Friday, September 2, 2016

As one having authority

A Christian brother in seminary with whom I sometimes engage in dialog, finally said one day, ‘but you speak as one having authority’ and he felt that since that is the case I should have to reveal my source of authority. He often asks questions which I do not respond to, and he does the same to me.

This immediately brought to mind the Gospel in which the Pharisees ask Jesus a similar question.

One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Luke 20:1-8 NIV

Now, believe me, I am not comparing myself to Jesus, but if any of you want to, go ahead. You’ll find me a hopelessly poor copy. Yet, I know I irk not only my friend, but many others, because here I am, not ordained, not seminary-trained, without even a college degree, having read who knows what, living God knows what lifestyle, and writing publicly ‘as one having authority.’ That’s even worse than ‘teaching the people in the Temple courts’!

There are two authentic sources of authority, but really only One. Jesus Christ spoke, speaks and will always speak with authority because He is the Source of all authority in heaven and earth, He is the Word of God. He speaks as One having authority yet He never changes anything of the Torah, only deepens it, reveals it—root, branch and leaves—yet His enemies say He sets the Law aside and changes it. He does have the authority to do that, but He doesn’t do it, and yet they accuse Him, and ask, “Who gave you this authority?” Such a question seems silly to us, because we know the answer. It didn’t seem silly to those who asked it at the time. No one knew for sure, not even His Mother, who He was, even as He hung on the Cross to die. Only by His Resurrection, Ascension and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit was the full mystery (or at least as much as we can know on earth) revealed.

The other source of authority is the holy and divine scripture, the Bible, the written ikon of the Word of God.

Already you can guess why I just wrote there is really only one Source of authority. Practically speaking, the Bible has authority because it is the True Ikon of Christ. It encloses and discloses what He speaks. Now, an ordinary man can speak or write ‘as one having authority’ when he keeps as close to the Bible as possible, without adding his comments and interpretations, but merely speaking it into situations, which are then revealed in their true perspective by its light. Its light, mind you, not his light. An ordinary man who speaks ‘as one having authority’ cannot change anything in the Bible, and because he doesn’t, he’s accused of teaching ‘without a license.’ On the other hand, if he has a degree, a title, a pastorship, letters after his names, or wears special clothing, the question doesn’t even come up. Why not? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? He’s qualified.

My seminary friend is an evangelical, dedicated to their concept of sola scriptura. Why then does it make him so uneasy when I reason using only that authority? I’ve learned how to let the Bible texts speak for themselves by placing them where what they are saying simply can’t be missed. This should offend no one. Who cares who I am? Truly, I am no one, and thankfully, I don’t have followers. If I did, I’d have to keep them happy with my words of wisdom.

Instead, I just want to follow Jesus. There’s a lot of ways to do that, and I just thought of one of those ways right now. Time to go back and look at His road map. Mine has a white leather cover and each page is trimmed with gold. What about yours?

No comments: