Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 3


Why is politics necessary?

Genesis 1:1 establishes the political domain of the heavens as belonging to (Yahweh) Elohim, and the earth is the given domain for human political stewardship.

Then in verse 2, the text reads: Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was above the face of the abyss, and the Spirit of Elohim was above the face of the waters.

What is being presented is the eternal Creator speaking into existence a finite reality that had not theretofore existed. We cannot conceive of this in our limited capacities, but the language gives us the ability to grasp the greatness of the One who speaks our earth and human domain into being.

The language of the earth being "formless and void," is tohu w'bohu in the Hebrew. And "darkness" (hoshek) is above the face (panim, or in the presence of) of the abyss (t'hom). It describes the same reality. The abyss (abussos in the Greek New Testament) means "without boundary." In other words, good order is being made in the presence of disorder, and anything outside the presence of the Creator is by definition disordered. No boundaries, no light, no identity, no purpose, no existence.

In the face of such nonexistence, the Spirit (Hebrew ruach) hovers over "the waters" (mayim) that is, unorganized material with which to create -- the basic ingredient of life.

Thus, the political overview of Genesis 1:1 now begins to take form, and most simply, man and woman are to bring good order to the earth as given to us. As (Yahweh) Elohim is satisfied in ordering the creation and the earthly domain for us, we are to be satisfied in bringing good order to the earth as given, in building loving and creative human civilization.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 2


What are the three choices in human history for political order?

According to the late Jewish political theologian, Daniel J. Elezar, they are 1) hierarchy, 2) oligarchy and 3) covenant.

1. Hierarchy is the natural result of conquest in war. In antiquity, the hierarchical model is seen in Egypt. Here, the Pharaoh claims to be a son of the gods, and thus, he asserts authority over all Egyptians according to his singular will. It is the model of the top-down pyramid, and its economic survival depends on massive slavery.

2. Oligarchy, and its first cousin, plutocracy, arise organically out of communities where a given family or set of families gain control. In antiquity, ancient Greece is the model. It is a model from within, but near the top of the pyramid, and its economic survival also depends on massive slavery.

Ancient Rome is an admixture of the hierarchal and oligarchal models, and its economic survival also depends on massive slavery..

3. Covenant is a matter of divine revelation where Yahweh is King, and where there are checks and balances on human power. Authority is for the well-being of all people, and not the private domain of a self-aggrandizing elite. In antiquity, this is the nation of Israel, where the bottom of the pyramid is in control, and its economic model is based on freedom for all equally.

Only biblical literacy can serve human freedom.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Bible and Politics 101: Question 1


How central is politics to the Bible?

We can start by looking at the first verses in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Genesis 1:1 reads: Bereshith bara elohim eth ha'shamayim w' eth ha'eretz: "In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth."

All the way through the Hebrew Bible, this combination of "the heavens and the earth" percolates often. As Genesis 1-2 introduces this reality, the Creator is the One who governs the heavens (the invisible realms), and man and woman govern the earth (the visible domains) as his stewards.

Thus, healthy human politics can only be rooted in knowing the politics of the one true Creator.

Matthew 1:1 reads: Biblos geneseos Iesou Chistou huiou Dawid huiou Abraam: "The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham." The Son of David is the son of and heir to the founding king of Jerusalem.

This declaration about Jesus is thus a threat to Herod and Caesar, in their usurping human kingships. In the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, his actual words start this way: Pater hemon ho en tois ouranois: "Our Father, the One in the heavens" (Matthew 6:9).

This traces back to the declared political domain of the Creator in Genesis 1:1. And also, in the debate between Jesus and his enemies during Passover Week (Matthew 21-22), the whole argument centers on the question of who is the Son of David. This political battle leads to the cross, resurrection, ascension, the Second Coming, and how we as Christians are called live as salt and light in a corrupt world.