Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fallen Powers and God's Providence

Most of the reference to the "Powers" in the New Testament consider them as fallen. It is important therefore to begin with the reminder that they were part of the good creation of God. Society and history, even nature, would be impossible without regularity, system, order--and God has provided for this need. The universe is not sustained arbitrarily, immediately and erratically by an unbroken succession of new divine interventions. It was made in an ordered form and "it was good." The creative power worked in a mediated form, by means of the Powers that regularized all visible reality.

Unfortunately, however, we have no access to the good creation of God. The creature and the world are fallen, and in this the powers have their own share. They are no longer active only as mediators of the saving creative purpose of God; now we find them seeking to separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38); we find them ruling over the lives of those who live far from the love of God (Eph. 2:2); we find them holding us in servitude to their rules (Col. 2: 20); we find them holding us under their tutelage (Gal. 4:3). These structures which were supposed to be our servants have become our masters and our guardians.

Yet even in this fallen and rebellious state the working of the Powers is not simply something limitlessly evil. The Powers, despite their fallenness, continue to exercise an ordering function. Even tyranny (which according to Rom. 13:1 is to be counted among the powers) is still better than the chaos and we should be subject to it. The law (which according to Gal 4:5 prevents us from attaining to filial maturity) is nevertheless righteous and good and we should obey it. Even the pagan and primitive forms of social and religious expression, although obviously unworthy of being imitated, remain a sign of preserving patience of God toward a world that has not yet heard of its redemption (Acts 17:22-28).

John Howard Yoder
"Christ and Power"
The Politics of Jesus

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