Wednesday, 29 October 2008

God ordained cultural structures

I currently don't mind democracy, though I am not adverse to monarchy and possibly other governmental structures. Christians are called into a different kingdom and can live under any political or economic structure, although some are more pleasant than others. Nevertheless, it is good to understand the proper role of the state; and if one finds himself in a democracy then it is good to vote well (if one thinks he should vote).

How should we frame our ideas about the state? The state is a social structure where leaders oversee community. There are, however, several God ordained social structures in this world and we need to start with the central ones.

Prior to the Fall we have Adam relating to God which is the first and highest order relationship. I think that the individual relationship and the group relationship with God—Adam and Eve pre-Fall; God-worshippers, faithful Israel, righteous Gentiles, and the church post-Fall—are all part of what will become the Bride of Christ. This is the pre-eminent social/ spiritual relationship in the universe. All of this world is building toward that relationship.

Prior to the Fall we also have marriage and family:
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man....

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2)
I have included family, however children, while very important and a blessing, are not as fundamental as marriage. They are temporary; given to us to train them to love God so they can depart to form a new unit—the son leaves his parents and joins with his wife.

These 2 relationships: God and man, and man and wife, are central to social order. Note that they both pre-date the Fall. Note also that the latter is a copy of the former:
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5)
And that marriage is temporary:
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (Matthew 22)
The other social structures are the community and the state, the state being the power that oversees the community as mentioned above. We are first introduced to the embryo of the state some 1600 years after creation. Earlier judgments are made directly by God; note the examples of Cain and the Deluge. Men take things into their own hands such as Lamech and the mighty men of old, but there is no evidence this is sanctioned by God. I am not certain if we can infer anything from the existence of antediluvian cities. After the Flood God gives specific commands to Noah and his sons:
But you* shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your* lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
"Whoever sheds the blood of man,/
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image...." (Genesis 9)
God is the giver and owner of life, we are made in his image. Thus God gives commands concerning life: Men are to refrain from eating blood because of the life symbolism; and men are not to kill men.

The context suggests that it is murder that is forbidden here, as the murderer is to be subsequently put to death for his actions, capital punishment being commanded not condemned even though it removes life. These commands of God establish legality. Even if full government is not required, there needs be some community structure to deal with murderers; be that egalitarian, or community elders, or kingship, or some other structure.

So the state is enacted by God some centuries after the Fall and it is necessary because we are fallen creatures. If marriage is a temporary institution, how much more so then is the state! There is much the Bible teaches us about ideal government, what God intends leaders to do, what they should concern themselves with, how they should rule; but this is on the background of the above concepts. Our ideas about temporal government need to be tempered by thoughts on eternal relationship and our current fallen nature.

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