Monday, July 30, 2007

Dialogue with Mark Pele Continued

Mark, thanks for the good quality interaction here at UO! We may not come to full agreement on what the Scripture teaches, but we can agree the Bible is supremely authoritative for faith and all of life.

1a) Law and Covenant

You wrote: while I think I mainly agree with your point here, I think we disagree on some of the finer issues. First, the curses of God on the earth are not per se obstacles to us fulfilling our purpose of glorifying God through our culture. They do strike at the heart of our work on earth, but I think that they are, in fact, pointing us towards God. In other words, it was GRACIOUS of God to curse the earth in that specific way to lead us towards our need for redemption. The law (and more specifically the perfect standard in contrast to our inability to meet that perfect standard) is a taskmaster that leads us to Christ.

My point was simply that the covenant curses make man’s cultural task more difficult. I fully agree that the curses do point to our need for God’s grace and redemption, and I thank you for pointing that out. The fact that God was gracious in cursing the earth, rather than annihilating creation and humanity, is very important and provides proper balance our understanding how grace relates to nature.

1b) Adam as King

Adam was a de-facto prophet, priest and king, but that does not mean that God established monarchy through Adam. God merely put Adam and Eve in a specific relationship with each other. They were a family unit, and a church and a state, but to imply structure on that family unit solely because there was, in fact, only one “leader” is to add to scripture in this case. Adam is pictured as a federal head in opposition to Christ, but that's pretty much the extent of his role, and that role is only figurative, not literal, since we can presume that Adam and Eve were, in fact, believers based on their later conduct.

I’m going to have to take the opposite view from you here, Mark. Man was given his cultural task before woman was created (Gen. 2:15). This implies that he was first given dominion over all creation (Gen. 1:26), which is confirmed when we see him exercising it in naming all the animals (Gen. 2:20). Adam also named Eve (Gen. 3:20). The authority to a give a thing its name (which biblically enacts something’s purpose) implies oversight, i.e., dominion. Of course, this authority of oversight should be construed as always in subjection to God’s authority.

It is a unique feature of my theology that Adam’s covenant headship is the same thing as his kingship. I don’t expect anyone to accept this view on hearing it for the first time; I only ask that the possibility be considered. I disagree that Adam’s federal headship was only typologically figurative of Christ’s. The type-antitype relationship does not imply unreality in typal anticipations: Aaron was a true priest; David was a true king, yet they both typified Christ, the ultimate revelation of God’s authority. I don’t think possession of real federal headship throughout the duration of Adam’s life is inconsistent with the fact he was elect.

1c) Adam as Eve’s Father

“Since Eve was taken from Adam’s side, Adam was Eve’s father as well as her husband.” Uh. That's a complete fabrication that has no Biblical justification, and doesn't add to your argument. I'll agree that Adam was a priest, but your “proof” for that is way off.

On the contrary, every act recorded in the Bible (especially in Genesis) is fraught with deep significance. You may choose to find no further significance in the fact that Eve was taken from Adam’s side, but I don’t think my view is as far a stretch as you make out. I encourage further reflection on the matter, with attention to the highly symbolic hermeneutic employed by the biblical and patristic authors.

2) Genetic fallacy

My point was simply as you state well: “the way the monarchy came about and the fact that every single human king failed miserably in keeping the requirements set forth does not, in itself, condemn monarchy.”

3) God’s Kingship vs. Human Kingship

My pastor pointed this out more eloquently, but I was on the way... If Christ is the King of the church, do you thus believe in the Papacy? Should the church be ruled by an earthly king? You see, the church is a Monarchy-Republic. Christ is the monarch, and the elders form a republic. This is perhaps why the Reformers saw the Pope as the Antichrist – because he sought to put himself in the rightful place of Christ as the king of the church.

In the quotation underneath the last heading, you admitted that human kingship does not in itself infringe on God’s kingship. The dignity of Christ’s pre-eminent Apostleship (Heb. 3:1) is not undermined by the apostleship of the Twelve. On the contrary, the lesser apostleship derives from the greater, as the Church’s mission derives and extends from Christ’s (John 17:18). There is no contradiction between God’s kingship and human kingship, especially when it is understood to be subject to God.

We may disagree with the papal claims, but we must not let our “Roman revulsion” draw us into a rejection of legitimate kingship. The popes may be wrong, but they always understood their authority as vicars of Christ to be subject to Christ’s authority. The papal claim to possess Peter’s prime apostolic rule does not in itself negate Christ’s pre-eminent rule over the Church. So, I would disagree the papal institution by its very existence constitutes a rejection of Christ as supreme lawgiver. Rather, various popes and councils may have transgressed the bounds of the proper exercise of their authority. The papal acquisition of of temporal power in the west arose from the political vacuum created by the isolation of Roman emperors in the east as their hold over formerly imperial provinces waned. I suggest that our judgment of the rise of the papacy must take account of its salutary role in maintaining western order for 700 years.

4) Kingship and Eldership

The eldership was always the basis for Old Testament rule. We see an expansion of the role of elders in Numbers 11, but their role was not created in Numbers 11 – we see elders in Exodus 4 – when Moses and Aaron were to see Pharoah. We see elders throughout the Mosaic Law as the primary maintainers of law and justice, with only the mention of a king in Deuteronomy 17. Saul, David, Solomon and Rehoboam are all anointed by elders. So, we see that the eldership continued even during the monarchy.

What you call eldership I think is best understood as a kind of “general kingship” or patriarchy, the royal calling which belongs to all fathers. I agree that patriarchy preceded the Mosaic covenant and the Israelite monarchy. However, when you say that “Saul, David, Solomon and Rehoboam [were] all anointed by elders,” I agree in the sense that eldership involves prophetic and sacerdotal aspects. Samuel, Zadok, Nathan and Ahijah were all either formally prophets or priests. However, no king of Israel ever reigned by the authority of elders. Rather, the sacrament of royal anointing set kings apart for a special purpose above their brethren. Royal authority derives from God’s calling which is prior to (but not independent of) confirmation by patriarchal authority.

Israel was not a democratic republic in the sense that its rulers were legitimized by majority vote. Its government was not “by” the people. Rather, the prominent heads of great families governed by God. Under Moses, the Lord sovereignly established the later Israelite institutions as instruments of his kingly rule over the pre-existing tribal structure. Later, his overarching divine monarchy established both Saul and David’s royal houses to further the program of redemption. God did not cease to be King of Israel when Saul became king.

After the Exile, the synagogue system arose to compensate for the loss of the Temple priesthood. Similarly, the great empires were used of God for the good of Israel once the monarchy ceased. At the ascension Empire became an instrument of Christ’s rule. Following the A.D. 70 judgment, Constantine’s conversion was the Lord’s next significant redemptive intervention in world affairs.

You are free to disagree with this account of human government, Mark, but I hope it is clear by now that monarchy isn't inconsistent with God’s sovereignty or Christ's lordship.


MarkPele said...

1b) I want to clarify my view before we debate it. Adam's position before the Fall is extremely significant, but it is too easy to make sweeping generalizations based on an incomplete picture of Adam's role. We can say that Adam acted like a king, but to say that God's role for Adam was to be the supreme monarch of the earth in light of the first chapters of Genesis is a generalization I'm not willing to make.

One thing that I want to make clear is that I believe Christ authorizes three separate spheres with their own authority structure. The church, family and state all have separate spheres of influence, and have boundaries that the other spheres may not encroach on. That's why I hesitate to equate Covenantal Headship, which I think exists primarily in the family, with societal headship. While I believe that Adam was Eve's head, as her husband, I believe that there is a difference between submission and obedience. My wife vowed to submit to me, but did not vow to obey me.

1c) I agree. It is significant that Adam named Eve, and it is significant that Eve was taken from Adam's rib, but based on those two facts, arguing that Adam was Eve's daddy is a bit of a stretch. I believe that Adam was "whole" and that Eve being taken from Adam meant that God was taking certain roles and responsibilities, and even characteristics from him in creating this woman. Thus masculinity does not define humanity, nor does femininity. Adam was, prior to that, in possession of some combination of both traits, which God separated into distinct, yet complementary roles.

3) There is something to be said for structure. In my business training, a lot of effort is spent on understanding the pros and cons of different organization structures. Hierarchical structures have different benefits and costs than Flat structures. So, the existence of a monarch is not necessarily a neutral thing. Historically, it seems that monarchies tend to draw more power to themselves to the point of the "Divine right of kings" where even your own conscience was to be given to the king. The Pope is no different, claiming to speak inerrantly for Christ, and claiming that Christ's own words (scripture) are inadequate. It's hard for me to not associate those abuses, when it seems they occur over and over. Even Absalom used that mentality to sway his servants to murder his brother.

4) These elders may have been patriarchs, but they represented a different sphere of authority. By default, the elders ruled their own kin, but that role was expanded in Numbers 11, when God "took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders." So, God, in fact, expanded this office beyond mere patriarchy by His authority, and we see that many of the Old Testament laws are pointed towards these elders. Thus it is not merely patriarchy that chose David as king, but men Spiritually ordained to serve in Civil offices within Israel.

postlog) While I personally don't feel that Monarchy is inherently evil, I think that pragmatically it is a poor form of government. In it, we vow to obey one sinful earthly ruler, and pray that God somehow supernaturally intervenes to protect us from the natural tendencies of such an officer to claim more power to himself. I also don't believe in Democracy. We need a Republic, and even the best (pragmatically) form of government is not (has not) saved us from our own sinful tendencies. The state now claims absolute obedience, just like a monarch would, down to our very conscience.

Perhaps the best place to go from here is to debate the justification for monarchy within the church, and the justification for the republic in the state. If we can get there, then it makes sense to debate the presuppositions of monarchy in the state and the republic in the church.

Andrew Matthews said...

Don't worry, Mark, I'll be getting back to you soon. Ciao!

Andrew Matthews said...

Mark could you clarify what you mean by the following paragraph? Thanks.

"Perhaps the best place to go from here is to debate the justification for monarchy within the church, and the justification for the republic in the state. If we can get there, then it makes sense to debate the presuppositions of monarchy in the state and the republic in the church."

MarkPele said...

I've been MIA for a bit. Hopefully I can get back to responding here. What I mean is that we should debate whether monarchy and republic are both valid forms of government in these spheres. If both are valid forms, then we can't presuppose one form of government over the state and one form over the church because they both seem to be valid.