Date of Award

Spring 1997

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Carey, Patrick W.

Second Advisor

Dabney, D. L.

Third Advisor

Hagen, Kenneth


One of the leading themes in the history of the Christian Church has been the struggle to determine authority. From Paul's struggles with the church in Galatia, to the Great Schism of the fourteenth century, to Luther's proclamation of "sola scriptura," to the "Battle for the Bible" in twentieth-century Protestantism, the Church has wrestled with the question of where authority is to rest. What source most clearly communicates God's will to his people? At the end of the nineteenth century, church historian William Ralph Inge described this struggle with much insight: The silence of God has at all times been a trial to mankind. Men have sought in all sorts of ways for an infallible, unmistakable, authoritative answer to their questions, which shall save them from the responsibility of judging, and once for all lift the "burden and the weight of this unintelligible world" from their shoulders. They would gladly consent to be led blindfold, if only they could be quite sure of being led right. They shrink from the right and duty of private judgment; they will even put on manacles to keep their hands from trembling, and take refuge in a shelter to which no winds of doubt are allowed to penetrate .... It is an assistance which we crave for because we are not at home in the world in which we live. Through all of the debates over the "authority question" in the Church, there has been a broad recognition of four possible foundations of authority for the Christian. Inge's evaluation at the tum of the century, was that, of these four, three were in "manifest decay." The three to which he referred were: the authority of an infallible Church, the authority of an infallible book, and the authority of human reason, or rationalistic humanism. The fourth potential source of authority provides a focal point for this dissertation; it is the belief in the inspiration of the individual believer, which, in one form, is known as mysticism...



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