Showing posts with label Authority. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Authority. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

All the Eggs in One Basket

It’s almost a year old at this point, but Megan Basham’s post at American Reformer entitled “Mr. Smith Goes to the Convention” chronicles the ill-fated attempt by the pastor of a small Baptist church in Virginia to get a straight answer to a very simple question from the Southern Baptist Convention: Is a church that has a woman serving as pastor deemed to be in friendly cooperation with the SBC?

The answer was never forthcoming, at least not by April 2023 when Basham’s article saw the light of day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

When You Can’t Step Down

The secular world doesn’t require moral authority to lead. It helps, sure, but it’s not a stopper if you can’t manage to project it; more of a “nice to have”, really. Luck, slickness, charisma, raw power, a media propaganda machine, a dad with name recognition, or some combination thereof will generally get you into a leadership position even if you’re otherwise horribly unqualified.

Ask Mr. Biden if you doubt that one. If soundness of mind and coherent speech are not obligatory to serve as President of the United States, I doubt self-restraint is anywhere near the list.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Quote of the Day (43)

The always-excellent Antemodernist performs surgery on a post about Romans 13 and submission to authority from Stand to Reason’s Jonathan Noyes:

“Suppose a stranger walks up to you and declares himself a king and says he is your king, and by virtue of his authority over you, he compels you to pay taxes and serve in his militia. A bit strange, and you’d probably pretend to take a phone call to get away. Mr. Noyes, if he is consistent, cannot do this. He’d be disobeying authority.”

Like many of our readers, I have been struggling with this issue since early 2020. Prior to that point, if you had asked me when Romans 13 does not apply to Christians, I would have promptly answered, “When we are told not to preach the gospel.” That much I was sure of. Beyond that, I’m afraid I hadn’t given the illegitimate exercise of authority much thought. Since then I’ve had to give it plenty, the results of which you can find here and here.

Antemodernist has obviously been doing a fair bit of thinking as well.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (22)

“There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” So wrote the apostle Paul, and both this line and its surrounding verses have been quoted to us repeatedly over the last two years. It is often pointed out that Paul is believed to have written these things to believers when the Roman emperor was a guy named Nero, portrayed in secular history as a notorious persecutor of Christians.

As bad as his behavior may have been, Nero was as legitimate a ruler as any other, having succeeded to the throne after the death of his grand-uncle Claudius in AD54 (thought by some to have been poisoned by his wife), who had in his turn come to power by apparent chance after the assassination of Caligula. Such were the Roman political intrigues of the first century.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Heiser Bolt of Lightning

A couple of weeks ago I promised to devote an entire blog post to the bolt of lightning that hit my synapses when I read a single, throwaway paragraph in Michael S. Heiser’s The Unseen Realm. It was a delightful experience to find that the scriptures account for the cognitive dissonance I and other Bible students experience when we compare many prophecies in their original Old Testament contexts to their fulfillments as described by the writers of the New Testament.

A familiar example of such a “Whuzzat?” moment: Matthew’s use of the words “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Monday, September 20, 2021

Anonymous Asks (163)

“Do elders have authority?”

A hundred years ago nobody would have asked this question. Today, authority of every kind is being challenged at every level. Don’t like what the founders wrote in the Constitution? Just reinterpret it. Don’t like the Governor’s latest executive order? No worries, an unelected County Circuit Judge will shortly declare it unconstitutional so you don’t have to comply. Don’t want the fraudulent election results you certified audited? Just refuse to hand over the evidence of your malfeasance. Are the health care rights guaranteed in your province getting in the way of your ability to impose mandated vaccination? Don’t worry, we’ll find a way around that.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (21)

We hear a lot in the current environment about how the powers that exist have been instituted by God, and that whoever resists them resists God’s ordinance. And that is certainly true, but only to a point. Scripture is full of men and women who didn’t simply go along with unlawful orders from tyrants, and who, far from incurring judgment, were blessed by God for resisting the expressed will of those very “powers that be”.

It falls to each one of us to decide before God at what point Romans 13 no longer applies to our circumstances. Invariably, some of us will make mistakes, either acting too hastily in defiance of authority, or else waiting too long to put up resistance. But if I’m going to be one of those acting in error, I think I’d prefer to be too quick off the mark than to drag my feet and regret it later.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Cosmic Accidents and the Chain of Command

Many years ago now, a man I love and respect opened up the book of Matthew and read us the story of the centurion’s faith. You will recall that the Lord commended this Roman soldier as exceptional because he understood that Jesus possessed the ability to heal from far away as easily as he could heal when immediately present, so he didn’t wish to trouble the Lord unnecessarily by asking him to undertake a journey in order to do him a favor.

The centurion expressed his conviction this way: “I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

“Only say the word ...” Wow. That was indeed great faith, and the Lord responded to it.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Limits of Toleration

“When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him while he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ ”

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ ”

We live in a society that enshrines “tolerance” as its highest virtue. At least, it thinks it does.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Enemy Territory

This is not our world.

It hasn’t been ours since the garden of Eden and it’s not ours today. It is the dominion of the “god of this age”, the “prince of the power of the air”, the “ruler of this world”.

That explains so much, when you really think about it.

We live in enemy territory, like Frodo in Mordor without the obvious orcs and spiders. Oh, there are plenty of both here, but they come well disguised. They don’t even drip acid when they speak — unless you pay very close attention.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Non-Canonical Episodes

Did Jude have the gift of prophecy?

I wonder. It certainly seems a strong possibility. Prophecy is not merely a feature of the Old Testament, but is also numbered with the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to the New Testament church.

Prophecy was a practical gift. In the early church it also appears to have been a fairly common one. It did not manifest itself in the expected esoteric, oddball mutterings but rather in “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation”. In this the prophet functioned similarly to the teacher in today’s church.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Time and Chance (53)

With the advent of the internet, we have become all too used to people sharing their opinions with us.

Editorializing is far from a new activity — human beings have engaged in it for millennia. What’s new is the sheer scale of useless bloviating made possible through social media. More information is fine, but information bereft of both authority and coherence is not worth the effort it takes to process.

Back in Ecclesiastes, the Preacher is about to tell his readers something similar.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Bucking or Buckling?

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

I promised last week we’d talk about this subject some Friday in the future, and there’s no time like the present.

Tom: IC, we opened a can of worms on the subject of authority and just how the Christian ought to respond to it. That’s not something evangelicals have had to worry about too much in the West for many years, but it’s a topic that’s becoming increasingly relevant as governments begin to encroach on the freedoms we currently enjoy in the interest of a “just society”.

So how about it? Got any grenades to lob on this subject?

Friday, April 10, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Crippling the Response

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Ah, the coronavirus! I was so determined not to go there in this space. Then it threatened to go on and on and on, and then it became such a feature of our current media experience as to be utterly inescapable. After that, it changed the way we do most everything, at least for the foreseeable future. And still we left the subject alone; after all, if you want the latest on COVID‑19, you can get that absolutely anywhere, right?

Tom: But then The New York Times started blaming evangelicals for “crippling our coronavirus response”, and there you are: turns out it was time to start talking about it here. Not being an expert of any sort, I don’t want to discuss the virus itself, where it came from, how it is spreading, and what might be done about it; nor do I want to speculate about what the total bill for fighting this thing will be. I simply want to talk about the church and its response to the crisis.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Authority and Example

Those of you who have been reading here for a long time may remember that I have struggled with the idea of Bible history being authoritative. Many things were done by many people during the roughly 4,000-year period during which the history of mankind is explored in scripture, some of them good and some of them bad. We can learn from all of those stories, but that doesn’t mean we ought to imitate the conduct of everyone we find in them. Abraham makes a better role model than Ahab, but even Abraham was far from perfect.

Accurate history simply records what happened. Telling you what you should conclude about it — or, much more importantly, what you should do about it — generally requires some sort of editorial comment or authorial aside. As Hume famously put it, you can’t get ‘ought’ from ‘is’.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Anonymous Asks (25)

“In dealing with authority, how can I explain things or make a point without sounding argumentative or disrespectful?”

The circumstances are not spelled out for us here. Is this a young man who wants to correct a Sunday school teacher, boss or professor on a point of fact? Is this a daughter who finds her father’s house rules restrictive and hopes for a little more freedom? Is this a sixteen year old pulled over in dad’s car for being five miles an hour over the speed limit who would like to know how best to negotiate his way out of a ticket? We do not know.

Fortunately, I think the biblical answer is not wildly different either way.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Responsibility and Blame

I do a lot of intercessory praying, and probably so do you.

You know the sort of prayer I mean. Say, for instance, you are friends with a Christian couple experiencing marriage difficulties. You did not introduce them. You did not choose the one for the other or recommend one to the other. You did not officiate at their wedding ceremony and you certainly have nothing to do with the issues that make their marriage dysfunctional. The ultimate outcome of their current domestic turbulence, good or bad, will not affect your life in any significant way beyond the occasional moment of empathy or concern.

You have no dog in the hunt, so to speak.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Credentialism and Truth

“As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

The Jewish religious authorities came teeming out of the woodwork to harass the apostles for two reasons. Primarily it was the public proclamation of resurrection through Jesus that irked them. Resurrection was a huge bone of contention for Sadducees in particular, who did not believe in it. Adding the name of Jesus to the mix, a man the authorities had only recently had put to death, only compounded the problem.

But we should not overlook Luke’s observation that they really did not like the apostles teaching the people.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Burden of the Lord

In the years leading up to the Babylonian captivity, God spoke many times through his prophets to the people of Judah and their religious leaders. However, the message he sent them was not to their taste. The leadership, especially the false prophets and priests, were disinclined to accept any correction of their way of life, but were understandably reluctant to be seen to defy God in any obvious way.

Then they discovered a rather ingenious solution. Instead of prefacing their own declarations with “Thus says the Lord” or some other claim to God’s final authority over the message they brought to the people, they began instead to speak of something they called the “burden of the Lord”. This “burden”, they claimed, came to them in dreams, sufficiently foggy and amorphous that it was necessary for them to explain it in their own words rather than God’s.

This approach enabled them to claim sufficient heavenly authority to maintain their prestige and position without obliging them to say anything difficult or truthful that might offend their audience. It was the perfect compromise.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Anonymous Asks (2)

“If your father tells you to kill someone and you say ‘no’, would that be considered a sin?”

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: It might be useful to consider some of the things the Bible says about authorities and how Christians are to respond to them. There are things your father could demand of you that are less obviously evil than murder. It might be interesting and instructive to consider an order from Dad like “You can’t date THAT girl!” or “We had you baptized as an infant. Don’t you DARE think about getting baptized again!”

Sound like fun?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Your Bible Is An Anachronism

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Juan Cole at has bucketloads of fun in an article entitled “If the Christian Right Wants to Get Worked Up About Sexual Controversy, They Should Read These 5 Bible Passages”. He goes to town on Solomon’s 300 concubines, Abraham and Hagar, etc.

In a forlorn attempt at evenhandedness, Mr. Cole tosses in this disclaimer: “Ancient scripture can be a source of higher values and spiritual strength, but any time you in a literal-minded way impose specific legal behavior because of it, you’re committing anachronism.”

Tom: Immanuel Can, one of things I love most about Mr. Cole is the unquestioned assumption that each scripture he cites is a “gotcha” moment to the religious right. Like none of us have seen these passages until his article came along …

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Limits of Toleration

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, May 08, 2017

By What Authority?

Busted for blogging with insufficient authority
I love error. Error is a beautiful thing.

Don’t panic. Let me get going here and you’ll soon see what I mean. And in case it doesn’t become howlingly obvious, I promise I’ll clear it up at the end.

Ready? Here we go. So … Tish Harrison Warren is an author and a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. She currently serves as co-associate rector at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’m going to quote her a bit here, so I mention this not at all in an attempt to disqualify what she says, but so that you can better enjoy the many, many helpings of mouth-wateringly delicious irony she dishes up.

You see Ms. Warren fears the Christian blogosphere is off its leash. She thinks its various Christian and heretical voices are operating without spiritual authority and ought to be reined in.

Wow. Just … wow. Pot, meet kettle.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Message You’re Sending

“There’s always someone looking at you.”

The line was penned by Sir Bob Geldof way back in 1979, long before personal computers with memories that the average person cannot easily erase, long before the Internet, before the NSA was on your hard drive and tracking your every movement through your cell phone, before your TV started watching you while you watch it, and before the unblinking eye in the sky that is Google Maps. It seems more than a little prescient, but Geldof had become (briefly) famous, and the world was paying more attention than he would have liked.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Word, Uncontained

“It’s got to be in here somewhere ...”
This YouTuber, blasting away in ALL CAPS, wants us to know that “THE BIBLE CANNOT BE THE WORD OF GOD.”

Oh, he calls himself a Christian, make no mistake. But he insists the Bible is “the words of men that have recorded some words of God sometimes”. So much so that the caps come out again:

“Our focus and our trust must be in Jesus, WE MUST BE LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.”

Being led by the Holy Spirit with our focus on and trust in Jesus seems a pretty good deal to me. It’s his understanding of what that means that’s the problem.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Virtue of Pious Disobedience

I think most Christians would agree that, for believers, starting an insurrection would be morally wrong.

After all, the New Testament teaches that we are to obey the governing authorities. Our job in the present age is to live quietly and mind our own affairs as part of our testimony to our Saviour, something some of us do better than others.

But this is not a universal rule.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Too Hot to Handle: Bucking or Buckling?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: My Favourite Atheist

In which two or more of our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Pat Condell*
Tom: My favourite atheist is a cranky Irish comedian named Pat Condell. He’s fearlessly pro-Israel, anti-Islam … and, sadly, more than a little ignorant about what the gospels actually say.

Here’s a sample of what he thinks about Jesus, for instance:

“I don’t reject Jesus, I reject religion … the early church capitalized on [supernatural nonsense about Jesus] and exploited it enthusiastically because they needed Jesus to be a god so that they could use him to generate fear — which, of course, is the only level they know how to operate on — and also so that they could claim supernatural authority through him, which is the best kind of authority to have when you’re bluffing. As a mere man, Jesus was almost useless to them. All he could offer were words of compassion and wisdom, and what earthly good would they be to the men who run the church?”

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Recommend-a-blog (10)

William Lane Craig has one of the better-reasoned takes I have come across on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that has redefined marriage.

Like Roe v. Wade, this is a seismic event for the U.S. and the consequences for Christians who seek to follow scripture will be significant. Craig’s analysis and advice to believers is eminently more sensible than David Brooks’ column in last week’s New York Times, which may as well have been entitled “Resistance is Futile”. (My thoughts on Brooks’ advice may be found here.)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Enemy Territory

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Counting the Cost

Following up on Bernie’s post from a few months back, David French at National Review has a few notable things to say on the subject of the looming hot-button issue of tax exemptions for charitable organizations, including churches (and presumably parachurch entities as well) in the U.S.

Canadians should note that we are rarely far behind on such developments.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Unintended Consequences

When they passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) in 2007, it is quite unlikely that the U.S. congress anticipated that their little bill would trigger a cereal grain price jump of 67.4% in 2012 or that the rise in food prices would plunge nearly 70 million people into what the World Bank calls ‘extreme poverty’. The Houston Chronicle details the extent of the problem here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Non-Canonical Episodes

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Your Bible Is An Anachronism

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Church Discipline and Membership

Let’s imagine a (hopefully semi-plausible) business scenario that may, if all goes well, turn into something of a parable.

We’ll say that I am a night supervisor working on a single floor of one of those corporate telephone solicitation colossi. I have under me perhaps a hundred employees coming and going on a regular basis. Some work on my floor only briefly before moving on to other departments. Others stay for years. I do not hire them, and I do not fire them. My role is simply to confirm that they have what they need to do their jobs and to work with them to make them better telephone salespeople.

Under these circumstances, I find myself writing an email to my department manager.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Rabbit Language

“Hmm. How to proceed ...”
A Thanksgiving blog post (American, that is — I’m not running that far behind) has me thinking about freedom of speech, the Christian and the giving and taking of offence with respect to how we speak about those in authority.

Christians definitely disagree on this issue. I was in the U.S. last summer and heard them doing it. Naturally they were all doing it politely.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Bible Contains the Word of God

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Limits of Toleration

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Insufficient Authority

This is not a subject I write about easily, but it’s one to which I believe many Christians can relate.

Giant, massive disclaimer: By what I’m about to say, I am not in any way judging or condemning the efforts of serious Christian parents or spouses I know or know about. Still less would I pass any judgement on the parenting and relationship efforts of Christians in circumstances I don’t fully understand.

I am constantly astounded at my own inability to accurately size up other people’s business. What regularly throws me for a loop are these little factoids that pop up in conversation that make you completely reverse your previous set-in-concrete assessment of someone you know, like “Did you know she has a brain tumor?” (No, really, I’m not making this up.)

But since I have very little idea who reads these thoughts other than immediate family members, believe me: I have no particular axe to grind and no particular family situations in mind.

I’m just thinking here.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Unintended Consequences

When they passed The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) in 2007, it is quite unlikely that the U.S. congress anticipated that their little bill would trigger a cereal grain price jump of 67.4% in 2012 over 2011, or that the rise in food prices would plunge nearly 70 million people into what the World Bank calls ‘extreme poverty’. The Houston Chronicle details the extent of the problem here.

Good Intentions

What prompted the EISA? We are told it was the desire to reduce dependency on foreign oil, scale back greenhouse gas emissions and keep the price of gas down. None of these are bad ideas. While I am as easily attracted to conspiracy theories as the next guy, I doubt the average elected representative planned on starving the third world to reduce U.S. gas prices.

But the unintended consequences of the Act have caused and continue to cause near-incalculable damage.