What is the big deal about authority?

What is the big deal about authority? Doesn’t everyone have to follow authorities and do what they say?

Sometimes, yes. But there is a big difference between being coerced physically to outwardly acknowledge an authority and really believing that authority is something like “the voice of God,” or whatever you think an authority is – a politician, a professor at your college, or some pastor at the church you attend.

People may be forced physically to outwardly accept certain authorities. Think of Nazi Germany or North Korea where openly defying authority could be a death sentence. But inwardly do you accept those authorities as being valid and something you would follow if you were not compelled to?

That’s a big difference.

Yes, I give the minimal deference to some authorities in my society, but that doesn’t mean I always think they are morally justified. Think of the IRS. Think of organizations on your college that try to enforce politically correct views and censure views they don’t like.

The big deal about authority is that if you accept an authority, but not from an inward conviction, you are in the words of our ancient forbearers “worshipping” that authority. The original Greek word often translated as “worship” in the New Testament means something like to be like a dog licking its master’s hand.

But you should not worship a false god or idol. Don’t make your outward authorities your idol, that which you worship. That is why it is a big deal.

In the end you need to find the God inside, in your Temple, in your Holy of Holies, and that is the real authority you should seek to follow. Easy? No.

Question Authority Again

In my last post, How To Question Authority, I wrote:

We can [question authority] using our mind and being determined to look at all the evidence. But is there something more? Is there some authority that transcends the authority of the senses, the authority of the mind?

There is indeed something we can use, but it requires some belief and recognition that we are more than our minds and our bodies, more than just a sentient animal. It requires a recognition that each human being has an immortal soul or spirit – whatever name you care to give it – that came from God and will go back to God.

I cannot prove to you in scientific terms that this is true. You must find it for yourself. Indeed that can be difficult. Nevertheless it is the basis of all true resistance to unjust authority.

This is what author Joseph J. Dewey has called Soul Contact:

[The] inner self, through the medium of the Soul, contacts and registers the Holy Spirit, which is capable of verifying all true principles. In short, this process is called “soul contact.”

In Soul Contact Part One he writes:

We can become a member of the heavenly Jerusalem at any moment that we “overcome” and obtain Soul Contact and the Christ consciousness. Then we become a spiritual pillar in the temple of God, and the God within is expressed and we “go no more out” no matter where we are physically. We are given a new name. That is we realize that our personality self is not real, but a false image, and the new name is “the name of my God.” In other words, we become one with God, a son of man who has become the Son of God.

The Christian Old Testament can be understood as an allegory to the struggle to find our true authority through the soul. The Israelites again and again fall into worship of false authorities and disaster is always the inevitable result. So it is with us.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, our body is a temple (likening our body to the Temple in Jerusalem where the Israelites worshipped God).

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19

What does this really mean? It means that each and every one of us, in one life or another – we have many chances to discover this – must become our own High Priest and enter the Holy of Holies of their own Temple and find God, our ultimate authority.

You must learn to question authority, first through the mind and finally through the soul. I did not say that was easy.

How To Question Authority

To question authority we have to identify who and what are our authorities are. Previously we discovered that we could classify authorities as:

  1. Accepted
  2. Appointed
  3. Earned

Young children depend on the first two kinds of authority, accepted and appointed. As we grow and as our experience and ability to discern increases we should begin to discriminate between earned, and unearned authorities. Almost all will at some time be disillusioned by authorities that turn out to be false, or far less expert than we first assumed.

Disillusionment is not a bad thing. Finding false or untrustworthy authorities is an important learning experience. A major step is to systematically and deliberately validate our authorities and rank our authorities in terms of trust and the degree to which they have earned that trust.

We often need to step outside what is comfortable and look back at ourselves from the outside. Sometimes this sort of exploration can be painful. This can be particularly difficult if we believe strongly in something, for example, a particular religion, a New Age guru, or even a political position.

A good example can come from politics. If you are very polarized in the Left, or the Right, then when you look at what the other side is saying you are almost always are looking to find fault, not truth.

If you are serious about questioning your authorities try to look at the polar opposites of your current belief system and try to find truth, not error. Not saying ignore error, but try to focus on finding some truths. Try to find some people on the other side and try to find what you can have in common with them and hopefully you will see that people who hold very different views can indeed be decent people who just happen to disagree with you on some ideas.

If you strongly believe in God, or a Greater Life in the universe then you need to seriously examine the arguments put forth by atheists. If your faith can’t survive logical argumentation then it is a house built on sand (think of Jesus’ advice in Matthew 7:24-27).

Whatever your belief system and its authorities, you need to examine them thoroughly and be prepared for the inevitable result that you will find some cracks in them, some less than perfectly satisfying answers. If you don’t then the chances are pretty good that you didn’t look hard enough.

Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, is supposed to have said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” The truth is probably that we live many lives that have no more purpose than to gain experience, but once we get tired of that and want to move on to greater things we have to learn to examine and question authority.

We can do this all through using our mind and being determined to look at all the evidence. But is there something more? Is there some authority that transcends the authority of the senses, the authority of the mind?