Refusal to follow authority - how to respond

Hello all. I have been discussing religion with my father, who is not a Christian. He says he believes there is a God, and the other day he even conceded that Jesus is the Son of God (I don’t know if he believes it, but he conceded it). He is even willing to concede the authority of the Catholic Church in all matters religious.

His reason for not wanting to be a Christian is simple: He refuses to submit to any kind of authority.

When he said this, I immediately knew what he meant. My dad is the type of person who will do what he wants and do what needs to be done, regardless of the consequences. Not I don’t mean that he drinks or parties or what not. But he does not want to follow rules imposed by others, including, at times, the law. This issue seems beyond apologetics. However, I, being a logical person myself, still hold out hope that if I can somehow make the right reasoned argument as to why he would want to follow the Church’s rules and become Catholic, that I might actually persuade him.

I already told him that making a choice to not be a Christian or submit to Church authority is making a choice to go to hell. That argument doesn’t faze him.

Anyone have any other ideas for things I might say? This may be a situation where all I can do is pray for a change of heart.

Thanks all!

Some things have to be left up to the Holy Spirit. We humans can’t convert people to the faith, in fact our efforts can sometimes turn people away from the faith. I was agnostic for my first 47 years, and my contact with some evangelical Christians (over the years) turned me off to the faith. But the Holy Spirit worked on me and I gave in, not at the urging of another Christian. I am not saying that all people are like this, but it sounds like your dad may be. I would keep talking about your faith with him, keep it conversational but don’t try to convert him. Let the Spirit work within him!

Hi dtarvin,

The refusal of authority was the sins of the bad angels and also of our fist parents. (But don`'t tell him that and above all don’t threaten him with, the pains of hell. What do you know about it?) )

If he admits the existence of God then he admits that God created everything that exists, lncluding him. Is not the maker of a thing the one who decides how it should behave ? Does not the watchmaker decide how the watch should tell time ? So does God , and the Church he founded,have the right to dictate how we should behave.

You try that on him, then leave him alone. Only God can change the heart and you will achieve that through prayer.


I have two agnostic friends who have issues with authority, so I can kind of relate. :shrug: Just try and explain the virtues of being a good Christian, and how he’ll always be loved by God no matter what. I’d say a daily prayer for him, too.
There’s not much else you can do for now. Going into super-evangelization mode on him will just turn him away even more. Let God do His work. It’ll take time, but things will work out.

My mother is like this–she just flat-out says it. So there are 2 things to say about it.

Despite my mother’s rejection of authority, she expected us children to follow her authority! And when one considers the authority of parents, a parental type of authority, then one can see authority in a different light. For instance, we live in a place where there are wild animals which attack. Humans rarely, but not unheard of. So my husband and I have a rule that the children must tell us when they are going out of the house. Why? *for the children’s protection. ***we cannot protect them if they do not obey us. **

God does not want to hinder us in our lives any more than we want to hinder our children. But if our children do not obey us, we can’t protect them, nor can we teach them.

The second thing I want to say is that the rejection of authority is very much rooted in the newer philosophies in the so-called Enlightenment and after. It is a philosophy which has permeated all of society and is found throughout our media. So there is an interaction there: it is kind if poured into our heads and we just learn to automatically react against authority as if *all *authority is bad and simply an attempt to restrict us in ways that are bad for us. This ends up flipping everything on its head: “they” try to restrict sexual activity; therefore sexual activity is something which *should *be completely unrestricted.


at some point you must concede that they have free will and you just have to pray for them and their conversion.

It sounds like this isn’t a matter of him not having the information you could give him. This is a matter of attitude. I know from experience that you can’t make someone stop rebelling by arguing with them. You can’t make someone stop rebelling, period. All you can do is pray for him, and show him that you love him no matter what.
I used to be very rebellious and I sinned so much that I had blinded myself (metaphorically.) It took years for God to change my heart. What my parents and others said did not change me. I think it did make some impact on me in the long-term, but that was because they are my parents and on some level I knew they knew better. This is the opposite relationship in your case.
Really there isn’t much you can do, except pray, and never condone your father’s sinful actions. Be charitable to him, but don’t make the mistake of trying to control him or change him. Trust me: you can’t argue someone into the Church. I know: I’ve tried.

Don’t say that, because you don’t know that it’s true. You can’t know the state of your father’s soul. It is true that what he is doing is very dangerous spiritually, and COULD be choosing hell, but you can’t know whether he is or not, because you don’t know how much he really understands and believes, and you don’t know whether he has full consent of will.

JOY!! Share your real joy in Christ and some people realize the things that they dont want to give up are really nothing compared to the joy they see you have in Christ.


Through the Holy Spirit comes true and lasting peace and joy. The Holy Spirit asks us for obedience to the Church. Even if we do something that we think is good, but goes against that authority, it is not of the Holy Spirit and is of the evil one. If we desire peace, joy, and love, we should be obedient to the Church in all things.

Was he always that way, even as a child?

Some kinds of arguments aren’t won even by reasoned arguing. That’s because the root problem might not be an intellectual problem. It’s like arguing with an atheist. Often times it’s not an intellectual problem but a moral problem they have.

It’s probably an indication he doesn’t believe in an afterlife.

Maybe start there. The body is mortal, it has a beginning and an end, but that’s NOT the end. The soul is immortal, it has a beginning and NO END. Tell him he’s already immortal. He is going to live forever, with his memory intellect and will fully functional, whether he likes it or not for ALL ETERNITY. There is no lights out for all eternity after we’re done in this life. The next life begins when this life is over. So the $64,000 question to ask him, where do you want to spend eternity dad?

As a suggestion, put him in the care of the Blessed Mother. Trust Mom, she will bring him around :slight_smile:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit