IS IT WRONG TO DISSENT?

Buff Scott, Jr.

If we had been Protestants and lived in England during the reign of King James I (1566-1625), we would not have had the freedom to openly and publicly disagree with his religious decrees. He believed in the divine right of kings. As King, he became the authoritarian ruler of England and Head of The Established Church of England. He even persecuted other Protestant groups. His affirmation to divinity was self-proclaimed.

If we had been Roman Catholics and had lived in Rome during the reign of Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903), we would have been compelled to adhere to the following edict, "That the unrestrained freedom of thinking and of openly making known one's, thoughts is not inherent m the rights of citizens, and us by no means to be reckoned worthy of favor and support (Great Encyclical Letters of Leo XIII, page 126).

As we can ascertain from these bits of history, both Protestant and Catholic leaders of the past have denied their disciples the freedom to openly and publicly dissent. And each authoritarian ruler claimed divinity.

But have times really changed that much? Not actually. The "Reverend" Moon of the Unification Church (Protestant) alleges to be divine and his devotees may not openly and publicly disagree with his "divine" proclamations. Jehovah's Witnesses (Protestant) may not take issue with the teachings of The Watchtower Tract & Bible Society of Brooklyn, New York.

Pope John Paul lays claim to divine revelations and sternly warns his people that they are not to disagree or take issue with "church doctrine."

The idea itself is contrary to common sense for man was born with both the ability and the urge to dissent in cases involving injustices. His creator gave him an unfettered will and no man, whether Pope or King, has the God-given right to deny him the freedom to think, to question, to take issue, to dissent. Even the early Christian believers differed. The apostle Paul is a case at hand. He took issue with the apostle Peter and stated, "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to the face, because he was clearly in the wrong" (Galatians 2:11).

Can you imagine what the world would be like if no one were permitted to take issue with anybody or anything? Freedom would yield to slavery. Free speech would surrender to intellectual conformity. The right to dissent would be lost to authoritarian rule. This is counter to the very nature of man! The very freedom we inherited by virtue of being born would be forfeited. Anyway we toss the coin, the "no dissent" clause is infantile and out of touch with reality.

Within the Churches of Christ many mainline churches and pulpit ministers will not tolerate dissent. "Brotherhood" watchdogs stand guard to protect those who remain in intellectual slavery. Dissenters are warned, then branded. In principle, there is no difference in popish decrees, whether issued from Rome or from Nashville and Dallas. The result is the same: An attempt to fetter man's spirit. But the man who is truly free in Jesus cannot be fettered. He will continue to fly high in spite of potshots from miniature popes. - Buff Scott, Jr. publishes The REFORMER.