Religion today: Themes and issues
Religion today: Themes and issues

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Religion today: Themes and issues

1.6 Sources of authority

A very useful way of gaining insight into a religion and seeing how it works is to examine its sources of authority: for example, whether authority is vested in scriptures, in religious specialists, in tradition, in personal experience or a combination of these. Even in traditions where there is some agreement on what counts as an authoritative text, there are still contested issues of how that text is to be interpreted, by whom, with what degree of literalness and in what context. Similarly, even where traditions have authoritative leaders or revered lineages of teachers, personal inclinations, experiences and circumstances will temper individual behaviour. What counts as authoritative might change over time or in different settings, as in the case of Buddhism in the West or of Christianity under different political regimes, as, for example, in the contexts of Poland and East Germany.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus