Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"The magisterium-hood of all believers"

Today concludes the conference on "Evangelicals and the Nicene Faith" hosted by Beeson Divinity School, at which yesterday I presented the address "The Nicene Faith and the Catholicity of the Church: Evangelical Retrieval and the Problem of Magisterium." As this will be a chapter in a forthcoming book of the conference proceedings to be published by Baker Academic, I'll not post the text here, but I will offer this summary. Recent attempts by Baptists and others who might be broadly described as "evangelicals" to retrieve aspects of the ancient, lower-case "c" catholic faith raise the question of how this might be done without such a project being yet another example of American "consumer" Christianity based on personal preference. What beyond personal preference authorizes such retrieval? After describing and reviewing what I perceive to be the strengths and weaknesses of Roman Catholic and Magisterial Protestant approaches to teaching authority in the church, I suggested that there is a another distinctive pattern of teaching authority in the Baptist and broader Free Church tradition that might be summarized with the slightly clumsy English coinage "the magisterium-hood of all believers." I'll provide information on publication details here when available.


  1. I am definitely looking forward to the volume in which this essay will be published! The question of authority is one that I am constantly addressing as a Baptist who has done most of my ministry in non-Baptist settings. I'm finding that it is a constantly struggle to embrace a more broad catholic outlook without inadvertently "consuming" those aspects which are helpful or gratifying to the detriment of other aspects of tradition. I'm hoping to begin posting more about these things in the coming weeks and months and would definitely value your voice (should you find the time) in the conversation! We miss you at Campbell!

    Grace & peace, A.T.

  2. Andrew,

    Thanks for posting! I'm glad to know you're thinking along these lines as well and look forward to future dialogue.


  3. Dr. Harmon,

    Great to see you at the conference. I thought your presentation was very interesting and very well done. The "magisterium-hood of all believers" certainly sparked an interesting conversation with a friend of mine during the break to follow.

    I'm chewing on it. I really benefit from being able to look at the written form of these kinds of things, so I look forward to the publication!


  4. Interestingly enough, in a conversation last autumn with my best friend (who is Catholic) I articulated the Baptist conviction about congregational discernment as practicing a "localized magisterium." Glad to hear some similar language!