The Authority of Authority in the Decline of Religion

Within the Church there are different sources of authority that have held the prized position over the ages. For instance, the early Church prized the authority of Tradition which was part of the complaint of the Protestant Reformation. Reformers believed that Scripture should be put in the prized position. During the Enlightenment, Scripture's authority was questioned as superstitious and antiquated which is why Reason began to take the prized position of authority. With the rise of post-modernity the reign of the individual Experience began as authoritative in the world. 

And so we find ourselves in a time where we are in series of conversations about source will take the prized position of authority. We see this in American politics as we debate what is most authoritative - the Constitution? The Bill of Rights? The President? Congress? Courts? States or Federal laws? 

Likewise we see the debate over prized authority in the Church. 

I would submit that the shifting American Religious landscape is all about Authority. The rise of the "Bible Church" tells you what has the prized position of authority. The efforts bridging science and theology often reflect the prized position of reason. The exodus of Evangelicals to the Mainline might reflect the authority of Tradition while the rise of the "spiritual but not religious" may reflect those prizing Experience.

The sources of authority are not limited to these four to be sure. What might be missing in the entire conversations about the decline of religion, the rise of secularism, and the overall changing of values in the United States (and perhaps the world?) is conversation about what should have the prized position of authority in our time. And more specifically, and perhaps more tragically, the conversation to learn to live with the complex reality that there are many valid and different sources of authority.

Christians say God is Three in One and One in Three (the Trinity), as a way of saying that God is too mysterious to put just one name on. Likewise, authority is too complex to limit ourselves to just one source. The authority of authority is the conversation happening under the conversation. The authority of authority is what nudges us into different camps. It is the authority of authority that can also be the path to consensus building.