Next week, the Southern Baptist Convention meets to take care of business, with an amendment that prohibits SBC-affiliated churches from having female pastors drawing the most attention. I follow several SBC folks on Twitter, so I’ve seen the debate on this issue over the past two years. Putting aside the specific issue — I have seen arguments from wise and godly Christians on both sides — it raises the question: what is our ultimate authority as Christians and as individuals.

Protestants generally affirm Sola Scriptura, that is, Scripture remains the highest authority. Nevertheless, take one look at the dozens of Protestant denominations and you’ll see that the interpretation of Scripture can vary wildly. A group of Christians can read the same Bible and come away believing that women shouldn’t be pastors (or that they should), that Jesus is definitely coming back prior to a seven year tribulation, and that the nation of Israel has a role to play in the end times (or not), or that baptism must definitely be by immersion (or maybe sprinkling is fine).

Roman Catholics think they can avoid that problem by retaining a central hierarchy in the Church, but I know too many Catholics to believe it’s that easy. Can Mass be in English or must it be in Latin? Is every utterance of the Pope doctrinal or just when he speaks ex cathedra? Did Vatican II bring much needed reforms, or did it lead the Church astray toward theological liberalism?

My point is that wise people can disagree on what is true, however, once we know the truth we must be careful not to depart from it. The United Methodist Church recently changed its rules to allow LGBTQ+ pastors, having had female pastors for many decades now. It seems clear to me that once a church departs in one area from Scripture, at least the way it has been understood for many centuries, then it will eventually depart from others as well. Once you start discarding longstanding doctrines, it becomes easier to discard even more, until you’re left with nothing that resembles traditional beliefs and practices.

To truly understand our faith as Christians we must be able to articulate what we believe. That goes for the political side of things as well. Why are you a Republican? (Or not?) What does it mean to be a conservative? What is your role in your community?

All of us must have a “True North”, a set of principles that guide us as we navigate this mixed up world. We must separate principles from the strategies we employ to put those principles into practice. Some of us are in the trenches, playing smashmouth football against the opposing side. Some of us are drawing up plays on the sidelines. Some are contributing money to the cause to give others the tools to succeed. We all have our roles, but we need to figure them out and understand why we’re doing what we do.

To be most effective, first figure out your True North. What is the star that guides you, the foundational principles that form the basis for every cause you believe in? If you have not yet figured that out, then you will find yourself tossed to and fro from issue to issue, without understanding how they all fit together in the bigger picture.

Meg Basham has done valuable work over the past four years documenting how the federal bureaucracy deliberately laundered Covid lockdown propaganda through churches. Bad actors know that we implicitly trust our Christian leaders, and they took advantage of that trust. We must use the minds that God gave us to critically examine whatever we are told, whether it is from pastors, politicians, or scientists — no matter how much we want to believe it. Always be asking yourself two questions: Does this match my experience with reality? Does this line up with what I understand to be true and right?

Of course, we should always be questioning ourselves as well — maybe we’re wrong about something. That’s why it’s so important to distill our beliefs into first principles, our True North. We won’t recognize the crooked unless we first understand what is straight. Good cashiers know what real dollar bills feel like so they can immediately detect counterfeits. Can you recognize the truth when you see it?

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ admonishes His followers to remain true to His teachings:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

Matthew 7:24-27 ESV

Let us build our movement on the rock of Truth, so it may withstand whatever this world can throw at it.

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