The rejection of authority began in the Garden of Eden. God told our first parents, Adam and Eve, that they could eat from every tree in the garden except for one. Not content with all-the-trees-but-one, they ate from the one excluded tree. They rejected God's authority. This spirit of revolution has been alive ever since.
Today's anti-authority spirit is largely a result and working out of the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution.
René Descartes (1596-1650), the father of modernism, coined the well-know phrase that is always associated with him: "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am). He started with the self. Man is the measure of all things. He thought that man could live apart from God. Revelation is to be rejected. We depend upon the self, upon human intellect alone, the ability to reason.
This spirit of revolution was cranked up a hundredfold by the French Revolution that lasted from 1789-1799. It was a revolution against the church and the king. Ultimately, it was a revolution against God. The battle cry of the French Revolution was: "No God! No master." The king was beheaded. France was de-Christianized. Dating the years on the basis of the year of Christ's birth was abolished. 1789 became Year One. The seven day week was replaced by a ten day week. The churches were closed.
A cycle of bloodshed ensued. Those manning the guillotine one day were its victims the next. The French Revolution killed itself. France ripened for a takeover. In 1799, someone did take over—Napoleon. He declared himself Emperor. They killed the king and got an emperor.
This spirit of revolution that cries "No God! No master" is still very much alive today. It is alive in the media. It is alive in the entertainment industry. You see it on TV. Authority figures are routinely ridiculed. On many sit-coms, the father is either a lazy oaf sitting in front of the TV clicking through the channels or a bungling fool just barely tolerated by wife and children. You see it in the many labour unions which are, by nature and constitution, against the employer. You see the spirit of revolution on the evening news as you witness screaming protesters waving their pickets signs.
The rejection of authority creates havoc, as does the abuse of authority. Both create disorder and chaos. Everyone ends up doing what is right in his own eyes.
God is the ultimate authority. He is the source of all authority. He revealed himself and his will in his Word, the Scriptures. He calls people to positions of authority in life: Parents, government leaders, church leaders. As those in positions of authority act as servants—not as tyrants, but as servants to those under them—things will be well. As husbands provide loving, kind, servant leadership to their wives, reflecting the relationship between Christ and the church, things will be well in their marriages. As parents provide firm but kind servant leadership to their families, reflecting the relationship between God the Father and his people, things will go well in their families.
This goes for churches and governments too. As those in positions of authority exercise their power by serving those they are called to lead, things will be well.
If they abuse their authority, things will go poorly. Families, churches, countries fall apart when those in authority abuse their authority.
As those under authority respect those whom God put over them, again, things will be well. As children respect their parents, as congregations honour their elders, as citizens obey their governments, things will go well in our families, churches and country.
May we all obey the Word of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Triune God has absolute authority. He has revealed his will in his Word. Let us obey it. Every word of it. As we keep the Word submitting to it in humility and obedience, things will be well in our lives. Reject the Word, disobey it, and your life will turn upside down. Obey it and things will be well.
This series of blog posts were originally presented as a speech at the October 1998 Ontario Women's League Day in Ancaster, Ontario. Much of the spoken style remains.