Who’s the Boss?

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Contributed by Brian Knapp, Elder Overseer of Equipping at Image Church

Who is the boss in your life?

I know, its kind of an odd question.  We don’t like to talk about authority, do we? Once we grow up and leave home, we aren’t under anyone’s authority anymore.  We are completely “free” from authority at that point, right?  Of course not!

There are all sorts of authorities around us.  In fact, we can give lots of examples if we really think about it:

  • Our boss
  • The police
  • The government

There is no way for us to ever escape the reality of authority in our lives.

In fact, one of the things many people don’t like about the idea of God, or the Bible, or Christianity for that matter, is that it is … “authoritarian”.  Biblical Christianity is a system of beliefs centered on an authority that is not to be questioned – not to be doubted.  And that certainly rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

Defining Authority

Normally, when we use word “authority”, it has to do with someone we answer to for our actions.  For instance, the county court is the authority we answer to when we break the law.  But this isn’t the only way the term can be used.  The term may also be used to express something that justifies the conclusions you come to.  In this sense, the term speaks of that which we appeal to in order to help us decide things.

You know, I was searching the web the other day and came across a great example of this.  I’m going to paraphrase something I found on a site called the “Human Design Institute” – a site which claims to synthesize modern science and the wisdom of the ancients in order to give us insight into our subconscious.

Listen very carefully to what they have to say about this type of “authority”, as I think it expresses a rather accurate view of how most people think about themselves.

Authority – We are our own authority. Each and every one of us is born with a sense of inner authority … to be able to make decisions correctly as ourselves. … It is not possible to recognize who we are nor see our personal value unless we … honor our inner authority. We [should] discover there is an inner authority within us that knows what is correct … for us. We [can then] make decisions that work for us rather than against us. Our life [will] change as we eliminate the confusing power of conditioning. Love yourself by following your … inner authority!

Think about it … we do act as if we are our own authorities, don’t we?

Conflicting Authorities

Nowhere is there more of a conflict between “authorities” than between science and the Bible.  Nowhere is there such opposition over claims of what is real, and what is true.  And do you know why this is?  It is primarily because science (as it is generally practiced) begins with the assumption that there is no God.

You may not hear scientists as a whole make this claim so clearly as I just have (although some of them do), but it is a valid conclusion.  Science, as commonly practiced today, assumes from the outset that there is always a natural answer to every phenomenon it chooses to investigate, if we just look long enough.  And a natural answer to every question means there is no need for a supernatural answer to any question. Thus the conclusion of natural science is that God is not necessary for anything.

While science essentially assumes there is no God, the Bible obviously assumes that there is.  Furthermore, the Bible claims not only to be true, but also the standard (or authority) of what truth is.

In John 17, Jesus is praying for his disciples as he is preparing for what he knows is inevitable.  He makes the following statement in verse 17, as he prays to God:

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Jesus makes a claim here that is astounding.  He states that God’s word itself defines what truth is.  That’s a bold claim indeed – it’s a claim of authority, and a claim that flies in the face of science.

So on the one hand, we have science claiming that truth can be known by empirical observation, without the need for any God, and on the other hand we have the Bible claiming that God’s very word ultimately defines truth for us.

Consider the question of miracles.  Miracles (in other words, supernatural events) just aren’t acceptable in science, are they?  One of the major tenets of science is to continue to look for a natural explanation to the unknown, instead of just giving up and claiming something supernatural occurred.  Therein lies the incompatibility between science and God.

Do you see the quandary that those who hold to the Bible as an authority have?  In a world that is so humanistic, where most everything we do is connected to some aspect of natural science, if you claim to literally believe the Bible, then you have some real issues to deal with.

For instance, what do you believe when the Bible tells you that a man was raised from the dead, but science tells you this doesn’t occur?

What do you believe when the Bible tells you that God created the universe out of nothing, but science says it all started with a big bang?

What do you believe when the Bible tells you that God exists; yet science tells you that you can get along just fine by living your life as if he doesn’t?

You see, the problem here is one of conflicting authorities.  Two authorities are telling you two different stories.  And what do you do to resolve the discrepancy?  Well, you allow a more ultimate authority (something you trust in more than science, and more than religion) to settle the dispute for you.

If you happen to choose science as your authority in these areas, no doubt you will conclude that Jesus never rose from the dead, that God did not create the universe out of nothing, and that we can live just fine pretending that God doesn’t even exist.

On the other hand, if you choose the Bible as your authority in these areas, then you will conclude Jesus did rise from the dead, that God did create the universe out of nothing, and that we need to believe in God in order to live a meaningful life.

Questioning Authority

Let’s say we want to answer a much simpler question – such as “how tall is this chair I am sitting in?”  We can use a tape measure to answer this.  We just take the tape and stretch it out, read it, and voila … we have an answer!

We can view the tape measure as the authority we are appealing to in order to answer the question “how long/tall is this?”  The tape measure tells us how long an inch is, and by extension, how many inches something else is.  But why do we accept that the tape measure accurately tells us how long an inch is?  Literally, because it says so!  It is our authority – at least for linear measurement.

But what if we are skeptical of whether the tape measure itself is accurate?  In that case, we might measure the tape measure against another one.  But what are we doing then?  We are simply appealing to a new authority to check out the one in question.  And in this case, why do we accept what the other tape measure tells us?  Again, because it says so!  The other tape measure is now the authority we are appealing to.

Now, do you see a problem here?  We can continue to check our authority against some other authority, but at some point we have to stop and just have faith that the authority we are appealing to is correct.  That then becomes our final authority for whatever it is we are measuring.

Now although there is ultimately a higher reason for believing that tape measures will accurately answer our question about linear measurement, what about questions pertaining to morality?  What about questions pertaining to reality, existence, or truth in general?

Our Ultimate Authority

There are bound to be different authorities that we appeal to for answering these other types of questions, but all of these are ultimately subordinate to a higher authority – that one thing we would feel comfortable measuring them all against if we had any doubts about them.  That something is called our ultimate authority.

Our ultimate authority is the grand-standard in our life.  It is the thing that everything else is ultimately compared against, in order to determine truth.  It is the final court of appeal, so to speak.

For instance, what do we do when we have a question about morality?  We consult whatever our moral authority happens to be.  But what do we consult when we question our moral authority itself?  We defer to our ultimate authority.

Now listen carefully, because this is so important to understand.  Our ultimate authority in life, whatever it is, is accepted entirely on faith. We accept it on faith because we can never ask for proof that it is correct.  Such an ultimate cannot be proven to be correct.  Think about it … how exactly would you go about proving your ultimate authority, if not by comparing it to some other authority to see how it measures up?  Once you compare against some other authority, then that becomes your ultimate.

This isn’t an easy thing to grasp, so I want you to remember the tape measure for a moment.  What would happen if we continued to try to prove that our tape measure was accurate?  We would end up measuring it against another tape measure, which we would measure against another, and so on, and so forth.  We would never get to the end of the chain – we would be stuck in something called an “infinite regress”, always questioning our authority, and never getting any measuring done!

But we don’t do this in life, do we?  Not at all, no.  At some point, we simply give up the process and say “I accept this on faith, because there is no way to prove whether it is right or not.” And that place where we stop is our ultimate authority.

Now, we have made it this far, and you are probably starting to question everything, right?  I mean, if what I am saying is true, then all the certainty in our lives just went out the window.  If all of those things we are so sure about are ultimately based entirely on faith, then that means they could be completely right … or completely wrong!  The question is, of course, how do we know?  When our ultimate authority is based entirely on faith (and it is), how can we know whether or not it is right?  When our very basis for determining what is real and true is something we cannot prove to be real or true, how do we know whether or not to use it?

Well unfortunately we just don’t have the time to answer this question today.  After all, it is a question that has been dogging philosophers for thousand of years.  But let me cut to the chase as far as our discussion is concerned.  For Christians, the answer to the question of ultimate authority is God and his revealed word to us.  There is no other choice.  Let’s take a moment to see why this is.

The Bible as our Ultimate Authority

So I would like you to ask yourself this question – what do I use the Bible for?  What purpose does it serve for me?  Under what circumstances do I actually pick it up and read it?

For many people, the Bible is something that is referred to in a very limited set of circumstances.  I think most people consult it when we they moral questions, right?  Many people view the Bible as a great source of knowing the difference between right and wrong, but not much more than that.

But how often do people consult God’s word when it comes to financial matters?  There are lots of experts “in the field”, after all.  Lots of books on managing your money, lots of resources on the web – why would anyone need to read the Bible for that?

How about relationships?  There are all sorts of books out there to help out in that area, right?  Why would you consider what the Bible has to say, when there are all these other excellent resources, right?

Make sure you hear this as this is the heart of the matter right here.  The Bible should be the book that you spend the most time in; more so than any other book.  Why do I say this?  Simple.  Proverbs 3:5-6.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. (NKJV)

How many of us really understand what these two verses are saying?  I don’t think we really grasp it, really.

Let’s break it down …

“Trust” – that means “have faith in”.  Remember what we said about ultimate authorities?  They require faith.

“in the LORD” – God is the source of truth – his word “is” truth, remember John 17:17?

“with all your heart” – The term “heart” has a variety of meanings, and it doesn’t always mean the physical organ.  In this context it refers to the inner most part of a person, or to their mind.  The command here is an intellectual command – we are to have faith in God, as the source and very definition of truth, when it comes to all our decisions.  Our intellect is to defer to his word.

“and lean not on your own understanding” – Ah, here it is in black and white.  We are not to defer to ourselves, even for a moment, as our ultimate authority.  But rather, we are to have faith in God as all areas of our life.

“in all your ways acknowledge him” – This pretty much covers all the bases, don’t you think?  We are to acknowledge God in all of our ways – everything we do.  Not just in the area of morality.

“and he shall direct your paths” – And here is the promise.  If we submit to God as our ultimate authority, the result will be his guidance.  What could be better than that?

The Final Authority

Consider what God’s word tells us about God as the final authority.

1. Who better to defer to, than the one who created and sustains you?  (Acts 17:28)

2. Who better to give you direction than the one who has a specific plan for your life?  (Ephesians 2:10)

3. Who better to appeal to in all decision making than the one who has the corner on truth?  (John 17:17)

4. Who better to follow than the one who can teach you what real freedom is all about?  (John 8:36)

5. Who better to learn from than the one who is literally the source of all knowledge?  (Proverbs 1:7)

Choose Gods word as the ultimate authority in your life.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking there is any other authority worth following.

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One Response to “Who’s the Boss?”

  1. Nick Freitas Says:

    “Follow Your Inner Authority”

    I wonder if they would be so quick to encourage such a statement if my “inner authority” told me to burn down their offices?

    What ridiculous nonsense. The degree to which educated people spout out such superficial drivel gives new meaning to the verse “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”.

    Ill take good old fashioned objective Divine Inspiration over the emotionally heavy, intellectually bankrupt and superficially obtuse sermonizing of those who would wish to remove Christ from their chain of command.

    Good blog Brian!

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