Sez who?” and “So’s your old man!” It would be difficult for children to argue without these classic rejoinders.

No one wants to lose an argument and few are satisfied with a tie. It is like kissing your sister (with apologies to Roberta, who never liked to kiss me either). We seek to settle our disputes with a final decision, a consummate verdict, an ambiguous judgment—in our favor. We want a final court of appeals where the last word is heard and we can reply to the “sez who?” with “___ says, that’s who,” and the debate is over.

For all men, the supreme Authority is God himself. If “God says,” further debate is as foolish as it is futile. Job learned the hard way that debating with God is more difficult than stopping tanks with stones or Muhammad Ali with Don Knotts. Your old man might be able to beat my old man and your big brother might be able to whip my cousin, but your whole family does not have a prayer against God. One word from the Almighty is enough to slay the combined forces of hell.

For the church, the issue of authority comes down to “sez who?” The battle of the Reformation turned on this question. Luther said popes and councils can err and there is only one normative source for “God says”: the Bible. Rome countered with agreement at one point, that indeed the Bible is “God says,” but added that “God also says” in the decisions of the church.

The battle of the Bible is a two-front war. The western front fights the battle of where the “God says” is found. Is it in the Bible? In the church? In the theological opinions of scholars? In the cataclysmic events of world revolution? All is not quiet on the western front as these issues continue with fierce debate in our own day.

If the western front were conquered and ...

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