Understanding Authority

Since the Fall, man has hated authority. America has built a culture on the hatred of authority, and yet God is still Lord, and He still appoints people over us. What do we do?

The US Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have said “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” Whether he said this or not, the idea of questioning authority has woven itself into the DNA of American culture. But the idea of questioning authority is not new; indeed, it is as old as man. Since the serpent convinced Eve to question God’s authority in the Garden of Eden, sinful man has questioned authority. Even more, we have an inherent dislike of it. The idea that anyone or anything should be “over” us in some way is anathema to man, especially individualistic Americans.

Before we continue, we must define our terms. For our purposes, “to question” will be “to ask” or even “to challenge” authority but not to automatically reject it. We will define “authority” as “the power to give orders or make decisions: the power or right to direct or control someone or something.”[1] Note that authority is not the same as power. Power is simple ability, while authority is ability plus legitimacy. A man holding a gun may have the power to take your money, but he doesn’t have the authority to do so. A tax collector in a democratic government has both the power and the legitimacy, hence the authority, to take your money.

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Useful Greek and Roman Quotations

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

Better be wise by the misfortunes of others than by your own.

In critical moments even the very powerful have need of the weakest.

It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.

Aesop (620 BC – 560 BC)

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Numbers for Life and Work

Some people love numbers, working with them, playing with them, and thinking about them. Others do not. Many don’t even have a basic understanding of how to use numbers in their work. Here are the basics…

While serving in Iraq, an officer colleague of mine was called upon to estimate the exposure from a radiation source that our soldiers found on a rooftop in Baghdad. He did the calculations and gave them to me to check. This officer was industrious, dedicated, and smart, but he had made a decimal place error and overestimated the exposure by a factor of 1,000. My colleague hadn’t made such calculations for years, and his mistake could have happened to anyone. But had this estimate gone to the commanding general, he would have had to evacuate the area and send many troops back home for medical monitoring.

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