A Surprising Source of Spiritual Authority

I am going to suggest what might seem like a strange, or even heretical source of spiritual authority, but first I want to consider the usual suspects.

Many people are looking for something they can hitch their wagon to. They want to be able to point somewhere and say this is what I believe, this is who I follow, this interpretation makes the most sense to me.

Many would point to the church. The church has promoted the burning of witches, the Crusades, and the church (a huge segment of it) elected Donald Trump to the presidency. Unfortunately, it has become a self-perpetuating institution. Millions have seen the chasm between the organization and its proclaimed head and have bid farewell.

Christian leaders, pastors, and teachers have held sway over millions of folks who like what they hear. But too many of these leaders have also been guilty of child sexual abuse, what we quaintly call moral failure, and outright abuse of the authority that people have granted to them. Their stock has plummeted greatly in recent years.

I come from a faith tradition that holds the Bible as the absolute authority. It’s nice to have something in black and white; but the Bible is not black and white. It is an ancient text. Parts are difficult to understand. There are seeming contradictions. It has to be interpreted, and it get interpreted different ways. Things like the contrast between the genocides of the Old Testament the message of love of the New are difficult to reconcile. I have come to see the Bible as people’s evolving understanding of God.

Many people believe they are led by the Holy Spirit. I do believe that God lives within his followers and prompts and guides us in various, subtle ways. But people are so hungry for a short cut to God, they often erroneously claim that He told them something or the other. Hence, He has gotten blamed for way too much weirdness that obviously was not from Him.

Then there is Jesus. How can you fault a human representation that is the express image of God?

You can’t. He showed us how to live, which sometimes flies in the face of the values of evangelical Christians. He died to seal our forgiveness and He lives to let us know there is more to come.

There has been much that is not good done in the name of every spiritual authority, but there has also been much that is good. It seems like we humans are really good at messing things up.

But there still is another spiritual authority. You.

You are the ultimate spiritual authority because you decide upon who or what is your authority. You can easily hitch up your wagon to a Christian leader, a denomination, a local church, or a particular interpretation of the Bible. That’s the easy way to do it.

Or you can use your heart and mind to align yourself with whatever lines up with Jesus and reject the rest.

By the way, it is very possible that we are mistaken in some of our beliefs, but I would rather make my own mistakes than have to own someone else’s.

We are always the final authority for what we choose to believe. That’s the way God designed it. We are free moral agents, not puppets. He left a lot up to us.

Other writers’ contribution on the same topic:


About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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