On The Territoriality Of Heathen Gods: Part Three

Having examined now how it is that heathen gods have sought territory and have rebelled against restraint and denied common authority, and that contrary to what many people think, such heathen ideas and practices are very common in our contemporary world [1]. The question that I would like to answer in closing this discussion for the present time is what are we expected to do about it. How is that we avoid this heathen mentality? It is not enough to know what we should avoid, we should know how to walk and live, to the greatest extent possible. So let us turn to this task.

One of the most notable ways that God differs from heathen conceptions of authority is that God is the only authority who is permitted to be in authority over every domain, every territory, and all times, and He tolerates no rival or competition. In stark contrast to this, all human authorities are strictly limited because we are not God and cannot rule as He does. The fact that there exists a great gulf in character and power and capability between God and humanity means that however much we may model aspects of God as authorities, we are not permitted the same level of absolute power because we lack God’s moral character. It is this reality that accounts for the Bible’s marked ambivalence about authority in that it is commanded that we honor authorities but at the same time those authorities in church and state are given stark limits–and ordinary people are told the rules so that those rulers can be held accountable by those who read and understand the law, as was frequently necessary during the biblical period by various prophetic figures.

The fact that no godly authority is above rebuke or correction does not necessarily mean that all rebuke and correction is itself well-founded or accurate. Some of us (myself most definitely included) have both given and received perhaps more than our fair share of unfounded and sharp and not always accurate criticism. Yet the proper response is to deal with attempts at correction, however poorly founded they may be, on a case by case basis rather than by attempting to view ourselves and our conduct as being above the possibility of correction. A godly authority is always in the position of having to justify why what we said or did is in fact right and proper. And this is by no means a bad thing, because authority that is unlimited and unaccountable is automatically despotic and tyrannical and illegitimate. No human being is permitted the sort of unlimited power that God has, and the desire to be without restraint and without check is itself a sign of ungodliness.

In order to avoid the temptation of the territoriality of heathen deities we must come to grips with the fact that we have no domain that is subject to our authority alone without accountability to God and often to others. There is no right to privacy when it comes to the authority of God, and no word or thought or deed that we do not have to answer for and at least potentially repent of. A great many of the darkest evils that we and our society and culture have been guilty of have come from that desire to carve out territory for the working out of private longings and desires that would be subject to criticism, condemnation, and severe punishment were they subject to public scrutiny and accountability. And rather than seeking confession and repentance, the tendency of the contemporary age has been to wall off more and more of life behind boundaries of privacy so as to avoid having to answer for what is thought, felt, believed, and done. If we were able to restrain ourselves from evil and were able to accept restraint upon our authority that held us accountable for what we did, heathen worldviews and problems with tyranny and anarchy would not be such a dominant aspect of our existence. But, alas, that is not the case.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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