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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What Part of “No One Knows” Do We Not Understand?

Well here we go again—another occasion with another failed end-time prediction. The latest in the emergent amorphous collection of failed end-time predictions relates to what is popularly termed “the Four Blood Moons.” Some of the proponents of the Four Blood Moons prophecy suggested that Sukkot in September of 2015, following the lunar eclipse of the supermoon, would roll forth the end of the world as we know it. This follows a vast array of similar predictions, repackaged of course, which suggest the ultimate end of the world as we know it. Yet here we are. You are reading an article written by the author in a time that has come as a postscript to yet another failed “prophecy.”[1] Unfortunately, the Four Blood Moons has joined a growing list of failed prophecies including, but not limited to: Grigori Rasputin’s claim that the would end on August 23, 2013; the Mayan Apocalypse of December 21, 2012; Ronald Weinland’s prediction of May 27, 2012; Harold Camping’s prediction of October 21, 2011; and even a suggestion by famed televangelist Pat Robertson that the Lord would return on April 29, 2007 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events).[2] This leaves me with one thought…

WHAT PART OF “NO ONE KNOWS THE DAY OR THE HOUR” DO WE NOT UNDERSTAND???

 Subscribers of this website know that I had great concerns pertaining to this recent Four Blood Moons hype. You can read my comments at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/does-the-four-blood-moon-prophecy-biblically-remain-in-orbit/. Yet, this fiasco brings me back to a pertinent message given by Jesus.

Jesus said in his famed message titled by scholars the “Olivet Discourse,”

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, not the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:35-38).[3]

In this article, I would like to approach two concurrent issues as it pertains to such failed eschatological claims: 1) truths found in Jesus’ teaching, and 2) the problems behind eschatological date-setting.

Certain Truths of the End Found in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse.

From Matthew 24:35-38, one will note four important truths as it relates to the end-times paradigm. These four truths represent information that is knowable concerning the end-times.

1. God’s Word will endure. Despite what takes place, God’s word will remain true regardless. Instead of buying into the speculation of would-be prophets, why not rely on the sure and certain Word of God?

2. Only God the Father Almighty knows when the end will come. This is an important truth to grasp. One must wonder if Jesus’ professesed ignorance pertaining to the end-time was only limited in his human ministry?[4] That discussion is beyond the parameters of this article. Nevertheless, what should be especially noted is that ONLY the FATHER knows the time when such an event will occur. This truth presents a tremendous problem for date-setters, a problem that is addressed in the second section of this article.

3. Society will become greatly depraved towards the end. Jesus notes that the end days will be much like the early days of human history—greatly depraved. Society will morally continue down a path of depravity leading to Christ’s return. The level of depravity that resonated in Noah’s day would return before the end.

4. Life will continue as normal up until the end. Jesus teaches that the end will not necessarily include any dramatic event before his return. In fact, things appear to be a “business as usual” type of affair. People continue to marry. People continue with their daily affairs. Just as there were not indicators to the populace that a flood was coming in Noah’s day, there will likewise be no special indicators that the end will occur when it transpires–give my regards to Hollywood. The return of the Son of Man takes everyone by surprise…everyone.

Problems Found in Eschatological Date-Setting.

From the truths known by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, one will find at least three major problems behind eschatological date-setting.

1. Eschatological date-setting is blasphemous as it claims knowledge known only to God. It seems that this truth eludes many of the speculative end-times date-setters. If Jesus says that only God the Father knows the coming of the Son of Man, then it is blasphemous to claim that a person has knowledge attributed only to God. Certain truths have been revealed to humanity. God has revealed much of his character to us, as well as the pathway to salvation. However, humanity must acknowledge that much about God remains a mystery. Humanity must also acknowledge that God knows much more than we ever could. Certain things will only be known to God. Date-setters will claim, “God is giving us signs.” However, do you think that God would go against his word when he says that “no one knows save the Father alone?” Date-setting makes God to be a liar in this regard. It is due to this that I feel that date-setting comes close to, if not dives right into, the realm of blasphemy.

2. Eschatological date-setting causes an unnecessary “black-eye” to the Church. The second problem with date-setting is that failed so-called “prophecies” cause undo and unnecessary cynicism towards the Church. Many hold a resistance towards the Christian faith. Unfortunately, every failed date (as each predicted date will fail due to the truthfulness of God’s word) set by those who purport Christianity adds one more notch against Christianity for the skeptic. There is a simple solution. Stop setting dates and start focusing on the ministry of the church.

3. Eschatological date-setting redirects the known mission of the Church towards unknowable speculation. The third problem for date-setting is that such speculation unnecessarily redirects the known ministry of the church towards the speculative fascination found in eschatology. Eschatology is important, extremely important. The Church needs to know that Christ is going to return and that God is going to bring salvation and judgment in the end. However, the Church cannot forget the mission it has been given…to preach Jesus to a lost, dying world until he does return.

Conclusion

From the truths found in the Olivet Discourse to the problems found in end-times date-setting, one should see that the Christian should stay focused on what really matters. Focus on the ministry that has been given to us, while awaiting in glad trust and anticipation for the day that Christ will return. A person must ask oneself, will I place my trust in what God says about the end-times or will I trust the uncertain dramatization from the propagators of speculation? Along with John, we can say, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)! But until he does, let us focus on the calling given to us by God, so that when he comes, we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

© September 26, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] I am using “prophecy” to refer to the suggestions of end-times date-setters, not the actual fulfilled prophecies provided in the text of the Bible, many of which have been fulfilled in startling detail.

[2] Found in the 1990 book The New Millennium: What You and Your Family Can Expect in the Year 2000.

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

[4] This does not impede upon the divinity of Jesus. Even among the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) there appear to be certain roles while all three still hold to their divine status.

Those Hypocritical Christians! 4 Ways that Theological Truth Transcends Bad Behavior

For those who do not know my testimony, I left the ministry for seven years due to great doubts pertaining to the truthfulness of Christianity. I nearly became an agnostic…in fact, I seriously teetered with the idea for some time. My agnosticism wasn’t that I didn’t think that God couldn’t exist, but rather that I wasn’t sure that one could know God completely. This doubt was fueled by the lack of answers I was given by Christian leaders against the skeptical claims of the Jesus Seminar.[1] However, another element intensified the doubts that I possessed—Christian hypocrisy; that is to say, Christians who claimed to be devout but dismissed Christian teachings when it was convenient for them. Could I devote myself to something that held so many that refused to take its claims seriously?

I am not alone. In fact, one of the top-5 excuses given by those who do not want to attend church pertains to “those hypocritical Christians!” To make matters worse, the truthfulness of Christianity is often gauged by the behavior of its adherents. But is this a legitimate? Is the truthfulness of a movement based upon the actions of its adherents? As God brought me back to a strong faith which led me back into the ministry by apologetics, I learned that truth is transcendent. That is, truth exists beyond the scope of human opinions and/or actions. The truthfulness of any movement is found in four realms. It is within these realms that Christianity should be tested and not the actions of some of its so-called adherents.

1. Truth is transcendent in its reality.

Truth is not something that works for one person and not for another. Norman Geisler defines truth as that which “can be understood both from what it is and from what it is not” (Geisler 1999, 741). I really like the Greek term aletheia. It is the term that is translated as “truth.” Louw and Nida define the term as the following: “ἀλήθεια, ας f: the content of that which is true and thus in accordance with what actually happened—‘truth.’” (Louw and Nida 1996, 672). In other words, truth is defined as that which is in accordance to reality. Jesus uses the term aletheia when saying the “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).[2] In this one simple teaching, Jesus notes that truth exists, truth is knowable, and that truth is transformative. It can be demonstrated that Jesus is a historical person and that the New Testament is reliable. It can be demonstrated that God’s existence is a necessity. Thus, certain truths presented in the Bible can be supported by evidence. The reality of these truths transcends the bad behaviors of those claiming to be a Christian.

As this pertains to bad behavior with some of a movement’s adherents, one should note that truth transcends bad behavior. Allow me to illustrate. I am a huge Green Bay Packers fan. I love the team, I love the family atmosphere, I love that the team is in a small town, and I love the great history with the franchise. Nevertheless, the team can have a few bad moments. For instance, on January 18, 2015, the Green Bay Packers led the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game 19-7 entering into the 4th quarter. However, disaster struck and the Packers ended up losing to the Seahawks 28-22 in overtime. The Seahawks would go on to the 49th Super Bowl and Packers fans were left wondering, “What happened?” But, does this one bad play negate the 13 championships that the Packers had previously won? Does the one bad play negate the history of the team beginning on August 11, 1919 in a “dingy second-floor editorial room of the old Green Bay Press-Gazette building, located on Cherry Street in downtown Green bay” (www.packers.com/history/birth-of-a-team-and-a-legend) by the Indian Packing Company? The obvious answer is “no.” The history of the team transcends one bad game. The same is true for Christianity. The bad behaviors of some Christians do not discredit the historical reality of Christianity.

2. Truth is transcendent in its founder.

If one desires to know the truthfulness of a particular movement, one should evaluate the founder of the movement. For instance, if one desires to know why Protestantism began, then one needs to evaluate Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the early reformers. Why did they split from the Catholic Church? If one desires to know about Buddhism, then one should desire to know more about Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha. The same is true with Christianity. If one desires to know about what Christianity stands for, look to its founder. What did Jesus say about himself? While space does not allow us to provide a full treatment of this issue, a person can tell a great deal about Jesus claim in saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:1-2, 6). Or, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).[3] Paul, a former enemy of Christ and later servant for Christ, wrote pertaining to Jesus that “he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Look to Jesus for the case for Christianity and not to the bad behavior of some who claim to be of Christ.

3. Truth is transcendent in its claims.

The truthfulness of any religion or philosophy must be held by the claims made by the particular belief system. Christianity holds to certain foundational tenets: 1) the truth is knowable, 2) God exists, 3) God created all, 4) humanity is fallen, 5) Jesus came to redeem humanity through his crucifixion and resurrection, 6) salvation is found in Jesus, and 7) God will judge the living and the dead. Do the claims of Christianity match with reality?

A full treatment of this topic is not possible within one article. However, to find the truthfulness in Christianity’s claims requires one to investigate the essence of truth. Is truth knowable? To claim that truth is unknowable is a self-refuting claim, thus one can assert that truth is a reality and knowable. Second, God’s existence is a necessity as the existence of anything would require a transcendent intelligence: this supports the 2nd and 3rd tenets. Third, it is a certainty that human beings are not perfect individuals and are capable of doing great evil; making the 4th tenet intelligible. Jesus of Nazareth is a person of history. Manuscript evidence as well as other historical methods demonstrate great reasonability to the 5th tenet. If the first 5 tenets are true, then this lends credence to the 6th and 7th. An investigation of such claims requires much more depth than what is allowable in this article. Nevertheless, one should note that the truthfulness of Christianity does not rest upon its adherents, but rather upon the truth claims presented by Jesus and the early church.

4. Truth is transcendent in its parameters.

As this article has addressed the issue of truth compared to the bad behaviors of particular adherents, it should be noted that truth itself provides parameters. If someone were to ask for a wooden pencil, certain parameters must be met. The thing must be a writing instrument. The instrument should contain lead. The instrument should be made from a wooden casing. These are the parameters that constitute what is commonly known as a pencil. It should be noted that certain things are expected from one who is considered to be a Christian.

Certain parameters exist for a person to be considered a “Christian.” The apostle John in his first letter provides certain parameters that a genuine Christian will possess. They are: holiness (1 John 3:9; 5:18); love for others (1 John 4:7); acceptance of the truth found in Jesus (1 John 5:1); perseverance in one’s faith (1 John 5:1); and the testimony of God through the Holy Spirit’s presence (1 John 5:9-10). These parameters help one to determine those who are truly from God and those who are not (Matthew 7:15-20).

Conclusion

Have you been hurt in church? Have you been hurt by a person who claims to be a Christian? There is a saying that says, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” When one dismisses Christianity due to the bad actions of those claiming to be of Christ, a person does precisely just that. They dismiss claims that are transcendent due to individuals who may or may not be of Christ, or may be those who have simply lost their way. Understand that God’s existence and the truthfulness of Christ are a reality. If you have been hurt, incline yourself to the healing hands of God. For it is Christ who says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). If you learn the transcendent truth found in Christ, you may find that you will be given the power to forgive those who have hurt you and help transform a bad situation into a much better one.

Sources Cited

 “Birth of a Team and a Legend.” Packers.com. Accessed September 21, 2015. http://www.packers.com/history/birth-of-a-team-and-a-legend.html.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Copyright September 21, 2015. Brian Chilton

[1] This is not meant to degrade anyone. Many of those leaders had not been met with such questions. This should, however, show the great need for apologetics in the modern church.

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

[3] Some hold that the statement is that of the apostle John summarizing Jesus’ earlier statements in the chapter. Nonetheless, the words relate back to the teaching of Jesus so they are still genuine to the teachings of Christ.