Purpose of Authority - RR272F11

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Purpose of Authority
Course: Course - Doctrine of Authority
Subject: Subject:Political Studies/Doctrinal Studies
Lesson#: 11
Length: 0:46:08
TapeCode: RR272F11
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Doctrine of Authority.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.

This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us. Having these promises, let us draw near to the throne of grace with true hearts, in full assurance of faith. My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning, will I direct my prayer unto Thee and will look up. Let us pray. O Lord our God, unto whom all power, glory, and dominion belongeth, we come into they presence rejoicing that, as we face a world of men dedicated to their own ways, it is Thy way that shall prevail, Thy kingdom that shall triumph, and Thy will that shall be done. Strengthen us, then, by Thy Word and by Thy Spirit that we may go forth in Thy name to conquer, to bring all things into captivity to Jesus Christ our Lord that we might know that we have been called to victory. Bless us, therefore, in Thy service. Grant us Thy peace, and give us always joy in Thee. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Our scripture this morning is Matthew 23:13. Our subject: the purpose of authority. Matthew 23:13 is the first verse in a long passage going on to the end of the chapter, in which woes and maledictions, curses are pronounced upon religious leaders, and all who follow them; and to a way that is not of God. Matthew 23:13, the purpose of authority; “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. [00:02:36]

The symbolism of keys as representing authority is...[edit]

The symbolism of keys as representing authority is an ancient one and quite a natural one. Keys, after all, do unlock wealth; they do unlock knowledge, property, and a great deal more. Wherever there is something of importance, a treasure, there are keys to protect it. The symbol of the key is used in many, many ways. We speak of a key man, the important one; a keyboard, controlling a typewriter or a computer. We speak of a keystone in the arch, the last stone that is set that binds all things together. We speak of a key note in music, and a keynote speaker at political conventions. We have, of course, the familiar symbol of the Phi Beta Kappa key, and much, much more. Our Lord uses this symbol when He speaks of the keys of the kingdom in Matthew 16:19. In this passage, Matthew 23:13, he refers to the keys without using the word. The image here is of an irresponsible key holder, who locks people out by misusing authority. The purpose of keys is to unlock doors; but false authorities use their keys, not to lead people into knowledge or wealth (or whatever it is they are custodians of), but to bar them. One scholar, Sherman E. Johnson, has said, concerning Matthew 23:13, “There tells us that these false authorities have taken away the key of knowledge. They have made the Law of God difficult and abstruse, and they have formed exclusive brotherhoods of experts to lock out all, except themselves. [00:05:16]

Now, some time ago, we dealt with the distinction between...[edit]

Now, some time ago, we dealt with the distinction between elitism and hierarchy; and we saw that elitism means something humanistic: an exclusive group of men who are self-styled leaders, self-appointed experts, self-appointed philosopher kings. The classic document of elitism is Plato’s Republic. According to Plato’s Republic, most men are to be in a position of slaves to be manipulated, without knowing they are manipulated; while the philosopher kings, who are exempt from the rules they set for all others, govern and manipulate the great masses of people. This, of course, is the political reality of the modern world. In varying degrees, every modern state, because it has departed from Christianity, is elitist in principle. Hierarchy means, literally, sacred rule: rule according to God’s Law. Now there’s no question that some that have been religious or Christian hierarchies have abused the office; and there is no question also that the Word has fallen into disrepute, as a result of a misuse by persons and by enemies of the concept of hierarchy. All the same, the distinction is an important and an essential one, between elitism and hierarchism. Our Lord’s comment here is that keys which are created to unlock doors and open up treasures are being misused. After all, if you don’t have keys, the thing to do is to bury whatever you have, or to seal it over to make it permanently impenetrable. The purpose of keys is to protect and to unlock. The purpose of the keys of the kingdom is to unlock the doors of knowledge to, of membership in, and service in and under God and His kingdom. God’s kingdom is His law and His government. We are emphatically told, both in the Old and the New Testaments that the people of God are called to be a royal priesthood; that is, people with authority in the world. [00:08:36]

Now the kingdom keys are given to the church, and are...[edit]

Now the kingdom keys are given to the church, and are thus keys to the knowledge of God’s law and God’s calling, so that all may become a royal priesthood. This is the whole point of the keys of the kingdom. Our calling is to be under authority; but also to exercise authority and government, each, in our appointed spheres. And the whole point of having the keys of the kingdom—of being an authority in the church of Christ, of being a teacher, of expounding the Word of God—is to enable others to grow in authority, not to lock off knowledge and authority and the ability to govern from people. Our calling, let me repeat, is to be under authority, and also to exercise authority and government.

Now more than once, we have dealt with the meaning of the word “government”; and it is important, again, to review it briefly in this context. It is so important a subject, you are going to hear about it over the years many more times. In our day, the word “government” has been dangerously misappropriated, and wrongly defined. When we say “government,” we think of Sacramento, or Washington D.C., or London, or Moscow, or some other statist center. Such a use of the word “government” is totalitarian: it absorbs the totality of government into the state. But historically in Christian thought, the basic government is the self-government of the Christian man. This is the essential government, together with the family: the family is a government; an important, a key government. Then, another government is the school: a training place where people can learn and grow in their self-government. The church is a government. Our vocation governs us, and is a government. The society in which we live is a government. And finally, the state is civil government. [00:11:48]

Of course, the many institutions that are created by...[edit]

Of course, the many institutions that are created by Christians and others—tithe agencies, for example—also govern. And in a Christian culture, most government is outside the state, which has only a limited amount of it. Now, this is important: Godly hierarchical authority in government work to bring others into their rightful and God-ordained authority and government; whereas, on the other hand, elitism works to exclude people from authority and government. It limits it to a small segment. One professor recently gave a speech, the gist of which was that the day of the philosopher kings has arrived: it should be government by experts. After all, we had this introduced into politics by Daniel Bell, when some years ago President John F. Kennedy said that the day of moral questions had ended; we had reached a technological era, in which all the questions were simple problems for experts to expedite. The implication of that was that, really, the voting process and the judgment by individuals was obsolete. Experts now should dominate the human scene. The purpose of elitism is to exclude people from their authority, from their self-government; whereas, the true purpose of hierarchism, sacred rule, rule under God in terms of His law-word, is to enable people to grow in their authority. Our Lord attacked and condemned all who used authority to shut the doors of knowledge and to trivialize God’s Law. [00:14:32]

For example, as an instance of the trivialization of...[edit]

For example, as an instance of the trivialization of God’s Law (and one could spend several hours just skimming the surface of what existed in our Lord’s day), one of the laws set forth by the Pharisees was that it was unlawful to kill a flea or fleas on the Sabbath, because it meant taking life on the Lord’s Day. Now, God’s Law, concerning the Sabbath, is very simple: “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.” Was a man more holy getting flea bites all day long on the Sabbath, instead of killing the fleas? Another law said it was unlawful to eat eggs laid on the Sabbath, unless it was laid, not by a laying hen, but one that was being fattened for the table. Again, what relationship is there between this and “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy”?

Now, as I indicated, the Pharisees had a library full of regulations like this, concerning the Sabbath, endless regulations; but, the church has been very definitely given to the same kind of thing. To give one illustration: during the Middle Ages and in early Protestantism in Puritan New England, the belief prevailed that a child was born on the same day it was conceived; so, it was conceived on a Monday, it was born on a Monday. Well, if it was born on Sunday, it meant that the child had been conceived on Sunday; and it meant that the couple, the parents, had labored on the Sabbath. They, therefore, had to do penance. In fact, one Puritan pastor in New England was quite a bear on the subject, and made several couples make public confession of sin; although they kept protesting privately that they had not broken the Sabbath; and then, lo and behold, his wife gave birth to twins on the Sabbath! He had to make a public apology; but, I suspect he didn’t change his mind about what constituted Sabbath-breaking. Now, this is what our Lord had reference to: it was trivializing the Sabbath. They were not using the keys properly. They were barring people from the true knowledge of God with their trivialization. [00:18:00]

We have many such forms today...[edit]

We have many such forms today; so we don’t have to look back on what prevailed once before. Consider some of the pronouncements on warfare and our nuclear weapons by Protestant and Catholic leaders; or consider the fact of symbolic and speculative theology that go to the Bible and find things there that no man with any common sense reading the same passage a hundred times could ever see there. What is that, but elitism? They will have some kind of special knowledge, which, you and I, looking at the Word of God cannot see there. And our Lord says, concerning all such elitists, “ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” As I said earlier, this sentence is the beginning of a long malediction and curse pronounced, concerning all blind guides. Our Lord describes all elitists as blind, because they do not trust in God’s wisdom; they’ve got to import their own into the house of God and proclaim it as the wisdom of God. There’s a tremendous arrogance there. They are blind guides, and our Lord says a great deal more about them: they are fools; they are hypocrites; they are thieves, who devour widows’ houses; and, for a pretense, make long prayer; therefore, ye shall receive the greater damnation. [00:20:26]

Our Lord does not like elitists...[edit]

Our Lord does not like elitists. He does not like people who feel they have a special pipeline into the truth of God that nobody else can see, which really isn’t there. Moreover, in verses 36-39 of this chapter, He pronounces a judgment upon all who follow them. So, to follow these blind guides is also to fall under God’s malediction. The purpose of keys is to unlock doors. The keys of God’s kingdom must be used to unlock the doors of knowledge, to unlock the doors of vocation so men can, in terms of the Word of God, understand better their calling and their place in God’s scheme of things. The purpose of the keys is to enable us better to serve God, to make us a royal priesthood. Priests, kings, and prophets are to God our Father in Jesus Christ. The purpose of authority, our Lord makes clear, is to develop our own authority and ability to govern, under God. Thus, wherever authority does nothing but exalt itself, maintain a position of power, and bar other people from growing in their ability to govern themselves and to function in their appointed sphere, you have elitism. It is elitism when it calls itself Christian, as well as when it calls itself humanism. It is elitism, because it takes away government and knowledge and authority from others. It limits it to a self-appointed group. [00:23:05]

Thus, our Lord’s point is...[edit]

Thus, our Lord’s point is: the question is not merely how do we govern those under our authority? Well, that is a legitimate question. How do we govern those under our authority? Do we govern them in terms of a godly, a biblical, standard? But, closely aligned to that must always be the question: having governed those under our authority, how do they now govern themselves? Have they learned to exercise proper authority and proper government, each in their own jurisdiction, each in their own sphere? This is the key. If they are forever crippled, forever dependent, we are blind guides and elitists. Something is very wrong with us, for example, if we have to go on supporting and taking care of our children, and telling them how to wipe their noses all the days of their life. It means we have failed as parents. It doesn’t mean there’s a special closeness, only a very wrong and evil closeness. Mutual assistance between parents and children is one thing; a continuing dependence is something radically different. Parents are exercising an elitist—an ungodly—authority, whenever and wherever they create a dependence, a continuing dependence. [00:25:32]

Something is wrong, also, in a church if church members...[edit]

Something is wrong, also, in a church if church members are kept in such close subjection, that they dare not grow on their own. There are churches—in fact, there are denominations—where the members never dare express an opinion about doctrine or about scripture, for the simple reason that they are afraid to open their mouths. They are not the elite, the experts. You do not have life in a church like that, you have a graveyard situation; it is the death of growth, the death of authority, the death of self-government. Too many churches have been that way over the generations.

One of the very great churchmen of the last century was William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. His vision was a magnificent one. It’s a pity it was never carried out. He set it forth in a number of things; but, in particular, in a book, which was a take off on Stanley’s book when he went to Africa and located Livingston. Stanley’s book was titled, In Darkest Africa. And Booth titled his book, In Darkest England and the Way Out, and it was a plan to take the people who were derelicts—human derelicts—on the street: to create strong Christians out of them, to give them job training, and to make them self-governing and competent people. Booth, in the process of thinking through these things, said the problem with the church was that there were too many mummy Christians around. A mummy is something that’s been mummified. And he said, all too many churches believe in getting somebody in and mummifying him, so that he sits in the pew, and he’s good for nothing else. He never functions on his own. He’s incompetent of going out and commanding any area of life where he is involved in the name of Christ. He is a mummy Christian. He has one duty: to be mummified, and to sit still. [00:28:40]

Well, that kind of blindness is very much with us,...[edit]

Well, that kind of blindness is very much with us, not only in the churches, but outside of the churches. Some teachers want mummy students: they want them mummified. Most politicians want a mummified population, incapable, you know, of doing anything on their own: of simply surrendering everything to the political experts, who will then function as the elite. A church with mummy Christians is a dead church; and its leaders are Pharisees, who shut up the kingdom of God against men. Our Lord says of them: they neither go in, nor do they allow others to enter in. They are elitists, not Christians.

Let us pray. Glory be to Thee, O God, Who, through Jesus Christ has opened up unto us the kingdom of heaven. We thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast called us to enter therein, to know Thy kingdom, law, and government; to know our place therein, and to go forth with authority and power, each to govern in our appointed sphere. Strengthen us, O Lord, in our self-government under Christ. Make us mindful, O Lord, that we are a royal priesthood, called to be prophets to proclaim the Word of God, and to apply it to our appointed sphere. Give us grace, therefore, to grow, freedom to serve Thee, and joy in Thy service. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Are there any questions now about our lesson? Yes? [00:31:33]

[Questioner] Of course, the theological explanation...[edit]

[Questioner] Of course, the theological explanation is totalitarianism, isn’t it?

[Rushdoony] A very good point, Otto. It is, indeed, a theological explanation of totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism is simply Plato’s dream applied to our time. It is elitism. It is a rejection of the idea that the common man is capable of anything. It is ironic that our times have been proclaimed to be the century of the common man; and he’s never been put down more thoroughly or executed in greater numbers. If this is the century of the common man [laughs], let’s hope we never see the millennium of the common man that they’re promising us.

Any other questions or comments? Yes?

[Questioner] We know that pure Marxism could never happen, because it comes to power; but then, supposedly, in the pure form, it says the powers—the government—bends it their way. Is that right? And that man is going to be so good that everything’s going to be fine with his utopia. Now, is that just a {unclear}? [00:33:03]

[Rushdoony] It involves a kind of half unconscious self-deception. It is interesting that Dennis Peacock, who was in central Europe this year, early this year, was told by some people there that Marxism only existed in the Western democracies; and they said the world is either pre-Marxist or post-Marxist; that there is no discussion of Marxism in those communist countries: it was simply an excuse for totalitarian power over people—elitism. So on the rare occasion, for example, from other sources we know that some young student, an eager beaver, reads Marx, say, at a Moscow university and thinks this is wonderful, he is treated as an idiot. They’re not happy with him. They’re not interested in the subject. They pay lip service to Marxism. They use it as a kind of coverall term for their urge to total power. So, the Marxist dream is nothing.


[Questioner] Since the Catholic Church was the authoritarian through the centuries, and now the authority of the church seems to be falling apart, how does that strike you? [00:35:10]

[Rushdoony] The question is...[edit]

[Rushdoony] The question is: since the Catholic Church was authoritarian through the centuries, and now that authority is falling apart, how does it strike me? Well, first of all, there was a drive in the church through the centuries for a kind of totalitarian power. However, it was never really realized. During much of its history, for example, under the Ottos, the Holy Roman Emperors, the church was controlled, the popes named by the emperors. Then, subsequently, briefly, the church gained some independence; but, again, control was exerted from the outside. And it reached the point where the College of Cardinals was actually treated like a band of prisoners, and compelled to name the pope that the monarch who was controlling them, or the emperor, chose. And the church was systematically corrupted, because corruption was preferable to a reforming church. This led to the Reformation; but the Reformation, in part, has also been controlled by various states: Lutheranism, by Prussian absolutism, the Church of England, by Henry VIII and the Stuart monarchs, and so on. And, of course, we have a similar thing today.

Well, within the Catholic Church, you have two things that have taken place. The low point in the church’s history in the modern age was reached just prior to Napoleon. The papacy was the subject, virtually, of the Austrian monarchs, who were the Holy Roman Emperors; and its power receded, because various forms of Gallicanism prevailed. The Catholic power outside of the Papal States was in Spain, in France, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in some of the German states. In each of these places, the monarch controlled the church. I believe the pope who was in power when Napoleon took over had to be crowned with a papal tiara: he’d become a virtual nonentity. The destruction of the Holy Roman Empire by Napoleon freed the church, and they reverted to the kind of dream exemplified in the medieval era by Unam Sanctam: claim to vast powers over both church and state. When Unam Sanctam was proclaimed, it was not an expression of a reality, but of the dream of a particular pope, who, himself, had very little power. [00:39:04]

So you had a steady progression of a revival of that...[edit]

So you had a steady progression of a revival of that kind of thinking to Vatican I and the proclamation of papal infallibility. However, the rebellion within the church culminated in Vatican II; and a great deal was unleashed, as the result of the controls being dissipated, both good and bad: the most flagrant and rampant modernism, as well as the revival of some old-fashioned Catholicism and some evangelicalism.

Now, it’s difficult to know what the outcome is going to be. It could be that some of the problems will create a reawakening of lay Catholic faith. It is interesting that very often in the Middle Ages, the revival of the church came through lay sources. Others, including a very prominent Catholic layman and a very dedicated old-fashioned one, believe the church is going to split. It’s hard to know what is going to happen; but it is a long, complicated, entangled history of control from the outside attempting to suppress Christianity—Catholic and Protestantism—from having the freedom to develop the implications of the faith with society.


[Questioner] It seems to me like there’s an awful lot of peril between the Roman Catholic and many of the piety sects; and one of the problems they seem to have is this schizophrenia that you’ve talked about so often. And what that really does, I think, is it pushes the church—whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, or otherwise—I think it pushes the church into a corner of irrelevancy; and that’s what brings rise to the way Catholic theologians that you talk about—the lay church scholar, and what have you; because they recognize the fact that with the mainstream of orthodoxy, as it’s currently defined, you don’t have any answers there. And since the seminaries are so dominated by that ” lay orthodoxy,” the layman is forced—if he really wants to get some answers—the layman is forced to do his own studies. And I think that the main parallel between some sects of Roman Catholicism and some sects of Protestantism, I think that’s just declining into a state of irrelevancy, like modernism is becoming extremely irrelevant. And that’s not where the growth is. That’s not where the power is. The power’s in, you know, ruler orthodoxy. [00:42:25]

[Rushdoony] Yes...[edit]

[Rushdoony] Yes. Well, when we see the enlightenment, which ended the reformation and counter-reformation era, what we have to recognize is that it was preceded by tendencies that led to pietism, so that men abandoned our problems of the world for devotional exercises. In the Puritan circles in England (and they were controlling the country), they went into Neoplatonism, and lost interest in power and authority, which they had and could have exercised. Then, you had other things: for example, we know it today as rapture fever. At a key point, when Europe was going into revolution, the French Revolution and the era of revolutions, one of the greatest of Protestant scholars, a Lutheran, Bengel—a brilliant Old Testament scholar (I believe it was Old Testament)—became deeply involved in predicting the date of Christ’s return; and he set 1828 as the date. Well, he neutralized a generation of Christians, who were looking forward to 1828, and they wouldn’t have to worry about the French Revolution and Napoleon, and a variety of other problems. It was deadly.

Yes? [00:44:18]

[Questioner] Well, who translated ...[edit]

[Questioner] Well, who translated {unclear, s/l Kabari’s} defense of the Pope from the Latin to English; because it was {unclear, s/l Kabari}, wasn’t it, that tried to prove that the Pope was an anti-Christ, and all those kinds of things; and in so doing, he gave birth to an early form of the master healer; i.e., that the morning was still yet a long ways off, etc? And who was it that transferred that tract or his book, or whatever it was, into the other languages? I think there’s a connection there, somewhere.

[Rushdoony] Yes, I’ve forgotten. It’s years ago since I’ve looked at that.

Well, our time is just about up, and we could go on at length on this subject. But the Christian failure has been responsible for the freedom with which humanism has been able to operate. Now, we’ve seen very definitely a turnaround, a return to responsibility.

Let us conclude now with prayer. Bless us, our Father, in Thy service. Make us strong in the authority of Thy Word and in self-government, that in Christ Jesus, we may be more than conquerors. And now, go in peace. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always. Amen. [00:45:52]