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Right from the very first time we as infants look defiantly at our parents, or speak our first, experimental, rebellious ‘No!’ we demonstrate our innate rejection of authority. We do not like to be told what to do; we want to usurp the right to run our own lives. At all levels our inclination is to rebel against authority: children against parents; pupils against teachers; employees against employers, citizens against the laws of the state; and human beings against God.

This rebellion against authority was, for a few centuries in so-called ‘Christian countries’, veiled under a superficial veneer of acceptance of the standards set by God in his Law. When, however, the atheistic presuppositions of evolution and the anti-god mentality of secular humanism filtered from the scholars through to the mass of ordinary people, this apparent honouring of God and submission to his authority was cast aside. Having been liberated from believing in a supernatural, outside-of-me God, modern generations see themselves as liberated also from his authority. The once-given, always absolute laws of God are discarded. The resulting general attitude, which is now obvious in our society, is anti-authoritarian.

What are the basic concepts and attitudes of anti-authoritarianism?
[1] There is no outside-of-me authority with the right to tell me what to do.
[2] I decide what is right for me.
[3] Laws should be the normalization of current opinions about what is right.
[4] ‘It’s only wrong if you get caught’.
[5] Ultimately we are not answerable to anyone.
[6] The Bible is not the authoritative Word of God.

In contrast to this, the teaching of the Bible is:
[1] I am answerable to God who is the ultimate Authority.
[2] God’s word, the Bible, is authoritative.
[3] God’s word, the Bible, is absolute and final.
[4] Laws should express and affirm God’s Law.
[5] If God says something is wrong it is - whether I like it or understand it or not.

Those of us who are Christians ought not to react too strongly against those outside the church who embrace anti-authoritarianism. It is actually an honest and logical expression of the belief that God is not there. If there is no God, then why obey God’s laws? If there is no God, then why worry if we do things he is said to forbid? It would be hypocritical to do so. Non-Christians who deliberately demonstrate anti-authoritarian attitudes are no longer kidding themselves that they believe in God. They are living out the honest implications of their belief that there is no God and therefore no absolute law of right and wrong.

This honest, logical outworking of non-belief doesn’t make these unbelievers any further removed from God and the Gospel than previous generations. In fact they have a far clearer concept of where they stand: they have chosen to reject the whole concept of God and his authority.What should concern us is that the attitudes created by this non-belief are infiltrating the church, and, combined with the sinful bent of our hearts, are corrupting and confusing the thoughts, attitudes and actions of those who would call themselves believers.

This article will continue next week, looking at how this anti-authoritarian attitude is impacting the church corporately and Christians individually.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012