In this passage from great Christian teacher Theodore Schmauk, we see a large part of the underlying conflict going on around us in America.
Without authority – for direction, appeal, and decision, – no step of intellectual, spiritual or social activity is possible. The question is not really as to authority, but as to its proper seat and location. The motto of the ancient pre-Christian, of the medieval, and of modern Roman, civilization, is “Society above the individual.” This ancient tyranny repeats itself today in scientific form in the motto, “The race above the individual”; in sociological form, when the State assumes to encroach upon the rights of the individual, and passes laws which propose to regulate the personal life, health, education, acts, interests, and happiness of the individual; and in political form, when the axiom of authority, “The majority rules”, is pressed ruthlessly against the minority. The same tyranny is found or imported into nature as the seat of authority, when its laws are interpreted as reducible to the axiom that “Might makes right”, or “The strongest survive.”
The reaction against this tyranny over the individual, so characteristic of the ancient world, and manifesting itself in modern sociology and science, is the extreme Romantic, or revolutionary, position, well expressed in the motto of Rousseau : “The individual above society.” If the absolute enforcement of authority upon the individual is Romanism, this elevation of the individual to the supreme seat is Protestantism gone to seed. It was already inherent in the humanism of the Reformation, and occasioned the controversies with Fanaticism in theology, and the Peasants’ War in sociology, in Luther’s day.
- Theodore E. Schmauk. “The Confessional Principle”, 1911.