Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 1

One of the helpful things about the book Seeking the City by Chad Brand and Tom Pratt is it prophetically speaks to and confronts humans as we are and not as we are often portrayed. For example, the current political class in general and the executive branch in particular have promoted the story of class warfare. Embedded in that story is the ethical assumption that the rich gained their wealth on the backs of the poor. Therefore, the rich 1% are wicked while the victimized poor are righteous.

This is a false narrative. Scripture teaches a different story. It suggests that righteousness and unrighteousness are not a matter of wallet size, but an unredeemed heart. Therefore, a rich man or woman can be wicked (and many are), but it is equally true that a rich man or woman can be righteous (and many are). Likewise, a poor man or woman can be righteous (and many are), but it is equally true that a poor man or woman can be wicked (and many are).

The authors illustrate this point in their discussion of the collapse of Enron - a story I will not retell here. They then add:
What is fully Christian response to this story? Of course, ti begins with the obvious - "You shall not steal, bear false witness against your neighbor, etc." means don't manipulate the market to your gain and another's loss. Be particularly careful not to take advantage of a situation where you are able to exert overwhelming power at the expense of an "innocent" person. This bare minimum is incorporated in SEC regulations and has become the cause for widespread prosecutions, convictions, and punishments. (699)
They then add:
But is this all a Christian has to say to this peculiarly modern morality tale? We think not - and this will illustrate our methodology. Christians should be contemplating ethical issues well beyond the mere fact that the "rich and powerful" sometimes manipulate and do harm to the "poor and weak" because of greed, lust, covetousness, and sheer murderous intent. What about the "ordinary investor" type in this situation? Is there no ethical question for him in selling a stock he has reason to believe will keep going down? All along the way of Enron's decline, "ordinary investors" directly selling shares and indirectly selling them through mutual funds saved losses for themselves by passing them along to their buyers. At the end, the woeful 401(k) investors who were unable to sell lamented that they had not been allowed to do the same as those above them - thus showing their own envy and covetousness. Were these "poor and weak" only less guilty of sin because of the absence of means to do as others did?

Surely the Ten Commandments encompass the full range of human depravity that sometimes only awaits a moment of opportunity. Accordingly, Jesus in his "fulfilling" ethic of the Law warns that "lust in the heart" and inappropriate "anger" toward another as well as the language of disrespect for persons (see in Matt. 5:22 rhaka, "fool," a term that impugns a person's moral capacity) are offenses that, without the work of grace, will exclude one from the kingdom and bring on damnation. A fully biblical Christian ethics says that all persons - poor and rich, weak and mighty, young and old, male and female, brother ans alien - stand before the bar of God's just demands in need of equal amounts of grace. (699-700)
I completely agree. By placing the blame of human sin on the human heart and not on outward manifestations of it, in this case riches and wealth, we can better understand the world around us. The depravity of the individual heart explains why class warfare is a popular means of gaining votes every election cycle. Robin Hood is a popular "hero" in spite of his violation of the commandment to not steal.

At root of class warfare is envy. The poor do not loathe riches, they loath the rich. They have no problem with having money, they are instead jealous that they do not possess it. And because this is a heart issue, no articulate politician will be able to resolve this issue. Only King Jesus can.


"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 4
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 5

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Historical Theology 3

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Practical Theology 1


For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther
Post a Comment