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Who is your authority?

March 7th, 2011

Here are two observations:

  1. Everyone believes something
  2. Those beliefs depend on what/who we hold up as our authority

I recently heard an acquaintance make reference to how doctrinally incorrect it is for Catholics to believe in praying to dead saints. Well, depends on who your authority is. If your authority is church tradition and the pope, then praying to saints may make sense. But if your authority is the Bible alone, then this doctrine becomes more tenuous.

Was talking with Jay yesterday about Universalism – the idea that in the end God saves everyone. Jay pointed out Universalism arises more from philosophical arguments than it does exegetic arguments (from Biblical texts alone).

In other words, Universalism is an extrapolation from a certain viewpoint of God’s character, to the exclusion of clear teachings from the Bible. Reason takes authoritative precedence over the Bible. This same thing happens when folks lean towards hyper-Calvinism, hyper-Arminianism, Preterism, or any number of other “isms.”

At another level, perhaps everyone – consciously or not – takes queues from their immediate culture, accepting the values of their surroundings like a trojan horse. This truism has the potential to turn any group of people into an “echo chamber.” In America, the echo is “Materialism” and “Individualism.” In Asian cultures, the echo is “Honor” and “Community.”

This is why I believe there is is at least some value to exposure of other ways of thinking. In preparing for my upcoming short term missions trip, I read the following:

    “As people we carry with us both a sense of poverty and a sense of abundance. When we go to another culture to serve in some way, we go to offer out of our abundance and our abundance collides with a poverty and often our area of poverty collides with another cultures area of abundance. It is within this collision that we learn about the body and it’s many parts and the fact that we are all on equal footing.” (source)

I realize stepping outside ones own cultural paradigms can be akin to grasping the concept of infinity or visualizing dimensions beyond the third. Tough. I hear the affects of cross-cultural experiences generally rub off quickly. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been outside the country.

But back to my original topic: Authority.

Some exalt their own brain as the ultimate authority. To some extent, I guess we all do. Because at the end of the day all our experiences and thoughts and feelings are filtered through our unique prisms.

Some trust only their five senses, like those in Missouri – the “Show Me” state. This road leads to dismissing all forms of supernatural as irrational, unscientific. Humanism is the result, and evolution the prop for this rationalization.

I observe that when people start throwing the term “heretic” around, usually at its root is a difference in accepted authority more than accepted belief.

Mormons have an extra book, Catholics keep a few Apocrypha, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have their Watch Tower.

Hindus have their Vedas, Mahabharata, and the Bhaghavad Gita. They also have gurus, Indian culture, and ponderous years of tradition.

Muslims have their Qur’an, Hadith, and Sharia code. Extremists an inflammatory set of religious Fatwa’s.

My authority is the Bible. From my investigations, I feel it is a rational decision. Yet I also admit the leap of faith involved. I didn’t personally witness God create the world. I didn’t personally witness Jesus rise from the dead. They don’t call Christianity, “The Faith,” for nothing.

Yet I believe. And that’s what the Bible requests of me. Paul reminds us that three things remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. Seeking yields Hope. Hope yields Faith. Faith yields Love.

I do understand clearly the authority of the Bible can be undermined by merely proving one point false. The rest would inevitably crumble. So far, the Bible still stands, and still remains the best selling book of all time. Translated into 3,000 languages and counting.

Here’s my final point: Who our authority is affects what we believe. What I believe affects how I live. How I live affects my destiny.

As a “for-instance,” the Al-Qaeda hijackers were merely acting consistently with their beliefs. And they believed their actions would yield them a specific destinty. A positive one even.

Christianity too asks us to lay down our lives for a positive result. But not through taking the lives of others, NO! Rather, the exact opposite: to save the lives of others. Jesus is our ultimate example in this.

So, who’s your authority?

6 Responses to “Who is your authority?”

  1. Chris Says:

    AMEN. Way to get provocative there at the end with the Al Qaeda reference. I remember how Ron Paul got smoke coming out of the ears of all the neoconservatives by insinuating that the Al Qaeda would not have attacked us if we had not been occupying Muslim countries.

  2. nick Says:

    yeah, Al Qaeda is mad at us for several reasons. support of Israel is one. presence in Saudi Arabia was another bigee, as is our continued presence in other middle eastern countries, as you point out. ironically, i think a third bone of contention is the civilians we’ve killed through collateral damage in the middle east.

    anyways, humans seem to have a natural tendency towards war. cain, one of the first humans, killed his brother abel.

    even though i’m a patriotic American, as a christian i believe my first allegiance is to the kingdom of God, when they are in conflict. my fellow citizens of that kingdom are scattered across this globe. i think this realization puts a new twist on the urgency to promote the meeting of physical needs of my Chrisitan brothers in need overseas.

    “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (gal 6:10

    Jesus even made it clear our allegiance should be to Him ahead of our own families.

    thanks for your comments Chris.

  3. Chris Says:

    Check it out: http://cgi.ebay.com/HEY-VERN-ITS-ERNEST-COMPLETE-SERIES-New-2-DVD-Set-/350435426450?pt=US_DVD_HD_DVD_Blu_ray&hash=item5197944092

    He is also selling a new triple-feature disc that has Ernest Goes To Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid and Ernest Goes To Camp for $5.79 plus shipping.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ERNEST-GOES-CAMP-SCARED-STUPID-GOES-JAIL-New-DVD-/300529496799?pt=US_DVD_HD_DVD_Blu_ray&hash=item45f8f432df

  4. nick Says:

    yeah, last time I watched an Ernest movie was probably when I was like… 13? at your house maybe? need to watch ’em again as an adult, sure I would see the humor in a new light: probably still think they were funny, but for different reasons.

    so, today i talked with a couple Mormon guys at Taco Bell for awhile. was hit again with the fact that who we hold up as our authority affects so much what we believe. they gave me a copy of the book of mormon, a book they hold up as their authority. consequently, they have a different twist on things than i do, who holds the bible alone as authoritative.

    in order for me to change my view that salvation is by grace, through faith alone (not by works, eph. 2:8-9), they would have to get me to disbelieve the bible.

    and in order for them to drop some of their “unorthodox” views, they would need to be shown that the book of mormon is on a shaky foundation. once again, the battle is for “authority,” not in the trenches of individual beliefs.

    nonetheless, these guys were really nice, and their faith had them out doing something (compared to mainstream, that’s saying a lot), and they said they believed mormonism was true because, “the spirit had given witness with their spirit it was so.” can’t argue with someones feelings.

    these guys seemed to love Jesus, and were gung-ho about following Him and his example. therefore, on a “humanity” level, i think we may have had much more in common than not.

    i encouraged them to keep seeking God and truth and we ended with a prayer time together. not sure if that was “kosher,” but i don’t care.

  5. Chris Says:

    Yeah, I have only encountered them once. I felt sympathy for the younger dude because he was clearly being assembled to clone all the others. Whenever I’d ask something challenging, the younger one would start to say something damning and the older one would cut it off. Purpose-driven Christianity has some similarities to Mormonism, as does Catholicism. I absolutely understand the motivation. While the Spirit is still alien, there is often a desire to have a place, an impact with your actions, divine standing and exaltation. These don’t go away until we humbly submit and repent.

    It’s good to start with “repentance for the forgiveness of sins”, “total depravity”, and verses that back that up. Also, the verses on marriage, or the fact that Smithsonian totally disregards anything documented by Joseph Smith.

    I applaud you for praying with them. You gotta be darn sure on your foundation, to enter into something like that.

    Yeah, it would be funny if we both watched those movies again sometime. Ha ha ha. I still find well-executed slapstick funny, so I’d likely still enjoy it.

  6. Amanda Says:

    Oh my goodness!!! You guys like the Ernest movies??? That’s awesome!!! 😀 “Camp” was an absolute favorite when I was younger!!! I didn’t get to see any of the others, but that one I watched over and over again (which is why I didn’t rent and watch the the others).
    lol, ahh, good memories.

    Good points above.
    I’ve never actually had a conversation, concerning beliefs, with anyone of a different religion than myself. Just within the last couple years have I began to feel balanced enough in knowledge and confidence to handle that type of situation.

    You know, I’ve always wondered why Jesus didn’t begin his earthly ministry till He was 30. But, the older I get I think I’m beginning to understand (at least a possible reason).
    Maybe Christ had to be human for 30 years to learn how to lead, teach, have self-control, budget time, handle/respond to difficult situations, etc etc etc.
    Though fully God, Christ was also human, and I’m guessing He also had to learn things like we do. With age comes wisdom, understanding, humility, balanced confidence, responsibility, etc etc etc.
    This idea may be a bit of a stretch, considering Christ was God… I don’t know. I wish I could watch film clips of Christ as a child/teen/young adult, it would help my understanding of just exactly how “human” He really was. Did He have the all-knowing mind of God the whole time, simply pretending to “learn”?? Or did He really need to learn all that stuff.
    Nearing 30 myself, I finally feel like all my learning is beginning to “click”, turn into an understanding and wisdom that could remotely be called a ministry.

    Wow, I really took a rabbit trail. But there you go; a few thoughts I had while reading your post and the following comments.

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