Recall from the previous parts that traditionalism reconnects man with the wisdom of his ancestors, that the most important wisdom is to acknowledge God, and that intuition is the foundation of wisdom. Recall also that man also needs revelation and personal repentance in order to be wise, and that once he has begun to repent of liberalism he is ready to find teachers of wisdom.
We have said that man can know the answers to many of his deepest questions or, in other words, that he can know the basic nature of the order of being, through his intuition. Since intuition can be corrupted or obscured, man needs to have these intuitions articulated, guided, and affirmed by authorities. And the highest authority is the Bible, God’s Word.
But there are other religious authorities. The Bible is not the only Christian authority. It is the highest (and the only infallible) authority, but you will need creeds and confessions, pastors and bishops, teachers and theologians to guide you. To become wise about God, you will need eventually to join one of the existing Christian traditions.
We have spoken [here and in the previous posts] at length about knowledge of God not simply because it is the most important knowledge. It also is a model for other forms of knowledge, for the basic problems of how one can know important truths occur similarly in other fields. In other fields too, man cannot know very much on his own, and must believe revelation and participate in a tradition in order to become wise. In other fields too, the authorities disagree about the most basic and important ideas, and so you will have to learn, and then judge, the criteria that these authorities use.
When you are investigating a particular authority, is there a general way to know whether he is teaching the traditionalism that gives life or the modernism that leads to nihilism? There is no certain test, but ask yourself some questions: Does he make it up himself, or does he refer to an authority or a tradition? Does he regard man as the measure of all things, or does he acknowledge God? Does he regard freedom and tolerance as the greatest goods, or does he show a concern for the objective order of the world and for preserving the ways of his people? Does he chafe at limits and rules, or does he acknowledge that reality contains boundaries?
And although you are judging the authorities, remember that you are not judging the realities about which they teach. Once you know it, you must submit to the order of being.
In areas such as proper male-female relations, the nature of a properly-ordered society, or the details of morality, we do not have an infallible authority like the Bible to define things completely. The Bible lays down the most basic truths about most areas of life, but it does not directly answer all questions. We need other authorities.
Note that these other authorities are fundamentally unlike the Bible in at least one important way: Not being God or His Words, they are not infallible. Instead, their authority (the right to be believed or obeyed) stems primarily from their bearing faithful witness to the true order of being, which is known at the most fundamental level by intuition rather than by coming from an infallible authority or having been validated scientifically.
[We have been speaking of intellectual and spiritual authority. Social authority is different. In general, social authority is visibly conferred through a publicly-recognized process.]
[Part Seven is here.]