by Bo Sanders
Let me say upfront what I’m going to end with and then build from there:
You can’t verbalize the way things are – which is a result of the way things have been – as proof that this is how it should always be.
Creation ‘expert’ Ray Comfort famously made a fool of himself by producing a video with Kirk Cameron where he praised the glories of the (modern) banana as evidence of God’s grand design and love for human beings. You can watch the video here – it is a hoot. There is only one problem. Comfort was highlighting many of the adaptations and ‘improvements’ that were results of human modification through deliberate cultivation.
This the problem starting in the middle. You can’t just walk into the way things are, assume the status quo and then make a case for it. *
This is not an isolated school of thought. I was camping in a national park with a long time friend who lives in and loves his ‘red’ state. We were hiking out and enjoying the beauty when he began to tell me about how ridiculous the environmentalists are and how stupid it is to put all these regulations on industry – we are handcuffing these innovators who create jobs for people. His evidence was to point to the trees around us and say “look at all of this amazing space – what are they so worried about? I don’t see why we need to have all these regulations and get so upset at industry.”
I pointed out that if somebody 100 years earlier had not had the foresight to preserve this land, the timber industry would own all this land and would have harvested all these trees. It would look nothing like it did and we would not be walking or hiking there. He had literally never thought about that.
You can’t start in the middle and ignore how things came to be – then present it as evidence of how they should always be!
Then this week John Piper comes out and says In the Old Testament God was a King not a queen – Jesus was man not a women – and he picked men, not women, to deny him, betray him, doubt him and abandon him.
I may have tweaked that last part a little bit… but you catch my drift.
It would be like walking into a grocery store, seeing a steak wrapped in saran wrap on a Styrofoam platter and beginning to articulate how perfectly the steak was designed for your grill – how the saran wrap crumples in your hand for ease of disposal in the waste basket – how the steak is the same dimensions in thickness from side to side for consistent grilling. Clearly God designed this steak to go on your grill and for your enjoyment!!
This is the danger of starting in the middle.
Piper’s view of God is Comforts view of the banana and my buddy’s view of the national park: completely ignorant and disconnected from the narrative & trajectory that lead to it.
and here is where it gets serious: this is a consequence of privilege. I would love to ascribe it to some classicist view of god or an a-historical understanding of theology. It might be from those two things as well, but it is a consequence of privilege and the blind spot that results from it.
If you don’t account for socialization in things like gender – and instead argue for orginal design … if you don’t give validity to things like constructions and conditioning then you look at how society has been as evidence of how it should be.
Like Ray Comfort and his banana, John Piper ends up making the opposite point than he wanted to! Comfort intended to exalt the original design but instead highlighted human cultivation, influence and adaption. Piper desired to show how God has made us but instead showed how we have made God.
I believe in Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t make Piper’s point. Quite the contrary – Jesus shows us a different way to be a human by challenging the as-is structures of society, and changing the rules of who belongs and who gets to participate in what.
Did Jesus finish the job? No.
Did Jesus shirk every convention of his day? No.
Did Jesus establish a precedent and set us on trajectory towards liberation and equality for all? Yes.
* I don’t have time here to get into the problem of a young earth, ignoring emergence thought or a having a magical ex nihilo God creating out of nothing.