July 16, 2019

God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, by Jon Garvey, Chapter 5 – Powers and Principalities

God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, by Jon Garvey

Chapter 5 – Powers and Principalities

We will continue our review of God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, by Jon Garvey.  Today is Chapter 5 – Powers and Principalities.  To complete the Biblical picture of the non-human creation, Jon gives a brief examination of “powers and principalities” as mentioned in the NT.  The reason he considers them relevant is because some references make them appear to be “natural forces” as well as personal angelic or demonic.  And some traditional views attributes satanic agency to the natural creation.

Jon deals with the concept, especially more common since the Enlightenment, that powers and authorities have an institutional reality.  He notes there must be more to them than ontological evil powers, or we would be opening the door to theological dualism.  He says, “Whether or not they are involved now in moral evil, these are ‘powers’ and ‘authorities’ created by God and therefore, presumably, with some intended ongoing role for good in creation.  Our task is to identify what those roles are.”

Paul uses “authorities” to commend Christians to respect earthly political authorities in Romans 13:1-2; and it is not obvious the he is referring to anything fundamentally different from other mentions of powers and authorities elsewhere in scripture:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Based on this passage, on the face of it, it appears that in the political sphere, all God-given authority operates through these powers.  If that is so, their created purpose is to somehow enable human government, whether good or oppressive, or even unbelieving, to function.

But this impersonal interpretation does not do justice to the specific mention Paul makes in passages like Ephesians 6:12, “12. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.  A possible explanation is cited by Jon in the what Owen Barfield termed “correspondence” i.e. there is a spiritual correlation between power exerted by these supra-human forces, and the power exerted by , and the accountability of humans for, their own treatment of others.  Pilate has power, but only because it is given from above, and yet he is its accountable wielder, not merely its victim.  Here is an interesting take from Richard Beck, but I have to part company with my progressive friends at this point and side with Jon and the traditional interpretation of a personal evil being(s), however un-enlightened that seems to make me.

But what is the role of these “authorities and powers” in the natural creation? Jon says:

I suggest that in the original economy of creation that the “powers and principalities” were created, like the other angelic beings, as servants for the people created in the image of God, that is, in the image of the Son.  “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”  That means that however personal their power, it was intended to be under the control of sinless humanity to assist in the government of the world, under God.

… the fact is that it does not appear that any role in the running of the natural world is attributed directly to such powers and authorities, either in the New Testament or in the Old, whereas God claims exactly such a role… The conclusion appears to be that neither the sin of humanity, nor the corruption of the angelic powers, is associated in Scripture with any major changes in nature.

That concludes Jon’s consideration of the biblical material.

Next, in Section 2, he discusses the history of the doctrine of nature, with reference to the fall, through the last 2,000 years, and he shows how he believes the balance has shifted from a strongly positive view of the goodness of creation to a negative one.  He also looks at the possible reasons why the so-called “traditional view” became prominent around the sixteenth century.

Comments

  1. Robert F says

    A so-called progressive here who believes in the existence of angelic beings, and their subcategory of demonic beings, and can go along with just about everything Garvey says here.

    But I’m having one problem with taking Garvey’s ideas seriously: checking out his blog for the last couple weeks, I see that he is a climate change skeptic. His nonacceptance of the consensus of the vast majority of the scientific community (95%?) about the issue of climate change leads me to doubt the wisdom of his theological reflections as well, and I particularly wonder if having such skepticism does not make him an unfit spokesperson for the interface between science and faith. Is that unfair of me?

    • No, I think that’s a legitimate concern.

    • I can handle climate scepticism, it’s the post on water memory that got to me 🙂

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Just looking briefly at his Hump of the Camel, I didn;t see much actual skepticism, just skepticism of the assumption that the changes needed to temper the effects of climate change can be allocated fairly and efficiently.

      If it used as an excuse for doing nothing that will have the same outcome as outright denial. At this stage of the game it looks our choices are a 40% effective Climate Fascism imposed on us by the likes of Eeyores-On-Steroids or a Free Market Die Off. Neither are extremely palatable.

      • Burro before you do a cost benefit analysis read the projections of what this planet will like in 50 to a hundred years if we do nothing. We have the luxury of dismissing it all as a commie plot that our grandchildren won’t have.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          I do not see in Mule’s comment that he is dismissing it all as a commie plot,

          Mule and I may differ in politics; but I feel he is correct that we are not likely to choose a palatable response to this crisis. And I believe comfortable responses are easily available, technically, but we aren’t going to go down that track.

          As for cost-benefit? That depends. I live in a corner of the world deemed likely to take a significant profit from climate change. The problem with it being a cost-benefit question is the same problem as always: for whom?

          • Burro (Mule) says

            Sigh.

            Nothing would make me happier than a species wide outbreak of altruism self sacrifice and cooperation, but I think we’re in for a global game of Prisoner’s Dilemma.

            It always comes back to Who? Whom? doesn’t it? Survival of me and my family > 150,000 strangers on a beach.

            On the other hand, it could be the Church’s finest hour, but no one might survive to celebrate it.

            • Robert F says

              Oh, the tree of life is growing
              Where the spirit never dies
              And the bright light of salvation shines
              In dark and empty skies

              …..Just remember
              that death is not the end

            • Well apologies if I mischaracterized your position. I suppose it’s too late in the day to ask what you mean by “climate fascism”. I find myself surrounded by folks who think the suggestion that it might be a good idea not to throw your big mac wrapper out of your car window is radical environmentalism. What did T S Eliot say? “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” The problem is not finding a solution. The problem is convincing people there’s a problem.

              • Burro (Mule) says

                Taxes, mostly, on energy usage, on meat, on sugar, on air conditioning, on private automobiles and their use. On electricity, on luxuries like movies and cable and streaming and beer and toilet paper and everything that makes white bourgeois life comfortable and agreeable.

                Then turning around and using the revenues on some woke crap like flying everybody in to a conference on the effect of intersectionality on indigenous lesbians.

                I exaggerate to make my point but the effort it will take to turn this thing around will require a evel of ascetism akin to that of the Early Desert Fathers and Mothers, but from a Christendom and a humanity that has largely embraced consumerism as a substitute for community and spirituality. It is not a pleasant prospect.

                • Robert F says

                  The early desert Fathers and Mothers fled the newly emergent Christian empire, and its official church and liturgies, because it was too worldly, profane, and immoral. The level of asceticism you seem to believe was widespread in that era was in fact not widespread; that’s why the Fathers and Mothers fled to the edges of the towns, and ultimately into the desert, to practice their ascetic way — it was not being practiced in the Christian empire, nor was the “way of salvation” being sought or followed. You have an idealized view of that era that does not match the reality.

                  But I think you are entirely right about the prospects for our local and global future, with regard to the climate change crisis and how it will be addressed. It will take shape along the lines you describe, and it will not be pleasant, fair, or moral.

                • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                  Taxes, mostly, on energy usage, on meat, on sugar, on air conditioning, on private automobiles and their use. On electricity, on luxuries like movies and cable and streaming and beer and toilet paper and everything that makes white bourgeois life comfortable and agreeable.

                  Then turning around and using the revenues on some woke crap like flying everybody in to a conference on the effect of intersectionality on indigenous lesbians.

                  You are describing California.
                  And the reason every Anglo with two coins to rub together and is not of the More-Woke-Than-Thou Bureaucrat Caste is leaving the state for MAGA Country.

            • “Survival of me and my family > 150,000 strangers on a beach.”

              Even Spock had a more Christian view of it. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… Or the one.”

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” — John 11:50

                And isn’t “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” firewalled to the max the basis of Communism? With (shifting from Lenin to Robespierre) doing “regrettable but necessary” things to the few?

                “So me and mine have all got to lay down and die so you can have your perfect world?”
                — Capt Mal “Tightpants” Reynolds, Free Trader Serenity

                • If your point is that any moral axiom can be abused, fine. But that does not negate the truth of the axiom.

                  “So me and mine have all got to lay down and die so you can have your perfect world?”

                  How about “ALL of us have to lay down and die so that there can be A world left at all.”

                • Robert F says

                  The idea that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” is a political maxim that has been used many times throughout history either to support the tyranny of the majority against racial and ethnic minorities, or, ironically, to support the tyranny of the elite powerful few against the vast majority of underclass(es). It has a bad track record.

      • Robert F says

        He scoffs at the idea that the models climatologists use have any predictive value — “I’ve been making bets with people that if the warnings about catastrophic global warming and sea level rise come true in the next twelve years, I’ll buy them a holiday in the Maldives.”

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Agree, it is his attitude about his disagreement that raises flags. His rhetoric is flippant.

        • It’s a safe bet. If he wins, he doesn’t have to Shell out. If he loses, the Maldives (or at the very least, their beachside resorts) will be inundated. :-/

  2. Christiane says

    I’ll stick with the scientists who examine evidence of climate change. From what I can gather, the deniers are prompted by connections to the fossil fuel industries, and since a ‘conservative’ branch of the Church has gone full Republican, we will not see much from them that is not contaminated.

    So, for a while longer, fossil fuel profits will increase, and then a day will come when the evidence of climate change can no longer be denied. Let’s just hope that day comes while something can still be done to save the planet.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      It didn’t help that Global Warming activists ended up discrediting their own Cause by their heavy-handed & virtue-signalling actions. “New England Puritans, seven times distilled down to eliminate any hint of God-talk, yet retaining all the Righteousness and Moral Fury.”

      If we’d faced something like this in the Nifty Fifties, there’d be Moon-landing-sized crash programs to find a solution. Granted, some of the solutions would be DUMB ones — remember Project Plowshare? — but it’d be doing SOMETHING. Something other than out-Virtue-Signalling the others, basking in oh-so-Delicious ANGST! ANGST! ANGST! and wagging-finger Righteous Scolding to “CONSERVE! CONSERVE! CONSERVE!” backed up by “PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH!”

      (And then a Savior comes out of NYC Real Estate & Reality Show land promising us Deliverance from these More-Righteous-Than-Thou Scolds; and four out of five Christians hold up their End Times Checklists and go “AAAAA-MENNN!!!!!”)

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says

    “”authorities in Romans 13:1-2; and it is not obvious the he is referring to anything fundamentally different”””

    IIt is also not obvious that he *IS* referring to something fundamentally the same. To me it has always felt as if Scripture had little interest in defining these powers|authorities. Given human proclivities, that may have been wise.

    • “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased with either error, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” – Screwtape Letters

    • Robert F says

      Humans seem to have discovered them on their own, quite apart from the vague utterance of Scripture.

  4. bonnie blue says

    Hi Guys, I live In Southern California, I am 28 years old and work at a retail store , my boyfriend works as a truck driver for a local company. I am worried about climate change and cannot figure out what to do to help if I can do anything..
    We are going to have to move as where we rent is becoming bad. We do not know where to live but we will move to another state as it is just not good. I have been reading here as I am a none some say as I was raised a Baptist but we do not attend church. I think the Chaplin Mike is a kind , good person and I think he makes sense. I wish we could find a church in the future where we would feel good about.

    To me, I am worried about climate change and know it is bad news but in reality the immigration problem has made our life worse. We both work hard and use to do okay but all is changing. So if I could list my problems for me and Jerry it would be immigration, wages, rent, jobs and then climate change.
    Just wanted finally say something as I feel selfish myself but what can I do?
    People here seem to keep up with events and read a lot, I like the Saturday lunch stories , I am just adding my thoughts .

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Those outside of Del Norte (the Mexican border states) just don’t get how high feelings run among Anglos on the immigration issue out here. The Zeitgeist is that everything Anglo is under siege and the City/County/State authorities have joined the besiegers out of White Guilt.

  5. In other words, if those are my only options (some sort of nihilistic determinism or some Thanosian snap)I will not have grandchildren surviving after the next 100 years. So, in a real, practical sense, I just don’t give a damn. Get off my lawn.

    If a Climate Change Advocate™ can provide a solution that gives my grandchildren, specifically, and every other human being, globally, a significant chance at survival or, God-forbid, flourishing, I then might have a damn or two in
    my wallet to offer. Until then, “Steady as she goes.”

    –Justin

    • It’s not only about our survival, or that of our notional descendants. It’s about treating the planet God set us on as more than a combination Happy Meal box and garbage dumpster.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Unfortunately, the More-Woke-Than-Thou Advocates(TM) seem mostly concerned with Virtue Signalling, basking in Delicious ANGST ANGST ANGST, and becoming Highly Offended we unwashed lowborn don’t lick their Birkenstocks and thank them thank them thank them. THEY ARE DISCREDITING THEIR OWN CAUSE.

  6. senecagriggs says

    Davos 2019: Record number of private jets set to fly into conference addressing climate change
    Around 1,500 private jet flights expected for ‘Champions League final’ of charter aircraft industry
    _________

    I refuse to be a sap I-monkers.

    The elites will fly
    The elites will have A.C.
    The elites will have their limos.

    They just don’t want you too.

    The Hell with them. You can be a sap if you chose; I chose not to.

    • “Everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?”

      That dog didn’t hunt when I tried it on my parents, it won’t work here either.

  7. senecagriggs says

    Flashback: IPCC official admits UN climate meetings redistribute wealth in one of the “largest economic conferences since WWII”

    Time to revisit the revealing quote from Ottmar Edenhoffer, IPCC leader in November 2010. He candidly said that climate policy was about redistributing wealth and has almost nothing to do with the environment. He also admitted countries who don’t sign up will be better off (so much for all the talk about creating green jobs). To give some sense of the scale of wealth transfer he described the up and coming UNFCCC Cancun meeting as “not a climate conference” but “one of the largest economic conferences since WWII”.

  8. senecagriggs says

    Flashback: IPCC official admits UN climate meetings redistribute wealth in one of the “largest economic conferences since WWII”

    Time to revisit the revealing quote from Ottmar Edenhoffer, IPCC leader in November 2010. He candidly said that climate policy was about redistributing wealth and has almost nothing to do with the environment. He also admitted countries who don’t sign up will be better off (so much for all the talk about creating green jobs). To give some sense of the scale of wealth transfer he described the up and coming UNFCCC Cancun meeting as “not a climate conference” but “one of the largest economic conferences since WWII”.

    How naive are you Eeyore?

    • Robert F says

      No, what he said is that good climate policy necessarily results in redistributing wealth as a tool and side-effect of making important changes. We all already knew that, just as we know that the way this supposed “quote” is being used is completely out of context, in order to alter its meaning.

      How naive are you, senecagriggs?

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