Sunday, February 27, 2011

Power and Authority

What would you say is the difference between these two concepts? I think that the first results from searches at are sufficient for our purposes:

power n. ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.
authority n. the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.

In short, power is ability to act, and authority is justification to act. Power is derived, through Anglo-Norman French, from the Latin posse, “to be able.” Authority is derived, through Old French, from the Latin auctor, “originator, promoter.” The etymology of power makes logical sense with the above definition, but the etymology of authority is not so logical at first.

Originate is derived from the Latin origo, “source, origin,” and promote is derived, through Middle English, from the Latin pro-, “forward,” and movere, “to move.” So, by association, authority is the condition of being the source or origin of something or the ability to move something forward. Now we are getting somewhere: going back to the dictionary definition, it is logical to equate words like control, command, and determine with source and promote.

Now that our definitions are sorted out, here is my next question: between power and authority, which of the two, if either, is appropriate for humans to have?

Genesis, in the creation narrative, records God giving man (here meaning both men and women) dominion over the rest of creation. Dominion, to me, seems to be more along the lines of power, but then note the all-important point of God giving that dominion – in short, authorizing that dominion.

God is the source of all power, and God can grant that power to, for example, humans. Humans, then, seem to be best suited for authority, or the justification to act, as I paraphrased the definition above. Matthew’s Gospel records Jesus saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” Thus, because of the relationship we can have with God through Jesus, we have authority also to exercise over the creation.

I think most would agree as to the danger of unrestrained or unauthorized power. Adam and Eve were not authorized to take the fruit, but they used their physical power to tear it from the tree and eat it regardless, and we can all see what consequences that has had on the whole of creation.

The Bible (and world history) is full of examples of people exercising power, and the good results that come when that power is authorized, and the bad results that come when it is not. The key, I believe, is that whenever we as humans exercise our capabilities to act freely, we must keep in mind the lordship of Christ, and submit to His authority over us. Jesus in fact modeled this submission in His relationship with the Father, and we would do well to imitate it.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Affirmations and Companions

I am three and a half weeks into my last semester of my undergraduate years. One of my roommates mentioned a few days ago that he did not know where the time had gone, and I agree. The thought of formally graduating from this place I have come to love is sobering. I intend to reflect more on that theme later; here I want to focus on some of my final experiences as an undergraduate that are already occurring.

In this last semester, I am completing the clinical training portion, as it were, of the education side of my degree: student teaching. I am currently midway through a six-week assignment at Spring Wood Middle School in Hanover Park, applying what I have learned over the past three and a half years under the supervision and mentorship of Karisa Scheifele.

Every time a family member or friend asks how my student teaching experience is going, I am happily able to reply that it is going really, really well. And it really is. I have good rapport with the students (sixth through eighth grade band students), I am using the knowledge and skills I learned in all my music and education courses at levels I did not think possible, and on the whole, I am having fun doing it all. When Dr. Yontz observed me two weeks ago, his comments were overall quite positive. And Karisa, who as it happens is a Wheaton alumnus, has been such a wonderful mentor to me. In sum, my student teaching experience thus far has been incredibly affirming of the Lord’s calling for my to pursue teaching as a profession.

Student teaching is comparable to a full-time internship, so I am off campus from early in the morning until mid afternoon, Monday through Friday. Current student teachers from all departments have senior seminar on Tuesday nights, but besides that class, I no longer have classes or rehearsals at the College. That change was hard for me at first, mostly because I missed seeing my friends throughout the day. I also missed being in the Symphonic Band, because there was another bygone regular opportunity to be with friends.

Happily, though, I have been able to spend quite a bit of quality time with many of my friends through the time-honored experience of sharing a meal. I am really glad that I have taken that initiative to be so intentional about my friendships this semester, because it would sadden me were they to just fade away due to lack of interaction, and at the end of my undergraduate years no less. My Wheaton experience would not have been what it has been without all the amazing people the Lord has placed in my life while I have been here. Thank you to all those people for affirming me, supporting me, loving me, and encouraging me along the way. I hope and pray that our paths cross many times in this world post-Wheaton.

This is Rubio, over and out.

P.S. Completely off topic, but it is momentous enough to warrant mention. The Chicago area is currently under attack from a blizzard of “historic proportions,” enough that Spring Wood has a snow day tomorrow, and Wheaton College has a partial snow day!