Thursday, May 13, 2010

Absolute Power

An oft quoted saying declares that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This observation was declared by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The following information can also be view here.

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely


Literal meaning.


This arose as a quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Another English politician with no shortage of names - William Pitt, the Elder, The Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, is sometimes wrongly attributed as the source. He did say something similar, in a speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770:

"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"

While Lord Acton spoke accurately concerning that which he observed around him, his scope was limited and thus is incorrect.

For there is only one man who has ever had absolute power. He was not corrupted by it. Quite the opposite is true. This one man held absolute power and used it to overcome corruption.

What Lord Acton actually observed is the desire for power and the desire for absolute power. This desire, a.k.a., Lust, is that which corrupts. The lust for power is what corrupts, not the possession or use of power.

The Lord Jesus has absolute power both as God and as Man. He is the Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Creator of all that exists in heaven and on earth, both visible and invisible. He is also Man, created by His own almighty power, in whom the very Godhead is manifested. Even though this almighty and absolute power belongs to Him by the very essence of His Godhood, He did not consider it something to be grasped (Philippians 2:6-8). Rather, by His absolute power He made Himself to be of no reputation, making Himself to be a servant who would die in the stead of those who continually corrupt all good things with their ceaseless lusting and grasping.

No, absolute power never corrupts. Absolute power is manifested in the Gospel, the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. For this preaching is the very power of God, power that accomplishes the impossible, the overpowering of all corruption to regenerate filthy and damned sinners into saints who shine forth with the glory of God.

How sad it is that the lustfulness of mankind seeks to corrupt this Gospel, grasping after God’s power, desiring to claim some form of power for self. The Gospel is incorruptible. It is perfect and holy and without flaw. It regenerates those who live in and by it so that they are made to be members of one holy communion of saints, one Church, perfect and without flaw. Anything less is not of God and is not born of His absolute power. Anything less is merely a gathering of corruption, a gathering of lustful and grasping degenerates seeking power for themselves. From such people comes the cry, “You’ll never find the perfect Church.”

The reason that such a cry is brought forth is the same reason as that of Lord Acton. His reason was that he was looking not to the one who holds absolute power, but to those who lust after and grasp for it for themselves. Where the Lord Jesus is the one to whom the congregation gathers in accord with the means by which He gathers them, that gathering is exactly what He declares it to be: His own perfect and holy body, the communion of saints, the holy catholic Church on earth.

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