But the debate has also further revealed the groundlessness of the FV opponents' appeals to magisterial authority. Last month, R. Scott Clark came very close to exposing the fact that the Protestant 'emperor' is wearing no clothes, as I pointed out here. And a few days ago Darryl Hart's appeals to magisterial authority in opposition to the FV were so explicit and pointed that they naturally elicited examination of the grounds of that supposed authority, an examination revealing that Hart's position is ultimately no less biblicistic and individualistic than that of the FV.
Where does this leave Reformed Protestants? With the individualism and biblicism of the evangelicals and fundamentalists, without any authoritative doctrine or dogma, but only with opinions. Today I saw that the 'Pontificator' recently wrote:
"The question is when, if ever, does theological opinion become doctrine that requires the unreserved assent of faith. Catholicism and Orthodoxy have answers to this question; but as far as I can determine, no Protestant body does, for no magisterial organ exists within Protestantism. It is easy for me to assent to a proposed doctrine when I agree with it. The problem arises when I am confronted with a doctrine (and here let us specify a doctrine proposed with the full authority of the Church) with which I disagree. Newman rightly objected to subscription to confessions because they require the subjection of conscience to mere opinion. Conscience may only properly assent, Newman writes, to "teaching which comes from God."
Michael Liccione followed that discussion with an article showing that modernism (i.e. theological liberalism) and fundamentalism are the only two alternatives when sacramental magisterial authority is rejected. He wrote:
The point is that, in order to recognize and assimilate the revelation in Jesus Christ, we need a visible authority to speak in his name, and we need to submit to that authority when it claims to speak in his name. Otherwise we are left only with opinions—and, inevitably, institutionalized disunity.
As usual, the Pontificator and Liccione are precisely identifying the problem and exposing the situation for what it actually is. Many Protestants believe that there is such a thing as authoritative Protestant doctrine, and live as such. But in actuality there is no such thing, nor can there be apart from sacramental magisterial authority. For that reason Protestants must either embrace their individualism and abandon the pretense of authoritative confessions and doctrines, or they must recover sacramental magisterial authority.