Friday, September 23, 2011

Egalitarianism versus the Biblical View of Humanity

You might think by the title I'm going to talk about gender roles, but I'm not. Today, I want to begin though by bringing back to your mind yet another blockbuster hit of the 80's. If you enjoy quality films fit only for the elite of our society, then you will have enjoyed the movie, "They Live," starring the (should have been) academy award winning thespian (and occasional Wrestler),  Rowdy Roddy Piper. For those of you who haven't had the privilege of viewing this high quality flic, let me summarize it for you.

In the movie, Piper's character is an average Joe, going about his average life, when someone gives him a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see that half of the "humans" who live around him are actually aliens disguised as humans. These aliens are actually a part of a military occupation that is attempting to enslave humans by persuading them to obey them through the various forms of media within the culture. Very few humans know of this, however, because the aliens look exactly like other humans, that is, unless you have the sunglasses that allow you to see otherwise.

It's a dumb movie, I know, but it functions as a great analogy of something that is actually true. In our cultural indoctrination, we have been trained to believe that there is only one humanity. All humans are the same, and should be given equal respect, equal consideration, equal opportunity, and equal authority. No one group should be seen as superior to the others. If you're unsure whether the culture has indoctrinated you to believe this, I encourage you to sit down and watch the old Christmas movies, like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Rudolph's Happy New Year" and "Nester, the Long Eared Christmas Donkey" back to back. You can also watch pretty much any Disney movie from the time of "Dumbo" on. The message is that the different guy should be considered just as important as the rest of us because his differences can make up for our lack in some way. So everyone is important in their own way. No one should be considered an outcast because they're different. In other words, different isn't bad. It's good, and should receive the same status as that which we consider to be good already.

Now, this egalitarianism had a good result in terms of accepting others who we rejected for stupid reasons. In fact, many of this may have had the intent to destroy racism. It's influence in that area has had good results. We might say it was a good brainwashing then, but I would still say that it wasn't. Even when you get good results from a bad philosophy, that bad philosophy will come back and bite you for it (and it has). Racism is bad for all sorts of reasons, but not because all of humanity is one race, i.e., to be considered equally a part of the larger group. A serial killer should not be seen as a valuable contributor to a girls' sorority house. He doesn't belong there, and his presence will do a lot of damage. What egalitarianism gets right, however, is that no one should be excluded based on his or her race, skin color, or economic status. These are the stupid reasons for seeing others as those who should be excluded from larger groups.

What it gets wrong, however, is that we are all one humanity. This only appears to be true to the natural eye, and especially to our culturally conditioned eyes; but we are given revelation that not only tells us otherwise, but makes much more sense of our world than the "we are one" mentality (as an aside, this "there is only one humanity" idea is likely why Eastern religions that promote pantheism and panentheism [i.e., monistic views of the world] are valued so highly in our cultural imagination).

So what does the Scripture teach us? It actually teaches us that there are two races in the eyes of God, not one and not many. These races are not divided up by geography, economic status, skin color, ethnicity, or gender. These are criteria that people throughout history have used to divide their groups, but the Bible speaks against this at every turn (yes, even in the OT and Conquest accounts, you might be surprised to know--or do you think that Rahab was an Israelite and Achan, a Canaanite?).

The criteria the Bible uses, however, is based upon those who follow God, as His representatives in the world, and those who follow the self, i.e., those who are "as God." In other words, the division of the two races is based upon what faith one holds. We refer to these groups as believers and unbelievers, but these terms do not merely refer to what one theoretically believes, but to how he lives according to those beliefs. Ultimately, we should just describe it as those who have an allegiance with YHWH God, based on His terms, and those who either have no stated allegiance with Him or have their supposed allegiances with Him on their own terms. Hence, the two groups are defined by whether Jesus is Lord over their thoughts and lives.

This has been the distinction the Bible has made from the beginning, a distinction our egalitarian society does not appreciate. In Genesis, the two groups are divided at the Fall when the adversary gains a foothold into the world. Some of humanity will belong to him, and follow him in their self exaltation. Others will belong to God, and follow Him in the subjugation of their lives to His life-giving, creation-oriented, work in the world. God thus declares that they will always be at war with one another, and that war will be fought on the basis of God's role in those groups. In other words, God Himself is the reason for their hostility toward one another:

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your children and her children; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." (3:16)

Notice that God is the One who sets the hostility between them. His place in their lives will cause the two groups to be at odds with one another--one group always pulling life toward a self-willed existence and the other toward a YHWH God-willed existence.

Genesis follows these two groups through Cain, who represents the serpent's offspring, and Abel, who represents the woman's (the woman, Eve (i.e., havvah "life"), is seen as God's vehicle to create human life. Hence, the woman's seed in 3:16 is God's offspring, i.e., those who belong to God.

Cain is the murderer of Abel. This is what unbelievers do to believers. They are the destroyers of life. Cain's genealogy, then, describes them as destroyers. Seth's (who fills in for Abel) genealogy is characterized by procreation. It seeks life, not death, because it has subordinated itself to God and has become the image of Adam who is the image of God (i.e., it has continued the role as life-givers under God's rule). In other words, believers are agents of life in the world, lifting up God's rule as the source of life, and unbelievers are chaotic agents in the world, lifting up themselves as the gods of their own lives. We are told that this attitude toward life leads to death and corruption of the world that God has made. When the two groups mingle as one, God must destroy the world in the Flood, as all of humanity has become chaotic and false. It is saved through one in the line of Seth, Noah, an agent of life, through whom true humanity lives on. Eventually this role goes to Abraham and his children, Israel, and then to Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of it. Christians now simply mimic Christ the ultimate agent of life in the world.

Hence, the world is filled with both believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers are not of the same humanity to which believers belong. They live. They walk among us. But they are not all of us. As John says of those who claim to be Christians but reject apostolic teaching, "If they were of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out in order that it might be known that they are all not of us" (1 John 2:19). 

This is a crucial distinction in the Bible, since the failure to know the difference is a failure to guard the divine image in one's own life. The corrupting and destructive influence of the unbeliever to the believer remains throughout the Bible and in our modern world; but so much of that corruption has already taken place that we can't tell the difference anymore. We need the glasses of Scripture. Without it, we're blinded to the distinctions. Everyone looks to be a part of a single human race.

So the distinctions aren't physical or according to status. You can't see them with the naked eye. Ironically, what divides believers from unbelievers unites believers as one despite their other differences. There is no need to wash over differences in Christianity, since anyone who has passed from the kingdom of death and darkness to the kingdom of light and life is a new creature. Paul, therefore, says that he no longer considers anyone who has believed according to the flesh (i.e., according to worldly distinctions). His or her old humanity, i.e., false humanity, has passed away (2 Cor 5:16-17). Instead, now, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Gal 3:28).

So there is no one humanity according to Scripture. This explains why the world, in all of its various forms of self worship, comes together to oppose orthodox Christianity. It too is united by what divides it from true humanity. It must exalt the self, but the self cannot peacefully be exalted without dethroning the power of the King among his subjects and their shining lights in the world. False humanity needs the dark to convince itself of things that are plainly seen as false in the light. That is, they need it to convince themselves that they are the gods worthy of their own worship they always hoped to be. The light is an annoyance, though tolerated in small doses, to be extinguished if shone too brightly.

No matter how nice an unbeliever may be, no matter what a good citizen he is, no matter how often she attends church, or he sings hymns and wonders about God, he is a gollum. Until he submits his life to God's lordship as his Creator and Redeemer, and joins true humanity, he is a plague upon the world of men. Good to be used as a test for the redeemed. Good to be used as an unwilling means toward the salvation of God's children. But he is not of us, nor should he be confused with us, lest his father, the devil, use him to get a foothold into your life.

Now, unlike Rowdy Roddy Piper, we don't need to run around and kill unbelievers. Our role in their lives is to seek their redemption. It is to speak God's Word to them and allow God to transfer them from one kingdom to the other. We are, after all, agents of life in the world. They may destroy us, but we seek to save them, as we all once were like them. We who have come to know the love of God and the better life of Christ in our role as true humanity know the darkness of false humanity. We know the confusion and "lostness" of it. We have experienced the veil taken away. The glasses have been put on. We can never see the world the same again, nor would we want to. But they don't get it. They're still lost. They're still confused. They're still offended by my talking about them this way. They're still duped into thinking that we're all in the same boat. But we aren't. Our lives are characterized by our pursuit of the love of God through obedience to His Word. Their lives are characterized by their pursuit of the love of self through self gratification and self direction. These two groups are nothing of the same.

Egalitarianism is right about one thing: judging people based on physical attributes or social status is ignorant, but it is of the same ignorance of which it itself partakes when it fails to judge people based on their spiritual attributes. It simply sees no major physical differences to divide over and concludes as ignorantly as those who do. But divine revelation allows us to see the important differences that those without it are incapable of seeing.

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. "And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left." (Matt 25:31-33)

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