Where is Your Ultimate Authority Found? The 7 Loci of Authority

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).[1] Jesus’ classic statement is found in his famous sermon named the “Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus says that whatever is most central to a person will control that person. That central focus serves as a chain reaction which penetrates every aspect of a person’s life. So what controls your life? At the time that this article was written, I have over 12 years of ministry experience under my belt. That being said, I have found that seven categories normally serve as the central focus for a particular person. The central focus determines how the person views the world around them and how the person processes information. We will call these seven categories the “locus of authority.”

1) The Locus of Authority in the Self.

Many in the secular humanist camp places ultimate authority in what a person can know or do. Ultimately, the authority is found in the self. When one holds the self as one’s locus of authority, everything in the world revolves around the person’s ego. It is a self-obsession. However, can truth be found only in the self? Ultimate truth cannot be determined only by the self. It exists beyond the scope of person’s opinions.[2] 10 times 10 will always equal 100 regardless of a person’s being. Also, the person will find that there are times when he/she must depend on someone outside of oneself. Therefore, the self is a poor avenue to find one’s locus of authority.

2) The Locus of Authority in the Family.

Some place the locus of their authority in their family. Obviously, one should care for the needs of one’s family. A person’s family should hold a high value to them. However, often people will demote truth claims and one’s moral convictions if a person’s family member is involved in some false or immoral behavior. The person who holds the locus of authority in the family will use excuses like, “Well, he couldn’t help that he robbed the bank. Others made him do it. He is really a good boy at heart.” Or, “Well, she has cheated on her husband five times. But, her husband is a lowlife anyhow.” Or even, “That video may show my son attacking that other person. But, I think the video lied.” In such cases, truth and morality are lowered or eliminated to excuse the bad behavior of the member of one’s family. This is why many change their outlook on particular issues if a member of their home is engaged in such an activity. Problematically, such a mentality actually enables further bad behavior from the family member.

3) The Locus of Authority in the Culture.

Some hold the locus of their authority in their culture. This is far more prevalent than one might think. Throughout history, people have left their morality and truth behind just to gain popularity with those nearest to them. Churches have allowed errors and even perhaps heresies in their midst all in the name of tradition. Churches that hold an “us versus them” mentality are especially prone for this mindset. Lynchings, slavery, and other egregious actions have been permitted, sometimes even in the name of God, only due to the person holding their locus of authority in the culture. But what if the culture is engaged in immoral activities? In such a case, culture fails as the ultimate authority.

4) The Locus of Authority in Entertainment–Sports/Hobbies.

For some, the locus of their authority is found in a far baser genre—that of entertainment. Some will shift their entire schedules around in order to participate in a particular sport or hobby. Their authority is found in the governing bodies of particular sports. If everyone in the sport chews gum, the person will chew gum. If everyone chews tobacco, so will they. If everyone free falls off a cliff, they will join the flight. In schools that hold entertainment as the locus of their authority, athletes will be held to a far lower academic and moral standards than the regular student. Entertainment should not serve as the locus of one’s authority as it is flimsy and holds few standards.

5) The Locus of Authority in Academics/Science.

For some, the locus of one’s authority is found in the established acceptance of particular theories and models. However, John Lennox warned in a conference a few years back that one should “remember that at one time academia thought that the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth” (Lennox 2012, NCCA). While discoveries and the like should be accepted and understood, it must be remembered that in the wise words of Frank Turek, “science doesn’t say anything, scientists do. Scientists are the ones who must gather the data and interpret it properly. Science doesn’t do that” (Turek 2014, 146). It is important to note that data must be interpreted and that theories often change. Thus, there must be a more stabilized form of authority for a person’s life.

6) The Locus of Authority in Politics–National/Government.

For many, the locus of one’s authority is found in their political system. Atrocious activities throughout history have been permitted from national and political regimes without as much as a peep of disdain from the faithful. Even now, people allow for the murder of innocent babies and immoral behaviors all in the name of politics. If one allows a political system to hold the locus of authority in one’s life, rest assured that such an authority will not afford ultimate truth and morality.

7) The Locus of Authority in God.

Thus far, one has found bad examples of ultimate authority. Luckily, there is yet another category. This is the authority to which Jesus was directing his hearers, as he does today. The ultimate authority for a person’s life should be found in Almighty God. God is the best basis for one’s locus of authority. First, God is unchangeable. The writer of Hebrews notes that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:9). Malachi speaking for God writes, “For I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6). James notes that good gifts come from God “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Second, God’s morality does not change as he is the ultimate good. The psalmist writes that God’s “steadfast love is good” (Psalm 109:21). On certain occasions someone will acknowledge God in a tripartite “holy” which demonstrates God’s ultimate goodness (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8).

Conclusion

When one seeks to find an ultimate source of authority for one’s life, the authority should be unchangeable, eternally true, and morally perfect. God is the only being in heaven or on earth or under the earth that could ever meet such a standard. All other standards fail and falter. Let God be the locus of authority for your life. As Norman Geisler said, “An ultimate commitment to anything less than ultimate will not ultimately satisfy” (Geisler 2015).

Copyright. October 19, 2015. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

Geisler, Norman. “The Idea of God.” National Conference on Christian Apologetics. Lecture (2015). Calvary Church. Charlotte, NC.

Lennox, John. National Conference on Christian Apologetics. Lecture (2012). Central Church of God. Charlotte, NC.

Pascal, Blaise. Pensees and Other Writings. Translated by Honor Levi. Oxford, UK; New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Turek, Frank. Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014.

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[2] Blaise Pascal holds a wonderful point on this matter. He writes, “I feel that I might never have existed, since my self consists in my thinking. So I who think would never have existed if my had been killed before my soul had been created. So I am not a necessary being. I am neither eternal nor infinite. But I can certainly see that in nature there is an essential, eternal, and infinite being” (Pascal IX.167, 44).

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