Thoughts of John

What is on my mind.

A Biblical Perspective on How to Approach Politcs

How You View the Created World, Part. 2

Enormous political consequences flow from how we view the material world and human beings.
The created world. Not everyone thinks the material world is real or good. Much of Eastern religious thought considers the material world to be an illusion that spiritual wisdom will teach us to ignore. If such views about the physical world are right, Philip Wogaman points out in Christian Perspectives on Politics, then hunger, starvation, economic exploitation, slavery, and physical torture “are not moral problems for us.” We can live on a “spiritual” level, ignoring the illusions of the insignificant or evil material world.
Other views see the world as divine. Animists believe that the trees and the rivers are divinities to be worshiped—and left as unchanged as possible. How dare we then cut down trees and dam rivers to create human civilization?
The biblical story tells us something radically different. Repeatedly in the story of creation, after God calls a crucial part of the material world into existence, the text declares, “God saw that it was good.” Indeed, at the end of the story, we hear that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).
Rather than an evil to escape or an illusion to ignore or a deity to worship, the world is a wondrously good, albeit finite, reality that God designed both to sing His praises and provide a home for humanity.
Human beings. The biblical text declares that God created men and women in the very image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Human beings are fundamentally different from every other part of God’s creation because they alone are declared to be made in the image of the Creator. As a consequence, human beings enjoy a dignity and value that no other creatures possess.
But what exactly does it mean to be created in the image of God? Genesis 1 points to two things. Verse 26 connects the image of God with our stewardship responsibility:
Let [human beings] rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.
We are placed as God’s assistants to exercise a loving, watchful stewardship over the rest of the earth. That does not mean that God authorizes us to trample and destroy the nonhuman creation. But it does mean that we rightly use trees and rivers, birds and animals to create complex civilizations.
Verse 27 connects the image of God with our communal nature: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them” (NRSV). An isolated individual cannot adequately image the God who is triune, a loving community of three persons in the one God. That is not to deny the importance of the individual. Both the communal and individual nature of persons is important.
Individual and communal. Each person is made in the image of God. God also summons each individual to repent personally in free obedience to the divine call. Jesus died on the cross to atone for the sins of eternal. Furthermore, since the invitation to life eternal is the truth about all persons, governments have no right to make laws that contradict or undermine this reality. When they do, their legitimacy disappears. Thus, the Christian belief in eternal life contributes significantly to placing limits on government.
A one-sided emphasis on either our material or our spiritual side has disastrous political consequences. If we believe that persons are just complex machines that evolved in a blind materialistic, evolutionary process, we will encourage society to place exaggerated emphasis on material well-being. We will also find it difficult, if not impossible, to develop moral norms that can check the totalitarian tendencies of government. Whatever the state decrees is declared “right.” There is no appeal to some “higher, divine law.”
On the other hand, many Christians have so emphasized the spiritual side of human beings that they have belittled the importance of history, politics, and material well-being. For decades, many evangelicals taught that saving souls was all-important; therefore good Christians should ignore politics and focus largely or exclusively on evangelism.
What we need is the biblical balance. We are created to find joy and delight in a material world that wise politics can help shape for our blessing. The results, however, are always limited. They are never important enough to abandon our relationship with God. But the Creator wants us to spend substantial time during our life in this material world enjoying and shaping it so that everyone can share its bounty. In fact, this material world is so good that some day the risen Christ will return to finish His task of removing all evil from this earth. Then all who believe in Him will receive resurrected bodies to live on this transformed earth and enjoy life eternal in the presence of the Lord.

Discipleship Journal, Issue 165, Ron Sider

May 11, 2008 - Posted by | Christian, Christianity, conservative, culture, Democrat, Discipleship Journal, Republican, Uncategorized, vote | , , , , , , , ,

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