Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Biblical Authority Gone Bad and What to Do About it

Identifying a Saul and Being a David.

There are many lessons in the Old Testament but perhaps one of the most clear is the abuse of divinely appointed biblical authority. There is a ‘jump’ we must make to understand this possibility in the sense that while God is sovereign, it is possible for the truly anointed of God to go awry. In spiritual abuse the major premise of any leader is that they are divinely chosen and so anointed and have a ‘special’ place from which they legislate that authority. In addition, in many cases, this said ‘anointing’ by God makes the one who holds it unapproachable in terms of questioning any teaching, doctrine or even personal viewpoint of the one holding such authority. In many cases, the ‘authority card’ is played on the follower in the sense that God has chosen their leader and anointed him to carry out God’s will and to question that leading or place of authority is to question God. The main premise of this ‘authority card’ is: it is not for one to question authority if you believe it is wrong, God will judge that authority…the believer under such an authority is to allow God to deal with the issue not take personal action. What is the fruit of such thinking? Well, it empowers that authority to remain untouchable and unassailable from the follower’s standpoint. They are left to ‘take it to God’ and wait for God to act. Sadly, this is not biblical at all and that is why I think it is important that we as believers understand the limits of the ‘anointing’ by trumping the ‘authority card’ with correct thinking about authority.

Authority is a Mantle not a License

After study of the true biblical authority – the good and the bad – (yes there are examples of divinely appointed and anointed going ‘bad’), the evidence is clear. We need to think of the anointed one as wearing a mantle that God allows them to wear. This anointing is tentative and conditional. One thing we see is that with the anointing comes great responsibility and God is very much interested in the person so anointed and will remove that anointing when it comes to mis-representing Him. The tragedy of this is that the person who had that anointing has not recognized their misrepresentation – yet there is no check or balance within this type of system to self-correct itself. No better story and illustration of this is the life of Saul the first king of Israel. This story is the first indicator of authority gone bad and God’s removal of his mantle from them. While I cannot take the time to go through the calling of Saul and I leave that up to you to do your own research, I will say this. God chose Saul to be King. God promised Saul that if he followed Him, there would be a posterity for his house in terms of his line remaining in a place of kingship over His people 1 Sam 9:1-13-10. In this passage of scripture, the story of the rise of Saul is chronicled and also the blessing of God upon him. Tragically, the ‘anointing’ begins to be something Saul believes he has been given as his person. What I mean by this is that he internalizes the anointing and takes ownership of it and so begins to operate on his own power using the ‘anointing event’ as a license to operate and exert his own will – this is a chief indicator of biblical authority gone bad. Taking ownership of the anointing and operating on one’s own power using the anointing as a license to operate and exert one’s own will. This is Saul to a tee and anyone who claims to be anointed as a spiritual leader that may have started in humility and ended up with presumption. That is the second step of the losing of the anointing. In 1 Sam 13:11-15. Saul assumes a priestly office. He offers a sacrifice and in doing so assumes to be in a position he could never fulfill. He in essence here sets himself up as a priest-king: this is reserved only for the Messiah Himself and no other. In this brazen act, he loses it all. To state succinctly, the second indicator of biblical authority gone bad: One presumes a place one could never fill –in essence they want to become a mediation between God and the people that follow them. While they might never claim this, it is usually borne out in the treatment of others who beg to differ with them. What is usually their stance against them? It is from the premise of their granted authority that they question the right of anyone who might in turn question them; after all they are God’s anointed. This is the beginning of the end for Saul and unbeknownst to him, the anointing leaves him in the night 1 Sam 16:14. This is similar to the episode of Samson after his hair was cut – he was unaware that his strength had left him. It is at this time, that the decline of the ‘anointed’ commences. In the scripture, it is said that an ‘evil’ spirit from the Lord came upon Saul and tormented him. While I do not discount this possibility, I do believe that the ‘evil’ connotation is from Saul’s and those who authored the book of Samuel. Perhaps the ‘evil’ connotation included conviction. Saul knew he no longer had God’s full blessing – as Samuel clearly stated to him -- and this tormented him. But note the nature of Saul, he did not repent but only sought relief. This speaks of the mantle now stripped from him. In essence, he knew he was exposed and sought to ‘cover’ himself with something. He was now operating on the false belief that he could continue to operate effectively in the station where he had been placed. This is another trait of biblical authority gone bad: One tends to believe and re-asserts that the anointing is permanent in the sense that they can effectively carry out the responsibilities that were legislated to them based on the ‘anointing event’. Yet Saul begins to morph into paranoia. He sees another so anointed by God and so he squelches that one. Ironically, Saul began to resist the will of God. Moreover, he is fearful of David and the call on his life from God. In most cases, biblical authority gone ‘bad’ begins to develop a ‘persecution/martyr’ complex. Let me explain, in many cases the final evolution and form of an abusive/dysfunctional leader is paranoia. They literally presume to be in a place where they believe the entire fate of Christendom hangs in their balance and anyone who confronts them is worldly, fleshly or perhaps satanic. Moreover, these who confront them represent the forces that are set to ‘destroy’ them and they as true followers of Jesus, are being persecuted. Moreover, the paranoia of the leader is leavened amongst the followers who cut themselves off from anyone who might offer them another perspective and point of view from their leader. The final state for most of these groups who go so far is implosion or self-destruction.

Making the Break

So, those in such groups are trapped. Oh, they may be going along with the current trends in the group as espoused by the leader, but in each in every heart, there is a little voice that will not go away telling them all the while, ‘something is wrong’. Yet they fight and suppress that voice clinging all the more to the way that they have chosen. In their minds, the ‘anointed card’ trumps any play they might make. In essence, they are trapped and they are miserable. Those in such cases, long for spiritual freedom but there are no keys in their dogma to release them. They are trapped by their own practice. What can be done? Go back to the scriptures. I believe some simple precepts are important and these need to be re-stated so they will provide keys to free thinking albeit it is labeled as ‘rebellion to authority’ in the world one might be living within currently. Here they are:

The Elijah Principle – If you take the time to read the feats of Elijah, you will see one stark reality: Even a king is subject to the word of God. This was true of Samuel as well in Saul’s day. The word of God is the great equalizer and any teaching or person is subject to its precepts. Using Jeremiah as an example, he was told that God would empower him to stand alone against entire nations. We can never acquiesce this power to any station or person – yet this is exactly what biblical authority gone ‘bad’ requires of us. This is done gradually almost imperceptibly because it works as much through the group itself as the leader. We tend to act in what is accepted practice so to remain consistent with the group. In so doing, we relinquish the freedom of thought for the herd’s mentality. Yet God never has allowed group-think to manifest His will and the prophets, apostles and Jesus Himself are a testament to independent thought that is based on scripture.

The David Principle – While David never raised his hand against the Lord’s anointed (Saul), he did not continue to put himself in a position where he as a person was threatened. He did not ‘obey’ Saul in the sense that it meant a threat upon his life. This is a good principle for us. While it recognizes what God may have given to the leader – supposing that his station is indeed a biblical office and that they have met the biblical requirements for such a station – it does not allow that person to dictate the working of the will of God for the one who, as David did, pursues the will of God yet not according to the authority they might recognize. In essence David deferred to a higher authority. He chose to dissent and by his actions chose to set himself apart from Saul out of necessity. He recognized what the ‘anointed of the Lord’ had become and could no longer live directly under that regime. Take note here: If anything, Saul was a legitimate authority but David did not go along with it – this in itself is a principle for us: Even when legitimate authority is present but performing acts that are outside its station, we have the right to dissent. What is our vehicle to do so? It is David. He did not agree with Saul or his methods and saw them as flawed and even a physical threat to himself and his family. David confronted Saul on at least two occasions and reproved him. He was not silent but vocalized his concerns and his defense of his actions. If we are to dissent, if done in the right spirit, we can vocalize our dissent in a righteous fashion. Moreover, there were people who collected themselves to David that he accepted and provided protection for during his time of flight. Who were these people? They were the distressed, indebted and discontented (1 Sam 22:2) under King Saul. This is another principle, we are to aid those who seek refuge from spiritual oppression.

The Bottom Line

Everyone is accountable for their actions. In the formative years of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic church attempted to squelch any dissent from Papal authority – which by the way was touted to be by divine right and anointing. Dissent is the hallmark of the true seekers of God and is our right and heritage in the face of any spiritual oppression – In fact, if history itself is the judge, we could be confident to take the position that God works, renews, restores, corrects and judges through dissent against spiritual oppression. Very rarely can change come from within oppressive systems because there is no avenue for it to happen. We must be convinced that the church, and so us as individuals, are in sovereign Hands. We must also be convinced that truth will prevail and any authority that is biblical will welcome its light upon all they are doing. How does this light come? In two basic forms: legitimate questions and if they are not heeded by those to whom they are posed, through our dissent.

Evidence of the End Game

As a final thought, when dissent begins to occur in a significant measure, it is a tell-tale sign the end is near for the movement that is unbiblical in its praxis of the Faith. Here are some indications of the 'end game':

1> unwarranted fear – Saul feared David to a point that cuase action on his part to remove the object of His fear.

2> Continued abuse to those who aid their foe. Saul killed all the priests of God at Nob because they unwittingly and innocently helped David. These actions are not rational.

3> Continued pursuit/aggression even when God sovereignty is indicated in the preservation and blessing of David.

4> Paranoia against all. No one is trusted and every one and every action is seen as against them. They manifest a victim/martyr mentality.

5> Anger and brutality are the only fruit they produce.

6> Grasp and hold to power through intimidation and fear.

7> Wrong Actions cannot be carried out by those who fear God. Many times people are required to do things that go against their own conscience and convictions. This causes more fear and aggression by them and their minions.

8> Plan to create a posterity that reflects only their immediate family at the high cost sacrificing others to do so.

9> Fear that there will be no posterity after they are gone.

These are what bring down the abusive authority. Their actions no longer reflect their anointing – When this principle it manifested, it is time to make for the exit and to dissent. This is when the time of their leading has ended. This is the point when blessing becomes judgment. We must recognize that our carrying out of their instructions cannot be done in good conscience and we must resist. This is what the Saul's soldiers did that were with him when He ordered the destruction of the priests of Nob. Sometimes, it is right to resist anointed authority when it is in the wrong…it is the only thing to do.