Authority and Obedience

authorityAuthority. That’s a word Americans have a problem with. We’re proud of our independence. Of our rebellion. It’s part of our heritage. We celebrate it every Fourth of July. Words like “authority” and “obedience” and “submission” make our skin crawl. We’d like to take them out of our vocabulary altogether. We don’t even grant God authority anymore.

This became strikingly apparent to me recently when I engaged in a pair of election-related conversations. The topic? Homosexuality. Basically, our conversations boiled down to a clash of worldviews. They elected that we individually and as a nation must support the decisions of people struggling with sexual identity confusion because it’s the kind and generous thing to do. (Love before obedience. People before God.) I maintained that the Creator has put absolute standards in place that must be obeyed, and any love given outside those parameters is actually destructive. (Obedience before love. God before people.) Needless to say, my theology was not popular.

But today I read a Bible passage and commentary that gets to the heart of the authority issue. I’m still reading through the Jewish New Testament. I just started the gospel of John. Here’s what Mr. Stern had to say in his commentary:

In the beginning was the Word. The language echoes the first sentences of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Word which was with God and…was God is not named as such in Genesis but is immediately seen in action: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’. ‘And God called the light Day.'” And so on, through Genesis and indeed throughout the whole Tanakh (OT). God’s expressing himself, commanding, calling and creating is one of the two primary themes of the entire Bible (the other being his justice and mercy and their outworking in the salvation of humanity). This expressing, this speaking, this “word” is God; a God who does not speak, a Word-less God is no God. And a Word that is not God accomplishes nothing.

This passage isn’t about homosexuality. It’s about the much more foundational issue of God’s authority. God is Creator. His Word is powerful. His Word is law. And all Creation bears testimony to his authority. This passage in John, supported by Genesis, sets the stage for the teaching ministry of Christ (the Word incarnate) by granting him this same divine authority. And while Jesus did command us to love men, he stressed obedience to God above all.

But no one in America wants to talk about obedience. It’s far easier to speak of “love”. Based on the incredible power displayed in Genesis as well as the ultimate love showed to us at the end of John’s gospel, I think it would greatly benefit us to find out what else God said and obey it.

 

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Worldview Question #7: What is the meaning of human history?

I’m finally finishing this series that I began a year ago. I’m sort of excited about that. To view all seven worldview questions and find links to each discussion, click here.

When someone believes in the spontaneous generation of life, it’s impossible to assign meaning to anything. But Christians believe we were purposefully created and placed in time according to God’s plan, which would be revealed as history played out.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. But that fellowship was broken almost immediately, when Adam and Eve sinned. That disobedience resulted in both physical and spiritual death and a cursed earth. Ever since, God has been using history to reveal his plan of salvation and restoration.

Christianity rests squarely on the historicity of the Bible and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as an actual, physical, divine person who left eternity and entered history. Both claims are subject to historical examination, and in both cases, historical evidence bears out their validity. Again and again in this series I have pointed readers to some of the major evidences both for the Bible’s reliability and Christ’s resurrection. In addition, archeological discoveries have never contradicted Biblical history. Cities are where the Bible says they were. Customs, cultures, leaders have been born out by archeological study. Not everything in the Bible has been confirmed, but nothing has been refuted. When you consider how much data has been uncovered in the past hundred years, that is absolutly astonishing!

More than anything else, it is this solid trail of evidence that has convinces me that my faith in the God of the Bible is not misplaced. A worldview founded on the historically proven revelation in the Scriptures is the only one that can successfully answer the hard questions in life.

 

Worldview Question #6: How do we know what is right and wrong?

To view all the worldview questions and find links to each discussion in this series, click here.

This question dovetails nicely with the last one (Why is it possible to know anything at all?), because they’re based on the same foundation, the unchanging nature of God. Let me quote from that post: “God is truth. God is the source of all that is true and knowable. And because God is unchanging, truth is absolute and reliable.”

Morality is also absolute, because it’s based on that same unchanging nature. “Right” is right because it matches up with God’s character. “Wrong” is wrong because it does not. God gave us a concise summary in the form of the Ten Commandments, but he also gave mankind an innate understanding of good and evil. Romans 2:15 states, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” We know instinctively what is right. And we know when we’re doing wrong, though we often willfully choose to do so anyway.

If morality is based on the absolute character of God, it cannot change according to man’s opinion or the consensus of a majority, as is commonly accepted today. It’s easy to see why. Under this kind of relative thinking, evils such as genocide can be justified. Remember that guy, Hitler? All his friends agreed he was right. Was he? Of course not. And not because of today’s accepted morality, but because willful murder is contrary to God’s nature. On that basis, abortion is also wrong, and for the exactly the same reason.

Right is right and wrong is wrong according to God’s definition, not ours, and no amount of human justification can change it.

Some things to think about: What can happen when ideas of right and wrong are formed on a flexible foundation? When individuals are in conflict about what is right and what is wrong, who decides? What problems of logic arise by saying they’re both right? On what do you base your moral decisions?

 

 

Worldview Question #5: Why is it possible to know anything at all?

To view all the worldview questions and find links to each discussion in this series, click here.

This question is perhaps the starting point for any worldview. It’s the foundation for all other thoughts, all ideas, and all logic. How can we know anything? If we carry that thought farther, we might ask: What is truth? Are we capable of knowing truth? And is truth even be knowable?

Different people, cultures, and faiths arrive at vastly different and irreconcilable conclusions about what truth is, which makes no logical sense if truth is truth. That’s because we’ve rejected the possibility of absolute truth. Truth, some say, is what society or political power or a group of like-minded people makes it. Others say that truth is whatever you want it to be and nobody’s version of truth should be disregarded. But then truth is no longer truth. This absence of absolutes creates a pretty weak foundation on which to build knowledge.

For the Christian, the ideas of truth and knowledge begin solidly in the existance of God. Not just any God, but the one and only living creator God. We can only know him because he chose to reveal himself to us. Everything that is knowable is based on this revelation, which is given in two forms: the inerrant Bible and the divine person of Jesus Christ. God is truth. God is the source of all that is true and knowable. And because God is unchanging, truth is absolute and reliable.

Some things to think about: How do you define truth? How do you discern truth? And is it worth anything if it isn’t absolute? How would absolute, knowable truth impact you? How would it impact our culture? Have you ever tested the truth of God by testing the truth of his revelation?

Worldview Question #4: What happens to a person at death?

To view all the worldview questions and find links to each discussion in this series, click here.

The Bible makes it very clear that there is an afterlife. (Find the reasons I base my worldview on the Bible. Click here, here, and here.) And we choose where we’ll spend it. My discussion of question number three included a paragraph that has bearing here. Allow me to quote from it:

“Right off the bat, men rebelled against the order God created. We now have a predisposition toward sin and continue to rebel. We live with the consequences every day, yet we still want to think and act apart from God and his authority. And as Creator, he is the Authority and Judge whether we like it or not. Since God cannot abide sin or allow it to go unpunished, we are separated from him and in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ filled that role. He lived a sinless life and died (the punishment for sin) in our place. Those who accept that substitution will be reunited with and live with God on a sinless, recreated Earth someday.”

There is a Heaven. There is a Hell. God says we will spend eternity in one or the other. God, as Creator, is the Supreme Authority and the Judge. He set the standard and the punishment. We’ve all failed. We all deserve Hell. But in his mercy, God provided a way to circumvent that punishment. Once again, a biblical worldview offers hope.

What do you believe happens at death? What do you base that on?

Worldview Question #3: What is a human being?

To view all the worldview questions and find links to each discussion in this series, click here.

So, what is a human? Are we the product of eons of evolution? The freak chance of an unfeeling universe? An accident with no meaning or purpose? A brief light in the darkness of nothingness, to which we will return when the light blinks out?

I would like to offer a resounding NO!

The Bible, on which I base all the answers to my worldview questions (find my reasons here, here, and here), claims that man was formed in the image of God. This means we are intelligent, rational, able to communicate, able to create, able to reason. We are the very pinnacle of God’s handiwork, created for his glory. Because we are purposefully made, we are worthy of respect and honor. Which makes murder wrong. And abortion. And euthanasia.

Mankind was also given dominion over the rest of Creation. That means everything on earth is to be governed by man according to God’s teachings in the Bible. This includes not just ecology and ecosystems and other life forms but, well, everything. Economics, education, art, medicine, science, etc. But because mankind is fallen, we don’t do a very good job of it.

Right off the bat, men rebelled against the order God created. We now have a predisposition toward sin and continue to rebel. We live with the consequences every day, yet we still want to think and act apart from God and his authority. And as Creator, he is the Authority and Judge whether we like it or not. Since God cannot abide sin or allow it to go unpunished, we are separated from him and in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ filled that role. He lived a sinless life and died (the punishment for sin) in our place. Those who accept that substitution will be reunited with and live with God on a sinless, recreated Earth someday.

A Christian worldview gives mankind worth, purpose, and hope. Does yours? What exactly do you believe? What do you base it on? Why do you believe it?  And how do you “prove” it to yourself?

Wordview Question #2: What is the nature of material reality?

I’ve been very slow covering my series on worldviews. Today I’ll look at question number two. To view all the questions and find links to each, you can view the original post.

So what is the nature of material reality? What I mean is, what is the world like around us? Is it orderly or chaotic? Created or autonomous? Does it have a purpose, or is it random? Is there a spiritual element to it or is it merely physical? And how do we relate to it?

I’ve already established that I base my Christian worldview on the historicity of Jesus Christ, the reliability of the Bible, and the fulfillment of prophecy. With that starting point, I believe the world was created. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). I take that at face value, not only because it’s written in the Bible, but because there’s so much evidence to back it up. In the whole universe of billions of stars, we are aware of one planet that sustains life. One planet with an exact axis that spreads out heat and cold so both hemispheres can grow food. One planet with perfect revolution so no season is too long or too short and perfect rotation so day and night are not too long or two short. If either changed, our water would freeze or evaporate. One planet with a perfectly designed water cycle, nitrogen cycle, oxygen cycle. One planet with the perfect atmosphere to protect us from space radiation and debris. Chance? I don’t think so.

As a created world, it is also regulated by carefully designed natural laws that order our world and our lives. Laws such as those that govern physics and mathematics are not random, nor was it chance that brought them into being. They demonstrate purpose, control, and design. And being created by a supernatural Creator, the world has a definite spiritual element to it. Though it is ordered by natural laws, God’s power can, has, and does supercede natural law, resulting in miracles and supernatural occurances such as the worldwide flood, the virgin birth, and the resurrection of Jesus.

How are we to relate to such a world? First, we must understand that it was created for us. For our use, enjoyment, support, and rule. God gave us dominion over it and the intelligence to govern it wisely. Such a gift implies value in the recipient. Value above the gift. We, even more than the Creation we are a part of, are a product of purpose and design.

Do you believe the earth is created? Without design, how do you explain the overwhelming coincidence that one planet would develop the many necessities to support life? How do you explain the development of complex mechanisms such as reproduction involving the pairing of two distinctly different and compatible cells? Without design, what is the basis of order and natural laws? Without design, do people have value? On what do you base your value?