I picked up a book that I started reading back in the fall that I drifted away from for some reason. The book is God’s Power for Your Life by A.W. Tozer. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that Tozer is hands down my favorite author. The way he writes just connects with me and challenges me to grow and take serious stock of my life. To refresh my memory, I decided to skim the underlined passages I made and stumbled upon a section that I believe is a message worthy of sharing.
The purpose of the book is to establish God’s word as authoritative in communicating His thoughts to us. It is also intended to inspire and enlighten us as to the riches found in a daily habit of soaking in the scriptures. In chapter 2, Tozer spends some time exposing the false authorities we allow to affect our faith. “These false authorities need to be named for what they are, and then dealt with according to the blessed Word of God.” So here they are, five false authorities that permeate religion today.
1. Tradition. “A tradition has a history that cannot be supported by facts. This is crucial to understand. Beliefs and practices come to be based on that tradition. There is no other reason to do something than that it has been done that way in the past.” How many things do we practice and hold fast to in our churches today that we have no clue the origin? Tradition isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be given a much greater purpose than it deserves because “we’ve always done it that way”.
2. The Authority of Numbers. “It is the size of the organization that matters. The bigger the organization, the more authority and power it has. I have never been one to base the importance or validity of an organization of a count of noses.” A common question about a church is how many people are coming. It’s like a sense of validity is assigned to a church the larger the attendance number is. While keeping track of numbers can be good for strategic decisions, such as allocating resources to best take care of the people in the church, it can drive churches to do whatever it takes to get butts in seats. And that is where the gospel tends to get watered down or even compromised because we want to see our empire grow rather than see individual hearts transformed. “This generation of Christians needs to understand that numbers do not make anything true. You can get a vast number of people to believe something, but if it was an error before they believed it, it is still an error after they have been convinced.”
3. Nature or the Native Instinct. Simply put, it says, “Trust the light within you.” It’s the wicked practice of picking and choosing what in the Bible inspires you and throwing the rest out the window. “If we run across something in the Scriptures counter to our natural inclinations, we can dismiss it by claiming that part of Scripture is not inspired, and therefore I do not have to pay attention to it.”
4. Reason or Philosophy. “If our authority is to come from reason or philosophy, the logical question is which one? Spiritism? Naturalism? Idealism? Realism? Materialism? Intuitionism? Atheism? Humanism? You can jumble them all together and have a rather fine mixture on your hands. However, it is not what is good about the philosophy but what is bad about it that concerns me. It is not the water but the poison in the water that kills.”
5. Religion. For a long time, people would ask me what faith or church I was a part of. And I would answer “Southern Baptist” or “Christianity” to them. But as I got older and saw the emptiness of religion, I started to change my answer and tell people that I’m a Christ-follower. To me, to say I’m Southern Baptist is just a label. But to say I’m a Christ-follower implies a life style. I have experienced the reverence and respect people give a label. And that, according to Tozer, is what gives religion its authority. And it keeps its power through customs, pageantry, intimidation, and economic pressures. I have personally experienced every single one of these and maybe you have too. Being able to break free from those chains brings a new life that I wish everyone could experience.
This is just a quick overview of what Tozer calls false authorities. I encourage you to really look hard at each of these and how they affect your faith today. A genuine faith in Christ requires that we shed religion. “I believe the time is coming when evangelical Christians will not be able to take our Christianity as casually as we do now. The time is coming when we may have to stand up and be counted for the genuine thing.” Will you be ready?