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Up with Authority: Why We Need Authority to Flourish as Human Beings
Up with Authority: Why We Need Authority to Flourish as Human Beings
Victor Lee Austin
T&T Clark, 2010
192 pp., $34.95

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Douglas Wilson


Because I Say So

Why we need authority to flourish.

When obvious things go out of fashion, and then someone says or does something to bring them back into fashion, the first thing to do is stand on your chair and wave your hat over your head. That—at least in a metaphorical sense—is how this review of Austin's Up with Authority should be taken. Way to go, and let's see about doing some more of it, shall we?

Authority exists in a fallen world, and so corruptions obviously get mixed with it. There are all kinds of ways in which authority can go wrong, and alas, it has. But this is no different, in principle, from any number of other things that God declared to be good during the course of the creation. Sex can be abused, as can food, as can beer, and so on. What Austin argues for here is a visualization of how authority might continue even if detached from its corruptions. Can we visualize a symphony orchestra in the resurrection and, if we can, can we visualize it without someone up front to tell the oboes when to come in? Austin argues, very carefully, that we cannot. Authority is essential to the social nature of mankind, and essential to the personal nature of mankind—and since we shall still be both in the resurrection, social and personal, authority in some glorified manifestation will be in evidence.

In the acknowledgments, Austin states that we are "essentially social beings all the way to the end," a reality which makes authority a necessity. He rejects the idea that authority rides on the back of that beast, coercion: "When coercion becomes necessary, authority is not able to be all that it could be." My father is in his eighties, and I am in my fifties, and I still respect his authority very highly, but not, I hasten to add, because I am afraid of a spanking. Austin shows that there is a liberated sort of authority that does not exclude freedom but actually depends upon it: "I am persuaded that the freer we become as human beings, the more we will need authority." Without that conductor, the ...

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