Russell Reno: Affirming Authority

“We need authority to be ourselves.” So writes Victor Lee Austin in Up With Authority: Why We Need Authority to Flourish as Human Beings. Yes, that’s quite right, but there’s a further truth as well. We need authority so that we can become more than ourselves.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

3 comments on “Russell Reno: Affirming Authority

  1. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:

    What I really think it sugars off as is this: Parents want their children to grow up. God does not want me constantly looking to him for advice, like some 4-year-old.

    Instead, we are to follow the example we have been given — the Christ — and within that framework, God wants us to become self-reliant.

    Not self-referential, but self reliant whilst referencing God’s best plan for our lives.

    Mix those two up, or abdicate on God’s call to self-reliance … and the results will not be pretty. Self-reliant, not self-referential.

  2. Terry Tee says:

    I am now a diocesan priest but can remember that back in the days when I was a novice in a religious order, we had classes on the vows. Fr Bernard really made me think again about authority when it came to obedience. We expected him to begin with the importance of hierarchy, humility etc but instead he gave several examples from community life. His first example was the layman who was our equipment manager. ‘If Geoff tells me to put a certain kind of oil in the car I do it’ said Fr Bernard. He developed other examples and got us to see that actually we are under authority all the time, that it is normal, and that rightly exercised authority enables our flourishing and is for our good.

  3. AnglicanCasuist says:

    RRReno affirms the case that Victor Lee Austin makes in Up With Authority: Why We Need Authority to Flourish as Human Beings (a book I haven’t read), and goes on to say that God uses our finitude, and our ability to submit to authority, so that we can be “more than ourselves.”

    There is really nothing to quibble with here. I’m on the side of those who recognize the human need for proper authority. The question remains, how do I decide where to put my trust?

    Before Jesus said, “Follow me.” (John 1:43) he said, “Come and see.” (John 1:39)

    In my 2Epiphany sermon I took a hint from a commentary by Paul Nuechterlein at the Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary website, in which he emphasizes the double meaning of ‘meno’ in John 1:29-42, which is variously translated as abide, remain, staying, or dwelling depending on the version or context.

    Two of the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus, “where are you staying?” Nuechterlein suggests that Jesus responds by making a pun on “meno.” The point is that Jesus’ street address isn’t that important because Jesus is always dwelling with the Father. After Andrew spends the day with Jesus, he finds Peter and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” Presumably, Andrew is so captivated by spending time with Jesus that Andrew wants to continue to “stay” with Jesus and also tell others about him. The authority that Jesus commands starts with something strange and compelling – something mysterious that Michael Polanyi said begins in a kind of tacit understanding, or dimension.

    Polanyi used the analogy of the relationship between an apprentice and his master. The apprentice must trust that the master will guide him and teach him properly. In a sense, the student needs to faithfully remain in the care of the master, even when the tasks at hand seem pointless.

    [blockquote]In order to share this indwelling, the pupil must presume that a teaching which appears meaningless to start with has in fact a meaning which can be discovered by hitting on the same kind of indwelling as the teacher is practicing. Such an effort is based on accepting the teacher’s authority.[/blockquote] (The Tacit Dimension (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966).