When you are talking about businesses and economics you can't help but talk about principalities and powers. In his presentation at Host Bob Ekblad (author of Reading the Bible with the Damned) gave a great biblical and theological overview of the powers and of our battle against them.
One of the discussions we had at Host had to do with the ultimate destiny of the powers. For example, are the powers going to be ultimately destroyed as seems to be the case in 1 Corinthians 15?
1 Corinthians 15.24-25Or are the powers ultimately redeemed and reconciled? For example:
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
Colossians 1.15-16, 19-20It's an important question. Are the powers evil or fallen? If evil the powers shall be ultimately destroyed. If fallen the powers are ultimately reconciled to God, tamed, chastened and "put back in their box" to use Stephen Backhouse's phrase from Host.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him...God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
While seemingly abstract this question has important practical implications for how we are to "resist" the powers. What form shall our resistance to the powers take? A lot of that depends upon if the powers are to be destroyed or redeemed.
When I listened to Julie Tomlin's presentation about her experiences in Greece, how demoralized the people were because of their broken economy, it's hard not to take a very dim view of the powers and conclude that what they ultimately deserve is destruction. Picking up on Matthew Lynch's presentation, it feels like the situation in Genesis 6 before the flood. As Matthew pointed out, the flood does not ruin the earth. The earth was already ruined by human violence and wickedness.
Genesis 6.11-14It feels sometimes that the powers have ruined the earth and that the only solution is for God to wipe the world clean of them.
The earth was ruined in the sight of God; the earth was filled with violence. God saw the earth, and indeed it was ruined, for all living creatures on the earth were sinful. So God said to Noah, “I have decided that all living creatures must die, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Now I am about to destroy them and the earth.
And yet, there were moments during Host when the powers seemed redeemable.
For example, during the "Tales from the Inside" event hosted by Simon Nash out at the prison one of the Jersey locals who works in prison ministry told this powerful story. It was a story of a man who had a prior criminal record who had gotten arrested again. Because of his prior history this second arrest likely meant that this man would be going back to prison for a long time, keeping him away from his wife and young children.
On the day of his hearing the man was keep waiting all day. Finally, at the end of the day, with the courtroom now empty, the magistrate called the man forward.
The magistrate had recognized the man and had waited to the end of the day so that they could talk privately. A week or two before the magistrate and the man had met and the magistrate remembered that they had talking about their children. The magistrate gave the man a friendly but stern lecture to keep his nose clean so that he could be at home to be a good father to his children.
And then the magistrate let the man go free.
Upon hearing about this wonderful act of grace from the magistrate Stephen Backhouse leaned over to me and whispered, "See, the powers aren't always bad."
In moments like this--when we see power used to protect, forgive, support or bring justice--it seems like the powers are redeemable.
So how are we to live with the powers?
When I think of Chris Neal's presentation regarding how to create missional communities within a structure like the Anglican Church, or Simon Nash's presentation about how to stimulate employee performance in a business with supportive rather than coercive or manipulative interventions, I was moved to make the comment at the end of Host that perhaps the best we can do with the powers is to humanize them.
That's what the magistrate did. The magistrate humanized the interaction which gave the power the capacity to behave humanely.