Quote of the Day: The modern mind and authority

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“The modern mind will accept nothing on authority, but will accept anything on no authority. Say that the Bible or the Pope says so and it will be dismissed without further examination. But preface your remark with “I think I heard somewhere, or, try but fail to remember the name of some professor who might have said such-and-such”, and it will be immediately accepted as an unshakable fact.”

I wonder why we’re this way. Here are a few of my thoughts. Let me know what you think as well, please.

First, we often like to only hear the things that we want to hear. So when we hear a truth that conflicts with our already held beliefs, we scramble for a way to dismiss it. And in place of this hard truth, we are willing to put just about anything (no matter how accurate it actually is) as long as it agrees with us.

Today, no matter how wrong we may be on a matter, it is fairly easy to find other people that will reassure us that we are indeed right and it is everyone else that is wrong. It is too easy for us to affirm any view that we might hold – no matter how crazy.

Combine that with a very permissive society with a growing relativistic world view and a skewed emphasis on the Self and we’ve created an environment that promotes self-authority over anything else. And if everyone is their own authority, that’s really the same as having no authority.

Unfortunately, such self-authority is ultimately the cause of even our Christian divisions – especially among Protestantism. Their belief in sola scriptura (scripture alone) ultimately sets themselves up as their own individual popes. Every time they disagree they appeal to their self-authority which often ends in division. Hence the tens of thousands of Protestant denominations we have today.

This self-authority is harmful to the truth in general. Yes, we must ultimately trust in what we ourselves have come to believe. The problem is that we weigh our input based on skewed authorities. Our culture has lost its sense of authority to the point where we falsely put our own self-authority on par with other more authentic authorities. We’ve been taught that if I believe it in my heart, then it must be true – at least for me. That’s a bunch of baloney.

The phrase “perception is reality” comes from this type of thinking…which is a very hokey phrase. Perception is not necessarily reality. Perception is only reality if it matches reality. Reality is reality. Perception is just what we think reality is. And of course we’re often wrong. But our world of self-authority cheers us on anyway.

Another reason I think the modern mind has become so quick to believe in “no authority” is that we have grown overly skeptical of bias. And because of that, we put too much emphasis on our views being “balanced” instead of truthful. We assume that just because somebody actually believes what they are saying that they must have a deceptive bias. For this reason, we favor sources that claim to be “balanced” – or who don’t even believe what they are saying – over anyone else.

For example, many will believe what anybody else says about the Catholic Church more than what the Catholic Church says about the Catholic Church simply because they are not the Catholic Church.

In other words, “bias” is the over-riding factor in determining what is correct. If you are potentially biased in any way, well you must not be telling the truth. But if you don’t seem biased, well then surely you are telling the truth.

But, of course, that makes no sense. Truth is independent of anyone’s bias.

It seems to me that the authority of the source should carry far more weight then a perceived bias. And we should check ourselves if our own self-authority is our top authority.

Thoughts?

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Andrea Fernandez December 11, 2008 at 7:08 pm

I love your blog Matthew. I appreciate your words greatly.

Each day I–and I’m sure many of you–venture into a world bolting full speed within the infinite loop of the only absolute “truth” is there is “no truth.” It is such a gift to read the bold professions of a true man of Christ.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux stated, “He who does not feel affection for his own friend has lost the fear of God.” We are a deeply wounded society easily succumbed to the temptations of vanity…the “freedom” to indulge in the delight of no one restricting our desires to attain happiness–the greatest lie of all: happiness apart from God.

The Late Pope John Paul II stated, “The ‘spirit of the world’ offers many false illusions and parodies of happiness. There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people’s souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love. The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.”

I remember when quoting Pope Benedict XVI, during his 2005 world youth day address, how tears began streaming down parishioner’s cheeks. Our Holy Father said, “Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy, has a name and a face…it is Jesus of Nazareth hidden in the Eucharist! With Mary say your own ‘yes’ to Christ for He wishes to give Himself to you[…] be completely convinced […] If we allow God into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what life free, beautiful, and great.” This is the great tragedy of our time for who today affirms our youth? Our young adults group continued to tell the youth how “There is no one in the world who can replace you. There is no one with your past, your triumphs, your failings, your experiences, and there is no one who can impact today’s world as you.” I have never personally witnessed so many people–men and women–weep so openly.

Pray with me my brothers and sisters in Christ, the words of Thomas A. Kempis within his novel The Imitation of Christ. We are called to love as no secular person apart from God would dare to love…to love with Christ’s ultimate, sacrificial love:

“The Wonderful Effect of Divine Love

The Disciple

I bless You, O heavenly Father, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, for having condescended to remember me, a poor creature. Thanks to You, O Father of mercies, God of all consolation, Who with Your comfort sometimes refresh me, who am not worth of it. I bless You always and glorify You with Your only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, forever and ever.

Ah, Lord God, my holy Lover, when You come into my heart, all that is within me will rejoice. You are my glory and the exultation of my heart. You are my hope and refuge in the day of my tribulation. But because my love is as yet weak and my virtue imperfect, I must be strengthened and comforted by You. Visit me often, therefore, and teach me Your holy discipline. Free me from evil passions and cleanse my heart of all disorderly affection so that, healed and purified within, I may be fit to love, strong to suffer, and firm to persevere.

Love is an excellent thing, a very great blessing, indeed. It makes every difficulty easy, and bears all wrongs with equanimity. For it bears a burden without being weighted and renders sweet all that is bitter. The noble love of Jesus spurs to great deeds and excites longing for that which is more perfect. Love tends upward; it will not be held down by anything low. Love wishes to be free and estranged from all worldly affections, lest its inward sight be obstructed, lest it be entangled in any temporal interest and overcome by adversity.

Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger or higher or wider; nothing is more pleasant, nothing fuller, and nothing better in heaven or on earth, for love is born of God and cannot rest except in God, Who is above all created things.

One who is in love flies, runs, and rejoices; he is free, not bound. He gives all for all and possesses all in all, because he rests in the one sovereign Good, Who is above all things, and from Whom every good flows and proceeds. He does not look to the gift but turns himself above all gifts to the Giver.

Love often knows no limits but overflows all bounds. Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of troubles, attempts more than it is able, and does not plead impossibility, because it believes that it may and can do all things. For this reason, it is able to do all, performing and effecting much where he who does not love fails and falls.

Love is watchful. Sleeping, it does not slumber. Wearied, it is not tired. Pressed, it is not straitened. Alarmed, it is not confused, but like a living flame, a burning torch, it forces its way upward and passes unharmed through every obstacle.

If a man loves, he will know the sound of this voice. For this warm affection of soul is a loud voice crying in the ears of God, and it says: ‘My God, my love, You are all mine and I am all Yours. Give me an increase of love, that I may learn to taste with the inward lips of my heart how sweet it is to love, how sweet to be dissolved in love and bathe in it. Let me be rapt in love. Let me rise above self in great fervor and wonder. Let me sing the hymn of love, and let me follow You, my Love, to the heights. Let my soul exhaust itself in praising You, rejoicing out of love. Let me love You more than myself, and let me not love myself except for Your sake. In You let me love all those who truly love You, as the law of love, which shines forth from You, commands.’

Love is swift, sincere, kind, pleasant, and delightful. Love is strong, patient and faithful, prudent, long-suffering, and manly. Love is never self-seeking, for in whatever a person seeks himself there he falls from love. Love is circumspect, humble, and upright. It is neither soft nor light, nor intent upon vain things. It is sober and chaste, firm and quiet, guarded in all the senses. Love is subject and obedient to superiors. It is mean and contemptible in its own eyes, devoted and thankful to God; always trusting and hoping in Him even when He is distasteful to it, for there is no living in love without sorrow. He who is not ready to suffer all things and to stand resigned to the will of the Beloved is not worthy to be called a lover. A lover must embrace willingly all that is difficult and bitter for the sake of the Beloved, and he should not turn away from Him because of adversities.”

Jack du Toit December 11, 2008 at 8:40 pm

I’m inclined to believe that the problem is less about self-authority and simply about “self.” But its probably best not to even go into that over the internet.

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