Wednesday U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise was shot for being a Republican. The previous day, a liberal, white college professor reported that he still felt physically unsafe on campus, because he opposed “A Day of Absence” event that asked white people to leave campus for a day. Events like these, to name just a few, have left many wondering what in the world is going on and what is it going to take to turn things around.
Thinking about that question brought to mind an observation by theologian A.W. Pink.
Ours is peculiarly an age of irreverence, and as the consequence, the spirit of lawlessness … is rapidly engulfing the earth like some giant tidal wave. The members of the rising generation are the most flagrant offenders, and in the decay and disappearing of parental authority we have the certain precursor of the abolition of civil authority.”
He wrote that in 1921.
In other words, what is going on should not surprise any clear-thinking Christian. When we undermine God’s design for the family and the authority structures represented within that design, we destroy the “educational” system in which children first learn about and experience authority. If there is both lawlessness and irreverence in the home, then that is what children will learn and bring with them into the public square.
So, civil unrest and violence are not going to be fixed by toning down the political rhetoric, though that would be good. They are not going to be fixed by “practical solutions” like more civics education, school vouchers and charter schools, heightened security, or more law enforcement personnel. None of those things are bad in themselves, but they will not address the issue of authority and respect for authority that is at the root of our problem.
With respect to that issue, Pink noted that there was a correlation between “disrespect for human law”—evidence of which we daily find in the news—and “recognition of the majesty, the authority, the sovereignty of the Almighty Law-giver.” If we are intellectually honest, that makes sense.
When individuals and society reject the notion that there is any true or absolute basis upon which another’s exercise of authority over them can be based, they reject the exercise of that authority. In the words of Pink, they “have less and less patience” with those who assert any authority that “interferes with the free course of self-will.”
That lack of patience is increasingly being made manifest, as we saw in just the two stories from this week that I highlighted.
But it’s not just the “religious” who would draw this conclusion. Arthur Leff, the late professor of law at Yale University, rejected the idea (and reality) of the Christian God, and, in a law review article written in 1979, he set about to examine all the non-Christian bases for a civil authority to see if there was one that people would have to recognize as legitimate. Here is his conclusion:
All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves, and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. . . . As things stand now, everything is up for grabs. . . . God help us.
Indeed, may God help us—help us recognize that He is the Almighty Law-giver with legitimate authority over us and before whom all our human exercises of authority must first bow—because more of what we saw this week in the news is, indeed, “an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect.”
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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