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  1. Jacqueline Laing

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0105

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Laing, J. 2011. Authority. The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


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 innocent civilians 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).


  • authority, from the latin auctoritas;
  • duty of obedience;
  • Aristotle and Aquinas, that law itself being good;
  • civil authority, man as a political animal;
  • Luther's assault on roman catholic church;
  • effect of christ, on people and demons alike