Thursday, March 19, 2015

biblical religion is authoritarian

But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5 ESV)

I have begun working my way through Carl Henry's fourth volume in God, Revelation, and Authority. He begins on his eleventh thesis: "The Bible is the reservoir and conduit of divine truth, the authoritative written record and exposition of God's nature and will."  

He opens chapter 1 with, "The problem of authority is one of the most deeply distressing concerns of contemporary civilization."  He notes that anti-authoritarianism -- or positively stated, self-autonomy -- is not something which faces religious institutions only, but also every area of modern life.  And it's not a new phenomenon. It's as old as the garden of Eden (Gen. 3)

I was struck with the following summary of the nature of authority in the Bible...

"Beyond all doubt, biblical religion is authoritarian in nature. The sovereign God, creator of the universe, Lord of history, dispenser of destiny, determines and rewards the true and the good.  God commands and has the right to be obeyed, and the power also to punish the disobedient and reward the faithful.  Behind God's will stands omnipotent power.  The notion that the individual subjectively determines what is ultimately good and evil, true and false, not only results in an encroaching nihilism, but also presupposes the illusion of a godless [i.e., God-less] world.  God can be ignored only if we assume the autonomy of the world. But it is God who in his purpose has determined the existence and nature of the world. 
"The divine sovereignty extends to every sphere of life-- the sphere of work, whether in the laboratory or in the forum; the sphere of love, whether in the home or in neighbor-relations; the sphere of justice, whether between the nations or in local cities and towns. Divine sovereignty can be thus formulated because it extends also to the sphere of truth.  
"We cannot understand anything comprehensively apart from its relation to the Creator and Sustainer of all.  Human beings are commanded by him not only to love the truth but also to do it (John 3:21; 1 John 1:6); knowledge is not simply an intellectual concern but involves ethical obligation as well.  Impenitence spells doom, for man can in no way justify his spiritual revolt.  God's authority was firmly stamped on man's conscience at creation, and clearly republished in the Bible which meshes man's fall and need of moral rescue with God's gracious offer of forgiveness and promise of new life to all who repent and trust him." 
-- Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, IV:15-16.

No comments: