Power and Authority
by: Gordon Wayne
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Historically, the ultimate spiritual authority is some divine being, a supernatural entity, which is the source of divine volition, divine will, or divine expectations. Divine expectations are those things that the supernatural entity, sacred being, or divinity expects of humankind. In contrast to divine volition, we have individual volition, our personal will, our personal ambitions, which covers everything we expect of ourselves. This introduces a potential problem because our individual volition can conflict with divine volition.
However, according to traditional religious beliefs, whenever conflicts occur we must submit to divine volition because disobedience has eternal consequences. Naturally, this presumes that somebody knows exactly what is and what is not divine volition, and most religious authorities readily declare they truly know what the divine expects of humankind. Fortunately for these religious authorities, the source of divine volition never conveys its expectations of humanity directly to people. Unfortunately for these spiritual leaders, we may exercise our individual volition and refuse to believe they are the messages of this divine volition. We may refuse to believe these messengers because one tells us to love our neighbors while another tells us to hate our neighbors.
According to the same religious leader and authorities, divine volition comes from the supernatural authority that created everything within the universe. Therefore, that ultimate spiritual authority is the master of the universe, the supreme ruler of earth and the creative force underwriting nature. In other words, this master of everything established the natural order, which includes every species natural endowments and characteristics.
This is an important detail because nature rarely supports frivolous features, and when any species has extravagant features, those endowments have a reason for existing. For instance, peacocks have extravagant feathers so males can seduce females and females can choose mates with the most promising genetic potential. Giraffes have long, elegant necks so they can reach the foliage other animals cannot reach. Whatever creative forces underpinning this world, its creatures, and the natural order do not bestow physical attributes frivolously.
This conclusion is crucial to understand the issue divine will and individual will because we can argue that whatever forces created reality, also created individual volition. Every human has a large, sophisticated brain, and every human brain has genetically guaranteed cognitive faculties, including individual volition. We can now add the traditional premise that the divine is possesses infinite knowledge, including infinite knowledge of consequences. With that premise, we can then conclude the supreme spiritual master of the universe knowingly gave every human free will, personal preferences, or individual volition.
Some will argue this does not negate the spiritual obligation to obey divine volition but we can counter that omnipotent creative forces could easily have created us without free will. Humanity could be like ants, bees, and termites so we would respond to genetic programming rather than to personal emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. Through the magic of genetic programming, everybody would have the same thoughts, feelings, and beliefs such that spiders would either terrify everybody or fascinate everybody. Fortunately thought, we are not like social insects so spiders terrify some people, they fascinate others, and some people are completely indifferent to spiders.
The entire array of individual differences is the result of our mortal brain and its genetically guaranteed cognitive faculties beginning with our ability to learn. Our brains can learn about life, reality, the world, and use those lessons to build a personal database of knowledge from which we can assemble personal beliefs. Our personal beliefs develop from our knowledge of life, reality, and the world because our brains can decide what we are willing to believe and not willing to believe. In other words, we have the innate intelligence to decide whether we are willing to believe individual volition must submit to divine volition, or it can operate without divine approval.
Even if we decide that divine volition is important and we must submit to divine will or suffer eternal consequences, we require another important cognitive faculty, namely speech. Everything we learn concerning supernatural expectations comes from other humans, from sharing our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs with each other. Speech allows us to debate the issue of divine will versus free will, to discuss exactly what divine volition and individual volition are or are not. Without speech, we cannot discuss the discrepancies between divine volition, individual volition, another type of volition, or the limits of any type of volition. We cannot discuss the discrepancy between divine volition, individual volition, or any other form of sentient volition.
Even if we decide that divine volition is important and we must submit to divine will or suffer eternal consequences, we require another important cognitive faculty, speech. Everything we learn about supernatural expectations comes from other humans, specifically from sharing our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs with each other. Speech allows us to discuss the issue of divine will versus free will, to discuss exactly what we think divine volition and individual volition are or are not. Because of speech, we can discuss the distinctions between divine volition, individual volition, or another type of volition, and the limits of each type.
Interestingly, even theologians and clergy employ their innate intellectual faculties to learn everything they know believe about divine volition. They discuss the issue of divine volition with each other, discussing it and discussing it until they sincerely believe they know precisely what these divine expectations are or are not. While many probably pray for guidance or meditate for insight, they subsequently discuss it with their colleagues until they genuinely believe they understand the issue insight and out. After they have thoroughly convinced themselves they understand the issue of divine volition versus individual volition, they must convince the laity they honestly understand the issue using language.
Realistically, individual volition precedes sacred expectations because our personal will must decide, first, whether we believe they exist and, second, the extent of those expectations. Any supernatural spiritual authority can issue a million edicts, but if we are not willing to believe that authority is supernatural or spiritual, they are inconsequential. The choice and the decision are ours and only ours, though it is not necessarily an individual option.