
    You bring up a good point. It seems that scripture as authority is only useful when seen wholistically. Of course even this poses problems with determining what scripture actually means. This of course is why there are so many denominations claiming legitimization via scriptural authority. I like the idea of communally defined scriptural authority. Unfortunately, this doesnt seem like a real answer. This would ultimately lead to a situation very similar to the one we are currently in. I have to say that this is why I have leaned towards removing scripture from the equation of authority. After all, it seems that outside of sola scriptura it holds no real authoritative value, and even under this premise it is subject to the interpretation of its readers.


  6. Wow, never thought of myself as a celebrity! Thanks.

    You bring up a good point — how do we decide how to respond to important issues of our time. Let’s move from homosexuality to torture.

    Studies suggest that many good Christians, people who likely are anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage, believe that torture is appropriate in certain cases. The principle is that we have the right to defend ourselves, and thus if torturing someone will enable this, then it’s okay (or something like that). I would say that torture is simply not appropriate in any case or situation. It might be understandable, but its not okay. Now, I could turn to texts such as love your neighbor (but the respondent might say, if torture were to protect your neighbor then shouldn’t we engage in it) or turn the other cheek, etc. I have argued that we who follow the tortured one should not torture another, but I’m sure there’s an answer to that as well.

    So, how do we decide what is true and right? On homosexuality it was the coming out of a family member that caused me to rethink how I looked at the issue and read the scriptures in this regard.

    I think we can say that no one has held to a fully consistent understanding of either sola scriptura or even biblical authority. We’ve all looked for the loopholes! And usually, we find them. I know I have.


  7. Apropos of this discussion, see Alister McGrath’s Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution–A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First. It is basically a history of the fissiparous nature of Protestantism, which arises from the individual’s right to read and interpret Scripture without a Magisterium guiding his/her interpretations.


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