Yesterday I asked one of our teachers what was on his heart from the apologetics lectures he was sharing with a group of students. He said the module looked mainly at historical matters and that there was a lack of relevance to today’s issues. So we began to discuss some of the hot topics today, like left wing vs. right wing, identity politics, capitalism vs. communism, and also economic justice, which is often swept aside and hidden behind these other divisions already mentioned. During our discussion we found the absolute necessity of a theological background and this is one of our recent failings in not adjusting modules to our current time and issues. We have settled into a Greek/ Gnostic background in our theology, come down to us from a Western heritage. This heritage fails completely to see the Hebrew gospel, especially the creational theology behind it. There is a foundational need to rediscover and relaunch a creational theology.
Identity politics, with its emphasis on the individual’s personal values and self-perception, fails to place the person in the creation story. This individualism stems from a Western outlook, probably best captured by Rene Descartes’ famous dictum, “I think, therefore I am.” Here, reality is placed within the bosom of the individual, not in the wider reality of community and creation. The individual is forever on a relentless journey of “self-discovery,” not of a theological discovery, or a discovery of one’s self within community. This is very much like the original temptation in Eden when humanity was turned inwards and conflict between our personal self-views became the outcome. Identity politics is exactly just that, “politics,” a basis for conflict and control over others according to “my view,” and does not truly care for the individual the politics claims to be supporting. The politicising of sports is an example, where players must align with the identity politics of the day in a ceremony before beginning the game. It the players refuse they can’t play. This is Orwellian. God established a church family in which we are cared for and healed, not state political coercion.
The creation project in Genesis 1-2 reveals our identity in creation in relationship to each other, especially in the male/ female relationship, in which family is nurtured and this self-giving for the weak reveals to the creation the image of God. The coupling in Genesis throughout these chapters (heaven & earth, light & darkness, land & sea, plants & animal, male & female) is a poetic device that reveals our identity in relationships to each other, to the whole. This is the creational holism of Hebrew theology. The temptation shifted us to individualism, where the order broke down into chaos. Adam and Eve where given a commission to take dominion over the creation, which we have wrongly interpreted today as conquering others, a monopolistic view in business and imperialism. The “dominion” is rather to be seen in Adam and Eve’s call to “keep the garden,” in maintaining its biodiversity and protecting its relationships in balance. The creation project involves the nurturing of relationships to protect the creation project, to sustain the creation in flourishing from one generation to the next.
In creation we see both the protection of the person and the protection of the community. Each person is made in the image of God, which precludes the slavery present in all pagan creation narratives in the ancient world. In these narratives the elite were the gods. They alone where made in the image of the gods. So a “community” which dominates and supresses the person is not a community but a dictatorship, where someone other than the self-giving God becomes god over others. Our Reformation, Non-Conformist Christian movements have been opposed to this kind of social and economic relationships, and insisted upon a freedom with mutual responsibility, where the elite aren’t under a law of their own but are transparently accountable to the community. This means Communism (or even Fascism, meaning any state control) is out, because in these the “good of the state” is enforced upon the person with propaganda and does not arise within freedom, but serves the interests of the elite, the special “god class.” So in creation we have a community of people, each made in God’s image, where relationships flourish in the image of a self-giving God, and not through the state becoming god.
Power is decentralised by the cross of Christ, where power becomes service. The centralisation of power is counter to the human and creation projects. Therefore, in the law of Moses you have both the protection of private lives and property and the call for each one of us to share our lives and property for the good of others, especially for the weak. Both the person and the community are protected and nurtured, and this brings peace to the creation. We live for the good of the whole, not by the selfish ambitions of the state, but we follow the true God who lays down his life for all, even for his enemies. This is life and peace. The economics of Jesus was clearly along these lines, calling us to use our substance to serve, calling us away from the selfishness of individualism that pervades much of our capitalism today, and towards a social responsibility. But we do this in freedom because God is not a tyrant.
Recent ideas coming of out the Davos meetings (the World Economic Forum and their Great Reset) about the banishment of private property and a state income for all people are a trap, where we lose all sense of the image of God in our lives and become the property of the state. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a state, but that the state (by the permission of the community and not lording it over the community) is to rule in the image of God by protecting the interests of the weak and curtailing the interests of the strong. The state is to do what Adam and Eve were called to do, to nurture the balance of relationships for the flourishment of all.
A creation theology also captures the best parts of both left and right wing positions. It affirms environmentalism, not the “environmentalism” that is really about reorganising the economy for the elite, but genuine rehabilitation of soils, forests, animal, and sea life. This is the number one way of addressing climate imbalances. Creation affirms community, caring for the poor, it affirms a globalism of care, not of centralisation. Creation also affirms family and life: a pro-life theology across the board, for marriage, unborn babies, peace-making and rehabilitation of “criminal” or marginalised regions. Creation of humanity in the image of God, and our mandate to nurture the creation project from one generation to the next, is a far better way to organise our economic, social, and political philosophy than “left” or “right,” capitalism vs. socialism, or identity politics. It’s the theology of the cross, as Paul reiterated it: we are free to serve one another.
There is an urgency to rebuild a creation theology: God created the world in his image of being “free to serve,” and when that creation fell through our adoption of self-centred rule over others, God set out through his cross to reinstall self-giving care as the rule of freedom to our lives and relationships. This theistic philosophy of creation and its redemption is the only one that can serve our recovery. It recovers us from a Gnosticism of escape, of self, to rebuild the next generation: earth and heaven merging for healing.