Jurisdiction and authority

Jurisdiction: An Introduction

By Lauren Gideon

 We’ve all been there.

You come up on a mother and her child at the grocery store. The child demands an item that the mother has chosen not to purchase. Maybe this child objects with a dramatic tantrum, grabs the item, and defiantly places it in the cart, or perhaps he rips open the package, dumps the contents on the floor, and calls his mother some variation of a “stupid-head-poopy-face.”

At first, you may be tempted to laugh or say a prayer of thanksgiving that you were not in that parent’s humiliating position, but despite various philosophies of discipline, every onlooker thinks to himself, “That behavior was wrong, and it ought to be addressed. That kid needs a significant consequence.” 

We know the child ought to be corrected; the child corrected is good. However, what happens if you, the stranger, see what ought to be done, act, and do the thing that ought to be done? There is no way of knowing what might happen next, but you, the well-intended, astute stranger, are going to rightly find yourself in some trouble, maybe even in jail, depending on the course of correction you saw fit to apply. 

We all know there is a moral weight in the events happening all around us, but how often do we pause to consider the moral weight of who ought to address them?

The right thing done by the wrong person is immoral despite the intentions or “the heart” of the person or entity taking the action.

Observing the Ideas of Jurisdiction or Purview

We are observing the ideas of “jurisdiction” or “purview,” which communicate both the natural laws of authority and responsibility. While my illustration is both simple and obviously egregious, now, maybe more than ever, we are inundated with awareness of immoral actions, activities, and events happening all around us. 

In addition to this constant awareness, we have this righteous craving for justice, truth, and for things to be set right. Could we admit that we are often seeking the right actions from the wrong authority? Could we admit that when we see the immorality happening around us, often we don’t take time to consider jurisdiction?

Who Gives Authority and Responsibility?

Before I bog down all the “go-getters” with these inconvenient inefficiencies of the separation of powers, we must first consider who gives both authority and responsibility. When we consider the Author of the universe and that He has a plan and a purpose for how we humans interact with each other, we must also remember that we will give an account for the jurisdictions we trespass, abdicate, appeal to, or steward righteously.

Thus, it is imperative to apply the tools of the Trivium to the concept of jurisdiction for these three reasons. We need:

  • The Foundation of Grammar
  • The Structure of Dialectic
  • The Practice of Rhetoric to Live in Harmony with the Creator and the Creation

In a series of upcoming blogs, we will explore the following questions and others:

We Need the Foundation of Grammar

  • What are the human institutions commissioned with authority and responsibility?
  • What things are within their jurisdiction to govern?
  • What things are not? How should they govern?
  • Where should they govern?
  • Where is the revelation for God’s plan for jurisdictions found?

We Need the Structure of the Dialectic

  • Where are the boundaries of jurisdiction?
  • What happens when you cross boundaries?
  • How do spheres of jurisdiction interact with one another?
  • What happens when an entity abdicates its responsibilities to its jurisdiction?
  • Who are “the responsible” responsible too?
  • What happens when there is a disruption to the spheres of responsibility?

We Need the Practice of Rhetoric

Once we know the principles of jurisdiction and understand them in context with the whole, we have an obligation to move from the “knowing” to the “doing.” How should one appropriately execute and steward their responsibilities? An equally difficult question is how does one not trespass into a sphere he does not have jurisdiction over? How does one properly seek solutions in the appropriate sphere over the sphere he finds more expedient?

As I mentioned above, there will be action-minded allies (or even ourselves some days) who want to make excuses for sidestepping the consideration of jurisdiction.

            “Time is running out!”

            “The details aren’t that important!”

            “The situation is dire, and we have an obligation to ‘just do something’!”

             “If we don’t take matters into our own hands, who will?”

            “Did I mention this current crisis is the worst crisis!”

and my personal favorite;

            “It’s for the children!”  

Even my initial form of asking tedious questions instead of offering answers will irritate some. However, might I remind us:

Psalms 24:1-2

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,a
the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

Proverbs 25:2

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Matthew 6:33-34

but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

It is imperative to apply the trivium to the concept of jurisdiction because we need the foundation of grammar, the structure of dialectic, and the practice of rhetoric to live in harmony with the Creator and the creation. Every human being, by merit of the breath in their lungs, has been given something to govern.

As Christians and heirs to a kingdom yet to come, we have the highest calling, purpose, and joy to seek out the will of our Father and walk it out in faith. Let us be good students and stewards of the revelation that has been entrusted to us.

Lauren is a regular contributor. You can find Lauren’s other blogs here.

Lauren Gideon profile smiling at the camera

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations®.  She has been a home educator since her first student was born 18 years ago. She came to Classical Conversations for support when the student count in their home grew beyond what she thought she could navigate on her own. In addition to homeschooling her seven children, she co-leads community classes that unpack our nation’s founding documents and civic responsibility. However, she is happiest at home, preferably outside, with her husband of 18 years, tackling their newest adventure of building a modern homestead.