Stanley Miligram conducted an experiment in the 1960’s (Bassham, Irwin, Nardone & Wallace, 2011). Miligram asked participants to administer a series of electrical shocks to subjects that they could hear, but not see (Bassham, et.al, 2011). Subjects were asked to give participants increasing amount of electrical shock, despite that fact that they could hear subjects scream and knock on walls. In reality the subjects were not hooked up to the shock treatment, and were just screaming.

Miligram was shocked with the results of the experiment. Despite the screams of subjects participants continued to increase the level of shock. “The purpose of the study was to determine how far people would go in inflicting pain on total strangers, simply because they were asked to do so by someone perceived to be “an authority” (Bassham, et. al, 2011).

According to the results Miligram believed that authority moves people, and that under the right circumstances “people will abandon values, beliefs, and judgements” because of authority (Bassham, et. al, 2011).

What about the authority of God?

Perhaps one of the least talked about aspects of God is His authority over His follower’s. God is the I am. He is all knowing, all powerful, all wise, and eternal. He has authority.

He had the authority to create and shape us.
He has the authority to continue doing that today.
He had the authority to make the planets, and the universe.
He has the authority to wield them as He wishes.

Yet, how often is His authority so strong in our lives that we let it shape and mold us like the participants in the experiment. They were willing to induce electric shock on strangers because someone in an experiment asked them to. What are we willing to do for God?

I read about Milligram’s experiment in a book I am reading for a decision making class. The section describes barriers to critical thinking, and this experiment comes under conformism.

Throughout the work day we are bombarded with opportunities to conform. The pressure feels the same as when we were in high school. Do what I do, or be an outcast. The allure is strong. You will never get that promotion if you don’t take our side against hers.

An understanding of God as our ultimate and final authority should have sway on us during the day. An understanding of His power and might. Remember grace? Yeah that unmerited something or other we talk about at church.

It’s unmerited favor. It means we get something we don’t deserve. It means that someone else paid the price for something that I owed, and I can never repay Him.

Authority can and should move us. God’s authority. It should cause us to do radicals things for His glory, and in His name. Let’s try the God experiment, and see what are lives are like, and how we can avoid conformity, when we follow what He says.  His authority.

Marcy Pedersen

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