Do not try to decide a difficult matter by means of disputing, but that which is enjoined by the spiritual law, namely patience, prayer, and thoughtful hope. ~ St. Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 1:12
Here's the synopsis of events, from what I was able to gather: An Evangelical Christian blogger wrote about the not-to-be-mentioned book and contrasted its licentiousness with the God-ordained plan for marital relations. The problem came when other Christian bloggers, inevitably, felt quite differently about what the God-ordained plan for marital relations is. The Complimentarians said something about the role of women, which greatly offended the Egalitarians and neither side could agree (although both claimed to represent God and to speak from Scripture).
I recognised right away that the problem is one of authority. How can Scripture be your ultimate authority when each person interprets it differently? There are far too many "shades of gray" in the universe, in human experience and yes, even in the Scriptures for Christians to live harmoniously without something (or someone) authoritative to guide us.
Who are the authoritative leaders in Protestantism? When it comes to these kind of disagreements, what is the solution that can bring unity? Whose authority can trump whom? Does the best-selling Christian author win out over the uneducated pastor? Does he or she who makes the best argument always win? Or is it inevitable that there will always be strife and divisions?
If our faith was about having all the right answers, we could perhaps justify all of the infighting, but this is not the case. Our faith is about being united to God in perfect love.
Ask most Christians who has authority over the Church and they will usually say Christ. If we are lucky, we can agree on that much. Still many Christians will be able to recognise from the Scriptures that Christ gave authority to His Apostles, who in turn exercised and delegated authority within the Church. Here are some examples of this bestowing of authority from Christ to His Church:
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1: 6-8
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
The Church has given us a better way of handling conflict than having an internet squabble. It is a way that acknowledges that we are all still in the process of becoming holy and in need of a great deal of mercy. I'll tell you how it has worked in my life: When I became Orthodox I chose to put myself under the authority of a spiritual leader. In my case my parish priest is my spiritual father. For others it may be a different priest or a spiritual mother. Godparents are also authority figures that Christians are given to help them be accountable.
When I have a conflict with someone, I talk to my priest and he helps me bring my thoughts into submission to Christ. He helps me not only with his objective point of view, but with his prayers and wisdom. Most of all he helps me to focus back on what I need to do, what I may need to repent of. He may in some circumstances get involved in peacemaking as well. I know of more than one occasion when he rebuked someone for falsely accusing me. Because he hears my confessions, he can stand up for me and because I trust him, he can correct me. I can say that I feel totally comfortable with anyone going to him if they had any issues with me because he would restore me lovingly if it was necessary.
Spiritual fathers and mothers usually have their own confessors and are also submitted to their bishops. So the one in authority is always under authority himself. I know that my spiritual father answers to the bishop and in fact represents the bishop in our church. The authority he uses is that which is given him by the bishop.
Read what St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35-108 AD) said about the office of the bishop:
See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptise or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans Chapter 8
This is the plan Christ has for us and the way the Orthodox Church has operated since Apostolic times. I dare say all Christians could and should continue in the same way today.
Our Christian life is not about systematizing our beliefs, picking sides or being identified as a Conservative, a Liberal or Post-Evangelical. Our Christian life needs to be lived out. It is not a collection of cold facts. Each person needs to take up his or her own cross daily and follow Christ. Each person must be transformed, not by ideas or philosophy, but by every little step of faith, every Amen to Christ, every word of praise and adoration to our Creator, every act of mercy, love and repentance.
Being right, or winning the argument does not save us. It doesn't even save others (as we may think, in our self-righteousness). Being on the politically correct side of the fence is not better than being on the Biblically literal side of the fence, or vice versa. But blessed is he or she who takes a sledgehammer to the fence.
Christ clearly expresses his desire that those who believe in Him will be one, as unified with himself and each other as Father, Son and Holy Spirit are unified as One God. For He said:
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Surely He will help us make this prayer a reality.
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For
“He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
1 Peter 3: 8-17