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On "Religious" Authority:

An article donated by Alton C. Thompson

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(I put “religious” in quotes because little that goes under that label conforms with “religion,” as defined in James 1:27!)

For Christianity (the only “religion” given attention in this essay), the primary source of authority is the Bible, with papal encyclicals, etc., being of a secondary nature. These facts suggest this question: Does the Bible itself provide one with a basis for having a document (or a collection of documents, in the case of the Bible) as the source of authority?

Let us first define “authorize” here:

"... to endorse, empower, justify, or permit by or as if by some recognized or proper authority (such as custom, evidence, personal right, or regulating power)."

(The term “regulating power” is of especial relevance here, because “God” is commonly thought of as that “power.”)

In the “Old Testament” there’s reference to a “document” of relevance here, the 10 Commandments, etched in stone. Numerous references to the Book of the Law occur in the Bible. There are 9 references to “documents” in the “Old Testament” of the Bible. A Seven-Sealed Book is referred to in Revelation 5:1), a “little book” in Revelation 10:2, a “Book of Life” is referred to in Revelation 20:12, etc.

Thus, numerous references to “documents” occur in the Bible, but I assume that only references to the Law would qualify as authorizing; and given that that authorizing was held to be by God, the authorizing was thought to be from divinity. Thus, the question asked above — does the Bible provide us with a basis for having a document as authorizing — does receive support in the Bible.

That’s not the end of our investigation, however! There’s also the matter of revelation! There are 52 occurrences of the word “revelation” in the Bible, which fact suggests that revelation was also a source of authorization for those who “people” the Bible. Here’s a definition of that word:

The word revelation simply means a revealing of something or someone. It is to reveal what was before hidden. It’s like opening a curtain or a door and seeing what is behind it.

Automakers make a revelation of their new models each fall. What was previously hidden is hidden no longer when it is revealed for all to see. Revelation then is the act of revealing or disclosing something that has not been known or seen before and the biblical definition fits very nicely with this secular definition.

Here’s another definition: "an act of revealing or communicating divine truth."

On the basis of these two definitions ) we can say that a “revelation” (noun) is:

1. A disclosed message.

2. The source of the message being unknown, the message is often attributed, though, to a
divine Being.

3. The message itself may be a command (stated directly or indirectly}, a statement of (alleged)
facts, a projection regarding the future, etc.

Because of the unknown source of the “revelation,” and its seeming importance, it is taken seriously — especially if that source is thought to be of a divine nature. I should add that typically “divinity” is thought of as a tangible Being “out there” some place; however, in John 4:7 we find the assertion that God is a subjective feeling, namely, love.

The question that I raise here, however, regarding revelation, is this:

Just because “revelation” has commonly been thought of, over the centuries, as “from God,” must we moderns accept that conclusion? Given the problematic nature of the “God” concept, why can’t we moderns accept revelation as a (a) real phenomenon without, though, (b) attributing revelations to a divine Being “out there” some place?

I would not only answer that question in the affirmative, but would suggest that: It was revelation from an unknown source that gave us the Law (!) and can/should be actively sought today! Whether one chooses to think of “revelation” as from “God,” or, rather, from some other source, should be left up to the individual.

I make no attempt here to establish the veracity of this claim; but if it seems reasonable to you, and then want to know how to receive revelations, I provide an answer to your question below!

In my 162-page book Continuing the Tradition by Further Developing It (2015) 1 I identify and briefly describe what I conceive to be a Tradition in the Bible, and then suggest that the New Word Fellowship (NeWF) would logically continue that Tradition. The NeWF would be a structured discussion group, with the “new word” in the name alluding, obviously, to the fact that revelations would be expected to occur. By “revelations” I mean new ideas, with theists present attributing them to “God,” and non-theists making their own decisions as to their source.

An unstated assumption here is that NeWFs would better continue the Tradition than have churches, as conventionally conceived! Again, I make no effort to defend that position here. Read my ebook and then make up your own mind about this matter! 1 I should add that the discussions that would occur during NeWF sessions would not necessarily conform to the definition of “religion” given in James 1:27, but that sessions could be thought of as “religious” in spirit!

“Circumstances” have prevented me from initiating any NeWFs, but my hope is that others will be able to do so, and will do so!

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Alton C Thompson, "Continuing the Tradition by Further Developing It," (2015) at:

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Latest update: 2020-APR-20
Author: Alton C Thompson. Email:
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