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Authority


GeorgeW
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The question of authority comes up periodically in our discussions, particularly with respect to Holy Scriptures. I would like to explore this issue in more detail.

 

I would propose that authority is asserted implicitly when the source is accepted as correct or valid because of his/hers/its authoritative status, not on the strength of the point, the arguments or conclusion. Once authority is accepted, we take the statements to be valid because of the source.

 

A test as to whether a source is authoritative, I suggest, is when we no longer believe that it can be wrong. As an example, I cannot recall anyone stating in this forum, or elsewhere for that matter, that Jesus was wrong on any point. Those who disagree with a particular biblical passage attributable to him either propose he didn’t actually say it, it is wrongly translated, or he intended it metaphorically or symbolically. Statements attributed to Jesus with which we agree, we tend to accept as authentic and correctly conveyed. This allows us to implicitly agree on the authority of the source but disagree completely as to what the source intended.

 

What sayeth PCs?

 

George

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Geaorge,

 

I understand "authoritative" in a somewhat different manner. An authoritative source means, to me, one who has studied an area of inquiry in greater detail than myself. However, (the comma again) also leads me to note that authoritative sources do not always agree. I like this. It gives me alternatives for consideration.

 

I also have a tendency for creating puns. When authoritiative become authority, the comma turns into a coma.

 

Myron

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Geaorge,

 

I understand "authoritative" in a somewhat different manner. An authoritative source means, to me, one who has studied an area of inquiry in greater detail than myself. However, (the comma again) also leads me to note that authoritative sources do not always agree. I like this. It gives me alternatives for consideration.

 

I also have a tendency for creating puns. When authoritiative become authority, the comma turns into a coma.

 

Myron

Myron,

 

Yes, 'authoritative' can be used for those who have a high level of knowledge or expertise in a particular field. This is, I think, related but not precisely the same as with scriptures or religious figures.

 

George

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George,

 

I don't have all my thoughts in order, but I'm reminded of Peter chopping off a guy's ear while defending Jesus (something that Jesus wasn't a big fan of). I'm also reminded of the fact that the Gospels are full of instances where someone thinks they know Jesus, and then Jesus corrects them. I'm unsure that I'd agree that "authoritative" necessarily means something inline with the above, a rigid and ossified interpretation of precisely how something matters, an institutionalized structure that has more to do with perpetuating power and privilege than anything else. Now, obviously, authority is used like that all the time, just as family values is a euphamism for hetero-normative patriarchy, free market for plutocracy, and so on. However, I'm unsure if I want to reduce authority to its "corrupted" form.

 

As I said, I don't have my thoughts in order, so I can't quite make the turn toward positive definitions, but definitions that set up an implication that (all) authority is mere ideology/idolotry may throw some babies out with bathwater.

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I understand "authoritative" in a somewhat different manner. An authoritative source means, to me, one who has studied an area of inquiry in greater detail than myself. However, (the comma again) also leads me to note that authoritative sources do not always agree. I like this. It gives me alternatives for consideration.

 

Indeed. Viva la heterarchy!

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From John Dominic Crossan, Preface to In Search of Paul:

 

Paul and the Christian Community. In 1906 a small cave was discovered cut into the rock on the northern slope of Bülbül Dag, high above the ruins of ancient Ephesus, just off the mid-Aegean coast of Turkey. To the right of the entrance and beneath layers of plaster, Karl Herold of the Austrian Archaeological Institute uncovered two sixth-century images of Saint Thecla and Saint Paul.

 

They both have the same height and are therefore iconographically of equal importance. They both have their right hands raised in teaching gesture and are therefore iconographically of equal authority. But while the eyes and upraised hand of Paul are untouched, some later person scratched out the eyes and erased the upraised hand of Thecla. If the eyes of both images had been disfigured, it would be simply another example of iconoclastic antagonism since that was believed to negate the spiritual power of an icon without having to destroy it completely. But here only Thecla’s eyes and her authoritative hand are destroyed. Original imagery and defaced imagery represent a fundamental clash of theology. An earlier image in which Thecla and Paul were equally authoritative apostolic figures has been replaced by one in which the male is apostolic and authoritative and the female is blinded and silenced. And even the cave-room’s present name, St. Paul’s Grotto, continues that elimination of female-male equality once depicted on its walls.

 

Myron

Edited by minsocal
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George,

I think this is in the middle of our relationship with someone we consider to be an authority.We have collected enough 'data' books, lectures, to experience the person's knowledge or ? as authoritative.

 

I would propose that authority is asserted implicitly when the source is accepted as correct or valid because of his/hers/its authoritative status, not on the strength of the point, the arguments or conclusion. Once authority is accepted, we take the statements to be valid because of the source.

 

But, as Myron says, distance from comma to coma is very short if we have unrealistic expectations that the source is never wrong.

 

When authoritiative become authority, the comma turns into a coma.

Even Jesus was not right all the time. The Urantia Papers, 156.1, presents a rewrite of this passage with a common interpretation, which protects his perfectedness; that he is reflecting and confronting the disciples ideas about Jesus's ministry and this woman's place in it. But I think a better reading is that Jesus didn't understand the boundaries of his mission.

 

Matthew 15

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

 

I do agree that we find sources that we return to over and over again but there comes a time when we realize that not everything is equally valuable. Linus Pauling's opinions on vitamin C were probably not of equal value to his opinions about chemistry.

 

Dutch

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From John Dominic Crossan, Preface to In Search of Paul:

 

Myron

Myron,

 

I think Paul is an interesting case of authority. First, I am proposing that all (okay, the overwhelming majority) of Christians consider Jesus authoritative, again using my proposed 'wrongness test' - do we challenge their ideas or reinterpret. But, Paul seems to fit somewhere along a continuum. Conservative Christians would consider Paul authoritative where more progressive Christians are willing to consider him more human and can disagree with him.

 

Maybe authority is scalar rather than polar. If so, I would put Jesus to Christians, Moses to Jews and Muhammad to Muslims at the top of the scale. It would be absolute blasphemy, as an example, for a Muslim to state that Muhammad was wrong on some question although they could argue all day about what is intended by a particular verse.

 

George

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