Crisis of Authority

“Drop the word “authority” into any conversation today, and it sets off in people a whole range of different vibrations. None of us has escaped the crisis of the last two decades. The widespread, conscious revolt against all established authority—government, university, church, family, tradition, Bible—broke out in 1968 when students and workers took to the barricades in Paris and the “Free Speech” movement erupted on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. Since then some genuine gains can be registered, in that contemporary society is more open and participatory than before. But there have been serious losses too, especially in the rejection of values and standards. Anarchists, in an uneasy alliance with existentialists, declare that nothing has meaning any longer, and that therefore no intellectual or moral authority of any kind is left. The Christian evangelist who seeks to infiltrate the defenses of anarchists will not begin with the authority of the Bible, but rather with the authority of Christ. For Jesus of Nazareth remains an attractive figure to them, in spite of the fact that he somehow managed to combine with his radical challenges to tradition a strangely conservative attitude to God and to Scripture. Moreover, his humble submissiveness had a self-authenticating quality, and still has when embodied in his followers. His authority does not simply impose itself from above; it commends itself from below. It is unexpectedly liberating.” -John Stott, Understanding the Bible


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