June 26, 2020

THE ANGLOSPHERE'S POLITICS OF COVENANTS IS JUST A FUNCTION OF pROTESTANT THEOLOGY:

Covenants and the Common Good: Toward a Renewed Politics (Bonnie McKernan, June 25, 2020, Mere Orthodoxy)

Out of the post-Babel wreckage of disunity and disarray, he calls upon an individual, Abram, to form a new community that revolved neither around the individual nor the collective, but what Sacks describes as "a new form of social order that would give equal honour to the individual and the collective, personal responsibility and the common good."

And a covenant was "cut"--the Brit Bein Habetarim, or " Covenant of Parts." And Abram, like Adam, fell into a deep sleep as God walked through that which had been separated. Abram, like Adam, was told to multiply, yet this time God himself would take care of the math. Abram and Sarai stepped out of the darkness in faith, trading barren wombs and severed flesh for offspring like the stars, an everlasting land of promise, and the opportunity to share their blessings with all of humanity--the future restoration of the unity destroyed at Babel. God was throwing us a literal life-line: Give up your individual and collective toiling and striving that keeps breaking you, join my covenant, and I will accomplish great things through you, and for you. I will save you from yourselves.

This shows us how covenants can transform both the singular individual and the collective society. It can provide both with common values, purpose, identity, stability, and shared strength through shared sacrifice. They're held together not by self-interest or force, but fidelity and faith.

As the Israelites passed from slavery through the waters of the Red Sea into a covenant of freedom through fidelity, so the believer passes from death through the waters of baptism into a covenant of life through faith. A covenant with the Trinity itself, culminating on the day of Pentecost when the curse of Babel was dissolved and rather than "one lip" united for evil there could now be one lip (one "pure lip" as prophesied by Zephaniah) united for good through the covenantal sign of the Spirit. Abraham's far off promise of unity is now offered to the entire world.

A Covenantal God

Christianity must be understood covenantally because that's how God has chosen to relate to humankind. Biblical scholar Thomas Schreiner defines a covenant as "a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other." Over and again, we see covenants as a means of God demonstrating who he is, binding himself to his people and creation, providing a means of flourishing, limiting and hedging in destruction, and forging paths of reconciliation between humanity and himself. Herman Bavinck reminds us that "God is the God of the covenant;" it's what joins us through the infinite distance to God, not as a master and a slave but in comunion and friendship--it's "the essence of true religion." [...]

Covenants build bonds that run deeper than politics, denominations, race, or even kinship. They are the blueprints handed to us by our Creator and modeled by the Trinity. In fact, if our lines and points neatly match up with the outlines of any group or person who did not make us, we're likely being unfaithful to the most important Covenant of all, and party to a dying contract that will never bring life and flourishing to our story or this world.

Here's the thing that should strip us of excuses--we don't even have to agree with what someone believes or does to covenant with them. It's not unequally yoking, it's not being of the world, it's reflecting the God who was willing to covenant with us. It's why Jesus loved his enemies, broke bread with sinners, and forgave those who killed him. It's why we've been given so much and are told to give it away freely. It's why every Christian should be able to say to each and every person before us: I see you, I care for you, I love you, I will hold what I've been given with an open hand so you don't have to be so fearful, because I have the best reason of all to never fear.

We worry it may bolster a political party not our own, Christians we don't think are theologically sound, a cause we don't want to advance. It seems messy and uncomfortable. It felt threatening to the world Jesus was born into as well. It didn't mesh with how they pictured God's kingdom being built. "Follow me," he assured them. In doing so, we are led along the way that often looks like weakness and feels like a death of sorts, but it's the strongest, most life-producing thing we could do. It's not sitting still and it's not conquering. It's both surrendering and asserting. Covenanting with those around us allows them to taste and see the source of holiness, peace, justice, mercy, and love.

Posted by at June 26, 2020 8:53 AM

  

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