Monday, February 14, 2011

Are human authorities managers?

Yesterday I preached a sermon where I said that human authorities are not Gods, but are simply managers of what God has rented out to them. While I don't back down from that statement, I'm starting (one day later) to wonder if it was very wise. What I meant is that they have a responsibility to govern well, but I think people may have heard me saying that authorities are simply economic managers. As though all the moral and ethical questions of this world are already solved (or at least not to be raised in politics), and the authorities are simply there to manage our interests.
This would be to say that authorities should stay out of politics, since a polity is the place where we deliberate and decide on what is good. Once you start balancing interests instead of trying to figure out what is right, you have stopped doing politics and started doing economics. To a certain extent, this has already happened in our political arena (more so in America). "Persons are economic agents insofar as their mutual agency is not guided by decision about what should be done but rather by an indeed quasi-Newtonian balancing of interests...The economy, we may say, is the community insofar as it accepts the short term, seemingly mechanistic, continuities of history as binding also for it. The economy is the human community insofar as it does not take up its freedom" Robert Jenson Systematic Theology Vol 2 85

The key factor is that human authorities are managers responsible to God, not to people, not even the majority of their people. They are to manage their people to pursue what is right and good (which obviously needs some discussion about what is right and good), not simply to 'balance the interests' of the people. (though this can sometimes be a helpful resource in the discussion about what is right and good). If there is no discussion, there is no politics. If we give up on the idea of a common good, we have no society.

This is he incredible political significance of Christian worship and thanksgiving. As we love God together we are bound together, and as we rejoice in his creation we are bound together.
Perhaps I should have said that human leaders are simply 'worship leaders and poets'.
Then the congregation really would have thought I was a hippy.


Mike Bull said...

Christians, from readers of Joyce Meyer right up to the best theologians, have no idea what a biblical Covenant is, what a vassal is in a biblical Covenant, and how every sphere of life follows this identical Covenant structure. All authority is from God, and He expects fruit from every domain or He puts the axe to the root of the tree. The New Covenant is a great shelter under which we are (temporarily) given freedom to obey or disobey. It is an OPPORTUNITY. This big scroll will be rolled up one day, just like the old one was.

byron smith said...

Probably better to not reveal your hippiness until at least the third month.