It appears that I have stumbled upon the answer to Juliet’s timeless question, “What’s in a name?” (Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 2). While a rose, by any other name, may have smelled as sweet to Juliet, the name of a book can make a significant difference for a reader.
By What Authority? is a compilation of papers delivered at a 2006 Brigham Young University conference on religious authority. The subtitle of the book (The Vital Questions of Religious Authority in Christianity) and the preface (authored by Robert L. Millet) imply that the text is an ecumenical examination of how various traditions—Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Seventh-day Adventist, and Latter-day Saint (to name a few)—perceive authority, priesthood, hierarchy, and the like. As evidence of what appears to be the book’s intended goal, one chapter’s author writes: “For nearly two millennia, meetings have convened to discuss authority in Christian traditions.” Another chapter indicates: “In one way or another, most of the theological issues that divide Christians today end up reflecting our different conceptions of authority.” Consequently, I was initially drawn to this text because I had hoped that through reading its pages I would come to a clearer understanding of how various Christian traditions answer “the vital questions of religious authority.” Certain chapters accomplished that goal—although others have as their purpose something different.