Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Authority: a Stray Thought

There are some people who at gut level just cannot accept the kind of inward authority the Orthodox Church experiences. I don't know if it's some sort of insecurity or what. They perceive it as subjective or vague and they can't handle that, and perhaps they can't handle the freedom involved, either; I'm not sure. They have this anxious need to be able to point to a flesh-and-blood person and say, "Tell me what to believe! Tell me what to do!" or to point to written words and say, "See? It's right here!" It's nailed down, cut and dried, tangible. Some people need that. Or think they do. They seem unable to trust the Holy Spirit unless He is working in external ways.

Keep them in your prayers, and while we're at it, let us pray for ourselves: "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief!"

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6 comments:

Josephus Flavius said...

I'd say it has to do with an immature faith. I don't mean that unkindly. When you walk into a new town with no or conflicting signs you can quite easily get turned around trying to find a 7-11. After some time considering the layout you have a better grasp of your surroundings.

People generally like to put things, people, ideas into boxes and then smack a label on them for future reference. The theotic walk builds an internal guide for prayer, daily activities, and dealing with other people. Direction is necessary and will always be necessary - hence the need for a spiritual father.

JTKlopcic said...

External authority becomes important if one is invested in academic pursuits. I once heard a great lecture about Church versus Academy. I wish I had the notes I took, as the main gist has fallen from my memory.

James the Thickheaded said...

One thing my father taught me was that thinking for oneself is very, very hard. For that reason, few choose to do it in areas of their life where the energy involved exceeds the measure of what they would wager or what they expect in benefits.

Exercise of freedom and wagering your position involves sticking your neck out... risking a nick here and there... but in the end, it's not only how you learn, but how you get ahead. Willingness to be the fool, to ask the obvious but unasked question, to even port-tack the fleet (give up all advantage)... is a relief to the rest who wanted to know, too, but preferred not to expose their limits. And sometimes it wins the long odds... oh.. maybe even more often than not for us who are not gifted. Maybe this is even a sense of what Grace involves?

Today, I wonder that with everywhere, the consumer value being to make life easy for the other, the customer, we don't realize how this impinges on our freedom as well as our faith. The responsibility always remains ours - even when we accept someone else's opinion or decision. And as democractic people, we have inculcated the value that the majority doesn't just rule... but is somehow it's opinion testifies to merit as well as power. Hmmmm. Think how that undermines individual courage to think on one's own!

So I wonder that one of the difficulties you hit on in your post is that in becoming Orthodox we remove the training wheels and we gotta stand on your own. As Archbiship Puhalo puts it: Orthodoxy is Christian existentialism, and our authority is not written, but comes from living in the life of Christ.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I asked my husband about this, on account of his being a psychiatrist. He says it is as a small child one acquires the need for this kind of external, cut-and-dried authority, and to rid oneself of it is extremely difficult.

But there's always the grace of God...

Anastasia Theodoridis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
s-p said...

I told one of my VERY protestant clients that my helper had gone to Athos to become a monk. They said, "That's a lot of authority to give someone over your life." I said, "Yeah, it comes down to who you can trust with your life, doesn't it?"