Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Presuppositions and Questions

After hearing back from a few readers, I am altering the three categories slightly.
  • parental/familial
  • governmental/business
  • ecclesiastical
A few presuppositions:
  • All authority ultimately begins and rests in God.
  • Creation was an act of His authority.
  • Further, He established authority as a condition of the human experience.
  • There is an intent on His part expressed in establishment of authority and a thwarting of that intent, as
  • These three categories of authority are expressed within our human experience and reflect the spiritual divide between the Spirit of Jesus Christ and the spirit of the age, the anti-Christ.
Authority, like most topics, is not lived in neat compartments. Expressions of authority overlap and inter-mingle. As craig v. pointed out, a person holding recognized social authority may be single-minded and possess a personal authority which others will follow. The good judgment of an authority figure may be misdirected in its overall focus and impact on others, but nonetheless, the affect of the authority figure's personal authority garners followers. Presidents, tele-evangelists, CEO's, middle managers, parents et al. may fall into this condition.

The topic becomes, for me, a function of a question. How shall a disciple of Jesus understand his/her life experience, and thereby, fulfill the Father's intent in living under authority? This question leads to other more specific questions, which I think divide as follows:
  1. What level of personal authority does an individual carry; how is it established and matured; and toward whom is it manisfested?
  2. What amount of responsibility is required of the believer in responding to societal authorities; what development of social authority within the world system should be supported by believers; and consequently, when is civil disobedience called for, if ever, against authority that clearly is directed in a rebellion against God?
What other questions go through your mind regarding authority?
What presuppositions would you add or delete from the above list?

7 comments:

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Just discovered the conversation going on here, a very important topic to be sure.

Not sure if I'm adequately answering the question, but I think as followers of Christ, ultimately the only authority we answer to is God. We cannot obey the laws of man if they contradict the heart of God. In such an instance there is no choice but civil disobediance.

As far as personal authority, I think any authority that an individual disciple of Jesus has is really only a function of the authority of Christ working through us. If I rebuke a brother or sister in the Lord, my words of rebuke are only as strong as they reflect the true view of God in any given matter. If my words do not represent Christ, but rather my own agenda, then no one is obliged to listen. God does not call us to heed anyone's word or authority blindly, which is why the idea of there being any official positions or offices within the Body is off-base. To create official "leadership positions" within the church is to expect people to listen to such "leaders" simply due to their office, instead of asking people to weigh the words of men against the word of God.

The body only has one head, and that is Christ.

Daniel

ded said...

Daniel,

Thanks for joining in with the thoughts over here. I appreciate your willingness to speak.

I think you have immediately and correctly noted the two levels of authority for the believer. We answer to God, and we only have personal authority as a function of our relationship with Jesus, whom we know most fully within the experience of His body.

craig v. said...

This may be an area where certainty isn't possible. We have to make judgments before God based on a multitude of factors. The principle that we obey God rather than man, as Daniel points out, is of course true. The problem is when we have competing claims for what God wills. For example, suppose the elders of your congregation decide to support a missionary. Suppose further you had prayed about this and you believed it would be a better use of funds to support another missionary. Your belief is based on your knowledge of the Scriptures and the leading of the Holy Spirit through your time in prayer. The elders' decision is based on their knowledge of the Scriptures and the leading of the Holy Spirit as they prayed. You believe that God ordained your elders and that you have a Biblical responsibility to acknowledge their authority. You also believe you've got it right with respect to which missionary should be supported. What do you do? If you always go with your interpretation, before God, of what's best then how can it be said the elders have any meaningful authority. If you always go with the elders than what is the need for you to study and pray. In my view, you have to make a judgment. You don't have certainty (unless you artificially produce it either by claiming a direct connection with the Holy Spirit, superior to that of the elders, or by giving absolute authority to a human institution). It's this lack of certainty that we don't handle very well.

ded said...

Agreed, craig v. Yet, there is a reconciliation of sorts of these two, the inner authority and an established one. There is never an absolute certainty, but might there be a place of peace in one's decision-making which is accepted as an indicator of God's will?

This is where I have been headed all along. All will not agree on what I am about to say. Nonetheless, I am at peace it is what I have to offer to a public discussion such as this where varied perspectives participate.

craig v. said...

I think so. The key, I think, is that in our peace we still need to accept the conflict. We and the elders (in my example) may be at peace and strongly disagree. Like most important decisions in life, we can get it wrong.

Some might ask why God would let that happen. If we all pray and earnestly seek the Lord, how can there be disagreement? I'm not sure I always know the answer to that question, but I think part of the answer is that learning to work together in humility may be more important than knowing which missionary we should support.

ded said...

Craig,

I read that as an appeal to "unity of spirit", which accounts for the lack of certainty, I think. Many will not respond to such an appeal as binding.

Carey said...

There are in existence some churches where the believer can follow this Holy Spirit balance on a case by case basis, choosing at diverse times to go with the crowd and at others time to walk a separate path. And in many of these churches, believe it or not, one can sojourn such a path without being harassed by the authority figures. This is one benefit of a so-called "large church." The organization functions so that resources may be collected and used according to the counsel of many instead of the tyranny of a few. The individual believer is free to participate in the larger effort, or to pursue his/her own path of generosity and service. True leaders have better things to do than oppress the flock with nitpicking ego-trips and empire-building. Thus, in the properly-tuned church, the whole effort is greater than the sum of its parts. My testimony is that there is such a Body of Christ functioning on earth, and that body has great tolerance and acceptance of other Christ-followers who see matters differently.