Author and Authority - RR272A1
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Let us begin with prayer. O Lord, our God, unto whom all glory belongs, we come into Thy presence again, looking for the day when the glory that is Thine shall fill the earth, and Thy righteousness cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Make us Thine instruments towards this purpose, that we may proclaim Thy Word, Thy salvation, Thy justice unto the ends of the earth, and that we might be instrumental in bringing men, women, children, and nations under the dominion of Christ our Lord. In His name we pray. Amen.
We have been dealing with the theology of work, and today we begin a study of the doctrine of authority—the doctrine of authority. And our subject this morning is Author and Authority.
Our text is Hebrews 12:1 and 2, the first two verses of Hebrews 12. “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [00:02:27]
The words, author and authority, are, of course, related words. The word, author, of course, comes from the Latin almost unchanged, and it means to increase or to produce. Its meaning, thus, is that an author is a creator, an originator, a producer, and an authority is one with the right to command and to exercise dominion, to have jurisdiction. There is, however, still another word that is commonly used in the New Testament, and is translated as author. This particular word appears in Hebrew 12, verses 1 and 2. Here we have a Greek work, not a Latin one, which comes from a root, arche, as in archangel, and it means a prince or a tribal leader. Its root, arche, means the beginning or the cause. So, the New Testament uses one word from a Latin derivation and another from a Greek derivation, and we use these words in the English today. And these words both point to the Creator. The basic New Testament word, of course, if the one used in Hebrews 12.
Thus an author is a creator and an authority is a creator, and, therefore, the one who exercises dominion, makes the law, and has jurisdiction. Our religious perspective is always determined by our doctrine of authority. In the Greco-Roman world the autonomous reason of man was the source of authority, so that when we look at Greco-Roman thinking, authority is ultimately from man. Thinkers, such a Galen, Celsus, Porphyry, and others, judged the Bible in terms of their rationalism. In the century before Christ, the philosopher Lucretius said, and I quote, “Nothing can ever be created by divine power out of nothing.” For him, all forces in the universe were inherent forces, naturalistic forces. There was no power from beyond nature. [00:05:39]
Now this did not mean that Greco-Roman man did not
Now this did not mean that Greco-Roman man did not believe in marvels, in things that to us would appear to be supernatural. Their interest, however, was totally different. They were ready to believe all kinds of marvels could take place because nature had divine power inherent in it. Thus, Aristotle was interested in every kind of freakish birth, because that freakish birth could represent the next step in evolution. This is why when Paul at Athens spoke about the doctrine of the Resurrection, the philosophers were immediately interested, because here was a man declaring that somebody had risen from the dead. Their interest was premised on the fact that maybe this is in the next stage in the development of nature in evolution. And as Van Til noted, and I quote, “Even among the cultured it was in good style to recognize that there was more in heaven and on earth than they had yet dreamed of in their philosophy. They (the Greco-Romans) believed in the mysterious universe. They were perfectly willing, therefore, to leave open a place for the unknown, but this unknown must be thought of as the utterly unknowable and indeterminate.” [00:07:24]
In other words, they were ready to accept almost any
In other words, they were ready to accept almost any kind of miraculous event, provided it could be naturalistically accounted for. This is why, when Paul in talking about the resurrection spoke of God as the source of the power and God as the judge of all, they immediately said they wanted to hear no more: “We’ll listen to you some other time on that.” For them the subject was closed. Had Paul continued to say this actually happened and there are witnesses, and this is perhaps the next step in evolution in the development of nature, the Greek philosophers would no doubt have been ready to appoint a delegation to go to Jerusalem and talk with the surviving people who had been eyewitnesses of the resurrection. But not if God had done it! The God of the scripture is beyond man’s control. This made the God of scripture inacceptable to the Greeks and the Romans. The only gods they would allow were deified men. They wanted gods who could be controlled by man and man’s reason, and were really no more than deified men. Given this premise, their naturalism, they were amazingly gullible. We’ll come to that in a moment. [09:14:04]
But for them, the miracles of the Bible were very offensive
But for them, the miracles of the Bible were very offensive. One verse in Scripture, at which the critics regularly frothed in anger, is Luke 18:27. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” And also, “with God all things are possible.” The philosopher Celsus was very upset and outraged by this verse. To him, it was the epitome of the absurdity of Christianity. To believe in a power above and beyond nature was intellectually unrespectable, disreputable, and to be avoided. But at the same time they held that to hold that all things are possible with God was bad thinking, they were ready to affirm that all things are possible for nature.
Let me illustrate what they actually believed in: they believed that men could in time animate the statues of gods, and effect religious union with them. We’ve all heard, no doubt, of the story of Pygmalion, of the statue that was carved by a sculptor and then became animated in a living woman. Now, that has deep religious roots. This was believed in, or, rather, it was a premise of their philosophy. For example, Julian the Apostate, the emperor, went to study under Maximus of Ephesus, a philosopher. His reason for going there was to study how the powers of nature could be enhanced by the philosopher, in order to animate statues and perform all kinds of naturalistic marvels. [00:11:49]
Well, the philosophers did have statues that would
Well, the philosophers did have statues that would have torches in their hands that would burst into flames. They had statues that would talk, with hidden mechanisms, of course. In fact, one such statue at Antioch, the statue of Zeus-filos, or friendly Zeus, issued some very nasty statements about Christians, which led to a persecution. Now these philosophers believed that the trickery they were indulging in was a kind of prompting to nature. They did not see it as fraud. They believed in theurgy. Theurgy believed that the divinity inherent in nature could be invoked and brought into focus by man. Let me quote the thesis of theurgy: “The divine was invisibly diffused throughout the whole cosmos like a primordial electric wave. The action which succeeded in capturing this wave, that is, whatever induced the divine to reveal itself, was a legitimate theurgic activity.” In effect, they were saying nature is charged with all kinds of forces, or divine powers; and just as when you get a radio you can hear sound waves that are being sent, so if you get the right combination, you can capture those powers that are inherent in nature. And any props they used to capture this divine wave were seen as legitimate, not as trickery. Now this is why the pagan philosophers were so gullible. They did not see nature as fixed, created by God, with laws binding it that were God-ordained. Therefore, they believed all things were possible with nature. Of course, their view of nature was humanistic: man can control nature; therefore, if the divine power in the universe is inherent in nature, power is placed in man’s hands and proof becomes something that man determines; man’s activities will make things happen. [00:00:15]
We had a book published a few years ago entitled ...
We had a book published a few years ago entitled Man Makes Evolution. Now, that idea goes back to theurgy. Similarly, when Hegel said the rational is the real—that is, what the mind of man conceives and develops is alone reality—he was again in line with ancient Greek thought. Modern science says that what my net doesn’t catch isn’t fish; if it doesn’t meet my standards, it’s not a fact.
Not too long ago we had someone, a forest ranger at Big Trees, who said that now it was true: there were mountain lions in the mountains there. Well, the people all through here had said that for a hundred years or more; but no naturalist would accept anything that any person locally ever said about mountain lions, because they were not scientists. But a forest ranger with some kind of degree in science said there were mountain lions, and, therefore, finally in the 1970’s, mountain lions became a reality. Now, that’s humanism. What my net doesn’t catch is not fish.
And, of course, this is why creationism is not possible for these people. It doesn’t meet their standards of proof. The thing that is true is what conforms to the scientists’ view of reality. In other words, we have here a doctrine of authority that is humanistic to the core and anti-Christian. How we define reality rests on an act of faith, and Hebrews 11, verse 3 says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” The whole world of reality, as we see it humanistically, is created by God. He is the author. Moreover, Hebrews goes on to say all life is an act of faith. The only question is: faith in what or in whom? Our doctrine of authority is manifested by our faith. [00:18:10]
And so, Paul goes on to say, ...
And so, Paul goes on to say, “Wherefore, seeing also that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” A great cloud of witnesses: the saints of the past and the whole world today. Cloud of witnesses: the term cloud is an old term for great masses of people, and here it means past and present, those of the world beyond and of this world alike. We are to “run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” He is the author, the beginning, the foundation, the creator. So here we have an affirmation of the fact that God creates faith in us; it is not of us, it is of God. And also, He is the one who brings it to perfection. “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus Christ is the beginning or cause of our faith, our Prince, our Leader in the life of faith; and He is the perfecter, the finisher of our faith. [00:20:01]
In the Bible, authority is personal. Moreover, it is a person; it is the Lord. We are to run the race of life before the eyes of the world, the great masses of men. Jesus Christ is our Adam, the head of the new humanity; and he precedes us in that race. He, himself, ran it with joy, we are told, despising the shame of the cross to become our prince at the right hand of the throne of God. And we run the race to receive the promise, of which Hebrews 11, verses 39 and 40 speak: the promise of the kingdom, or the city of God. Christ’s reward is to reign; ours is to reign with Him and in Him for ever and ever, as Revelation22, verse 5 declares. Moreover, in Hebrews 2, verse 10, Jesus Christ is called the captain of our salvation; again, with the same word, author, the foundation, the creator of our salvation. And because He is the creator of us and our salvation, He is beyond our control; and our salvation is beyond anything we can do.
In the Bible, the words, author and authority, have the implication of being totally beyond man’s control. God is our maker, not we His. Even where human authorship exists, where a man writes a book, we may criticize that work, but we cannot make it ours and rewrite it honestly. On a few occasions, it has been tried, but it has only led to opprobrium for those who have attempted it. Nahum Tate, a dramatist of sorts, is remembered only because he decided to rewrite Shakespeare. He rewrote King Lear to give it a happy ending, and he is only remembered for that, and not very kindly or favorably. [00:22:42]
The Bible says that God is our sole author and authority, our sovereign. We were created for His pleasure and His predestination; and, in fact, Paul says in Romans 9, verses 17 through 21, “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that thou repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” In brief, Paul says God is man’s author and authority, both in creating us and in saving us. He is the captain, the author, of our salvation, and for man to challenge God’s work is insanity. To question authority is suicidal; it is to question the validity of life, itself, so that when we begin to doubt the authority of God, we become suicidal. Life only exists on God’s terms, not in terms of man’s imagination. God is God, and His Word is revelation. His Word is, therefore, authoritative for us. [00:24:50]
The philosopher Spinoza denied the Bible contains propositio
The philosopher Spinoza denied the Bible contains propositional revelation or truth; that is, it has no actual statements of fact. It only has an expression of feeling of a lot of gush, but no factual statements. This kind of thing is very prevalent today, and we see it, of course, in a Toronto school that claims to be reformational. What these people do is to see God as lacking the intelligence and coherency that they have. They subordinate God to themselves. These men, as Van Til says, speak, and I quote, “to make Christianity acceptable to its culture’s despisers.” We cannot say to the Creator, “Why hast thou made me thus?” We cannot question His authority, nor His love; to do so is original sin. All who judge God will be judged by Him. Therefore, the authority of God and His Word must be binding for us. We must be men under authorit
Let us pray. O Lord, our God, we give thanks unto thee that thou hast called us to be under authority—the authority of Thy Son, our Savior; the authority of Thy Word; the authority of Thy Spirit. And so, God our Father, we come to thank thee that we have been called to be under authority. Make us faithful. Make us strong in Thee and in Thy Word, and make us authoritative in Thee as we go forth to face the powers of darkness and the evils of this world, that in all things we may be more than conquerers through Christ our Lord, in His name we pray. Amen. [00:27:27]
Are there any questions now about our lesson, first
Are there any questions now about our lesson, first of all? Yes?
[Questioner] Next time I run into a humanist, I’m gonna suggest to him that he’s a prisoner of Greek thought –
[Rushdoony] Yes, they are.
[Questioner] -- which leads to the serious question: I’ve been wrestling with this problem of alleged free will that Roman Catholicism specifically puts forward, and I was wondering how that concept works into what you were saying today, whether that is just a reflection of Greek thought that has infected Roman Catholicism, and how that ties in with God’s authority and predestination? [00:28:13]
[Rushdoony] Well, first of all, not all Catholic thought
[Rushdoony] Well, first of all, not all Catholic thought affirms free will; and second, the baldest affirmations of it are in Arminian circles and in non-Christian circles. Then, second, free will is only tenable if applied to God. Only God has total free will. Ours is the secondary free will of a creature, the free will to be a creature and to be what God created us to be, so that we cannot define free will absolutely as is regularly done, because we are then saying we are God, and of course, that’s original sin. And that’s what Greek thought has developed, the implications of original sin: every man is his own god, knowing or determining good and evil for himself, so every man is going to exercise total freedom. And this is why so many of the discussions on the subject are absurd, because they posit for a man what only is possible with God. Thus, if you want to see arguments for the critiques of this and of the biblical position, you can find it in orthodox thought, Catholic and Protestant, over the centuries. In our day, of course, both communions have been very heavily infected by humanism and by Greek thought; hence, the absolutizing of man’s will, as though man were a god and capable of an absolute freedom, which man does not have. We are under authority. Now we have a mystery here, ultimately; but without the mystery, we are saying that we, like gods, can understand everything. So we have to say we are responsible creatures; the Bible makes this clear from beginning to end and we are going to be held to account; we are going to be brought to trial before God. But at the same time, God has ordained all things that come to pass. How do we reconcile the two? Well, because God said so, not because we understand it. If we try to say only what we can understand is what is acceptable to us, then we are saying that we are like God, and that we have a mind equal to God and, therefore, capable of understanding all the works of God. So it is presuming too much to claim to understand it. The people who try to make this into something humanistically rational will opt either for a predestination which obliterates man, or a free will which obliterates God, and we’re not to obliterate either God or man. We are to give God the sovereignty. We are to recognize that man is a responsible creature under God. [00:32:02]
Any other questions and comments?...
Any other questions and comments?
[Questioner] A quick follow up on that: then if the Scripture, in other words God’s Word that presents this as a mystery, then if you could eliminate that anyone who wanted to be God would have a little bit more grounds for asserting that. Is that why the attack on Scripture inerrancy, especially, but also interpretationally? [00:32:36]
[Rushdoony] Yes, man wants to be able to sit in judgment
[Rushdoony] Yes, man wants to be able to sit in judgment on God and on His Word. Exactly. Man wants to bring everything to the bar of his judgment. As a professor at Fuller Seminary, supposedly an evangelical, E. J. Carnell said a few years ago, “Bring on your revelations; let them answer to the bar of man’s reason.” So, “Come on, God. Let me stand in judgment of you, and if you’re OK, I’ll let you by.” That’s the implication of what Carnell had to say. Now that’s where rationalism leads to.
Any other questions or comments?
[Questioner] The phrase “running with patience” is very interesting. I wonder if you could expand on that. [00:33:39]
[Rushdoony] Yes. Earlier, in the previous chapter, he had spoken of the walk of faith, and the men who had walked by faith in the face of all kinds of absurdities, contradictions, persecutions; and yet with faith, refusing to recognize that any of these seeming contradictions were anything but a part of God’s absolute plan. And so, he concludes that “these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” So, we have no reason to be impatient. We’ve got the finished Word of God. We’ve got the example of what these men did. We know what God has accomplished. And the sin which so easily besets us is to play God and to say impatiently, “Look, God, you’re timing is way off. Now, you do it pronto, because I want this and that now.” We all have that tendency. We’re all impatient with God. So, with the example of the patience of Abraham and all these people, we are told to run with patience the race that is set before us. And a race is something in which you don’t hold back, you see. At the best, we want a stroll through life. “Don’t push us, God, with too much responsibility, too much work, too many trials. Don’t call it a race. Let it be a stroll through a park.” [00:36:07]
[Questioner] That raises another question related to abortion and contraception: if God is determining, say, how many children we’re going to have because he is the author of all life, even specifically in each pregnancy, doesn’t that suggest very strongly that contraception is wrong, as well as abortion?
[Rushdoony] Well, that’s another subject, and we won’t get into that here now.
Any other questions or comments?
Well, if not, let us bow our heads and close our eyes in prayer as we conclude our study.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers, Who of Thy grace and mercy hast ordained all things that we, Thine erring ones whom Thou hast redeemed, might become heirs of Thy kingdom. Bless us in Thy service. Give us patience to run the race, knowing that Thou art the author and finisher of our faith. 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. [00:37:48]