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Richard Beck on the subversive nature of the Bible: It “denies the ultimacy” of any political system (we are not citizens of this world), the prophetic tradition opposes oppression and injustice, and the themes throughout the scripture are about emancipation, liberation.
Beck says that the entirety of “political theology” may rest on the simple statement that the Bible exists “to unsettle the nations.” This seems right; those who claim Biblical support (and thus God’s blessing) on their state, or their ideology or particular political beliefs, whether currently in power or only seeking to be, are missing the point entirely. God has no interest in your political debates, he is only interested in justice.
I think it’s important for everyone, no matter left or right or in-between, whether they are in positions of authority, or seeking an electoral victory, or fomenting a revolution, to ask themselves: Why has every human political system in history led to oppression and injustice of some sort? And what makes me think my preferred political outcome would wind up any different?
I can’t help but go back to Ellul: Our world’s will always leads toward suicide. “If Christians work with all their might for a human project, they are only human beings like others and their effort has no added value. But if they accept their specific function as Christians, which does not necessarily involve participating in the world in material or measurable ways, then this is decisive for human history.”
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Speaking of Ellul, through the end of this month Wipf and Stock is offering a 40% discount on his books; use code IJES40 to purchase from them directly.