Carl, one of our dearest friends and church historian, is fond of saying that independent churches often have a “Pope in every pulpit.” For inasmuch as Protestants protest the papacy, and castigate Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, they too want someone to be authoritative, to call the shots. Otherwise, it’s a free for all (Isn’t it now?).
We want someone to explain the Biblical narrative, to explain reality. We say we believe the Bible. And we do. But we pick and choose which interpretation of the Bible sounds best to us, which interpretation we believe best corresponds to reality. We don’t all come to the same conclusions, either. And so some of us “follow Paul” others of us “follow Peter” and still others of us “follow Apollos” (here I’m just using the biblical lingo to prove a point). Our following this, that, or the other one has resulted in more than thirty thousand Protestant denominations.
We place our pastors and celebrity pastors and other ministry leaders on a pedestal, sometimes uncritically. In many places, whatever the pastor (most often a man) says, goes. And thus we have an Evangelical version of ex-cathedra. While we would vehemently deny that our pastors or well-known national pastors/Christian leaders speak ex-cathedra, we treat them as if they do.
All these divisions result in Evangelical Christian tribalism. We fight tooth and nail to convince unbelievers and other Christians that our own interpretations are indeed the biblical interpretation. As a result, we cannot allow someone else (who is wrong), to control the narrative. That would lead to many going astray. So we fight for control of the narrative-even publicly. Some of us even resort to using godless means to wrest narrative control from others and to achieve what we believe to be Godly ends. Yet, as I’ve said before, God cares about the means we use to achieve his ends. Why would he endorse godless means to achieve his ends?
I believe we are involved in a power struggle over who (which tribe) will control the overarching narrative within Evangelicalism. That’s at least part of the reason for our Evangelical wars. Forget the culture wars.
Let’s be honest, we do have our own papal stand-ins who speak an Evangelical version of ex-cathedra.
I really do think Carl is right on (of course, I acknowledge there are exceptions).
What do you think?