I learned the principle as a teenager, but only superficially. As a college student, I began to comprehend it. In my twenties, I internalized it and began to own it. Nearly every day of my life, I see this truth at play, in my kitchen, in the workplace, in politics, religion, and the culture at large: “The fundamental issue of the universe is… authority.”
At the end of the day (and the beginning), authority is the issue over which nearly every decision is made. Wars are started, fought, and ended over the question of authority. Religions are founded, divided, and dissolved over authority. Movements are launched, slaves are made, marriages destroyed, and freedom discovered… all over authority.
Piers Morgan, the successor of sorts to CNN’s Larry King, brought my attention back to this subject just recently as he conducted yet another interview with the pastor and wife of America’s largest church, Joel & Victoria Osteen. Morgan and Osteen have carried on a telling cultural commentary via interviews for some time now, most notably and frequently on the subject of homosexual rights, gay marriage, and homosexuality as related to Christianity (cultural or otherwise).
On October 4th of this month, Morgan asked the Osteens a number of questions on CNN, including, “Would you attend a same-sex wedding?” / “Would you perform a same-sex marriage ceremony?” Osteen’s answers often referred to what the Bible says, what Scripture teaches–back to authority. Later in the conversation, I was stunned to hear Morgan ask such a probing question–really THE question of our generation, the question of the age. It went like this:
“But, I mean, shouldn’t the scripture be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age? I mean, we were talking before the break about the issue about eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, not everything in the scriptures, really, is, in my view, conducive to modern life. I mean, like everything else, doesn’t it have to move with the times and isn’t it down again to people like you to interpret it in a way that evolves when you’re known as a very progressive preacher?”
Wow. “Doesn’t [Scripture] have to move…?” “Shouldn’t [Scripture] be dragged…?”
That is the question, is it not? It is the question that every family must answer for their every step. The question that every couple must answer for their marriage. It is the question that every individual who has ever heard the Gospel must answer for their own life. It is the question that governs all media, all government, all education, all finances. Authority.
Certainly there are a host of other factors therein, not the least of which are hermeneutical, theological, literary, and cultural. Yet, these again all come down to the same issue: Who determines the hermeneutic? Who is the expert on theology? In other words, Who is the authority? In America, the answer considered most reasonable in most situations is… You.
So, doesn’t Scripture have to move? Shouldn’t Scripture have to be dragged? These inquiries from one of CNN’s foremost journalists, considered intellectually and otherwise credible by your average American, assume that there is a standard somehow superior to Scripture itself. The questions assume that “the modern age” is something desirable, respectable… No, more than that. The assumption is that “the modern age” has a status, even an authority, that is far beyond even the ancient sacred teachings considered most respectable and credible by most Americans.
“The modern age” as God. Humanity evolved… as God.
If I ever had a conversation with Piers Morgan, my question to him, as it is to myself, is this: Is it any more reasonable to subject Scripture to modernity, than it is to subject modernity to Scripture? If so, how? What logic makes this more reasonable?
At the end of the day–including this very day–we have all given our answers more than once. We have dragged something kicking and screaming into subjection: Culture, modernity, Scripture, maybe even ourselves. What is subject in your life? And to what, or whom, have you subjected it? That is the fundamental question of the universe.