Monday, June 23, 2014

Do we need authority?

Our society (and many of our ideas) are based in authority. We structure our organizations around hierarchies of authority. We based decisions on documents we consider authoritative, often in a reified way. Much defense of the Bible seems more to do with an apparent need for a transcendent authoritative source.

But do we necessarily need such authority? Psychologically, it seems like we are soothed by making decisions based on such authority. Authority is a good way to bring differing opinions into alignment (or submission), but is that always a good thing?

The Society of Friends (Quakers) have no such structure of authority--anyone can bring up an issue, speak, etc. For decisions, they seek consensus. What would our society be like if we approached decisions and structure like that? It may take more time, but is that necessarily a bad thing, especially if we structured life around that extra time?

In my mind, this requires a greater tolerance for ambiguity. If we cannot tolerate ambiguity, authority is important to give a sense of structure and clear definition. But as many of us have experienced, those structures and clear definitions are not always that satisfying, meaning, or even accurate.

How would our faith be different if we didn't depend on "objective" authority so much? What if we relied more on communion with God and listening to the Holy Spirit?

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