Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 2, 1969
NUMBER 22, PAGE 1-3,5b

Of Man And Authority

F. Lagard Smith

"What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the laws. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?"

What is happening to our young people today — and to millions of their elders — is much the same as what was happening to the generations some 3,000 years ago when Plato penned the lament quoted above. And what is happening is simply a breakdown in respect for authority — moral authority, civil authority, parental authority, marital authority, authority period! But why this disrespect? The answer becomes vitally important, for only therein lies the return road to respect.

The prevailing view of man's origin and nature is that man is the product of chance existence. But consider for a moment the import of that view. If man is the product of chance existence, he is a just-here man. Inherently, he is not subject to any authority whatsoever. Chance existence can foster only self authority (I determine right), group authority (we determine right), or power authority (might determines right), all of which — in a chance existence situation — preclude a system ultimately founded on any supreme authority. And the lack of supreme authority inherent in chance existence invites non-responsibility which cannot but result in chaos, such as we observe.

Ideas have consequences. And the idea that man is the product of chance existence leaves man without any inherent, ultimate order. This in turn makes difficult even man's contrived, immediate order, as may be based on self, group, or power authority. Man's obligation to authority is at best uncertain. And his standards, thus, are but relative to this uncertainty, to be determined through trial and error as he experiments daily with life's problems.

For the young, the crucible of experiment may be filled not only with new social and political ideas but also new ethical and moral concepts. Booze, drugs, and promiscuity become, for some, the unfortunate focal point of this urge to experiment — all of which contribute even the more to society's general confusion. It should not be surprising that the overall program of experimentation should find its strongest emphasis being placed on these baser outlets, for — by the premise of chance existence — the just-here man is endowed with only naturalistic drives and sexual urges with which to conduct his life experiments.

The resulting experiences one has while in search of his standards of authority are but practice without theory, action without plan, living without purpose. No wonder, then, that young people today seem to be — like the young in generations past — in confusion. And no wonder, then, that so many young people are disproportionately dedicated to the here and now. What relevance there is for them is just immediate relevance. Nothing could be more fundamental to chance existence. There is no regard for the past or the future — just the present NOW. Moreover, the importance of the here and now HAPPENING — whatever the "going thing" is, or wherever "the action" may be — inherently overrides all concern for the welfare of other individuals.

The course of conduct concerned only with experiencing the here and now is tied inextricably to a here and now concern simply for Self. The just-here man is not obligated, of course, to any but one stronger, or those greater in number than, himself. He owes no so-called moral obligation to anyone. Nor does anyone owe special obligation to him. Each man determines his own order without regard to each other's. While one noble enough to regard the needs and desires of others is to be praised, who could condemn one less noble? Certainly chance existence demands of man no such nobility. Thus the ultimate consequence of the chance existence idea is a just-here man without responsibility to, or for, any other man — a total abdication of responsibility toward fellow man and, of course, to any higher power or authority.

Is it becoming clear as to what is happening to our young people, and why? Is it not easier now to understand why they disrespect their elders, disobey their parents, ignore the laws, riot in the streets, and tamper with morals? Ideas have consequences. . .

Modernly, hand in hand with chance existence goes the idea of progression, as found in the widely-accepted amoeba-to-man evolution idea. Like chance existence, the idea of progression also has consequences. Because of it, change is considered synonymous with progress, and age signifies obsolescence. It is urged, thereby, that ancient standards of social and moral authority are, by very virtue of their antiquity, ready for the junk yard of useless notions. And likewise, the more revolutionary the changes made, the more progressive society is supposed to become.

Understanding, then, the importance to young people of change, simply for the sake of change — and supposedly progress thereby — is not forceful revolution more understandable? Recognizing that the newest is deemed the truest, and the latest, the best — is it not easier to recognize why once-hallowed standards of authority are so casually tossed aside? Ideas have consequences...

The ironic thing about all this is that those who teach, espouse, condone, and accept the idea of chance existence are often those most affected by the consequences. Teachers instruct their students that mans is a chance existence, yet are dismayed to find their classes disrupted and facilities destroyed by almost daily campus convulsions. Government Officials spend millions to deter crime and quash violence, even as Supreme Court Justices laughingly condone the teaching in public schools that chance existence is not a theory to be studied, but a fact to be accepted. And parents never question what Johnny is taught in school, yet they wonder why he has so little respect for them. Ideas have consequences, and those who teach or accept the teaching of those ideas are responsible for the consequences. Are you condoning chaos?

There can be little doubt that the idea of chance existence results in a general disrespect for authority. But just how valid is the idea itself? Is it reasonable to believe that man is the result of a series of accidents? Just what is man's origin?

As a starting point, man does exist. Rare would be the individual who presumes otherwise. And, of course, the universe of which man is a part exists also. Since according to both casual and scientific observation we know that nothing comes from nothing, man must have come from something — or else have existed forever, a position which few among birthday celebrants would be ready to accept. Thus man and the universe must be the product of one of two sources — either un-purposeful chance or accident, or intelligent, purposeful design. Which, then, is the more reasonable? The orderliness, the vastness, the complexity and the beauty of the universe all shout to man's reasoning that an origin by accident is absurd. Man is not the product of chance existence. The idea of chance existence is neither valid nor socially beneficial; so let us think now about a better idea.

Since man's existence is not merely accidental, it must be purposeful. What, then, is the source? It cannot be a man, much less any lower living being, for no man knows enough about himself to order and direct even his own biological functions. The only satisfactory answer to the order found throughout the universe and in mans' own nature is that they are caused by an intelligent being — extratemporal, transmundane, suprahuman — inherently having the power of giving life. The source of all life is Supreme Being — the intelligent, all-powerful Creator of the universe and man himself.

Man's created existence, as an idea, is valid. Man is not a just-here man; he is a purposely-created man. Note now the consequences of that idea with relation to authority. The Creator, as the originator of all life, inherently has authority over the creature, man. And by virtue of the Creator-creature relationship, man owes obligation to his Creator, for the counterpart of "authority over" is "subjection to." Man's life is not without purpose. He has been endowed with as orderly an existence as the physical universe itself; and he is as subject to authority is are the seasons in their coming and the planets in their course.

Because of his inherent authority, the Creator's rule determines what is right. His authority, moreover, is ultimate authority — that upon which law and order can be, and is, ultimately based. Supreme authority requires of man obligation, and thus responsibility, which leads to the respect for authority which we seek. The by-products of a system ultimately based on a supreme authority are important. The purposely-created man has a definite order. That order is based on intelligent planning and is suitable for all his needs. His standards are not relative to mere uncertainty, but to supreme authority, and thus absolute. The need for experimentation being thereby eliminated, his life can become one of practice based on reason and rule. His "drives" and "urges" can be channeled properly into avenues of purpose. And his life takes on duty and direction.

The responsibility inherent within the idea of purposefully-created existence is beneficial not only to the individual, but to society as well. It is clear that, as a creature, man stands in a unique relationship with every other man. Since all men are creatures, equally subject to their Creator's authority, all are burdened with equal obligation and therefore share in a relationship of equality among themselves. This equality leads to responsibility. And responsibility gives rise to respect for elders, obedience to parents, regard for laws, peaceable dissent, and high moral standards. Are you able to see now the superiority of the creation idea?

As for the idea of progression, indeed much change does bring about progress, and in the scientific realm especially, the newest usually is the truest and the latest is the best. But in the realm of human values and standards of authority, modernity or antiquity are of little import. What matters is right; and what is right has been determined eternally by an eternal Creator. This is not to say that standards based on ultimate authority do not have constantly changing applications to suit ever-changing circumstances. It simply means that absolute standards of authority themselves do not — indeed, need not — change.

Acceptance of the purposeful-creation idea cannot but result in a general respect for authority.

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