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The power or right to persuade individuals or groups to obey precepts or recommendations. In the State, the coercive power of the government can ensure compliance, and when the Church was identified with organized society, Church authority was enforced with temporal penalties. In the Christian community authority now operates on the grounds of an appeal to conscience, with the understanding that deviation from what is acceptable to the community, in faith or morals, may entail exclusion or spiritual censure.

For Christians the ultimate authority is God, revealed in Jesus Christ. The NT writings presuppose the authority of Jesus and of the Christian community's interpretation of His teaching. In the Church, however, there have been tensions of various kinds. Whereas Orthodox and Anglicans think of major Councils as decision-making bodies, for RCs they are expressions of Christian opinion to advise the Pope who gives the authoritative ruling.

Subjects: Christianity.

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