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Authority Or Character?


Guest wayfarer2k
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Guest wayfarer2k

It was stated in another thread that God has the “authority” to determine who is righteous and non-righteous based upon God’s own standard of what is right and wrong. But I think authority-based faith, more than any other kind, needs to be examined. Why?

 

Allow me to put it this way: There is God, which is a reality, and then there are human perceptions of God, which always come from within us and, therefore, either cannot fully capture the reality or can even distort that reality. An analogy to this is that there is a real St. Nicholas, and then there is Santa Claus. One is a reality, the other is human interpretation and embellishment of that reality. One Santa collected money and gifts for the poor, the other one lives in the North Pole, makes toys in a workshop, has a flying sleigh, and keeps a checklist for who is naughty and who is nice.

 

The modern Santa has his own “authority” upon which to determine who is nice enough to get presents and who is naughty enough to go without or to get a lump of coal, although I have to admit there were plenty of years where I was naughty but received presents anyway. It seems to me that, despite Santa’s meticulous bookkeeping, he exercising a considerable amount of grace.

 

When the modern Santa determines who is naughty and who is nice, what criteria does he use? Does he have a book that tells him how to categorize little boys and little girls? Or does he use his own conscience? (I know, we’re dealing with myth here, but I am leading to a point) Some would say that, being Santa, he is accountable to no one, he alone decides what is right and wrong, he alone has the authority.

 

What would happen if Santa decided to kill all the naughty little boys and girls on Christmas Eve? If Santa is the sole, supreme arbitrator of right and wrong, then, I suppose, no one could criticize Santa for murder, could they? After all, he makes the rules. He gets to decide who is naughty and who is nice and what the sentence should be for naughtiness. This is the core of the theistic notion of God, the “judge in the sky” who makes his own rules and allows no one to challenge his sense of morality.

 

Many Christians, adhering to an authority-based understanding of God, feel that he can do anything he wants and is not to be questioned simply because he is God. This is much like thinking Hitler was justified for killing 6 million Jews during WWII because he was the furer. He got to make the rules of who was human and who wasn’t. He got to determine who lived and who died. And few dared question him lest they themselves suffer his wrath. Christians seldom stop to question whether this kind of authority-based God is the real God or if this kind of God is an ancient, war-tribe interpretation of God. I don’t want to be too dualistic in my definitions, but I do think there is a difference.

 

I think many progressive Christians lean toward a loved-based understanding of God. If, as Jesus demonstrated and the book of 1 John says, God is love, then other interpretations of God, even of those found in the Old Testament, need serious critical review and, when warranted, to be categorized as a lesser, or even bad interpretations. There are even passages in the New Testament where Jesus, because he failed to fulfill the “holy jihad-warrior” role that first century believers expected of him, recast him as returning in that role at a later time (see the book of Revelation).

 

I think this is where faith comes in, at least for me. At some point, if we are to claim any belief or faith in God, we have to look at all of the different portraits of God that humans have painted through the years and decide, hopefully based on character (not authority), which portrait encompasses our own understanding and experience of God.

 

Modern evangelical Christianity offers a portrait of God that is very reminiscent of Santa Claus. He is a bookkeeper and a judge. He rewards the nice and punishes the naughty (in ways that not even Santa himself would use). And this portrait of God often goes unquestioned because the God of this portrait would send anyone who questions this portrait to hell. This God has the ultimate ace-in-the-hole. He is said to be justified for sending people into everlasting torment and anyone who questions this is subject to the same punishment.

 

I reject that portrait of God. Thankfully, there are plenty of other portraits of God that are more moral, more in keeping with a God of love. History and society hands us a whole bunch of portraits and says, “This is a picture of God.” In some of these pictures, God is an old man in a white robe, writing in books. In others, he is dressed for battle with a huge sword. In others, he is wearing a tie-dye t-shirt with a peace sign on the front. In others, we simply have a blank photo. One of the wonderful things about being conscious beings is that we have the privilege (and responsibility) to contemplate and choose the kind of God we believe in. But I believe we should make that choice based upon the character, not the authority, of God. Authority is ultimately based in fear, not in character. I choose a God of love.

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“The Church gave unto God the attibutes which belonged exclusively to Caesar. The brief Galiean vision of humility flickered throughout the ages, uncertainly (Whitehead, 1929/ 1978).”

 

This is a familiar pattern throughout recorded history. It is found in the OT where the authoritarian God of Wrath is transformed into a God of Love by the prophets. In my opinion, it was Jesus who completed the transformation. In some sense, it is also a transformation from an authoritarian God to an authoritative God. The difference between the two words should not be underestimated. A great deal hangs in the balance.

 

Just a thought.

Edited by minsocal
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Guest wayfarer2k
In some sense, it is also a transformation from an authoritarian God to an authoritative God. The difference between the two words should not be underestimated. A great deal hangs in the balance.

 

How do you understand the difference? I'm not sure I would.

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How do you understand the difference? I'm not sure I would.

 

 

This is how it looks in parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and directive, but not responsive. "They are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62). These parents provide well-ordered and structured environments with clearly stated rules. Authoritarian parents can be divided into two types: nonauthoritarian-directive, who are directive, but not intrusive or autocratic in their use of power, and authoritarian-directive, who are highly intrusive.
  • Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. "They monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62).

There are two other parenting styles.

 

http://www.athealth.com/Practitioner/ceduc...tingstyles.html

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This is how it looks in parenting styles:
  • Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and directive, but not responsive. "They are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62). These parents provide well-ordered and structured environments with clearly stated rules. Authoritarian parents can be divided into two types: nonauthoritarian-directive, who are directive, but not intrusive or autocratic in their use of power, and authoritarian-directive, who are highly intrusive.
  • Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. "They monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62).

There are two other parenting styles.

 

http://www.athealth.com/Practitioner/ceduc...tingstyles.html

 

Great post OA. This is exactly what I had in mind. Thank you.

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Wayfarer, I'm having a hard time reconciling what you wrote above with what you said to me on the "New Sunday School Curriculum" thread, where you revealed a whole cartload of animosity and not much love.

 

I agree with Minsocal's and OA's clearly expressed distinction between a God (or a human parent) who is authoritative and a God who is authoritarian. The former is a loving God. The latter is just a plain ol' narcissistic bully, an invention of human beings who don't want to know what God's love feels like.

 

Jen

Edited by canajan, eh?
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Guest wayfarer2k
This is how it looks in parenting styles:
  • Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and directive, but not responsive. "They are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62). These parents provide well-ordered and structured environments with clearly stated rules. Authoritarian parents can be divided into two types: nonauthoritarian-directive, who are directive, but not intrusive or autocratic in their use of power, and authoritarian-directive, who are highly intrusive.
  • Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. "They monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62).

There are two other parenting styles.

 

http://www.athealth.com/Practitioner/ceduc...tingstyles.html

 

Thanks, OA. Could you give me, maybe from your own experiences, how these two styles would handle a similar situation? I'm interested in knowing the similarities and contrasts.

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Guest wayfarer2k
Wayfarer, I'm having a hard time reconciling what you wrote above with what you said to me on the "New Sunday School Curriculum" thread, where you revealed a whole cartload of animosity and not much love.

 

Jen, I explained to you on that thread that my post was tongue-in-cheek. Anyway, don't worry about it, I'm outta here. My interactions here have shown me that, as the posting guidelines say, my views with regard to Christianity differ significantly from those that I encounter here.

 

Best wishes for you and the other members of this forum. May you grow in life and love.

 

Bill Mc

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Jen, I explained to you on that thread that my post was tongue-in-cheek. Anyway, don't worry about it, I'm outta here. My interactions here have shown me that, as the posting guidelines say, my views with regard to Christianity differ significantly from those that I encounter here.

 

Best wishes for you and the other members of this forum. May you grow in life and love.

 

Bill Mc

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Thanks, OA. Could you give me, maybe from your own experiences, how these two styles would handle a similar situation? I'm interested in knowing the similarities and contrasts.

 

The best way I can explain it is that the first demands obedience while the second grows the child to be able to make moral decisions on their own. My parents were more of the second with a touch of the first. At a certain point children are able to understand why decisions are made, why things are contradicting. When they get to that point they need to see more of the grey areas in life. Young children are very black and white in their thinking so that approach is okay and works temporarily. The first parent will still be trying dictate every bit of their teenage child's life even when they have shown that they are quite responsible. Where as the second parent will give some leeway and only reign back in when the child needs it. The goal of the first parent is control. The goal of the 2nd parent is ending up with an independent adult.

 

Hope that helps.

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Jen, I explained to you on that thread that my post was tongue-in-cheek. Anyway, don't worry about it, I'm outta here. My interactions here have shown me that, as the posting guidelines say, my views with regard to Christianity differ significantly from those that I encounter here.

 

Best wishes for you and the other members of this forum. May you grow in life and love.

 

Bill Mc

 

Hey Bill,

 

I'll second AITNOP - if you feel it's best for you to leave, then of course do that, but I'd love to have you stay! I appreciate your comments/insights! :)

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