Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Don't Hate Authority, Hate Abuse of Authority

Christ Demonstrating the Proper Affect of One in Authority

We live in times where the powers that be are increasingly losing the trust of the average person.   Young people look around today and what they see in high places is layer upon layer of corruption.   They see it in government, they see it in the media.  They see corruption at the upper tiers of much of the corporate world, and especially in high finance.

It would be easy for them to take the wrong lesson from what they have experienced and I fear that many of them are taking the wrong lesson.   Rather than objecting to the abuse of authority, they are very close to rejecting the legitimacy of authority itself, especially as it relates to governmental authority.    In so doing, they risk becoming rebels, not just against illegitimate authority, but against all authority, just or unjust.

I'd like to make government a lot smaller than it is now, in particular I'd like to reduce the power, scope, and cost of the central government.   But that does not mean that I think we'd be better off without a government.   As bad as a corrupt government is, the realities of living without a government in a society of fallen people would be much worse.     One of many reasons I exhort people to live a life of personal  virtue is that it permits the reduction of government.  Virtuous people have no need of masters.   The weak and the wicked do.   Thus a virtuous population is the best defense against big government.

It's true that for most of human history government has been wicked, violent, and oppressive.    It often represented nothing more than the toughest gang rather than an institution with the just mission of preserving the rights of those under its protection.     In the West, that changed as a new concept of what authority meant and how it ought to be exercised saturated the culture.    Authority become more than power under this new concept, it became a duty of love and justice.   Where did this new concept come from and how did it differ from what happened before?  And most critically, why is it fading from the cultural fabric?
The new concept of authority, which changed the world, came from the scriptures.  In Mark chapter 10 (Amplified version) James and John ask to be Christs' right and left hand man in the Kingdom He is setting up.    They want the authority.   The other disciples get indignant at James and John because of their request.    In a beautiful passage of Scripture, Jesus explains the difference between what "authority" means and how it is used in His Kingdom vs. what it means and how it is used in the Gentile nations, whose governments lack the wisdom of Divine guidance......
42 But Jesus called them to [Him] and said to them, You know that those who are recognized as governing and are supposed to rule the Gentiles (the nations) lord it over them [ruling with absolute power, holding them in subjection], and their great men exercise authority and dominion over them.
43 But this is not to be so among you; instead, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant,
44 And whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be slave of all.
45 For even the Son of Man came not to have service rendered to Him, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for ([y]instead of) many.
Various people, at various stages of their lives, can benefit from authority.    When my young anarcho-capitalist friends have children of their own they will better understand.   Authority, even government authority, is not intrinsically evil.  At its best it restrains evil.  Even a very corrupt government, if it rules an even more corrupt population, can restrain evil.     But like Washington said, it's like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearful master.    As long as the weak and wicked are among us, it will be needed in some form.   
 Even today the high officials of many governments in the Old World are called "ministers" out of recognition that their office was supposed to be one of service to God and man.      In the United States they secularized the titles in part because they were leery of government's attempt to co-opt religion for the state's own use,   but the Biblical concept of authority ran deep in the culture.  
What's happened to us is that we have separated from our culture the conviction that the Biblical world view is the correct one.   Why be surprised then when the uniquely just view of authority upheld in scripture is lost as well?   When one tosses out the baby of the Christ Child, the cleansing bath water of a high view of government goes with Him.   What happens then is that those in power, freed from the restraint of a Godly view of authority permeating the culture, revert to the more corrupt exercise of power which predated the ascension of the Judo-Christian concept.     Those young people who arrived after the eclipse of the previous view of authority look at authority, and all they see it rot.   No wonder they conclude that authority is intrinsically wicked.
Of course, properly exercised  authority (that is, exercised in the manner prescribed by Christ) is not evil at all.     It's service, not self-serving.   It protects rights, it does not threaten them.   It's not a cover-up of their dirt, it's a clean-up of dirt for those under their authority.   Just before the Crucifixion He bowed down and washed the feet of His disciples.   They protested that it was not right that He, the Messiah, was washing their feet, but He was trying to show them something.   This is what Authority looks like when properly exercised.  It's humility and service.
12 So when He had finished washing their feet and had put on His garments and had sat down again, He said to them, Do you understand what I have done to you?
13 You call Me the Teacher (Master) and the Lord, and you are right in doing so, for that is what I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher (Master), have washed your feet, you ought [it is your duty, you are under obligation, you owe it] to wash one another’s feet.
 We don't need anarchy, not while we are still this weak and wayward.  Nor do we need more rulers who buy into the pre-Christian concept of authority.   We need a return to a concept of authority that subjects it to the Highest Authority of all.

9 Comments:

Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Young people see corrupt authority, and so they come to the conclusion that authority itself is intrinsically wrong. It's not, but we have lost the high-view of authority that produced liberty in the West.

12:11 PM, June 27, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The new concept of authority, which changed the world, came from the scriptures."

The concept maybe be found there, but what evidence you have to indicate that there was a change in the first place, or that it can be traced to the scriptures?

1:21 AM, June 29, 2012  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:37 AM, June 29, 2012  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Are you seriously suggesting that the idea of rulers being the servants of all was practiced in governments prior to the development of the concepts in scripture? Was it so in Babylon? Was it that way in Egypt where the serfs were set to work building tombs for their god-kings? Was it so in Assyria? Was it so in Persia? Did Alexander the Great consider himself so (of course by now we are getting into the OT scriptures which foreshadow all the things Christ taught)?

Are you asking me to prove a negative? That is, are you asking me to prove that there WAS NOT some prior embodiment of the idea of government conveyed in Scripture (alluded to in the OT and completed in Christ's example)?

No one can prove a negative like that, so you ask for something no reasonable person should ask for. I should think the obligation would be yours, if you are inclined to doubt my claim, to show the prior separate origins of the same concept, and how those separate origins came to influence the thinking of the West. But of course you can't do that.

I don't say the concept of human liberty began with the scriptures, because it is written in the heart of every man, but I say the moral framework necessary to govern large nations without ambition crowding out that yearning of the heart came first from scripture. It was this which permitted human liberty to rise first in the West.

The history is clear. Every spark of liberty that came to man was extinguished by the ambition of man. Rome began as a Republic and ended with Emperors declaring themselves Gods, as had so many experiments in liberty before them. No, it was needful for the Christian religion to arise first. Only afterward did human liberty arise in large nation-states.

There was a period where human ambition fought back, and attempted to alter the Christian framework to allow for it. "The Divine Right of Kings" did not last long though, against the power of Christ's example as the King of Kings. REX LEX (The King is the Law) soon gave way to LEX REX (The Law is the King). Even kings became subjects- accountable to the law of God.

9:42 AM, June 29, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is how you described it:

"In the West, that changed as a new concept of what authority meant and how it ought to be exercised saturated the culture. Authority become more than power under this new concept, it became a duty of love and justice. Where did this new concept come from and how did it differ from what happened before? And most critically, why is it fading from the cultural fabric? The new concept of authority, which changed the world, came from the scriptures."

All I'm asking is for you to support these two claims:

1. That this is a new concept

and

2. That where we find it in action, we can trace the action's origin to the scripture.

Essentially, you are claiming that authority was never "a duty of love and justice.", and that the concept that it might be didn't exist until the scriptures where written (or read), yes?

10:14 PM, June 29, 2012  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I have supported it, but you are unwilling to acknowledge the evidence. So let me have a turn in the judgement seat and let's see your evidence that would nullify my contention. It should be easy. All you have to do is find the concept being used in ONE of the ancient pre-scripture governments I cited, or any other contemporaneous nation-state, and you disprove my claim.

As to "that where we find it in action, we can trace the action's origin to the scripture. I suppose you strike it off as a mere co-incidence that the nations most indued with the spirit of the protestant reformation were precisely those nations where these ideas about human government and liberty manifested themselves?

Why not in India, or China? Why not in the mid-east, or the New World? Why have such concepts STILL not taken root in cultures where Christianity is a footnote? The connection is so clear that one must fight very hard not to see it. How long will you go on fighting?

But that the concept of LEX REX, that is inextricably tied to this view of government I am describing, is drawn from scripture, there can be no doubt. Even secular sources acknowledge this. A simple google search should provide all the verification an objective person would need.

8:15 AM, June 30, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As to "that where we find it in action, we can trace the action's origin to the scripture. I suppose you strike it off as a mere co-incidence that the nations most indued with the spirit of the protestant reformation were precisely those nations where these ideas about human government and liberty manifested themselves?"

Is then, this scriptural idea unique to protestants, and alien to Catholicism or Orthodoxy?

"But that the concept of LEX REX, that is inextricably tied to this view of government I am describing, is drawn from scripture, there can be no doubt. Even secular sources acknowledge this. A simple google search should provide all the verification an objective person would need."

Ah. So you are talking about a specific implementation or interpretation of a scriptural principle?

12:57 AM, July 01, 2012  
Blogger Portia said...

"Alien" is the wrong word. The principles I am describing are in the scriptures. Once the common people who believed in their Divine inspiration found out what was in them, it altered the culture to permit human liberty in the way we have seen. But the Catholics and the Orthodox give a lot less weight to scripture, and have a lot more invested in a priestly caste to mediate than do Protestants. That was a lot of what the protest was all about.

So "alien" is the wrong term, its just that Christian churches who put less emphasis on scripture were less likely to get their first.

I am talking about scripture. This principle laid out in scripture has many specific implementations, but Lex Rex was one of the best known that applies to this question.

So I take it you realize that there is no ready example of an ancient culture that would invalidate my main point? After all, the main ones we hear about in World Civ were a far cry from "getting it."

Obviously I can't "prove" that no such ancient culture ever existed, because that would be trying to prove a negative. The only reasonable way to disprove my statement would be to point to one that DID exist. But if one did, it is so obscure as to be unknown to you - else you would have mentioned it by now. Such an obscure culture, even if it ever existed, is quite unlikely to be the source for the later flowering of this concept in the West.

10:18 PM, July 01, 2012  
Anonymous mark said...

Once mankind got to nation-states, the Hebrews were the first exception to the idea of God-Kings. The concept of dividing King from Priesthood came with them as well. They were also the first democratic nation-state I am aware of.

10:19 PM, July 01, 2012  

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