The testimony of the church universal is that we as individuals alone do not get to interpret the Bible or the voice of God. Certainly there are those who have believed otherwise. It is commonplace among Baptists to claim for the individual the right to interpret the Bible. Yet, if this is true, Pat Robertson's claim cannot be taken as wrong simply on its face.Does anyone really see Pat Robertson -- the TV preacher with an audience of millions worldwide -- as a lonely, solitary figure on the religious landscape? Does Pat Robertson shirk the "gathered community, the common Table, the preaching of the Word or the pools of baptism"? Does Pat Robertson believe he has "unmediated access to God" that bypasses "God's revelation through Israel and the church"?
The claim for the individual right to interpret the Bible is really more akin to gnosticism than Christianity. The Gnostics embraced a "spiritualized" faith that did not ultimately need the gathered community, the common Table, the preaching of the Word or the pools of baptism for the faithful living out of the gospel. Rather, they believed that they had unmediated access to God that bypassed God's revelation through Israel and the church.
Exactly what is "autonomous individualism?" A straw man? A fill-in-the-blank with an adversary?
Roman Catholics have been filling in this blank for nearly five hundred years. It is anyone with the audacity to say:
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.There are a lot more Baptists who think like Catholics than there used to be.