Thursday, February 11, 2010

Christianity and Moral Authority

The strength of an appeal to moral authority (as with any other appeal to authority) lies in the validity of the claims of the authority. Since a logical argument is as strong it is presuppositions, an appeal to authority is as strong as the authority is.

The moral authority of a person or organization does depend on their foundational morality. In the case of the Church or Christians, their moral authority is not intrinsic and self-derived, but is derived from God’s moral authority.

The Christian presuppositions then are:
1. The God declared by Christianity exists
2. God has communicated to humanity truly

The conclusion is:
3. All humans are morally bound to follow God’s mandates

Concerning any particular moral claim made by an individual or organization, the only real question is: “Is this person or organization correctly declaring what God has spoken?” If such an entity correctly declares God’s truth, then their appeal to moral authority is valid. If such an entity perverts, denies, confuses or misrepresents God’s position, then their appeal to authority is invalid.

Christianity itself does encourage questioning what is taught and going to the source (the Bible) rather than blindly accepting the teachings of pastors, priests and preachers. Acts 17:11 says, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The principle expressed is that while whatever God says is definitely true, it is crucial to ensure that no entity is misrepresenting God’s position on a matter.


  1. Here's a third presupposition: that the translations we have of God's word are actually accurate. This is a whole separate can of worms by itself.. (No, Jesus didn't speak King James English! :P )

    I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family.. it's really weird.. it's a lifestyle and a culture of its own, and it's only based on the Bible insofar as they can cherry pick from the Bible to support what they already believe :/ That said, there are some gems hidden in the Bible if you actually wade through it. Like anything else, mine it for what's good and throw out the rest.

  2. @Xamuel: Given that we have reliable recontructions of God's word in source languages, the validity of translation is not a necessary presupposition. Scholars have ensured that the modern translations are accurate to their source documents, and if one's skepticism causes one to doubt, simply learn Greek and Hebrew and read the original.

    Regarding the idea of cherry-picking through the Bible, I thoroughly oppose such an idea. To decontextualize anything is to render is thoroughly impotent. The little gems are useless and fallacious apart from the philosophical framework of Christian orthodoxy. One must embrace the Bible in its entirely in order to avoid the pitfall of gleaning indefensible and unfounded truisms. Upon the foundational truths rest the validity of all the others.

  3. Operation Mafia has now added a custom feature that allows you to go on Missions. This was a time intensive fully customized feature that utilizes many existing OM features.