Context in which Spiritual Authority is Exercised Today


"The problem of authority is the most fundamental problem that the Christian Church ever faces."

--J.I. Packer (1958:42, cf.44)


The Judeo-Christian religious tradition is based on the belief in divine revelation. God appeared to and spoke through men like Moses, Solomon and Isaiah. God manifested himself in the person of Jesus Christ who himself "is the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15, NRSV). His life and teachings were written down "after investigating everything carefully from the very first" (Luke 1:3). And God worked through apostles such as Peter, John and Paul to teach and exhort the implications of faith in Jesus. The result of compiling these works is an impressive array of texts, a mixture of history, biography, didactic teaching, personal journals, musical lyrics and correspondence. For Christians, these texts constitute a revelation of God’s dealings with human beings. Their messages constitute the word of God himself.

In Christianity, spiritual authority and divine revelation are intertwined. Proper belief and ethical conduct have long been based on what the Bible says. The understanding and application of these norms for belief and conduct affect their enforcement in the Christian community. Thus, the exercise of spiritual authority is dependent on the nature of one’s belief of divine revelation in the Scriptures.

This thesis explores the relation between the understanding Scripture and the exercise of spiritual authority. Understanding the nature of divine revelation determines the exercise of spiritual authority. I will limit my population to evangelical ministers in the Southern California area and will conduct intensive interviews exploring philosophical/theological beliefs of the Bible and the current exercise of authority in their congregations.

The first part of this thesis will give a theoretical and historical overview of the context in which spiritual authority is exercised today. The review of history will focus significant factors from the 1500’s to the present. The key theme is the rise of "individualism" which stems from two factors: 1) the weakening of exclusivity of normative systems and 2) the weakening of clerical authority.

A preliminary discussion of terms is a necessary precursor to further discussion.

Comments, questions and contributions are welcome. Please see the guest book registry for your opportunity to speak out.

Continue to Spiritual Authority: Introductory discussion of terms.

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This page created on October 25, 1996.
Most recent revision was October 25, 1996.
Copyright 1996 Gerardo Marti
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