Summary: This message examines the basis for how we make moral decisions.
The postmodern worldview has plunged our culture into an authority crisis. This crisis is not confined to the area of religious faith but is visible in every single area of life. Parental authority, marital authority, political authority, academic authority, and ecclesiastical authority are all being deeply questioned. Not only particular authorities—the Scriptures, the political rulers, and so on—but the concept of authority itself is vigorously challenged. Today’s crisis of biblical authority thus reflects the uncertainties of civilizational consensus: Who has the power and the right to receive and to require submission? Before we go any farther what we need to do is to establish definitions for the two essentials terms we will look at today. Authority: a conclusive statement or set of statements. The power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior. Consensus: The judgment arrived at by the most of those concerned. Group solidarity in sentiment and belief. The widespread questioning of authority is condoned and promoted in many academic circles. Philosophers with a radically secular outlook have affirmed that God and the supernatural are mythical conceptions, that natural processes and events comprise the only ultimate reality. All existence is said to be temporal and changing, all beliefs and ideals are declared to be relative to the age and culture in which they appear. Biblical religion, therefore, like all other, is asserted to be merely a cultural phenomenon. The Bible’s claim to divine authority is dismissed by such thinkers; transcendent revelation, fixed truths, and unchanging commandments are set aside as pious fiction. Today we want to discover who we should submit to, the authority of God as revealed in His Word or the consensus of the culture in which we live.
I. The Bible is a special revelation that confronts our spiritually rebellious race with the reality of the authority of God.
A. Human history began with the human race knowing God.
1. Human history is not the story of a beast that worshiped idols, and then evolved into a man worshiping one God. Human history is just the opposite: man began knowing God, but turned from the truth and rejected God.
2. God revealed Himself to man through creation, the things that He made. From the world around him, man knew that there was a God who had the wisdom to plan and the power to create.
3. Since the creation of the world certain truths about God have been clearly known through created things themselves.
4. Paul sets out four characteristics of the truth as revealed in nature.
a. It is visible: plain and clearly seen.
b. It is understood: anyone wise person who sees the truth will also reflect on it and reach a conclusion about it.
c. It is constant ongoing and changeless: it has been evident since the creation of the world.
d. It reveals God’s eternal power and divine nature.
5. One look at the splendor of creation tells us that a mighty power made this world, but not just an abstract impersonal force; rather a personal God.
B. The created order establishes the authority that God holds over his creation.
1. God has indeed manifested himself to the world, and the inhabitants have perceived the reality, no matter how hardened their hearts and evil their minds. So they stand before God guilty and without excuse.
2. By refusing to acknowledge God’s glory, man was left without a god; and man is so constituted that he must worship something. If he will not worship the true God, he will worship a false god, even if he has to manufacture it himself! This fact about man accounts for his propensity to idolatry.
3. The argument that design implies a designer is not an argument that people cannot accept, it is an argument that people refuse to accept.
4. Each person knows enough about God to be careful of his or her conduct. Those that have taken the wrong path have chosen to do so.
5. When the day comes for God to judge our response to Him, the will be no acceptable excuses for the wrong response.
II. Attack upon scriptural authority is the storm center both in the controversy over revealed religion and in the modern conflict over civilizational values.
A. The idea of biblical authority has been subverted by attacks on its historical and scientific reliability and by allegedly tracing its teaching to fallible human sources.
1. Contemporary rejection of biblical authority and principles does not rest on any logical demonstration that the case for biblical theism is false; it turns rather on a subjective preference for alternative views of “the good life.”
2. Before the middle of the 19th century, the church was unanimous in its view of inspiration: God gave the actual words of Scripture to its human authors so as to perpetuate unerringly his special self-disclosure.