Friday, October 10, 2008

By What Authority?

I got to talking, along with a few of my members, to a neighbor of ours at one of our churches. We have enjoyed getting to know some of our neighbors (seems like a reasonable thing to do, doesn't it?) recently, and this one neighbor, in particular, was eager to talk with us about spiritual things.

Only, his questions were not your typical questions. He immediately wanted to know about reincarnation and what we thought about that. He wondered if, perhaps, Jesus could have been Buddha reincarnated, and whether reincarnation was a good thing, so as to give people more chances to do good. He also wondered about impressions, and whether God talks to us through these impressions (ie., when we leave the kitchen, we just get this deep impression that we left the stove on, and so we return to the kitchen to find out that we did).

After a ten minute or so conversation, it was very apparent that this man, like so many others today, has a very eclectic understanding of God. He values eastern religions, Christianity, anything that has some type of value. When I told him that there were inherent contradictions between all religions, thereby making it necessary to choose one rule of authority, he said that this wasn't necessarily the case, and it could simply be a situation where people have different perspectives and views on the same thing.

I pointed to his house and said, "My friend, Peter, here, may say that the house is white. You may say it is black. But there is an objective reality about the color of the house, apart from any subjective opinion of it." Perhaps I shouldn't have used color as an example, since there is a lot of subjectivity in perceiving colors, but the point remains. There is objective reality apart from a person's subjective interpretation of it, and it is our goal - indeed, every person necessarily strives to understand reality - to come to grips with reality. We can thank the good Lord that there is objective reality, else we would be in a lot of trouble when we go to the emergency room.

When we wished our neighbor goodbye, he said to us, "Next time we'll talk about Ouija Boards. . . "

But I quickly realized something: unless two people can agree on their rule of authority, it is fairly fruitless to discuss reality, or someone's perception of reality. This also relates to other Christians I have been talking with, who don't necessarily believe that all of the Bible is inspired by God. When I asked them by what authority they have come to conclude this, they freely admitted that it was their own logic that led them to this belief.

But when we do this, we become our own authority, and we stand in judgment of the Bible. Some may be comfortable in doing this - and others covet this behavior - but total autonomy is a dangerous game to play. Ultimately, if I am my own authority, I am left to figure everything out for myself, and I am relying on my own human wisdom. If I want to pick and choose what I like from the various religions, I am doing so under my own logic and reasoning, which often tends to get me into trouble. The "God is dead" idea leads to insanity and madness. Friedrich Neitzche, who wanted nothing more than to live an autonomous life apart from God, lived the last ten years of his life insane, ultimately dying - in all likelihood - because of his condition.

When we do not humble ourselves to an authority outside of ourselves, we place ourselves in a lonely position, believing we alone are worthy of supreme adoration. And such thinking naturally leads to egotism, and I find it impossible to act in any way other than selfishness. And selfishness leads to insanity, because life's greatest joys come when I lose all self-interest and place others ahead of myself.

Of course, some may claim that they don't believe God is dead, but that He just doesn't have one religion, or one authoritative text. But if God does exist, and objective reality does exist, why would He not give us one objective revelation of Himself, so as to make it as easy as possible for us to understand Him? Yes, the Bible may have portions that seem contradictory, but if I have found any truth in it, I can't help but figure that there is more truth in the Bible, and those seeming contradictions actually complement one another - if I allow for the possibility that this is God's objective and authoritative revelation of Himself.

Until I come to that place, instead of standing up for myself, I will actually fall for everything.

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