Friday, November 2, 2007

God, the Original Sinner

There are those who attempt to reconcile the contradiction between the theology of predestination found in Romans with the typical Christian theology of ‘individual responsibility’ by suggesting that God chose Jacob ‘before he was born and had a chance to make his own decisions about good or evil’, because God looked into the future, saw that Jacob made good choices, and therefore chose Jacob, while rejecting Esau, before Esau was born, for the opposite reason. This is contradictory. If God looked into the future and saw evil and then God, who they say cannot tolerate even small sins, then went ahead with the creation of the world including all the evil which God saw coming beforehand, therefore it must have been the case that it was the will of God to create all that evil for that is what God did. Therefore it was the divine choice of God to create Esau in such a way that Esau was capable of doing evil, much as an ant eater is created capable of eating ants, which was also the divine choice for ant eaters. For this reason it must have been the divine will of God to reject Esau before Esau was born and had a chance to do any evil, for this was what God created. It was not Esau who had the choice of creating evil, but rather it was the divine will of God, the true original sinner, to deliberately and with malice aforethought, create every single evil thing that ever happened.

Every evil act was authorized by God and so therefore it would be pointless to pray to God to stop some evil act since before time began, and any evil act could be committed, God looked ahead into the future, saw the evil act, no matter how atrocious, and then authorized that evil act. There would be no point in praying to God to stop a tyrant, for God already authorized the evil acts of a tyrant like Pharaoh. Therefore the best thing to do is to just accept the status quo, which is the perspective that we find at the very climax at the end of the book of Romans (and it is for this reason that I call the theology of the book of Romans very ‘right wing’). Anyone who tries to change the world is guilty of screwing around with the divine order and so therefore social change or resistance to any authority figure, such as Caesar, is rebellion against God. God gave Caesar the sword to chop down anyone who defies God by rebelling against Caesar.

That the doctrine of predestination is very right wing in its political and social implications is demonstrated again and again in Paul’s letters, where he calls upon everyone to not rock any boats but rather to preserve the status quo. Slaves obey your masters, with fear and trembling, as you obey Christ, and not only while being watched. Women must wear the veil because that was the tradition. Let all of society become fossilized and let everyone remain where they are and not change anything. Become good citizens who do not question the status quo or rock any boats. The result of this perspective can be seen in the manner in which Christian civilization in Europe became fossilized and remained bogged down in unchanging backwardness for ages of time (the longest phase of this social stagnation given the apt designation ‘the dark ages). It took revolutionary upheavals and the endurance of much blood shed and torture at the hands of the church before the rise of such things as science or democracy could finally return to the earth just a few centuries ago (both science and democracy had been born in the ancient world, but both were ruthlessly stamped out by the rising power of the Christian church, for they represented social change, which was rebellion against the divine order of things as established on earth by God’s sacred decree).

One of the contradictions of the theology of predestination is found when we consider that the concept of ‘justice’ is completely absent in the book of Romans. Paul deals with his critics by telling them to shut up. ‘So you might say to me, if God created me a sinner then why am I still being judged for sin. But I say to you to shut up, for who are you that you talk back to God. Cannot God create one pot for a noble purpose and one pot for a worthless purpose…So what if God patiently endured the creatures of wrath, destined for destruction, but only so as to demonstrate the richness of his grace to the creatures of his mercy.’

There is no justice in creating an ant eater to eat ants and then damning the ant eater for ‘ant genocide’. Similarly there is no justice in God creating sinful pots and then judging the sinful pot for being sinful. According to Paul, in the book of Romans, there is no authentic ‘justice’ in the world, but rather what we see is all a fake, a divine ‘demonstration of justice.’ This is what justice would look like if such a thing actually existed. However justice cannot exist for this would mean that somehow things got out of hand and that therefore God was not all knowing and all powerful. Therefore it becomes obvious that all the world is a stage and everything we are seeing is just a fiction, cooked up by God, who for mysterious reasons, wanted to demonstrate to everyone what justice would look like if such a thing actually existed, and therefore cooked up this great and completely phony dramatic performance we call life so as to demonstrate that concept, doing it all on purpose so that no one need worry that perhaps the all powerful completely controlling God of the religious right somehow allowed things to get out of hand, and was therefore not a perfect authoritarian thus being the perfect role model for earthly right wing authoritarians (for as in heaven, so on earth).

Link to a page I wrote a few years ago discussing Paul’s theology of predestination and the interpretation of ‘original sin’ which results when this theology becomes the interpretive frame.