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Thursday, October 13, 2016

By Whose Authority?

In Luke 20 we read of a challenge to Christ by the chief priests and scribes.
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to Him, "Tell us by what authority You do these things, or who it is that gave You this authority." (Luke 20:1-2)
Now Jesus didn't play their game in this instance. He asked them a counter question. "Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?" (Luke 20:4) And, of course, they never for an instant considered the question, but only thought about the effects of the answer (Luke 20:5-7). The question of authority, however, is critical. That is, their question -- not their intent -- was a good one.

You see, we are constantly facing a hostile world that disagrees with our views and values. We think that sex outside of marriage, for instance, is a sin; they embrace it as not merely acceptable, but normal and even beneficial. We claim that it is evil to kill children made in the image of God in the womb; they think it is "a woman's choice" and "reproductive rights". We argue that marriage is between a man and a woman; they hold that it is between an arbitrary two people. We think the Bible is reliable and authoritative; they think it's bunk. Even among the so-called "Christian Left" they're happy to distance themselves from biblical values in favor of "new and improved" ones while we keep harkening back to God's original values. And always we are told, "That's your opinion" as if it's simply a matter of opinion, where morality -- right and wrong -- and truth are relative concepts. We make our own.

I would, then, ask them, "Tell us by what authority you hold these things, or who it is that gave you this authority." Because authority matters. If, as is so often argued, the authority is "whatever I think", then it has no hold on anyone but the "thinker". (I'm using that term loosely here.) If moral values and truth are relative, then those who hold this view have no authority to foist their values onto others. Their "inclusivity" and "LGBT rights" and "marriage equality", to name a few, are just their ideas and must not be forced onto anyone else. They have no authority. If, on the other hand, our moral values and truth claims are from God, then clearly there is an authority behind them that carries them beyond our mere opinion.

The opposition to our beliefs and values almost universally stand on the authority of the individual. "You have no right to force your views onto us." And, as far as that goes, they are correct. From three directions. First, we can't force them on anyone. Second, if these are merely "our views", we have no right to force them on anyone. Finally, if these are merely "our views", then our views are wrong. On the other hand, if our views are actually from God, then we aren't offering personal opinion; we are urging submission to God. They aren't "our views"; they're His. It isn't our authority; it's His. And we aren't pointing to a more moral, even godly life. We're pointing to salvation from Christ. We're not asking them to submit; we're telling them they have a problem that needs the remedy that only God can supply.

The chief priests and scribes set out to challenge Christ in the hopes of shutting Him down. They failed. I would hope to challenge the skeptics, be it the staunchly opposed or the "friendly" "Christian Left". By what authority do you argue these things? If it is your own, keep it to yourself. If you admit that there is a higher authority, then we should discuss that further. Because generally speaking those who claim to be Christians but oppose our views and values do so by standing squarely on individualism -- on personal opinion and preference and Reason as the final arbiter of truth -- a position without authority.


Danny Wright said...

If, as is so often argued, the authority is "whatever I think" If, as is so often argued, the authority is "whatever I think"

Should read: If, as is so often argued, the authority is "whatever I feel"

Stan said...

True. We're in the Age of Empathy, where "feel" determines "real".