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An Appeal for Authority

Any just court of law operates on the premise that a man is innocent until proven guilty.  The reasoning behind this premise is that, in most cases, mere suspicion is not enough to warrant the sort of action that is to be taken upon the guilty.  If the powers-that-be in the legal system were to act upon mere unproven suspicions, many more people would be unjustly incarcerated.  It has also been proven that paranoid minds are subject to a very slippery slope, whether they belong to Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, or Senator McCarthy.  Provided leeway, a paranoid legal system would look much like, to be frank, the Obama administration if given its druthers.  A sane society is one in which men can trust one another and particularly trust the authorities on whom their civil rights and material well-being dependent.  Indeed, submission to an authority operates on a premise similar to that of the courts of law: that the authority is valid until proven illegitimate.  Yet in the contemporary perspective of the United States, growing numbers of people are operating conversely; that is, on the premise that until an authority validates itself, until the natural tendency to hold some actions of authority suspect is proven unfounded, that it should be treated as an instrument of one’s oppression.  This perspective, fostered by mediums of entertainment, is not only destructive of the individuals who capitulate to its prideful rhetoric, but of the institutions of Western civilization as a whole, for it is only by an authority that unity can be maintained, and it is only by unity that civilization persists and achieves any sort of genuine progress.

The general spirit of reactionary resentment of authority in the United States grew out of the blooming rock-and-roll culture of the 1950s and protest movements of the 1960s.  For several decades, the spirit had little political or economic effect—since the two are nigh indivisible in this country—beyond the nominally counter-cultural movements centralized largely around the various music scenes and progressive college campuses, and achieved little grounding in people over 30 who were not enlightened liberal college professors.  Yet the seeds sown by the counter-cultural movements and the deficiently educational and exceedingly propagandistic colleges, though abated in the lives of individuals who found that working for the man is not so bad since he pays so well, nonetheless took root in the larger social consciousness.

The germ of this spirit, which for brevity will be called the Puerile Spirit, which finds yielding soil in the drama that is adolescence, readily blooms when watered by the inundation of politically-driven entertainment media.  Anti-establishment movies such as Fight Club or V for Vendetta corroborate not only the rhetorically polished but insubstantial conjectures of authors such as Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Phil Lombardo, nor just government conspiracy television shows and “investigative” programs on channels such as Discovery or The Learning Channel, but also the average news broadcast.  The subtle use of background music, computer graphics, interviews and expert analysis, emotional testimonies, and a thousand other nuances of manipulation invigorate the dramatically-grounded Puerile Spirit.  This has become blatantly obvious over the past 6 years, as media disillusionment with the Bush administration, some of which was justified and some not, was played up to a frenzy of conspiracy and lies.

Are you going to trust this guy telling you to question authority?

Are you going to trust this guy telling you to question authority?

Ironically and amusingly, the backlash of sensationalistic reporting by the mainstream media is being felt in the pullulating distrust of the socialist policies of Barack Obama.  Granted that FoxNews employs spectacle more than any other major news outlet, the trend was viciously employed and to great effect by the liberal news media over the past several years.  Though Hussein started with a high approval rating, his acceptance as an authority was based entirely on the thin ice of his substantially deficient hortatory mantras.  The Puerile Spirit, though hypocritical in its fostering of an inquisitional attitude without simultaneously encouraging an intellect sufficiently developed enough to pursue truth, despite its pursuit of naught but self-affirmation, can nonetheless instigate the downfall of an authority proven illegitimate on the grounds of incompetence and injustice.  It is to be hoped that the distrust of an illegitimate authority can mature into an objective evaluation of authority itself; that the goodness of authority can be seen for what it is.  A distortion of the perception of authority, as something that mandates incessant inquisition, breeds a society of distrust; a society of insanity.  Government, rightly exercised, is a good thing, which provides for man’s material well-being, by enabling him to pursue it and by preventing his wrongful deprivation.  To preserve the United States, the emerging weeds of the Puerile Spirit’s tendency to reject civil authority need to be plucked before long.

Where the Puerile Spirit has not long lain dormant, however, is in the realm of religion, most notably the Catholic Church in America.  Intellectual dissent, such as that of Hans Kung and Karl Rahner, dissolved into the emotional coddling of the insecurities of feminists and homosexuals, and brought about what has been termed the hermeneutic of rupture; the interpretation of the documents of Vatican II according to this very same Puerile Spirit, which innately rejects authority on its merit as authority and collaborates with it only when its goals match those of the individual.  This intellectual and emotional juvenility also has its fostering in cheap entertainment spectacle: Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, both in written and cinematic forms, John Cornwell’s minimally researched Hitler’s Pope, countless inaccurate portrayals of the Church as it truly is (though depressingly accurate of how many see it), and the prominent liberal cafeteria Catholics and politicians throughout the media limelight, such as Sean Hannity, Maria Shriver, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, John Kerry, James Carville, Ted Kennedy, and Rudy Giuliani.  Dissent is everywhere glorified.  Whereas interaction with the authority of government constitutes only one part of a person’s life, however, faith is involved with the totality of a person’s existence, for it is or is supposed to be the pinnacle towards which all of a person’s actions aspire; thus a rupture in accepting the authority of any faith, but especially the Faith, by operating on the premise that the authority needs first to prove itself in order to be accepted, nourishes the noxious growth of the Puerile Spirit on a gigantic scale.  If inherent rejection of civil authority produces political weeds, then the inherent rejection of ecclesiastical authority sprouts moral, intellectual, and spiritual kudzu.  Where the former is a political pride, a fallacious principled intractability against the idea of men having authority over one another, the latter is a spiritual pride, the damnable obduracy of Satan.

In conclusion, it is not only acceptable to question authority, but right.  Yet questioning it from the premise that it is invalid to begin with, questioning it as the Pharisees and Herodians did Christ: “Tell us therefore what dost thou think?  Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?  But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? Show me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny.  And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this?  They say to him: Caesar’s.  Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:17-22) 1.

1 For any Protestants reading this, who would insist that the authority of Christ was not transferred to his Apostles, answer this: Why did Christ come in human form at all?  Why did He act as He did in human form?  Why teach with authority as a man?  As an addendum, watch Stephen Colbert intellectually trounce Dr. Zimbardo; as a caveat, Colbert does swear at the end.

Categories: General
  1. John Lollard
    August 9, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I must applaud your being so brave (and maybe hubristic) as to dare quote a passage from Scripture under the pretense that you actually understand what it means (how could you? Did your bishop explain it first? Do you have his approval? This passage is probably actually about Christ establishing purgatory or the treasury of merit).

    I’ll try to give as quick an answer to your question as possible:
    Isaiah 6:8-13
    Isaiah 43:1-15
    Matthew 13:34-35
    Matthew 21:35-37
    Mark 4:10-12
    John 3:10-21
    John 14:1-4
    Romans 3:21-26
    Roans 4:18-6:10
    1 Corinthians 15
    Hebrews 2:15-18

    Actually, I’d say read the entire book of Hebrews, but this quote in particular I feel about sums it up:
    Hebrews 4:15,16
    “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

    Also, Colbert ’12

    • Raskolnikov
      August 11, 2009 at 2:50 pm

      Why, yes, my Bishop (actually a long-dead bishop) did explain it to me first, indirectly, by issuing an imprimatur on the Scriptural commentary I used while reading the passage, in order to be assured of its applicability in the context I used it.

      While your Scripture is all good and swell and wonderful, none of it directly answers the last question: Why did Jesus teach with authority as a man?

      • John Lollard
        August 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm

        How else should He have taught?

        He taught with authority because He was a rabbi who was not confined to repeating the previous teachings and sayings of past noted scribes and rabbis. Even so, most of His teaching where He is strictly teaching draws heavily on past influences from other rabbis who had taught with authority such as Hillel and Gamaliel. It is really mostly His teachings concerning Himself and the coming Kingdom that differ from the established rabbinical tradition.

        He was a man because that was the central part of God’s redemptive strategy, as Hebrews talks about.

        That is why Jesus taught “as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matt 7:29).

  2. John Lollard
    August 9, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    So I just posted that, and thought up an even more simple explanation of why Jesus came as a human:
    Exodus 20:18-21
    Zechariah 9:9-13
    Luke 2:8-18
    Matt 11:25-30
    Hebrews 2:14,15

    That probably explains it faster.

  3. August 11, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    To jump in here, I think it’d also be nice if you could make an argument from reason, even if it’s based on Scripture, instead of just quoting Scripture itself. That’s not really an argument.

    • John Lollard
      August 11, 2009 at 4:44 pm

      Why would I base theology on fine-sounding arguments and philosophy?

      “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
      -Colossians 2:8

      Your logical conclusions can only be as good as your first principles. My first principles are Scripture; yours are Platonism and lots of “most perfect”s. If you’d like an explanation of what Scripture says, it says that God appeared to the Jewish people as God, and they were terrified of him, saying that even speaking to him would cause them to die. Then Zechariah tells us that God is coming to his people gently, riding on a lowly farm animal and humbled. We see in Luke 2 the reception He receives from the common people when they find the Son of God lying mildly in a manger, with angels telling them to be of good cheer. Jesus tells us in Matthew that He is gentle and humble and offers rest to all the weary. We see it explained in Hebrews, that He shared in our humanity to undergo all of our trials and temptations and fears and overcome them – conquering death and the devil and so freeing us from their slavery. Those are my first principles in this discussion, and I’m not sure what further question remains?

      Maybe I should have started off with the part in Genesis where God is walking through the Garden with Adam and Eve, basically hanging out with them.

      If that’s what God wants for us (to hang out with him) and if we cower in fear for our lives when God shows up, then obviously a different strategy is needed than the Exodus 20 method. I can’t think of a better way than Jesus.

      • August 11, 2009 at 5:57 pm

        Mr. Lollard, you ought to know by now that Platonist I am not; and if your conception of Platonism is having “most perfects” then your understanding has significant lacunae.

        That’s a lovely summary of the Bible’s story, but it’s still not an explanation. And you still haven’t really answered Raskolnikov’s question about why he taught with authority as a man. You’re not going to find that explicitly in Scripture. You really ought to be able to give some reason for it, if you believe in it, since it is not something that deals exclusively with the transcendent.

        And please, dismount your Straw-man from his Ad Hominephant, they’re causing quite a ruckus.

        P.S., “hang out”? Yes, I’m sure the Divine and Almighty God would find it fitting if we treated Him like a chum. Hey God – beer me!

      • John Lollard
        August 11, 2009 at 8:07 pm

        I’m still really not sure sure what remaining doubts there are. I feel the issue is perfectly settled from Scripture.

        If you’re asking me to pretend like Scripture does not explain, and to speculate aside from it why I think God entered His creation as a man and taught with authority, then I’m really not sure how to do so. I can only base theology on the concept that Scripture is true in what it teaches.

        To be honest, I don’t think that I can think of a purely logical answer to the question of the Incarnation, and it almost seems like someone acting with different presuppositions besides the truth of Scripture would hard pressed to imagine God even passively considering the idea.

        As to God hanging out with us, picture in your head the last supper. It would have taken place on the floor of the room, with the disciples and Jesus seated on pillows. It also would have taken several hours, and the word actually used in the Bible to describe the action is that they “reclined” at dinner. We even have St. John leaned up on Jesus’ chest, listening to His heart. In John 15:15, Christ assures His disciples that He does not call them servants, but friends. Elsewhere in Mark 3, He calls His students his brothers and sisters. He describes His Kingdom as a great banquet that we’re all invited to, He calls us His Bride, and He makes the promise of His Resurrection to His disciples in terms of a Jewish wedding vow. The repeated scene of Jesus is that He truly enjoys human company, regardless the person’s background, dining with sinners and the righteous alike. We repeatedly see Him relating to us in human terms in familiar ways. I’m not sure how else to interpret that?

  4. John Lollard
    August 11, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I also apologize if you felt I was using “ad hominems” or straw men. It has genuinely been my experience with Catholic theology – and I have encountered a pretty decent cross-sampling of it from different people, many of whom have never even heard of SCC – that it does not begin with the presupposition that God has revealed Himself in Scripture and interprets theological questions in light of that revelation, but with a presupposition of Platonic (or Thomistic) idealism and interprets all theological questions in light of that, including questions from Scripture itself. Which seems to me evidenced pretty exactly by your question that I provide an argument from reason in explanation of Scriptural revelation that Christ taught as a man with authority.

    As to “most perfect”s, I dare you to justify the structure of the Tridentine Mass without using the phrase (or synonyms). And please don’t misinterpret my tone in that challenge, as I don’t mean it to be hostile.

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