The Golden Compass, the Magisterium, and Christianity

I wanted to make mention of something that I had not realized regarding the terminology used in the Golden Compass. I am sure this was already evident to many people.

Paul Davis wrote,

Actually, it is more than just a generic government, it appears from the movie that the “Magisterium” is the Government. They come complete with their own Police force, K-9 dogs, weapons, secret mechanical spy bugs, and everything. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t yet seen a religious group that has a police force (in the movie, the officers are called “Gobblers”). Needless to say, anyone who lives in America, with our separation of Church and state, will be totally unable to draw any parallels between the Magisterium and the Church. The character who is known as “The Authority” never appeared in the movie, but was mentioned a couple of times in an authoritative manner, but in no way were the references to “The Authority” spiritual, supernatural, deity-like, or godly in any way shape or form. – Paul’s Blog

I was needing a little light reading this morning so I pulled out The Nature of Doctrine by George Lindbeck and he reminded me of something I had totally forgotten. He mentions the “magisterium,” which he defines as “the official teaching authority of the church.” (p.17).

Magisterium:

Webster.com – “teaching authority especially of the Roman Catholic Church”

Wikipedia.org – “technical ecclesiastical term in the Roman Catholic Church referring to the teaching authority of the church. This authority is understood to be embodied in the episcopacy, which is the aggregation of the current bishops of the church, led by the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), who has authority over the bishops, individually and as a body, as well as over each and every Catholic directly. According to Catholic doctrine, the Magisterium is able to teach or interpret the truths of the Faith, and it does so either non-infallibly or infallibly”

The wikipedia article goes on to cite the catechism of the Catholic church – “The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. 1997, pt. 1, sect. 1, ch. 2, art. 2, III [#100]

I cannot help but think that there is little coincidence between all of this and people’s views of the authority of the church and how it has been misused and abused over the history of the church.

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