Recall from the previous parts of this series that traditionalism reconnects man with the wisdom of his ancestors and that the most important item of wisdom is to acknowledge the God of the Bible. Recall also that intuition is the foundation of wisdom, and that man also needs revelation and personal repentance in order to be wise. Once you have begun to repent of your liberalism, you are ready to find teachers of wisdom
The greatest teacher, of course, is God, and His teachings are found in the Bible. The most important of these teachings is how you can be saved from God’s wrath through repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. This truth, of course, cannot be known through intuition. It must be revealed to you, and then you must believe it.
Since the Bible, and only the Bible, is God speaking, it is the highest authority other than God Himself[i]. It is the ultimate authority for testing and correcting our intuitions about the order of being.
But we face an immediate problem: Authorities disagree about exactly what the Bible means. Often these disagreements arise when men don’t want to acknowledge the clear meaning of the words. These are disagreements caused by stubbornness, not by a lack of clarity in the text. But there are genuine disagreements. The authorities disagree about what the Bible teaches.
Perhaps you, the reader, are already a part of a Christian tradition. In that case you already have an authority which clarifies the meaning of the Bible. But this essay assumes that you are not yet a traditionalist. That being so, you do not yet know which authority to trust.
Do not respond to this as the world does, and conclude that disagreement proves there is no truth about God that we can know. This thinking is part of the poisonous nihilism of the modern world and it can drag you down to destruction. Man needs certainty about the most important things if he is to live well. In order to act, especially on important issues, we must have certainty. And disagreement never means that there is no truth. It means only that people differ in their ability and desire to know and honor reality.
When authorities disagree, it is natural to ask “Who’s right?” When authorities disagree about the teachings of the Bible, do not throw up your hands. Instead, determine who’s right. Discover the criteria that each authority uses to determine his teachings, and test these criteria. See if the authority’s system makes sense, if it is self-consistent, and if it plausibly accounts for what you already know. Acknowledge that you don’t know everything, and that you will eventually have to place yourself under an authority. Since there are competing authorities which make contradictory claims, and since you are not omniscient, you have no choice but to test their claims, and hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21.)
Since this point is crucial, we repeat it: To be wise, you will have to place yourself under an authority. But if you have not yet done so, you must test the existing authorities, for they make contradictory claims.
And observe: First you test the authorities, an activity in which you are sovereign. Then you hold fast what is good, an activity in which you surrender your sovereignty to the truth you have discovered. Modernism is endless testing, without ever discovering, let alone holding fast, to the truth. Do not repeat this error.
How exactly is this testing to be done? No glib answer that is valid can be given. This series can only show the general approach.
But remember that you are testing human authorities, not God. God is far above you. You cannot know very much about Him (except perhaps that He exists and is far above you) if you rely only on your own resources or the collective resources of the human race. In order for you to know about God, He will have to communicate with you, and you will have to receive and believe that communication. That is, you will have to believe God’s revelation in the Bible.
But you will also have to decide which religious authority gives the most accurate explanation of exactly what the Bible means. Although much of the Bible is straightforward, the overall system of biblical teaching, and its wider significance, is not self-evident. You will have to work to determine which tradition of biblical interpretation does the best job of explaining the biblical record.
So which Christian authority is the most correct? We can tell you the answer, but you cannot just take our word for it. You will have to do your own work to discover that confessional Protestantism (that is, the Protestantism that honors the Word of God by explicitly identifying what it teaches and then codifying these teachings in the various protestant confessions) is the best system. The other Christian authorities either dissolve the teachings of Christ in a bath of postmodern skeptical acid or else introduce additional unbiblical teachings.
In the next essay [it’s here], we will see some questions you should ask when seeking to determine whether an authority is trustworthy.
[i] A Catholic would register an objection at this point, and identify his Church (or his Pope) as the highest earthly authority. The author is Protestant, but the point here is valid in both systems: There is a highest authority.