, , , , , , , , , , ,

We all start somewhere. We all believe some things are more important and others, less. Here are some things I believe about life, power and abundant life. My most basic belief, that God is utterly sovereign over his creation which God loves very much, is reflected in Statement 1) and those which follow from it. Do compare my basic beliefs to yours. Maybe we have a lot in common, maybe not. Either way, let’s talk.

    • God created all things in love and because of love.

      1. God intended for people and all the rest of creation, which people have from God in stewardship, to enjoy life together in creation in peace, harmony and joy.
      2. The power to do all the things which make such enjoyment possible was also created by God and structures such as business, media, family, friendship, marriage and government within which people enjoy life were created by God for righteous/just joy.
      3. Power is a good creation of God, created for the sake of productivity and blessing.
      4. There are all sorts of power: command and control, influence, example, physical effort, wind, etc. All power is good and has its just purposes, however badly or wrongly it may be used in a given set of circumstances.
    • Human beings misused their power very early on in their life on earth. They rebelled against their creator.

      1. In their rebellion and because of it, people lost what the Bible calls “the glory of God,” the ability to do what is wise in creation, for God’s glory and for their own ultimate blessing.
      2. Since then, humans have been stumbling about in the foggy dusk, trying to make sense of life and trying to find security through the use of such power as they still have and can find.
      3. Sin is the absence of God in our life.
      4. There is no sin-free zone, no neutral area of life in which we humans are not desperate for the love, wisdom and power of God in our thoughts, deliberations, decisions, actions and policies.
      5. Sin is trying to live and to solve problems, to make things right, to do justice and practice mercy, apart from God.
      6. Sin happens in our marriages and in our church meetings and in the decisions we make and actions we take at our work, apart from God.
    • Many millennia ago, empire was developed as a relatively secure but oppressive way of organizing a society by aggregating power in one person or, more rarely, in a group of persons.

      1. Although there are all sorts of sin, in its most concentrated form, organized and habitual sin presents itself within empire.
      2. Empires are always based on violence; they always proclaim a false gospel and they always support political, social and economic structures which impede all forms of democracy.
      3. Empires are organized forms of evil which are preferred by most all people over the chaos of anarchy and the brutality of perpetual conflict among small tribes and kingdoms.
      4. Empires shape the imaginations of their people to assume and suppose that all the answers to life are to be found within the “wisdom” and resources of the empire and, if it has substantive gods, its gods.
        1. (Not all empires project their awe as deity; some function implicitly as deity, i.e., “The State” or metaphorically, as in, “the almighty dollar!”.)
      5. There are many different forms of empire. Most are political but under some circumstances an empire might be economic or even ecclesiastical.
        1. If a church can terrify governments as the Papacy did in the high middles ages it can rule all of Europe and even part of the Middle East.
        2. If an economic city state like Tyre in the 8th century, BC, could buy off the nations around it, its merchants could live like princes while others starved.
        3. The trick to empire is to pull all possible societies and all parts of each society under one’s influence if not under direct control.
        4. Empires naturally collect wealth, power and influence; what those with imperial designs take, they keep.
          1. As Joseph illustrates in Genesis 47, empires take, they do not buy; empires sell, they do not give away.
        5. Life under empire is the opposite of God’s shalom-life, God’s open-handed generous life in his good creation.
    • Jesus came to save his creation from sin. Not in heaven later; now and forever “on earth as it is in heaven.”

      1. When Jesus came to bring new creation to God’s troubled world, his own people, Israel, were trapped in a treaty with the empire of their day, Rome.
      2. All the other nations (of the known world) in Jesus’ time were either trapped under imperial Rome or in the smaller empires and tribes on Rome’s borders.
    • The new creation/salvation which Jesus brought to earth has been in growing evidence throughout those nations which have honored and sought to live out of the gospel of Jesus because the people of the kingdom in those nations have, from time to time, sought to impress the values of the new creation on their nations.

      1. When times of Christian renewal have been in evidence in a nation, and even long after such times, grace has proven to be stronger than sin; justice/righteousness, more powerful than oppression; love does and has cast out fear.
      2. It is the mercy of God that although we most often make sinful decisions apart from God, not all our blind choices fall astray. The old theologians called this effect “common grace.”
      3. We are humans, made for creation in God’s image and many of our individual and collective choices go right, even though and when we do not know why. This is also “common grace.”
    • By virtue of creation and in light of the spreading power of the new creation, all power, including political power should belong to people, not to kings, not to dictators, emperors or unelected elite “committees.”
    • Democracy, rule by the people, has always been the normative means for groups of all kinds to rule themselves.

      1. Democracy was built by God right into the genes of social animals from gnats to fish to herds of deer.
      2. All such social groups rule themselves through democratic decision-making. Some groups of animals do this constantly.
      3. Only humans, cut off from the wisdom of creation through their own early rebellion, allowed themselves from very early on to be ruled by tyrants.
    • Good government, by definition, is government which seeks justice of, by and for all God’s creation, beginning with its people, even if many or most of the people do not know God.

      1. Because people are made for life in creation, it is rare for a majority of well-informed to act against their own greater, long-term self-interest for long.
      2. However, if the overwhelming majority of the people either have ceased to know God or else in those cultures that never knew God, because of idolatry, democracy, although it is a great gift of God, will not likely long endure.
      3. Even so, and even in their fallen condition, the aggregate of people will often, by virtue of their being made in the image of God for life in creation, choose better for themselves and for the creation than any “enlightened” elite group will choose for them.
    • Although good government is necessary for good life, it is difficult to achieve or maintain such a government when one’s society is moving toward the conditions of empire.

      1. Empires maintain small and insecure middle classes for the service of the imperial elite and to maintain order within the empire’s desperate majority. Such frightened middle classes have no time to consider their political circumstances. Only the elite have a say in much of anything, short of violent revolution.
      2. Democracy, by contrast, thrives where there is a large and educated middle class, a critical mass within which most are what in the modern parlance are called “high-information voters.”
      3. Every middle class has what the Greek democratic city states called, “idiotas,” low-information non-voters. As long as the number of non-voters remains low, the government can be kept accountable to its electorate.
      4. As the percentage of idiotas and even worse, low-information voters – those most easily manipulated by idolatrous “propaganda” – increases the ability of the middle class to hold its government accountable declines.