28. January 2018

The Voice of Authority

Service Type:

Minister: Revd Dr. Ian Tutton | ‘…He taught them as One who had authority…’ (Mark 1, 22).
After assembling His ‘team’ ‘Jesus & the Four Fishermen’, as they were known in the pubs, the clubs and the Coffee houses of the ‘café’ quarter of downtown Capernaum, Jesus embarked on mission – The Kingdom of God is at hand – and whatever He may have said or did, there can be no doubt that He created an immediate impression: ‘He taught them as One who had authority’…’With authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him’. It is fair to say that the notion of unquestioned authority has become a contradiction in terms such that those who would exercise authority regardless are forced to do so with ever increasing brutality as evidenced by the increasingly atrocious actions perpetrated by those in positions of power against their ‘own’ people. In such cases, authority has given way to tyranny. But that can be a painful lesson to learn, even closer to home…
“When children reach adolescence, there is very apt to be a conflict between them & their parents since they consider themselves to be by now quite capable of managing their own affairs. Parents, on the other hand are filled with A certain solicitude, which is often no more than a disguise for love of power. Parents regard the various moral problems which arise in adolescence as peculiarly their province. The opinions they express, however, are often so dogmatic that the young seldom confide in them, and usually go their own way in secret.” (Bertrand Russell: ‘Marriage & Morals [alt]).
The tyranny of parenthood is only ever a conversation away. Likewise the tyranny of the Church is itself only a proclamation, an edict, a resolution away. Why is the 1611 Bible referred to as the ‘authorised’ version? ‘Because I said so’, ‘Because that’s the way it is’, ‘Because we’ve always done it this way’ – mantras designed to reinforce the authority of the powerful, yet containing within themselves the very undermining of that same authority – sometimes such a way of living has to be confronted, cut through, disassembled and reassembled in such a way as to be virtually unrecognisable from how it used to be…
“Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such an authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens. They come to be stamped as “necessities of thought”, “a priori givens”, etc. The path of scientific advance is often made impassable for a long time through such errors. For that reason, it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analyzing the long commonplace concepts and exhibiting those circumstances upon which their justification and usefulness depend, how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. By this means, their all-too-great authority will be broken. They will be removed if they cannot be properly legitimated, corrected if their correlation with given things be far too superfluous, replaced by others if a new system can be established that we prefer for whatever reason.” (Albert Einstein).
When Jesus came ‘…preaching the Gospel of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel”…’ in effect this is what He was about to do; to tear up the rule book, and then rewrite in a way that it would appeal to all who heard Him, including a radical rewrite concerning what it means to exercise authority on God’s behalf…
“And we must not confuse the idea of God speaking, in this or any other way, with the notion of authority. Authority, particularly when we locate it within the notion of God’s Kingdom, is much more than that. It is the sovereign rule of God sweeping through creation to judge and to heal. It is the powerful love of God in Jesus Christ, putting sin to death and launching new creation. It is the fresh, bracing and energizing wind of the Spirit.”
(N.T. Wright: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today).
This then is the template as far as any influence the church, including the local congregation, might dare to seek to exercise among the people. We cannot afford to lapse back into worldly ways as far the way we conduct ourselves. Holocaust Memorial Day as celebrated this weekend reminds us of an awful terror unleashed in the name of ideology – Nazism – paralleled by the atrocities perpetrated in the Soviet Union in the name of Stalinism; Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Myanmar, Ukraine; the list goes on and on…And in the face of all of this, Jesus declines to ‘fight’ fire with fire’ but rather offers in Himself a way of living that is so alien to so many – no wonder He remarked that no-one puts new wine into old wineskins’. And if that is Jesus’ way, then it has to be our way too…
“The institutions that claim to represent God, when they are not ignored altogether, are treated like other human institutions that have to earn their right to a hearing by the value of what they say, and not by virtue of who is saying it. Today, authority has to earn respect by the intrinsic value of what it says, not by the force of its imposition.” (Richard Holloway).
But all of this is predicated on the claim there is indeed, a ‘higher authority’ which is applied to each and all alike…
“It is a profound political reality that Christ now occupies the supreme seat of cosmic authority. The kings of this world and all secular governments may ignore this reality, but they cannot undo it. The universe is no democracy. It is a monarchy. God himself has appointed his beloved Son as the preeminent King. Jesus does not rule by referendum, but by divine right. In the future every knee will bow before him, either willingly or unwillingly. Those who refuse to do so will have their knees broken with a rod of iron.” (R.C. Sproul: ‘What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics).

The Voice of Authority

‘…He taught them as One who had authority…’ (Mark 1, 22).

After assembling His ‘team’ ‘Jesus & the Four Fishermen’, as they were known in the pubs, the clubs and the Coffee houses of the ‘café’ quarter of downtown Capernaum, Jesus embarked on mission – The Kingdom of God is at hand – and whatever He may have said or did, there can be no doubt that He created an immediate impression: ‘He taught them as One who had authority’…’With authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him’. It is fair to say that the notion of unquestioned authority has become a contradiction in terms such that those who would exercise authority regardless are forced to do so with ever increasing brutality as evidenced by the increasingly atrocious actions perpetrated by those in positions of power against their ‘own’ people. In such cases, authority has given way to tyranny. But that can be a painful lesson to learn, even closer to home…

“When children reach adolescence, there is very apt to be a conflict between them & their parents since they consider themselves to be by now quite capable of managing their own affairs. Parents, on the other hand are filled with A certain solicitude, which is often no more than a disguise for love of power. Parents regard the various moral problems which arise in adolescence as peculiarly their province. The opinions they express, however, are often so dogmatic that the young seldom confide in them, and usually go their own way in secret.” (Bertrand Russell: ‘Marriage & Morals [alt]).

The tyranny of parenthood is only ever a conversation away. Likewise the tyranny of the Church is itself only a proclamation, an edict, a resolution away. Why is the 1611 Bible referred to as the ‘authorised’ version? ‘Because I said so’, ‘Because that’s the way it is’, ‘Because we’ve always done it this way’ – mantras designed to reinforce the authority of the powerful, yet containing within themselves the very undermining of that same authority – sometimes such a way of living has to be confronted, cut through, disassembled and reassembled in such a way as to be virtually unrecognisable from how it used to be…

“Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such an authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens. They come to be stamped as “necessities of thought”, “a priori givens”, etc. The path of scientific advance is often made impassable for a long time through such errors. For that reason, it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analyzing the long commonplace concepts and exhibiting those circumstances upon which their justification and usefulness depend, how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. By this means, their all-too-great authority will be broken. They will be removed if they cannot be properly legitimated, corrected if their correlation with given things be far too superfluous, replaced by others if a new system can be established that we prefer for whatever reason.” (Albert Einstein).

When Jesus came ‘…preaching the Gospel of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel”…’ in effect this is what He was about to do; to tear up the rule book, and then rewrite in a way that it would appeal to all who heard Him, including a radical rewrite concerning what it means to exercise authority on God’s behalf…

“And we must not confuse the idea of God speaking, in this or any other way, with the notion of authority. Authority, particularly when we locate it within the notion of God’s Kingdom, is much more than that. It is the sovereign rule of God sweeping through creation to judge and to heal. It is the powerful love of God in Jesus Christ, putting sin to death and launching new creation. It is the fresh, bracing and energizing wind of the Spirit.”
(N.T. Wright: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today).

This then is the template as far as any influence the church, including the local congregation, might dare to seek to exercise among the people. We cannot afford to lapse back into worldly ways as far the way we conduct ourselves. Holocaust Memorial Day as celebrated this weekend reminds us of an awful terror unleashed in the name of ideology – Nazism – paralleled by the atrocities perpetrated in the Soviet Union in the name of Stalinism; Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Myanmar, Ukraine; the list goes on and on…And in the face of all of this, Jesus declines to ‘fight’ fire with fire’ but rather offers in Himself a way of living that is so alien to so many – no wonder He remarked that no-one puts new wine into old wineskins’. And if that is Jesus’ way, then it has to be our way too…

“The institutions that claim to represent God, when they are not ignored altogether, are treated like other human institutions that have to earn their right to a hearing by the value of what they say, and not by virtue of who is saying it. Today, authority has to earn respect by the intrinsic value of what it says, not by the force of its imposition.” (Richard Holloway).

But all of this is predicated on the claim there is indeed, a ‘higher authority’ which is applied to each and all alike…

“It is a profound political reality that Christ now occupies the supreme seat of cosmic authority. The kings of this world and all secular governments may ignore this reality, but they cannot undo it. The universe is no democracy. It is a monarchy. God himself has appointed his beloved Son as the preeminent King. Jesus does not rule by referendum, but by divine right. In the future every knee will bow before him, either willingly or unwillingly. Those who refuse to do so will have their knees broken with a rod of iron.” (R.C. Sproul: ‘What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics).