“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Final Authority

People's behavior is governed by something. It may be that they do "whatever seems right in their own eyes" as the book of Judges warns us about. When people act on that basis it is dangerous. It is also sometimes referred to as value relativism. That is, I do what I want to do and you do what you want to do. I need to be tolerant of you and you need to be tolerant of me. But you don't need to be tolerant of me if I do hold to a position that says there are clear values. There are clearly things which are right and things that are wrong. If I hold that position, then you no longer have to be tolerant of me. But there is such a thing as evil. Our society has abandoned this notion.

However, it is interesting that when a society that embraces people doing "whatever seems right in their own eyes" bumps up against a group of people who have a final authority, those people strike them as capricious or limiting of their freedom to do what they want. In America today, those people are called Christians. Christians cannot do whatever they want to do. They are responsible to follow the commands of God as laid out in the Bible. So, why don't I steal? Not because today I think it is wrong to steal and tomorrow truth for me might change and so I might steal tomorrow. No,I don't steal because the teaching of Bible tells me it is wrong to steal. It really doesn't matter on some level what I think about stealing. I shouldn't do it because I am told, by my final authority, that it is wrong. That goes for other things in my life linked to my behavior. Why should I love other people? Trust me it is not because I always want to, but it is because I am told that the greatest commandment after loving God is loving my neighbor as much as I love myself. I do my best to love you because I am commanded by final authority to do so. Clearly I and other Christians fail all the time. We might fail more than we get it right. But that doesn't diminish the authority of the commands or teachings of my final authority.

When people have no final authority, morality is somewhat by consensus. Your moral code becomes the laws of a country. If the law prohibits me from doing something, I must not do that thing or I will suffer the consequences of breaking the law. Otherwise, everything is up to me.

If you are following the news, you are aware that Planned Parenthood, that horrific organization responsible for the deaths of probably millions of unborn children, has been caught selling infant body parts. The story is here. People too often compare evils they see with Nazi Germany, but this is truly one that bears such a comparison. The cavalier manner in which the medical director discusses the practices to a supposed buyer, over a glass of wine is chilling. It is as if the buyer went into a meat market and wanted a pound of ground beef, or liver or something. She literally spoke of knowing what was desired by a buyer in the morning, and then carrying out abortions in such a manner that she could get the body parts that were required by the buyer.

When asked about whether this would be legal, her response was to say it probably could not get past "the present" supreme court. She is right that it possibly could be permitted by a future court. What is the moral authority for killing unborn children and literally butchering them and selling their body parts? Whatever a court would determine. You see, if we have no final authority, we are libel to do anything. I made the comparison above with Nazi Germany. What the Nazi government was doing by killing millions of people, was not illegal by the government's own standard. It was it's own final authority. So using that argument, the same used by Planned Parenthood, it was not wrong. That is the exact same standard people are using to justify doing things which are completely evil.

So understand two things. I as a Christian, flawed as I am, am trying to hold to a moral standard laid out in the Bible. When I look to judge whether something is right or wrong, it is nearly always not based on my opinions. It is based upon what the Bible, my moral authority tells me is right or wrong. If I go against that moral authority, I am doing something called sinning. You might think me capricious, or uncaring, or however else you might characterize me. But because I trust in Jesus, I trust the moral authority he, through the Bible, lays out for me. It is unchangeable and consistent. I may not be consistent because I am a flawed human being, however, the standard, provided by God himself, is consistent. If we as human beings follow his authority, our lives will be blessed because we are being obedient. If we do not follow that authority, we will suffer from our disobedience. But it is also important to recognize that as we move down the path of disobedience, we become more and more unable to know right from wrong. If someone were to have approached the head doctor for Planned Parenthood when she was about to enter medical school and said, "Hey I have this great idea. Lets kill babies and sell their body parts for money." She hopefully would have said, "I would never do that! That is wrong and a horrible thing to do." But then she went to work for Planned Parenthood, and the evil that regularly goes on there put her on a path that led to her chatting about selling baby's body parts over dinner and a glass of wine.

If this is not the future we want, we need to return to our nation's founding moral authority, the Bible.

1 comment:

Jordan Varey said...

Thanks for the post. I have been thinking through the authority of the Bible lately and I wanted to ask a question. Who interprets what the Bible means? Who is the authority on the authority? I agree that the Bible is authoritative scripture but I am confused as to how we define that authority. The shear number of denominations indicates that it is not always a straight forward text. How do you decide what part of the Bible are contextually relevant?

It seems that most evangelical denominations are arguing for a "plain text meaning" in the Bible. This is sometimes referred to as a "literal interpretation of scripture". However, it seems apparent that this is not always practiced. (historically the practice only dates back to the Protestant reformation in my understanding. In many cases evangelicals have decided that certain parts of scripture require interpretation. They need to be read in light of historical context, the Canon as a whole, convinental positions, etc. For example: most Christians wear mixed fabrics and are willing to plant a garden with more than one type of seed. Many of these same Christians will point to the same section in the law (lev 18-19) as a proof text against homosexuality. There is no plain text indication that one law is binding and the other not. Some will argue for moral vs. civil laws but the text itself does not support such a division. In the New Testament the same "pick and choose" method seems to hold popular favour. For example, most evangelical denominations have done away with the requirement for head coverings (1 Cor 11) and many allow for women in positions of senior leadership (1 Cor 14).

So, I guess what I am wondering is how you determine which scriptures hold absolute plain text authority and which are susceptible to deeper forms of interpretation?