Take It On Good Authority

Posted on January 17, 2006
Filed Under Timeless Questions | Leave a Comment

Today it is not hard to find a general distrust of people in positions of authority and not without some good reasons. Authority has been abused in business, government, and at home often times. Yet, authority is the foundation by which we know almost everything. C. S. Lewis writes, “Believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority.” In other words, most of what you believe is based on authority and not experience or observation. I have never been to India, the North Pole, or Jupiter, but I hold numerous beliefs about all three places based on the observations of world travelers and astronomers. Lewis goes on to explain that, “Every historical statement in the world is believed on authority.” As an example, The Encyclopedia Britannica tells the story of the Normandy Invasion “through the spoken recollections of veterans who fought it, the newsreels that brought the news home, and the written words of historians who have dedicated years to studying the great campaign” Three significant areas for gathering evidence to establish an authoritative account of D-Day.

Spiritual truths and questions can be the most troublesome type to take on authority. After all, there have been so many different people throughout the centuries who have purported to have authority to speak for God. Ultimately the spiritual area is no different than any other. To decide what is true a person ought to test those who claim to be an authority and determine their level of trustworthiness. For example, Jesus Christ once told a man who was paralyzed, in the presence of his friends who had carried him to Jesus and a crowd of onlookers, that his offenses against God had been forgiven. Jesus knew that those present might not accept that statement without some outward proof so he then told the paralyzed man to, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home” which he proceeded to do (Matthew 9:6). The miracle they could see lent credibility to the statement Jesus made which they could not see.

So, when it comes to questions about spiritual truths, your faith in God or the Normandy invasion during World War II, don’t be afraid to “take it on good authority.”


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