Maybe saying “it all comes down to authority” is a straw-man argument, a way for me to avoid having to actually think about truth, think about theology. Perhaps it is a prime example of blindly following orders, disregarding what the orders actually are.
But that’s not really what the argument for authority boils down to. Falling back authority is not a straw-man argument, but rather is the only way to move from unsurety to surety. And without moving on to surety, we cannot move into the deeper realms of reality.
A Multitude of Interpretations
Today, there isn’t a single belief in Christianity that is not disputed among Christians or people who call themselves Christians. Take Baptism for example. There are so many varying interpretations on Baptism. There are those who believe that you must be immersed versus being sprinkled. Even among those who believe in immersion you will get a wild variation on how many times you must be immersed. There are some groups within immersion-only that believe Baptism can only take place in living water, such as a natural stream, lake, or ocean. Then you have divisions on whether infants and the mentally challenged can be baptized. And at the height you have the important dispute on whether Baptism is a Sacrament or not.
Or take the Eucharist. You again have people claiming it’s a Sacrament, and others claiming that it is not. Some claim its a symbol, and some claim it is the real, actual flesh and blood of Jesus, and some who claim that it’s still bread but Jesus’ flesh is also with the bread.
But these disputes aren’t limited to the “controversial” aspects of theology, they run right down to the very basics. There are disputes among Christian groups about whether Jesus was actually God or not. There are disputes on whether he was actually resurrected from the dead physically, or in spirit only.
The difficulty with all of these things is that each defender of these varying conclusions can defend their position with Scripture. They all believe that the Holy Spirit leads them to these truths and therefore they must be true. The believe that since they have the fruits of the Spirit in their lives that they are being lead into correct interpretation of these passages.
However, this plainly cannot be true. It is also said that these differing interpretations are unimportant to salvation as long as we have the basics. But I tell you, these are the basics and they are disputed. How is anyone to know what is actually required in order to be saved? Is it faith alone? Or is it faith working in love? Do I need Baptism to be saved or don’t I? Do I need to worship the contents of the tabernacle or is it idolatry? The resolution of these questions is an absolute necessity. So how can we resolve these things?