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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Where does authority come from?

In her opinion on the practice of eavesdropping on communications without seeking a FISA warrant, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor noted that James Madison wrote that: "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
and famously went on to say that:
We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all “inherent powers” must derive from that Constitution.

If possible, let us forget the politics of the matter, or the validity of applying what Madison wrote to this issue. (The ruling, ordering that this practice be stopped, has, of course, has been appealed, and the parties have agreed to let it continue until a higher court rules on the appeal.) I wish to consider the question of where authority comes from.

The Free Dictionary says that the word, authority, is derived from a word having to do with being an author, or creating. The Judge, above, says that the authority of the President of the US comes from the Constitution. But the Constitution, itself, says that "We the people of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." So it would appear that the authority of the President ultimately comes from the citizens, past and present.

Jesus made some radical statements about His authority, such as:
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Matthew 9:6, ESV)

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV) and, most radically:

17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18, ESV)

How was He able to make such statements? Simple. He was the author. As Colossians 1:15-17 says: 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (ESV)

Under the U. S. system of government, the President must answer to the Constitution, and to the people, because the people author the Constitution. He derives his authority from it, and them. Christ derives His authority from the fact of His creation.

Thanks for reading.

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