We continue with the Principles of a New Realism (Chapter 8) in Making the Best of It by John Stackhouse. Monday we looked at Mixed Field, Mixed Motives. Today we look at The Normal … and Beyond.
The Normal … and Beyond: Steering Societies, Converting Communities, Improving Individuals.
The underlying theme here is that the work of advancing shalom occurs primarily .... not through miracles, not through extraordinary efforts, .... but through the diligent living of everyday lives. Crises don’t come out of nowhere. They are most often the product of processes that have long been at work. Those who influence the processes exercise much control over the crises. I think this underscores the importance of Christians participating in every sphere of sociey (ex. law, business, government, military, education, art, etc.) if there is to be an ongoing influence toward shalom.
Stackhouse astutely points out that history moves neither in a circle nor a straight line. The strategies of waiting for things to come back around to where they were, or of assuming the continuation of the present trajectory of events, are foolhardy. “History is made of up of multiple lines with multiple curves with very limited predictability.” (268) The reality is that as some things seem to be moving in a bad direction others seem to moving in a good direction. Fixating on one to the exclusion of others leads us into poor judgment.
The issues involved are massively complex. Add to this that we are fallen and finite human beings. The pursuit of shalom a difficult and unpredictable, even with our best efforts.
But what about the borderline cases? Stackhouse raises the frequently used scenario where a Nazi SS officer comes to a home and asks if you hiding Jews. How should we respond? Stackhouse writes:
Stackhouse opts for the second choice and I’m with him. He fully acknowledges the danger of relativism that some will charge … it is a philosophical debate that has been going on for generations. Be that as it may, it is the ambiguous reality we live in. I agree that this is the uncomfortable tension we are compelled to live in. Frankly, I worry that both those who hold to his first option, or those who simply conclude ethics is all relative, are merely seeking a comfortable escape from the tension we have been called to live within. Instead, … empowered by the Holy Spirit … we are to trust the dynamic interaction of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience to lead us, and God's grace to cover us.
Stackhouse lays out four considerations we must address when wrestling with such matters. We will pick up with those in the next post.