Undermining Authority

Quotes are from
Systematic Theology – Authority
Undermining Authority
R. J. R. Rushdoony

Over the centuries there has been a continuing war against authority often openly, often as an undercurrent. We’re speaking here of Godly authority, not rebellion against ungodly authority.

True enough. Men have been rebellious since Adam, and sometimes they organize their rebellion into systematic attacks or conspiracies.

Godly authority. However open rebellion against authority is often less damaging then the covert rebellion which hides under the mask of a seeming orthodoxy, a seeming respect for authority but actually undermines it. Very often covert undermining authority comes with an insistence on greater authoritarianism.

Note: these conspiracies will lose.

But, even though they will lose, they can still cause harm, even immense harm, while they have power and influence.

Let us begin with some obvious examples. Emanuel Swedenborg whose influence in the English speaking world began about 1788 has been very influential in Western history. His influence on English and American writers of the last century is enormous. Emerson very extensively shows Swedenborg’s influence. One almost needs to know what Swedenborg said in order to decode Melville’s novels with their highly involved symbolism. According to Swedenborg the whole of the Bible was a coded book and He only had the key. And so in order to understand the Bible you had to accept Swedenborg and his theory of correspondences, his decoding, as authoritative. He gave a symbolic meaning to every passage in the Bible, and established himself as the only decoder. Thus he established himself as the only mediator between God and man. This of course has been the mark of cultists over the centuries. Now the sad fact is that all too many Catholic and Protestant scholars over the years have been guilty of a like esoteric approach. In the medieval emphasis for example there were four levels of meaning. Authority was thereby transferred from the Bible to the erudite commentators so that unless you understood them and the original languages somehow you were incapable of understanding the plain words of scripture.

At the time, various churchmen wanted to position themselves as the intercessor between God and Man – nevermind the fact that that position has already been taken.

They failed, so the leading lights of Western Anti-Christian rebellion shifted to Deism, Atheism, Darwinism, and Marxism. Cast out of heavenly districts and unable to control the Church, they brought destruction on earth by the might of the State.

Another subversion is pietism, both medieval and modern. The plain doctrine of scripture and the authority of God and His word are decried in favor of what they call “heart religion”, and they will accuse others of having it up here in the head but not in the heart. Well that’s nonsense, man is a unity and to break him up that way is ridiculous. Moreover pietism has led to a radical egocentricity; it makes the center of religion not God but the individual soul, its salvation and its experience.

There is more than one way to set up an idol.

Now our salvation is the necessary beginning of our life as Christians. But our salvation is not the be all and end all of faith.

It isn’t all about me.

It’s all about Christ and His Kingdom.

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and our Lord said “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” or, more modern word, His justice. And all these things that the gentiles seek, the people of the world desire, will be added unto you. So that whatever it is we want, whether it be happiness, peace of mind, you name it. All these are by-products according to our Lord to seeking first the kingdom of God and His justice.

The obedient son puts God and His Will first. He is willing to submit to discipline, and to exercise patience, faith, and perseverance.

The obedient son puts God and the service of others, before his own ego and comfort.

But pietism winds up always in pious gush as though the be-all and end-all of religion was that you feel good in relationship to God. I don’t think it’s important to God that you feel good, it is important to Him that you obey Him. Our Lord in facing the cross prayed “oh my Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt.” Pietism doesn’t have that spirit. It sets aside the plain, the law word of God in favor of emotional experiences, and it is therefore erosive of authority.

The disobedient son puts himself first. He despises discipline, and will not exercise either patience, or faith, or perseverance.

The disobedient son puts his own ego and comfort before God and any service to others.

There is a parallel movement in the modern age to pietism in the camp of humanism. It is romanticism. Romanticism is the exaltation of feeling and of experience. And there has always been a close connection between Romanticism and revolution. In fact the scholars have pointed out before you had revolution and the beginning of the age of revolution of the French revolution onto the present; you had the rise of the Romantic Movement. Well now, that seems strange. Romantic poets beginning the Romantic Movement, how could that lead to revolution? What it did was this; with the Romantic poets and the romantic artists generally the whole emphasis of man’s life and the universe was centered on personal feelings. And this kind of emphasis let to the demand which we see around us today, instant gratification. And in an age of instant gratification you have what you see around us today, the drug culture. Young and old going for all kinds of drugs because they want instant gratification. Now that’s romanticism. Well this romantic demand for instant gratification created the age of revolution, the undermining of all authority. Because what did the romantic say when he went into politics? “If we do not get tomorrow the political order we want, no if we do not get it today, we’re going to destroy everything.” And every time they wind up with something hellish, because they’re not ready to work. Instant gratification is anti-work in its outlook, in its mentality and hence is radically destructive.

“Reality revolves around what I feel, and what I want!”

No, it doesn’t.

Note that many modern scientific researchers don’t actually believe in objective reality, the natural consequence of hating and despising the Outside Observer and Judge. Instead, reality is supposedly created by the minds of men (see: Kant).

“Which men?”

“Why, the Right Sort of Men, of course! The ones with the proper, State-backed credentials.”

And so the Romantic Movement with its emphasis on feeling and instant gratification has led to the age of revolution, the age where junior highs today in our cities, and sometimes not even only in the cities, are heavily into drugs. One man who was converted and had been a drug pusher said that there was not a single junior high in any metropolitan area where you could not get drugs from a pusher in a classroom. Every class room had them, beginning in junior high. Instant gratification, our culture promotes it; therefore it is a revolutionary age and it destroys continually. Because “if I I don’t get what I want now, I’m going to smash everything.” That’s romanticism. And of course the Romantic believes that his good will replaces the necessity for work, of course he assumes he has a good will. And he assumes that with his good will he can create, if he’s only allowed to smash everything, paradise on earth tomorrow.

Granted: Marxists are great at smashing everything. Also, killing people, endless lying, poisoning the land, and oppressing everyone, everywhere.

I recommend that we avoid the paradise of Marx.

Now this confidence in the will of man is shared by arminian theology within the church. Thomas Boston, one of the great Scottish divines whose dates are 1676-1732 in his Human Nature and its Fourfold State writes sometimes with humor about this belief that men have that they’re going to get from here to paradise just by willing it. That here they are and they’re going to accept Jesus Christ and suddenly they’re going to be as it were, in heaven. And he said, and I quote “and how is it that those who magnify the power of their free will do not confirm their opinion before the world by an ocular demonstration in a practice as far above others in holiness, as the opinion of their natural ability is above that of others? Or is it maintained only for the protection of lust which men may hold fast as long as they please, and when they have no more use for them throw them off in a moment and leap out of Delilah’s lap into Abraham’s bosom.” Well there’s a great deal of thinking in religion and in politics, and in economics that you can, as it were, leap out of Delilah’s lap and to Abraham’s bosom just when you make up your mind to do so. 

Behind evil kings are evil prophets and priests.

Also, behind delusional kings are delusional prophets and priests.

But it doesn’t work that way. Biblical authority is eroded by false theologies of this sort. And theologies can be false not only in terms of bad doctrine, but in terms of the abuse of good doctrine. To believe in God’s grace is necessary. To believe in God’s regenerating power, sanctification, and in His providential grace, is the foundation of the Christian life. But God’s grace is also energizing. It does not lead to quietism; it does not leave to egocentricity, but to Godly activity. Where there is grace there will be the fruits of grace, and it is this our Lord is talking about in the passage which we read, in particular in verse 31.

God’s grace is energizing. It gives life to His people, His obedient sons.

A light to our feet, and a guide to our steps.

God’s grace does not lead to the grave of idolatry, or of escapism from His Law and His Requirements. Instead, His grace permits us to focus on Him, and draw from the Holy Spirit the ability to obey His Law, uphold His requirements, live a life that is pleasing and godly and impactful.

We are called to work. Not to run and hide from the world.

This means that we are going to take our licks, and sometimes, we will be defeated, even humiliated by Our Contemptuous Betters.

This is where humility, the willingness to learn, determination and endurance come in. After all, the Vietcong lost every battle against the United States, and the Taliban made no dramatic attack against US forces. And there never was a violent Christian uprising against Imperial Rome, or even the Soviet Union for that matter.

The winners simply decided to pay the price to win. That, coupled with substantial public support and a safe zone to recuperate and rebuild, got them what they wanted.

Our safe zone is faith in God – something our Betters know well, which is why they poured attack after attack on the veracity of the Bible. But their lies – and their victories – have caught up to them. They have their abortions, but no children; their armies, but no military victories; their univocal academic-media complex, but ever-declining trust.

Lots of power, yes: but declining authority, and no respect.

The future does not belong to them.

The future belongs to those who have faith in God, and His Law-Word, as inscribed in the Bible.

In verse 33 the word “watch” appears, again in verse 35 “watch, and pray, watch ye therefore.” Now the word watch in the Greek expresses not merely wakefulness but the watchfulness of those who are intent upon a thing. The watchfulness of an active working person, of someone’s who working on something and has to keep his eye on it because he doesn’t want it to go wrong. Whose working, let us say with a piece of equipment, and he has to keep his eyes on it because that’s his job and if he doesn’t pay attention, something can go astray. It’s a careful work, it’s a technical work, it’s something that requires his undivided attention. So our Lord says watch, concentrate on it.

God commands us to watch.

Not to watch the skies, passively waiting for His appearing.

We are to watch what we are doing, so we do a good job, respected by both God and Man.

And then He says the son of man is as a man taking a far journey who left his home and gave authority to his servants, and every man his work. Authority is there exousia, the word which we dealt with previously which means authority and power both, and is sometimes translated authority, sometimes power, sometimes freedom, the freedom of a person who has authority and power. And he unites this, he gave authority, he gave every man his work and the two are one thought. When Christ gives us a work to do He gives us authority commensurate with the task so that authority is related essentially to the work. And the word gave applies to authority and to work, so when God gives us something to do, He gives us an authority in relationship to that.

God has appointed each and every Christian, man and woman and child, with a task (usually several tasks!) suitable to our wealth, authority, and ability. The more seriously we take God, the more likely we will understand and work on our assignment. The more we work and pray, the more likely God will grant us success, granted by the Holy Sprit, Godly Living, and “Fortuitous Accidents”. And success leads to more responsibility, more tasks, and the possibility to more honour and a greater impact for Christ and His Kingdom.

It’s time for the Good Guys to win.

And the Bad Guys to lose.

Take a very simple illustration when God makes us parents. It’s a work to do, and it’s an authority that goes with that task. The two are related, we cannot separate them. So that wherever we have a task we have an authority, and the two are essentially related.  Authority and power are undermined where a legitimate calling is undermined. If you take away a man’s work from him, you take away his authority; and where you have an interference with a man’s freedom to work you have an interference with that’s man authority. Where you have the federal or state government stepping in to a unwarranted degree to interfere with the man’s work there is an undermining of his authority. The same is true if the union or the employer does it and treats him as though he were an incompetent boob. His authority is undermined, and his work is undermined.

Pagans — especially Western pagans with a taste for government paychecks — either distrust God, or out-and-out hate Him. But they are extremely eager to substitute the State for God, because the State has the power to imprison and take and punish and kill.

And Our Betters have a deep respect for power.

A certain craving for it, you might say.

Power-hungry idolators should not have authority over Christians.

A man has his own property, his own life, his own liberty. Perhaps his own business as well. These are granted by God, and that man will be held accountable for how he uses these gifts by God.

It is not the place of the State to demand that it be given an account. This is idolatry, and therefore evil.

The State is to punish theft and murder. It is to uphold the Law of God, and to be a servant of Jesus Christ and His Law-Word.

And not pretend to be God Himself.

It’s related to the fact that in every area people are treating one another as though they were children to be controlled and manipulated as though they had no authority. State officials lose authority as their work ceases to be useful and becomes oppressive. They don’t have any real authority; they may have power, but not authority. Pastors whose teaching shows very little faithfulness to the word of God undermine thereby their own authority, no matter how much they may seek to exalt it.

This reminds me: it’s time for God’s people to stop crying out for milk, and start chewing on the meat.

There is a relationship between authority and work, an essential relationship to separate the one from the other is to harm both. The Lord makes this connection in this passage as He speaks of his second coming. We are specifically told we cannot know the specifics of His return, and it is disobedience on our part to pry into this. That’s why rapture fever is dangerous and wrong, because people are thinking about being raptured to heaven when they’ve got a job to do and they should be doing it.

Hal Lindsey’s book The Late, Great Planet Earth was published in 1970. Pegging 40 years as a generation, we can make a rough guess that 1970-2010 was almost completely wasted time, so far as the expansion of the Kingdom of God is concerned.

(It was actually a lot longer — with the pious submitting to humanists since about 1500, ever since the churchmen decided to despise God’s Law and Authority over the State *waves to Luther and Calvin* — but let’s focus on the more recent bit of craven behaviour.)

We need to regain all the ground Lindsey and his types lost.

Then, we need to press on, to gain new ground for Christ.

Enough powerless, faithless wandering in the desert. It’s time for the giants squatting on God’s Land to get their bones shattered.

And there is a threat implicit in our Lord’s statement, a warning “watch.” If they have not kept their watchfulness, their wakefulness, their concentration upon their task they will find the Lord to condemn them when He returns. Thus our Lord’s point in all this is not to be watchful for his coming in order to be ready with an impressive show, but that we be intent on the exercise of our authority and calling because our Lord and judge will surely return and will demand an accounting of our work.

God is no respecter of persons: He will judge us with the same yardstick as He will use for Lindsey. Or the solid Evangelical Ravi Zacharias, for that matter.

Remember, and fear.

And get to work.

There’s so much nonsense that is preached and taught today that is really disrespectful of God’s authority and of the dignity of His word. I shall never forget when our Martha came home from Christian school one day and they’d had somebody in chapel who’d gotten the children all worked up about the supposedly any moment return of Christ, and “what will He find you doing?” And this had the children in a dither, what if they were sitting on the potty when He came? Well Dorothy straightened out Martha on that in a hurry. What the Lord expects to find us doing is what we are to do day by day, meeting our responsibilities, and such teaching is nonsense because our Lord does not want us to do anything but to use the authority and the work He has given us to seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. If the church does not do its work it has no authority, if a believer does not do his work he too has no authority. When such is the case the church faces the world, maybe as an important body with a lot of fine buildings and a great deal of money; but not as the bride of Christ, not as the instrument of the King of glory. Formal correctness does not make the man, nor the church. Human authorities are derived from God and are conditional upon faithfulness to an appointed task. Our Lord said “by their fruits shall ye know them” anything which subverts that word undermines authority.

We must have good fruits, to present to our King.

And, if we can, more and more fruits, and better and better fruits as well.

And woe onto those who hinder the growth of His Kingdom.

Or cause His Name to be despised and held in contempt.

“…our Lord does not want us to do anything but to use the authority and the work He has given us to seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. If the church does not do its work it has no authority, if a believer does not do his work he too has no authority.”

But, if we are doing His Work, HIs Way — in accordance to His Law-Word, and directed by the Holy Spirit — then we do gain authority.

Authority that is upheld by God Himself, and is therefore more potent, more dominant, more effective, than the entire unified voice of the Establishment and all of its Betters, put together.

Fear ye the Lord.


Appendix: The Failure of Conspiracies

Over half a century ago, Ludwig von Mises made a crucial observation.

“The capitalistic social order, therefore, is an economic democracy in the strictest sense of the word. In the last analysis, all decisions are dependent on the will of the people as consumers. Thus, whenever there is a conflict between the consumers’ views and those of the business managers, market pressures assure that the views of the consumers win out eventually.”

I have long believed he was correct. Like Mises’ disciple Murray Rothbard, I am a student of conspiracies. They all have this in common: the seek leverage through the state. They instinctively know that Mises was correct, that they are the servants of customers in a free market order. So, they seek to rig the markets by means of the state.

Once a person comes to grips with Mises’ observation, conspiracies appear less formidable. The state is a weak reed when compared to the long-run effects of liberty. The free market prospers under liberty. It expands its control over production and distribution.

Mises’ Answer to Would-Be Conspirators: You Will Lose
Gary NortH

and

Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread (Isaiah 8:12).

Conspiracies have always been with us. They will always be with us. They come and go. Most of them have no influence. Those few that gain influence pass from the scene fairly rapidly.

There are exceptions. The main exception is central banking. The Bank of England, originally privately owned, has been plying its counterfeiting trade ever since 1694. The people connected to it have prospered. But its influence is indirect. It does not have a police force. It does not throw people in prison who disagree with it. These days, it is an arm of the British government.

Other central banks have come and gone. The main one that has come and stayed is the Federal Reserve System. Yes, it is a conspiracy. It is an organization designed to deceive the public. It was from the beginning.

[…]

The conspirators today are mostly Keynesians. They believe in the market, but they believe that the market should be directed by government policy, meaning federal deficits and monetary expansion by the central bank. They hold to a limited range of options. They are not socialists.

Communism

Most important, they are not Marxian communists. Never forget this. We have been down the road of the ultimate conspiracy. That conspiracy began when Marx and Engels began writing in the mid-1840’s. It escalated rapidly with the formation of the Bolshevik Party in Russia by Lenin. Lenin was the grand master of ad-hoc conspiratorial manipulation. But he did not have power right up until the Russian Revolution’s second phase. It was only because he was able to take advantage of historically unique conditions that prevailed in October 1917 that enabled him and his revolutionary colleagues to gain control of a huge bureaucratic government.

[…]

The Communists had the weapons of control: the secret police, control over the educational system, suppression of churches, nuclear weapons, a huge army, an international spy system, the Gulag Archipelago, a systematic worldview that extended Communist principles into every area of life, and the system of subordinate satellite nations that protected the USSR from invasion. Soviet Communism looked irresistible. Communist leaders prior to the 1980’s believed the system was irresistible. They believed in inevitable victory. And then it all died. It came down in a gigantic heap.

Any conspiracy in the West is a pale shadow of what Soviet Communism was prior to 1980.

Today, every organized group, every religious group, every special-interest group faces the decentralization of the free market. This is being driven by digital technologies that keep getting cheaper. Competing groups can get their messages to millions of people by means of social media. We are seeing fragmentation. We are seeing a loss of state legitimacy on an unprecedented scale. Fewer and fewer people trust the establishments of the world, and the establishments are not unified.

Third-Rate Conspiracies
Gary North

The New Order, a.k.a. the cold, cruel, and impersonal Empire of Man, is dying.

Christ’s Order, the living, loving, and just Kingdom of God, is rising.

Let’s get on the winning side.

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