Too many Christians behave and speak obnoxiously at times, and then when the world responds with hatred, we automatically attribute that hatred to our faithfulness to Christ.
There seems to be a common misconception among many Christians that if the world hates them, it’s incontrovertible proof that they must be doing something right. They must be faithfully following Jesus.
It is true that the world hates those whom Christ has chosen out of this world (John 15:18–25). It is true that the world hates Christians because it hates Christ.
What is the logical fallacy known as “affirming the consequent”?
The problem is that many Christians commit a logical fallacy when thinking about this issue. They assume that if the world hates them, then it must be the case that they are faithfully following Jesus. Let me lay out the statements to make this easier to see.
True Conditional Statement:
If you faithfully follow Jesus, then the world will hate you. (If P, therefore Q).
Logically Fallacious Conclusion:
The world hates me, therefore I must be faithfully following Jesus (Q, therefore P).
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By Adam Carrington — 1 year ago
We see in the opening chapters of Genesis a wealth of material related to political theology. We witness a God whose rule includes the act of creation. We see the importance of creative words as introducing the rule of law. We encounter a creation mandate that reveals man to be a rational, fruitful, working being created to rule over the world. Finally, we observe the Fall into sin and death requiring new laws to respond appropriately to the onset of evil, as well as the new (and necessary) tool of coercion to offset humanity’s depraved recalcitrance.
“In the beginning”
So opens Holy Scripture, telling of God’s creation of the world from nothing. When discussing political theology, we must consider the proper place to begin. A Protestant political theology should start with Scripture, particularly Genesis 1-3 and the creation of the world.
God exists, Genesis 1:1 tells us, “[i]n the beginning.” He alone stands without beginning and thus unmade. His first recorded action in Genesis is that He, “created the heavens and the earth.” We must consider the relationship between creator and creature in the political context. We revere our Founders. In this we do not differ from many other political communities who also revere the men or gods who founded their city, whether it be Solon or Athena. To create involves exercising rule over the created. The creator’s rule stems from a certain right over the creature. The created owes something to his endower as a matter of justice. In addition, the creator rules by defining his creation in its development. This definition involves a fundamental kind of lawmaking—establishing the nature, and thus the end or telos, of the creature. Thus, God calls on animals to reproduce “according to” their “kind” (Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 24-25). Their “kind” entails a set nature for each, a pattern to follow. Put another way, the laws of nature and of reason, as Richard Hooker referred to them in his Lawes, stem from what God made.
God speaking creation into existence (“Let there be”) teaches a political lesson as well. People talk with reverence regarding the “rule of law.” Such governance requires words; one must communicate the law’s content. It demands that we subject ourselves to its prescription precisely as spoken. God could have created by some other, physical action. His “hands” might have formed the earth, his “fingers” fashioning animals. He did not. He spoke into existence. God’s spoken creation is an act of lawmaking, thus in God’s words we find the supremacy of law. Rulers can employ power in other, more physical fashions. But the spoken and later written word is primary; physical force secondary and supportive. As primary, verbal governance reveals a rational God, rationally creating the universe, meant to be understood and obeyed by any other rational beings to which He gives existence.
Thus, from the start, God did not intend humans to be ruled like rocks or even like cattle. They were meant to observe, to hear, and to know God’s laws and respond, knowingly and willingly, in obedience. This role for man, implied in God’s very speaking creation into existence, sets him apart. We see rule established in other forms by God’s creative speech. The sun and moon both exist to “rule” (Genesis 1:16) over day and night. The sun and moon order time, including seasons and years. Though both sun and moon are irrational entities “ruling” over irrational entities, the rule found in the natural world reveals a political principle: even inanimate objects require ordering and some entity to do the ordering. Moreover, we as rational beings must respond to these rulers and to their subjects. These orderings set rhythms for which human laws must account. They help to define our experience in a manner to which governments must conform.
At the end of each day, the good God pronounces His creation “good,” going on to say, “very good” of the creation as a whole. This concept of goodness also directly affects political life. God creates in conformity with His own nature. Politics seeks the good. Thus, it must know the good to rightly pursue its end. Genesis tells us that politics, to know the good on earth, must know the creating One who is good first and foremost. As all other goods stem from His, and pale in comparison to His, the student of politics must also be a student of theology proper. To know God is to understand the ends of political life—the righteousness and justice political power acts to achieve.
This task helps us to consider man as created in God’s image. John Calvin locates the substantive portion of this image in our own righteousness and holiness. Politically speaking, we show the image of God in us when we think, feel, and act justly. Good politics, therefore, reinforces this divine image, so tarnished by the events of Genesis 3. Just political action falls far short of regeneration and sanctification. But it does push us to act as we ought, making a small recovery of our unfallen nature.
The Creation Mandate
We next turn to the laws God gives human beings. Yes, creating man with a fixed nature establishes laws for him. But God gives explicit commands to Adam, rules that help explain his nature and thus his purpose. First, God commands mankind, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” In tandem with this command, God finds no suitable helper for Adam until He creates Eve. This requirement addresses an important starting point for considering the human beings who will inhabit political communities. Some political philosophers start from the perspective of the individual, especially Early Moderns like John Locke. Others begin from the communal view, with ancients like Aristotle and Plato leading the way. Early moderns certainly saw a role for human community, and ancients did not ignore the individual. However, which perspective you start with makes a big difference. The command to be fruitful and multiply means human communities from the start involve families, not merely individuals. Politics, then, will spring from and have concern for humans as they exist in community. We are naturally social beings, an insight that is as biblical as it is Aristotelian. Even pre-Fall, Adam would have made human laws to regulate these interactions. These laws would not have involved coercive restraint, but cultivation and education. Along similar lines, pre-Fall politics must concern itself with families. It must encourage and facilitate fruitfulness. It also must regulate the interaction between families so as to assure the proper ordering of family life.
The creation mandate continues that man should “subdue” the earth and “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Rule—we could even say politics does not arise as a punishment for the Fall. It originates as part of man’s rule over the earth and all that is in it. Calvin saw a small bit of God’s image in this mandate. Man will subdue the earth and the animals in accordance with certain rules for their cultivation. In other words, man will make and enforce laws. These laws would conform to those already established by God at creation. Adam must know. Then he must regulate according to that knowledge. Thus, the relationship between natural law and human law existed prior to the Fall, wherein the latter applies the former.
The world and the humans inhabiting it do not stay perfect, of course. Genesis 3 recounts humans’ Fall, through Adam, into a state of sin and death. The Fall holds political importance both in how it happens and in what it means for humanity going forward.
Regarding how, we must begin with the spoken law God gave to Adam and Eve. They might eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
By Philip Ryan — 1 year ago
When God began to reconstruct my faith, I realized how lonely I was and how much I needed help. I needed a community of believers to walk alongside me. I needed to sit under a faithful minister of the gospel and hear the word of God preached.
Among the ever-growing list of controversies and threats to Christ’s church, the disturbance of deconstruction looms large. Over the past two years, we have all seen and listened to many stories of deconstruction from authors, musicians, and even YouTube personalities. Sadly, these stories are celebrated even by some Christians—the same Christians who then mock those who raised alarm over deconstruction.
What I don’t often hear are stories of those who have reconstructed their faith. Since I couldn’t find many, I thought I would offer my own story of reconstruction after I abandoned Christianity for progressive Christianity.
Dynamics of Deconstructed Faith
Most deconstruction stories start with a crisis. This was certainly my experience. I spent 2006-2008 attending a progressive Christian church in my college town. I read leading progressive theologians and pastors: Paul Tillich, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Barbara Brown Taylor, Phyllis Tickle, and Phillip Gulley. I no longer believed the Bible was inspired, let alone authoritative. I denied miracles, the virgin birth, the incarnation, and even had deep doubts about the resurrection. I affirmed homosexuality, universalism, and social justice.
My crisis started on the first day of classes in the fall of 2008 at Andover-Newton Theological School just outside of Boston. One of my first classes was a required course for all the new MDiv students. The professor was the Dean of the school and an influential queer-feminist theologian who had recently left Harvard. She spent a good deal of time talking about the intersectionality and the task of the minister to affirm and support all the identities represented in a church. Here was where my crisis began. We did a class assignment where we took an inventory of our identities: race, sexuality, gender, etc. Some of us were confused, so she clarified, “What are your strongest identities? The ones that define you? For example, my primary identity is a lesbian woman in a 20-year committed relationship to my partner.” As progressive as I was, I thought that a Christian’s primary identity would be Christian—certainly for those Christians preparing for ordained ministry.
When we were done with the inventory, the professor showed us a pyramid of oppression. She started at the bottom with the most oppressed identities and worked her way up. This was what I wanted; I wanted to speak truth to power, fight oppression, and labor for liberation. However, after the class I felt empty and bothered. The pastor was presented as a problem solver for the culture. My mission would then be to create a more just and equitable society, not to care for souls. It struck me that we always talked about sin at the structural level but never at the personal level.
It also made me think back through all those authors I read. I don’t remember a single one mentioning the problem of personal sins. These people claimed to follow Jesus, but Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). Why shouldn’t we follow Jesus when he said this? I could feel a knot in my stomach. The crisis had begun.
Meeting Jesus Again
My last class that day was a New Testament elective on the historical Jesus. The professor began class with a statement that I firmly believed when I woke up that morning:
“The Bible is an ancient document written decades and centuries after the events they record. The Gospels are early Church stories about Jesus and have very little value as historical evidence of Jesus. He never claimed to be God and in fact, probably died in a shallow grave somewhere close to the crucifixion.”
I saw my classmates’ heads shake and confirm their agreement. I realized at that moment that there was no point in me continuing at the seminary. If this was what these progressive ministers believed about Jesus, the Scriptures, and the Church, then what was the point? Why not simply be a “good” person and enjoy lazy Sunday mornings? What was I supposed to say to a wife in my congregation whose husband was leaving her? What was I supposed to say to her husband? If there is no resurrection hope, how do I comfort someone at the hour of their death? I deconstructed my faith for over two years, and now found myself in an empty pit of despair. I wanted to be at a progressive seminary, and God allowed me to be there—and I only lasted a day.
By Mitch Chase — 3 weeks ago
If I’m trying to understand something in the Old Testament, then reading widely—or reading across the Testaments—means I’m allowing more authoritative and inspired texts to illuminate the passage I’m studying. Reading widely increases clarity, enriches meaning, and demonstrates the coherence of the Word of God.
The practice of biblical theology is concerned not just with the trees but with the forest—the Big Picture. Biblical-theological instincts want to read parts in light of the whole, and that means seeing specific texts within the larger context of Scripture’s progressive revelation.
Let’s take an example from Genesis 3. According to Genesis 3:1, a serpent came to Eve and began to tempt her to eat from the forbidden tree. Now this serpent isn’t named in the chapter at all. Genesis 3 has twenty-four verses, and throughout them the figure is only called the “serpent.” But who is this oppositional figure? The chapter doesn’t give more information. In fact, the serpent isn’t mentioned throughout the rest of Genesis. Moreover, the serpent isn’t mentioned in the rest of the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy).
Yet the interpretive instinct of Bible readers is to understand the tempter in Genesis 3 as Satan. Is that because the serpent is named thus in the chapter? No. The reason Bible readers make that identification is because of later biblical revelation.
In the book of Job, for instance, the being known as Satan wants to destroy Job’s integrity and turn him against the Lord. That agenda sounds like the same goal the serpent of Genesis 3 had for Adam and Eve. In the Gospel of Matthew, Satan comes to Jesus in the wilderness to tempt him by twisting God’s words—a strategy familiar to us because of Genesis 3.