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.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric Swenson said...

I had not really thought about this question from a pre-Genesis 3 perspective before, and may not even be answering the question that's really being asked, but I'm gonna anyway.
From the current state of man, politics seems to be mostly about determining who actually gets to make the decision when we don't have a consensus agreement. I can see that being an applicable factor before. God does not give good in a unitary fashion. He gives the whole of goodness - there's no single way that is the right way, and I expect that part of role was to forever grow, expand, create, and discover the limitless expressions of goodness that God has.

Looking at that, it provides a point of view on the purpose of politics after the fall. In many ways, our goal is the same. Despite my intense disagreements with the political other, I can't in honesty say that I truly believe the goal of those I disagree with is to cause evil. POSH-LLLL, ci? Foundationally, we are doing our best to pursue the good that the imago Dei recognizes. Our fallen nature to be as God, though, we end up fighting for our way not because it is the good, but because it is OUR good, to the point that we justify all manner of wickedness in getting our way. Even things that we agree with turn from a means to pursue good into a tool to gain more power so that we can beat the other team (who we despise, since they are clearly untrustworthy and desire me harm) so that their pursuit of good is defeated.

Imagining pre-Genesis 3, it's easy to think of man as being completely united and having this God-like knowledge of things such that we would be perfect rulers, but I'm not sure that's justified. We were created with many of the same limits that we have today. Politics would serve a very useful role in that, while we can spend a long time discussing out approach to life, at some point we need to actually decide. If I disagree with my ruler's decision, but I trust them, I can accept the tradeoffs willingly, knowing that they are doing their best to pursue the good. In the same, they trust me, knowing that when I come to them saying that it is not working and we need to make changes, that I am pursuing the good, not trying to take them down a peg. Good politics allows for mankind to express and pursue the full range of good things God has created, while recognizing out limits. We are given every tree to eat from, but if we eat from all the trees all the time it makes us sick. We were created to experience limits, to explore new things, and to experience different goods at different times. Why should our manner of living as a body not reflect that?