Sunday 7 March 2021

What does God think of human society?

We modern Western intellectuals think a lot about human groupings on a large scale - 'society', nations, civilizations, Mankind... Indeed, over the past couple of centuries, this way of thinking has become very widespread, trending towards universal. 

But what does God think about such abstract entities? 

Not much, I strongly suspect. As our Father; God would regard such matters as means to an end. 

More exactly, other than the family and other rare connections based on genuine inter-personal love; God would regard society/ nations/ civilizations as (more or less fluid, more or less arbitrary) collections of individual immortal souls. 

What God would Not do is regard individual human souls as components of social-groupings; and therefore (working as creator) the world would be made such that the salvation and theosis of each living soul would not be determined by the social grouping in which it finds-itself. 

This; because the placing of human souls into specific human societies is not arbitrary, but something chosen with the utmost care by God; and the specific situation of each soul with respect to salvation and also theosis would be of the first concern of God. 

To put it differently; in His ongoing creative activity in the mortal world - God would be much more concerned that each soul retains the living possibility of salvation and theosis; than that a soul be happy, comfortable, peaceful, or gains such this-worldly gratifications. 

And further; God would be much more concerned with ensuring that each and every one of his children be maintained with all possibility of salvation and theosis; than that these individuals be coordinated such as optimally to maintain good societies, nations or civilizations - in the abstract and totalizing ways that we so often talk about societies, nations and civilizations. 

Most likely the social-groupings would be generated bottom up, much more as sums-of-their-parts; than as units in their own right. 

If I am correct; this suggests we (most of us) need to critique our own ways of thinking about society and other human groupings, in which we treat them almost as if they were 'the real thing' and God's proper concern.    

At the extreme - all human groupings might collapse, and Men die en masse; and yet God may continually be creating opportunities for every individual human to be saved by choosing Jesus as Lord; and for each soul to learn from experience in the way each soul most needs - and thereby develop spiritually toward greater divinity. 


Francis Berger said...

I've been trying to communicate this to someone over the past day or two (to no avail); so, in this sense, this excellent post is very timely for me.

A great deal of this appears to stem from the paradigm of God's "chosen people", an Old Testament conceptualization that has superimposed itself on Christian thinking, leading to a belief in Jesus as a sort of second Moses whose primary mission involves delivering "the people" rather than a belief in Jesus as a personal savior who shines light on the reality of individual theosis. This has led to the errant belief that I as an individual can only be saved if my group, society, nation, etc. is also saved.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - There seem to be so many bad habits we need to discard! - but maybe these times are 'helpful' in revealing these, and their implications.

No Longer Reading said...

Good post.

Arbitrary is the key word. There was an inflexion point (maybe in the 1960s when, as you have pointed out, the New Left replaced the Old Left) where societal institutions became divorced from the impulses from which they grew.
At which point society was no longer about anything other than adapting whatever change came down the pipeline.

I think you're right: we have to recognize which things are arbitrary and inhuman and concern ourselves with those that have a true basis in reality.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NLR - Thanks.

As a broad generalization, I believe that a major part of the demonic strategy has been in introducing - and making habitual - excessively broad (and imprecise) abstract categories. These would include 'education' and 'immigration'. Once these are established in public discourse, then clear thinking and valid decisions become almost impossible - dishonesty and manipulation become routine - and Satan chalks-up yet another victory.

Gary Bleasdale said...

Great post, and agreed with Francis too.

The "foci" of attention really needs to be simultaneously much more reduced (at a physical, perceptual, level) and widened (at a metaphysical level) than is almost-universally encouraged today. In other words, "corrected", but in ways which are fairly precise and comprenhensible to the understanding.

It is probably a case of of a tendency which used to be adaptive becoming maladaptive when circumstances change radically, as they have.

However, as as often been pondered about in this blog by Bruce, these radically changing circumstances oblige us to learn new lessons (if we don't want to fall into absurdity) and quite often this also means 'unlearning' the old ones, which now lead astray.

Pangloss said...

To God there are only two types/groupings of man: Adam and Christ. Stating the obvious, all of us are born as Adamites. Only after being reborn we receive Christ's nature also. We then have two natures and obviously the purpose is to live out of our Christian nature. If a Christian sins, it is from Adam's nature which cannot in this life -in this body- be taken out of us. In 1 Corinthians 15 (around verse 45) Paul explains. It is Paul who best explains how to live the Christian life, making his letters the natural extension of the apostle John's gospel. John the Baptist said it thus: "He must increase, I must decrease". Miles Stanford's Green Letters and Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life expound this positional (versus conditional as we tend to approach it) life in Christ very well. Back to society, I am now deep in Jacques Ellul's The Meaning Of The City as found in the Bible. Basically the city is man's claim "See what I can do all by myself!" toward God. The chapter of how Christ dealt with the city during his earthly ministry shows that indeed God's view on human society of which the city is the center piece, is a wholly different one than ours. The city is where the masses of people are and ultimately Christ deals with man on a case by case basis. I believe this at least partly is a matching reaction to this your writing.