In Kurian G. (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Christian Civilisation. Blackwell (2012)
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A consideration of the concept of authority. The term authority derives from the Latin 'auctoritas'. Although often regarded as synonymous with 'potestas' or power, authority is more properly considered power legitimately exercised. Whereas Stalin had the power to kill millions of innocents he did not have the authority to do so. Accordingly, it is often said that the supreme authority is God himself who is both omnipotent and all good. On this view God is the source of the eternal law which is observed both in the fullness of the physical universe and also in the moral universe that governs men and angels. Accordingly the book of Proverbs states that “By me kings reign and lawgivers decree just things” (Prov. 8:15).



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Jacqueline A. Laing
Oxford University (DPhil)

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