Mans Relationship to Authority - RR272A2
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Let us worship God. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth. The hour cometh and now is when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the fathers seeketh such to worship Him. God is the Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Let us pray. Oh Lord our God, Who of Thy grace and mercy dost pardon all those who truly repent of their sins, Who dost rejoice in the thanksgiving of thy people, Who dost delight in their service, and has called us to do these things and ever to rejoice in Thee. We come into Thy presence gladly and joyfully. We thank Thee that Thou hast made us Thy own. We thank Thee that the ends of the earth shall serve Thee, and that we are heirs of thy kingdom and that greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world. Give us grace therefore to grow in Thee, to serve Three, to praise Thee, and in all things to give thanks unto Thee. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We began last week our study of authority, and we continue this week with man’s relationship to authority, and our scripture is Luke 7, verses 1 through 10—Luke 7, verses 1 through 10—man’s relationship to authority. “Now when He had ended all His sayings in the audience of the people, He entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto Him the elders of the Jews, beseeching Him that He would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought Him instantly saying that he was worthy for whom He should do this, for he loveth our nation and he hath built us a synagogue. Then Jesus went with them. And when He was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying unto Him: Lord, trouble not thyself, for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof. Wherefore, neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee; but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, go, and he goeth; and to another, come, and he cometh; and to my servant, do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed Him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.” [00:03:40]
The Triune God is the source of all authority; but on the human scene, authority can be exercised by man under God. God has not restricted authority and its boundaries to eternity. So that we must say, even more than the fact that authority can be exercised under God, it must be exercised under God. There are spheres of legitimate authority under God: our work, our family, the church, state—a variety of things, wherein we have in varying degrees authority. Now, to undermine Godly authority in all these and other spheres is to further anarchy and as a means of rebelling against God, Himself. But on the other hand, if we over stress authority on the human scene and arrogate to man or to institutions the power that properly belongs to God, that too is a very great evil, as men do this. As men arrogate undue authority unto themselves, they become demonic. They claim in effect, to be their own gods. After all, the scripture tells us that the devil is a believer in his own authority; we encounter this in Matthew 4:9 and in Revelation 13:2, for example.
Now, authority on the human scene is very closely tied to status or position, but it cannot be equated with status or position. Let me illustrate: parenthood is a natural fact. Any idiot can be a parent, and a good many are, but the authority of parents is not derived from this natural fact, but from God’s command: honor they father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee. This is in the Ten Commandments. It is a law from God, and it promises long life as a gift from God for obedience to this commandment. The commandment is to adults to honor—not to children, who, as in Ephesians 6:1, are told to obey. This law has no true analog in the world of nature. [00:06:58]
Now this brings us to a critical point...
Now this brings us to a critical point: one of the problems of our time is that parents are trying to command children naturally, not religiously. Mothers will take time to speak about the trauma of birth, “All that I’ve done for you, how I’ve suffered, and what I went through, and you reward me with this.” And what does the child think, “So what, I didn’t ask to be born.” And fathers will go on at great length about how much money they’ve invested in their children, as though that gave them authority; it doesn’t register. The natural fact does not carry any conviction; it has inherent in it no authority, unless we look at the religious fact. And so, if the religious commandment, God’s Word, is left out, there is a radical erosion of parental authority. It does not rest on the status of being a parent in the natural order; it rests only on God’s commandment. As a result, we have to recognize that authority is a religious fact; unless it is grounded biblically, it very soon disappears. And this is what we’re seeing in our contemporary world: the authority of parents is disappearing, because they’re grounding it on the fact that they were capable of begetting a child, but the natural fact doesn’t suffice. Or civil authorities will insist “we are the law,” but that has no meaning in a world that does not see law as coming from God, and the modern state has undercut that. As a result, the modern state has created lawlessness; it has undermined its own authority. [00:09:39]
We see this in the church...
We see this in the church. As churchmen put more and more emphasis on position, on status, and less and less on the Word of God. They feel they have to emphasize their authority by pomp and circumstance by parading themselves, as it were, and putting on the appurtenances of office, as though this constituted authority. It is ironic that in low church Protestant denominations which historically were very hostile to Catholicism, where the church has forsaken its authority, its historic Protestant doctrine of Biblical authority, they’ve become a very poor imitation of Catholics. They put on robes and wear crosses, and genuflect and so on, as though the forms were going to give authority, when they’ve destroyed the foundation of authority. Position and status, in other words, do not, in and of themselves, in the natural order give authority. It is a religious fact. It is a supernatural fact; and unless it is so grounded, it disappears. [00:11:31]
Our understanding of authority depends on our awareness and acceptance of the religious foundation, not only of authority, but of all of life. This is why the story of the centurion, our text, is so important. The centurion saw this clearly, and our Lord said of him, “Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” The centurion had a very sick servant, whom he loved dearly. So when he heard of Jesus, he sent the elders of Israel, beseeching Jesus to heal him, which they did, saying that this man loves our nation; he has built us the synagogue here in Capernaum—not a small synagogue—a considerable thing, and they said he was worthy for whom He should do this. Now a centurion, until Rome began to decline, was usually a man of nobility, an aristocrat of some sort. He was often a man of considerable wealth. In fact, all of the legionnaires originally were important people. It was a privilege to be a member of a Roman legion; and to be an officer, thereof, indicated a man of great importance and often of very great wealth, as was the case with this man. But this man who said “I also am a man under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, go, and he goeth; and to another, come, and he cometh; and to my servant, do this, and he doeth it” made clear that he recognized the nature of authority. It was only his name that carried weight, because as a centurion, he did not have to go to every man personally; he sent the word and said “this is what the legionnaire’s centurion orders,” and it was done. And he recognized that Jesus was, at the very least, a great prophet. He spoke of him as “Lord”, and he recognized that here was supernatural power and authority; His person, His physical presence, was therefore not necessary. And he made it clear that he did not feel that he was deserving of the attention of a physical trip to his house. Therefore, our Lord spoke of him as He did, a man of faith, and because he was a man of faith, he understood authority. Thus, he recognized the supernatural nature of authority; that it was not merely a material fact, no more than the authority of a parent over his child is simply a material fact, a product of begetting. It is a supernatural fact, and here in Christ, there was the essence of supernatural authority; and, therefore, speak the word only, and thy servant shall be healed. [00:15:51]
Let us look now at authority in the church. One of the sad facts is that the church very often over governs; and in many quarters today where the anarchy in the church has become apparent, and the lawlessness, some have developed a gospel of excommunication. Now, what our Lord declares in Matthew 28:19, when He sets forth the Great Commission, is the duty to teach or to disciple all nations. Discipline comes from disciple. It does not mean punishment, nor excommunication, but discipling. That’s the meaning of discipline. It means leading someone into the life of faith. It requires a reliance on the Holy Spirit, not coercion.
Before continuing with this important subject of coercion, excommunication, its relationship to authority, let us look briefly at the nature of theocracy. A great many people assume that a theocracy is the rule of men, but it is not. In the Bible, there is virtually no state; it is minimal. Government is under God and through His Law, and divided into many spheres. In the book of Judges, the civil government is minimal, and the ups and downs in the book of Judges is in terms of apostasy. When men depart from the faith they cannot govern themselves, nor can they govern anything. In those days, the author of Judges tells us, there was no king in Israel. God was not the king, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. There was no authority. When there was authority, there was recovery. Where faith wanes, theocracy wanes. [00:18:43]
The essential government is the self-government of...
The essential government is the self-government of the Christian man. Now, it is a fact that the United States was best governed when it was governed least, not because less government was the essential ingredient, but because there was then Christian self-government. And when self-government waned, then the state had to take up the slack and we have the controls that prevail now; so that to remove those controls, we have to re-establish government at the seat of government in the lives of men to take it back from the state. Men have yielded it to the state; they have surrendered it to the state. Now, it’s going to take a little fighting to get it back. Statism always follows the decline of self-government.
Now, this is the issue concerning excommunication. No amount of excommunication can restore strength to a church where sound faith and sound teaching are lacking. The heavy use of excommunication indicates the lack of a sound teaching ministry. There may be interesting preaching in the pulpit, but it not a teaching ministry; it is exotic; it is alien to the authoritative Word of God, however much it may claim to believe it from cover to cover. When you have that kind of situation—an absence of sound teaching—coercion replaces teaching and covers up the failure of the ministry. Moreover, coercion not only replaces teaching, but also the Holy Spirit. People trust in coercion, rather than the Spirit of God. Neither permissiveness on the one hand, nor excommunication on the other, can be productive of faith in the life of the church. Moreover, in both the Old Testament and the New, excommunication is for serious moral infractions of God’s Law and for heresy, not in relationship to the humanistic authority of the muckety-mucks who run the church, or sit on the consistory, or a session, or a board, or whatever the case may be. [00:22:01]
The sad fact is that in churches, Catholic and Protestant...
The sad fact is that in churches, Catholic and Protestant, excommunication is more commonly used for the infraction of the rules of the church, than for violation of God’s law-word. The sad fact is that now, it is independent Protestant congregations that are becoming most prone to this kind of coercion, the overuse of excommunication, and partly because there is no review, no appeal against the church; and it plays tyrant. The church has no binding power, no authority apart from Christ and his law-word. The binding and loosing power of the church is inseparable from God’s authority and from the Word of God, but it must be strictly in terms of God’s canon or rule, or else it will separate the church from Christ and turn it into a false church.
The centurion did not place his trust, nor his hope, in the power of a natural touch by Jesus, but in the supernatural power of Christ. My mere words, said the centurion, has power to command, because I am a man under authority. Jesus, he saw clearly, was at least a very great prophet of God, but more likely, indeed, the Messiah of God. And so, he said, You are far more capable than I. The centurion saw power and authority as essentially related, very closely related. The greater the authority we work under and are strictly faithful to, the greater the power we exercise. So if we want to exercise power, Godly power, we must be under God’s authority. [00:24:46]
This, the church and the state, and persons must learn...
This, the church and the state, and persons must learn. Moral authority in every sphere is eroded, and there is a contemptuous indifference to authority. To all this, coercion is not the answer. There is a place for coercion as a last resort, and not always even then. Authority is not gained by clobbering people and putting on holy garb; nor by fiats of a consistory, session, Presbytery, or board, but by putting on Christ, by being under His authority. As Paul told the Galatians in Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” If our baptism is from the heart, then we are clothed in Christ, and we are a new creation in Him. Then, we are under authority, and have power in Him and by his Spirit.
Let us pray. O Lord our God, Thou hast called us to be under Thy authority, and to exercise power in and of Thee in every sphere of life and thought. Give us grace, therefore, to forsake all humanistic authority and to place ourselves under Thee; and to be men of power, men of authority, more than conquerors in Christ. Bless us to this purpose. In Jesus’ name. Amen. [00:26:59]
Are there any questions now? Yes, John?...
Are there any questions now? Yes, John?
[Questioner] Well, the limits of authority, then, can be set by the way in which we define the nature and purpose of a given institution. In other words, if we define civil government in a particular way, then, in practice, that means that definition is going to tell us how much authority that particular civil government is going to have. And if we change our definition, it goes back to what you said in the Institutes about if you change the law, you have an expressed or implied change of position, as well?
[Rushdoony] Yes? Yes –
[Questioner] One of the things I’m struggling with is not just in the context of what you were speaking about today; but we talk about the seven systems of government: the family, ecclesiastical, civil, and what have you; and I think one of our major problems, in so far as most Christian thought is concerned, is that we need a very precise, biblical definition of each of those seven systems of government that kind of sets the boundaries and limits of each of them, so that they’re not continually encroaching on each other’s realm of authority. So the definition of a particular form of government, or anything, for that matter, seems to me like it’s intimately related and bound up in establishing the limits of authority. [00:28:59]
[Rushdoony] All human areas, or spheres of government...
[Rushdoony] All human areas, or spheres of government, are interdependent. There are no hard and fast lines between them, although there are very discernible lines. When you define the authority in purely naturalistic terms, you create an erosion of authority. I mentioned parents. Well, the modern state defines itself in terms of the people, in terms of humanistic premises; and as a result, it has eroded its authority. If the people created the state, the people rightfully feel then that they can overthrow the state, that it has no binding power. Or if it rests on consent, the logic of that doctrine (because that’s the great concept in the modern world) leads men ultimately to say, “I do not consent; you cannot coerce me into consenting.” So they can say, “Well, Rousseau says it has to be the general will, the majority vote, or the Democratic consensus, however you identify that.” But then they can say, “Ah, but I didn’t give my consent to it.” And you have, logically, what you have today: every man doing that which is right in his own eyes. [00:30:41]
And this is why, of course, you have the fact that...
And this is why, of course, you have the fact that in the Islamic world, which was in rapid process of disintegration, you’ve had fundamentalistic Islamic thinking, very reactionary, insisting on a break with everything that is modern. Now in the Western world in Christian countries you have a return to Christian orthodoxy to the proper foundations of authority; and only this can salvage the situation, because apart from a foundation in the supernatural and God, everybody is going to tear at authority to get a piece of it, and this is what’s happening today.
[Questioner] Well, we have more rules and less authority; and it goes down, as far as I can gather, to the individual. I remember talking to a policeman in New York City, and I asked him what would happen if you were insulted on the street. Could you do anything about it? He said, “No. If you tried to do anything about it, you’d be arrested.” I said, “Well, what should you do?” He said, “Well, you should call a policeman.” So the individual has absolutely no authority, whatever, under that sort of rule.
[Rushdoony] Yes, and your point that the more authority declines, the more rules there are, because they try to substitute rules and regulations for Godly authority. God gives us His entire Law with a great deal of history in one book. Now we have libraries full of law books, and less and less real government, because of the disintegration of authority that the modern state has created.
Yes, John? [00:33:06]
[Questioner] Precisely on that point, should even statues...
[Questioner] Precisely on that point, should even statues, or public laws which become statues passed by the U.S. Congress or the California Assembly, be considered laws, at least in the same way—well, they’re certainly not in the same way as the Ten Commandments; but are the Ten Commandments in the associated tradition that you just spoke of really The Law, and really anything else is regulation; it’s not really law; it just has the name of law?
[Rushdoony] No, there are laws. They’re humanistic laws. You have Islamic law. You have Buddhist law. You have humanistic law. And you have God’s Law. All law has a religious foundation. So, it isn’t the fact that they aren’t law; it’s that they are a false religion and law.
[Questioner] Well, that’s really what I was getting at, that they’re law only in name, and name only, not true law in terms of this other aspect, which is our responsibility to obey.
[Rushdoony] Well, yes, but I think we can get too technical there. If you’re in a war zone, it doesn’t make much difference whether the man shooting at you is regular army or a guerilla; he’s got the gun and he’s shooting at you. So it’s a valid gun and a valid bullet. So it is with laws. If the humanistic state is shooting at you with humanistic laws, you’d better believe there are laws. We can’t be Christian Scientists about the laws; they’re real; they’re ungodly.
[Questioner] Much of the practical advice in scripture, including Romans 13, pertains to that reality, and says, “Keep your head down, so that you’re still alive to continue with the Great Commission.”
[Rushdoony] Any other questions or comments? Yes? [00:35:23]
[Questioner] I want to ask a question about natural...
[Questioner] I want to ask a question about natural motherhood.
[Rushdoony] Oh, ah, what was that again?
[Questioner] I want to ask a question about natural motherhood –
[Rushdoony] Natural motherhood.
[Questioner] – but I don’t exactly how to phrase it. When we were in court, the authorities kept saying that the natural mother was the most important person, no matter what she did. And, as an adoptive parent, for people who are interested in adoption, there is a lot of confusion about how you should feel about the natural parent, especially the natural mother—like there is always a lot of sympathy, you know, “well, maybe we really shouldn’t have taken her baby, or maybe she should get ten chances.” Could you talk about that a little bit. [00:36:12]
[Rushdoony] Yes, that’s a very good point...
[Rushdoony] Yes, that’s a very good point. If you didn’t hear the question, it was this: what about the rights of a natural mother as against a foster mother or adopting mother, because a great deal is said in the courts now about the authority of the natural mother, no matter what she’s done, how much she has abused the child, how delinquent she has been, and so on? Well, Charles Hodge, more than a hundred years ago, in dealing with a question of authority in his commentary, I believe, on 1 Corinthians, made the point emphatically that all power on the human scene is conditional and never absolute; so that the authority of fathers and mothers, of husbands, of civil authorities and church authorities, is always conditional upon their obedience to God—are they under authority? So that the modern idea that the natural fact prevails over a religious fact is false. No parent who abuses a child can retain their authority under God; they’ve forfeited it. And in every sphere, authority can be forfeited when men go astray, when they are seriously derelict and delinquent. Now, the limits of this are a little more difficult to determine. In the Middle Ages, theologians developed a doctrine of tyrannicide—the legitimacy of assassinating ungodly princes and kings. Well, I wouldn’t go along with that, but I would have to say that we have neglected to develop the doctrine religiously (not naturalistically) of when authority can be challenged. So today you have the anarchy of consent, and on the one hand the state insisting on the natural fact, irrespective of circumstances. So, very ungodly and evil women are allowed to keep their children, when it’s very obvious that the children are going to be subjected to ever increasing evil at their hands; but religiously we can’t agree with that. Authority does not come from the natural fact, but from God.
Yes, Otto? [00:39:24]
[Questioner] I think it seems to be a part of the feminist...
[Questioner] I think it seems to be a part of the feminist movement. There’s been a swing in the United States from male authority, which is now denied, to an exaggeration of female authority. And the rights of women are discussed as separate from the rights of people, or the rights of human beings, or the rights of parents, or the rights of whole classes. And for a long time, there’s been a lot of mawkish nonsense about the nobility of mothers; not all mothers are noble, but this has not been really examined in any serious way. So you have injustice in the courts regarding male/female relationships and female parental relationships. I often see in the paper where some fellow’s gone crazy, has been locked out of his house, and the police are called; and the newspaper says, “Mrs. Brown and her children had Brown taken away.”
[Rushdoony] I would carry this a step further, Otto. I am fed up with talk about the rights of men or women, or minorities and so on. Let’s hear more about the right of right, of a right above and beyond any person or group; and that’s what’s missing today.
Yes, Chuck? [00:41:04]
[Questioner] It seems to me that there may be a close...
[Questioner] It seems to me that there may be a close relationship between authority, and this whole rights movement and ownership, as in the situation with abortion, with the argument being that the mother owns her body and therefore has the right to do whatever she wishes to do with it. And, also, maybe it’s tied in with the situation with the adoptive parent, as opposed to the natural parent. I wonder if you could uh, uh –
[Rushdoony] Well, abortion is an example of the logic of a naturalistic view of authority. If authority is on the human scene, then why not let every person have right over their own body. That’s the logic of democracy; it’s the ultimate expression of it. This is why the only way to counter that is to emphasize the godly nature of authority—that it is murder. Thus saith the Lord. There’s no other way to deal with it.
[Questioner] Going back to our starting point with Luke 7, and the centurion and his faith, and the authority that he exercised and that he recognized with Jesus, you’ve been preaching on hierarchy recently, and those two thoughts came together when I was down at the Naval Air Station in Alameda last weekend and went to a service at the chapel there, and picked up a copy of the manual for U.S. Forces that has hymns in it and other …. And I looked up the Navy Hymn and it is entitled, interestingly enough, “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” and that’s exactly what that centurion was saying. And so I got to thinking, and I wanted to ask you about it—I was reading in Acts recently the last couple of days about Paul and the centurion, and his trial and so forth, and the Bible seems to speak approvingly of military forces almost all the way through it, at least, as far as I can remember; and on the other hand, much of the military organization and orientation, and values and principles, and hierarchy and so forth, seems to be based largely on biblical principles. Would you comment on that?
[Rushdoony] Well, of course, when the New Testament was written, the Roman army was at its greatness, so to speak. And it was essentially an elite force, chosen out of the best of Rome, with a great deal of pride and esprit de corps. So it was both a remarkable army, and the high development of the Roman elitist premise, as against the hierarchical one. So, the imagery of the army was a favorable one then in the New Testament, because there was no question about the caliber of the Roman army. In time it disintegrated, and it no longer commanded the cream of Rome; and they were enlisting anybody and everybody. So the Roman army went from an elite group to a mercenary group, with barbarians increasingly recruited to become soldiers.
Well, our time is up now. Let us bow our heads in prayer. Our Lord and our God, grant that our lives be grounded upon Thy word and Thine authority, that in all things we may be faithful, and that we may exercise power in and of Thee. And now, go in peace. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always. Amen. [00:45:31]