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Who Decides About Bishops Anyway?

March 17, 2015

Recently we’ve seen a number of big changes in our society: same-sex marriage is now accepted, we can manipulate human genes to avoid certain diseases, and the Anglican church has a female bishop.

As a watcher from the sidelines, what annoyed me the most in the whole debacle about women bishops was the fact that secular society outside the church felt entitled to get involved.

The thing is, this was a theological decision by people who claim to want to do God’s will. The question to be asked (about any of those issues) isn’t whether a certain position is contemporary or relevant, but whether it’s biblical. It’s what God thinks about it that matters, not what Cameron or Dawkins or the archbishop thinks. And even though that aspect was there, it was largely drowned out by the loud shouts for the church to embrace the 21st century and be relevant: not allowing women bishops is both sexist and old-fashioned.

My point is this: the people of God must listen to God, not the surrounding culture. Now, that doesn’t mean we just apply everything straight out of the Bible – there are cultural adaptations in there as well – but that we look closely at what the Bible says about gender roles, welfare, education etc, and engage with the text in a theologically informed way.

In the 19th century, disbelief in the supernatural was spreading through the western world. As a result, many preachers (from all denominations) started playing down, if not outright denying, anything supernatural in the Bible. This was supposed to make it easier for people to believe – but the actual result was the opposite. If the cross was just a tragic miscarriage of justice and the resurrection simply the disciples’ taking Jesus’ ideals into the world, there is no good news, and no reason to believe at all. This well-meaning attempt at cultural adaption almost killed the gospel, much more efficiently than any amount of outright persecution ever did!

Let’s not make the same mistake again. We can’t allow outsiders to decide what the church believes; we’re not meant to be contemporary but to be faithful. If we find that certain adjustments fit within the biblical world view, that’s fine – but the justification must still come from within the Bible and be based on theological reflection within the community of believers, not from a secular society that doesn’t profess allegiance to the Jesus we follow!

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From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

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