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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Authority

Permit me to say first that I already know what my problem is: I over-think.  While this may not seem like much to you, it is to me. I just want to make certain I have it right, that’s all.

Been thinking about “authority” lately and am spending much more time on the subject than I would have liked. Asking too many questions, chasing too many rabbits. For example: “why authority?” Answer: because at this time, the subject interests me. And so on.

What is “authority?” Well, the 12th century French noun “auctorite” was synonymous with “The Scriptures” though in a broader sense the term became used to describe that which settled an argument. The French word comes from the Latin “auctoritas” referring to the “master, leader” or as we say, “author.”  I begin here because frankly, present definitions seem woefully short. I find this is true when language and meaning paradigms shift. I also feel this is dishonest, to shift meaning.

The consensus seems to be that authority is that which has the right and/or power, or simply “whoever is in charge”. Perhaps this is part of the problem concerning reactions to authority: individuals would rather be in charge, so they rebel against objective authority.  Specifically individuals cast off objective authority because there is an inherent or understood relationship that involves the word “obedience.” In other words, the one who has authority hold the right and/or power to expect/demand obedience. And who wants to obey? This is exposes a very telling feature concerning authority: there is an objective and a subjective authority; that is, an internal and external authority. Anarchy is when the internal clashes against the external.

Consider what this looks like for the theologian who calls himself an atheist: one has a subjective, internal concept of God that is not compatible with the objective reality.  The one would rather not submit to the other—which makes as much as sense as the shadow being called the form which is casting it.

God is Creator and has such holds the right and/or power as Creator; therefore, all Creation stands in relationship to His authority. This relationship may be shaped by a response or a reaction. One may not feel obligated to acknowledge God, thus reacting and consequently rejecting God’s right and power as Creator but this does not change the fact that He is Creator.

“Authority” is the bottom line where every issue is settled absolutely.  God is the bottom line, so that settles every issue. We must respond to this reality, or thrive in anarchy receiving the wages for our autonomy.

Education apart from authority is literally a flock without a shepherd (the Russian proverbs says, “Without a shepherd sheep are not a flock”).  There is no “leading out” but meandering about, exposed and vulnerable to uncontested ideas that will not stand.

What is “art” without authority? How could there be skill resulting from practice or learning? No poet or writer could say he was an “author.” God, who Created, made us in His image—to be creative; that is, manipulate within the environment He has provided, a skilled expression of that which lies within.
Law and Order without authority is, as mentioned already, anarchy. Cast off authority and lose your right to report a crime against yourself. One must let the criminal go without penalty.

Christian truth is grounded on authority. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) contested by saying that faith is not grounded on authority, but he could only say this confidence (literally “with faith”) based on his personal authority, thus contradicting himself. Similarly, the anarchist Mihail Bakunin (1814-1876) split himself when he wrote “all temporal and human power proceeds directly from spiritual or divine authority” followed by “God, or rather the fiction of God is thus the sanction and the intellectual and moral cause of all the slavery on earth, and the liberty of men will not be complete unless it will have completely annihilated the inauspicious fiction of a heavenly master.” (Oeuvers, Vol. 1). One cannot authoritatively cast off authority.

Followers of Christ are grounded on the rock-bed of personable authority. Note: not “personal” but “personable” authority. This means the objective holder of authority freely receives the right response of worship as opposed to the misguided riot of rebellion. 

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