Altizer on authority in radical Christianity


“Certainly an overwhelming pragmatic problem for radical Christianity is the question of authority, for even if it is dedicated to the inversion and reversal of all established authority, it cannot escape the actuality of authority. Already this can be observed in what little that we know of the Jesus community, and while we cannot know the nature of the authority that Jesus exercised, there can be little question that he deeply embodied an actual authority. We can observe a comparable authority in prophetic communities throughout history, as most fully manifest in the Hebrew Bible, for the canonical prophets were prophets with a canonically sanctioned authority. Of course, radical Christianity has been profoundly affected by noncanonical prophets such as Blake, who can even be known as antiprophets in inverting and reversing all established authority.

The Father is the primal authority in all established tradition, and this is true in the Bible, too, the primal Christian prayer is the ‘Our Father,’ and Paul and the Fourth Gospel are truly challenging in minimizing the role of the Father, as is also the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible. Our most conservative traditions commonly speak in the name of the Father, a name that is virtually never evoked in truly radical movements. If Freud’s most radical thinking was his discovery of the Oedipus complex, nothing else has so challenged the reign of the Father unless it is radical Christianity itself. For radical Christianity is an ultimate challenge to the Father, a Father whom it can know as being dead, and whose death is the source of an ultimate liberation.” —full interview with Thomas J.J. Altizer



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