12 January 2009

The Sovereignty of God and Ethnic-Based Suffering

Notes from Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, John Piper, ed. "The Sovereignty of God and Ethnic-Based Suffering" by Carl F. Ellis, Jr.

What happens before we fall into temptation? We decide what we desire is good for us. We reenact the Fall every time we give into temptation, rejecting the Word of God and the basis of life.

In the Old Testament, people were under a covenant of works. Adam and Even broke that covenant (and everyone to follow did too). But instead of condemning us all to hell like we deserve, God shows us grace and gave us the covenant of salvation through Christ.

The effect of the fall
*human power differential

The basis of ethnic-based strife and suffering is human power struggles. Before sin, there was no power struggle between Adam and God because of their unity; Adam was made in God's image. After the fall, their oneness was broken. This led to individuality and self-centeredness (Gen. 3:12) Man and woman begin to seek dominion and dominance over each other, which results in inequality. We see this as soon as God comes looking for Adam and Eve after they ate the fruit, and Adam says, "Eve ate it first." He places the blame and suggests he is above Eve.

Power struggles infected all human relationships, including all people groups throughout the world.

*Persecution (Gen. 3:15)

The seed of the woman is against the seed of the serpent. In other words, Savior v. Satan and God's covenant people v. enemies of God. Persecution has become a significant manifestation of human power struggles.

The Mystery of Suffering
Job: the relationship between human suffering and divine justice (theodicy)
- Job's account demonstrates that the bad things that happen to us are not necessarily related to our sin, anymore than the good things that happen to us are related to our righteousness, of which we have none (Isa. 64:6)

In suffering, we don't see the whole picture, but the mystery to us is not a mystery to God.

The Basis of Suffering
The cause of suffering is sin.

Suffering caused by sin can be divided into two groups:
I. Apparently random effects of sin
A. Storms
B. Floods
C. Earthquakes
D. Tsunamis, etc.
II. Direct results from sin
A. Ungodliness (we sin, we suffer)
1. Carelessness
2. Laziness
3. Irresponsibility
B. Oppression (we sin, others suffer)

Oppression = sin + power

One of the foundations of oppression is creature-ism: judging the Creator by the standard of the creation.
Other sub-categories include:
> me-ism : judging others by the standard of myself
> cultural imperialism : judging other cultures by the standard of my culture
> sexism : judging the other gender by the standard of my gender
> racism : judging the other races by the standard of my race
> ethno-centrism : judging other people groups by the standard of my people group

Israel. God told them, "I chose you. So, become Jews."
Israel heard, "God chose us because we are Jews."
Becoming a Jew was supposed to be a response to God's saving grace. They assumed they would always habe the status of the dominant culture in God's kingdom.

Acts 13:14-48
When Paul speaks, the Jews listen and invite him to speak more. Then, the Jews become filled with jealous and began speaking abusively against what Paul was saying (v. 44).

Acts 21-22
The Jews were willing to listen to Paul's testimony about Jesus, but when Paul brought up the Gentiles, the Jews got upset (22:21-24)

Ethnic-based suffering comes out of these power struggles, out of dominant/sub-dominant dynmics.

One of the results of oppression is marginalization, which happesn when that which is valid is regarded as invalid merely because it differs fromthe prevailing standards of creature-ism.

Four Dimensions of Marginalization
1) Relational (face-to-face)
2) Systematic (by way of time-honored conventions and protocols)
3) by Design (intentional; results from subjugation)
4) by Default (resulting from a lack of either real or perceived power)

Levels of Racism
I. Institutionalized
A. initial historical insult
B. structural barriers
C. inaction in the face of need
D. societal norms
E. biological determinism
F. unearned privilege
II. Personally meditated
A. intentional
B. unintentional
C. acts of commission
D. acts of omission
E. maintains structural barriers
F. condoned by social norms
III. Internalized racism (most devastating - "lower" groups begin to believe they are inferior)
A. reflects systems of privilege
B. reflects social values
C. erodes individual sense of value
D. undermines collective action
(group members begin to despise each other)

Internalized Oppression
1) Moses stands up for the Hebrew being beaten and kills an Egyptian. He knows he is Hebrew, though he grew up in the Pharoah's house (an Egyptian). When Moses stops fighting between fellow Hebrews in Ex. 2:14, they show no respect for Moses. They say, "Who put you in charge? Are you going to kill us like you killed that Egyptian?"
After 400 years of slavery, the Hebrews believed they were inferior.

2) Children of Israel complained against God because God identified with them. In their minds, a God identifying with Hebrews must be inferior (Ex. 3:18, 32:1-9)

God's Awareness of Suffering
Isaiah 53:3 - Jesus was familiar with suffering
John 11:33 - Jesus knew he would resurrect Lazarus, but he identified with the family's grief and wept with them.

How should we respond to suffering? We are called to restrain sin and destroy the consequences of sin in this world as much as possible. We should seek to minimize the dominant/sub-dominant dynamics in human relationships in general and within the body of Christ in particular (James 2:1-4)

What should distinguish the body of Christ is gratitude for God for his saving grace, by:
1) Faith - our response of trusting Christ and his saving grace
2) Works - the resulting demonstration of our faith and thanksgiving to Christ for his saving grace.

The Window of Practical Spirituality
*salvific - an ongoing, strong desire to grow in our knowledge and experience of God's salvation
*doxological - an ongoing, strong desire to show the excellence of God's glory

We do faith well, but not works. This is because we have lost the doxological motivation in spirituality.

The People of God and Suffering
Since the fall, God has worked through his people as a sub-dominant group (Jhn. 18:36). We are to be aliens and strangers in this world, because we realize it is not our home. Heaven is, and here we are just passing through. (Hebrews 11:13, 16; 1 Peter 1:17, 2:11; Isaiah 58:6-8)

Purpose of Ethnicity
All people groups have a unique contribution to make to the glory of God. (Haggai 2:7; Revelation 7:9-10)


View My Stats