Evangelical Pope(s)

"As Nathan Hatch and Mark Noll have pointed out, one of the peculiarities of American evangelicalism is that its theological disputes are often settled in the court of popular opinion. Whereas evangelicals appeal to the ‘Bible alone’ for authority, they lack adequate mechanisms for settling differences on how the Bible is to be understood. Typically having weak views on the church or of central ecclesiastical authority, they cannot depend on synods or councils to adjudicate their disagreements. Nor is there any clear principle for establishing the authority of the expert theologians. The authority of anyone in most of evangelicalism thus depends on winning popular support. Losers and disputes among theologians, or among competitors for theological influence, can always go to the court of popular opinion…. Popular opinion has thus functioned as the evangelical pope, the ultimate court of appeal. Vox populi vox papae. Or perhaps popular opinion has more often provided, as in the late Middle Ages, multiple popes, each denouncing the others."

George Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 291.

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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