Wednesday, 25 July 2018

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness

Science and special revelation

Isn't it amazing when you read the Bible and notice information that God had revealed to humanity long before we incorporated it into our wider scientific framework?

It seems like for the main part God allows us to build up most of our scientific knowledge up through our own process of hypothesising and experimenting, gradually making rational sense of the universe around us. Sometimes he does reveal things to us directly though.

I find it fascinating that Genesis 1 records the order in which God created life on earth as largely matching the order that was eventually accepted into our scientific understanding of the world by evolutionary biologists, thousands of years after it was first written down. It's not even particularly important to the story that it be accurate in that way, but still it is.

More and more Christians are accepting that science is a complement to our faith, that through learning and discovering we really do encounter God, whether it's through seeing what he has made or discovering patterns and processes that can help us to accurately predict things that are going to happen in the future - no longer needing to only rely on special revelation through prophesy but being able to say things like what the weather will be like in a few days time or exactly when and where the next eclipse is due. Unfortunately though, few have dared to take this beyond the natural sciences. The Bible gives a lot of important information that has later been incorporated into our understanding of social science too.

Social science applies the methods of the natural sciences to the study of human society and human history. The difference when it comes to social science is that we're all part of human society and history is still unfolding every day. This makes social science a battleground.

The best and most rigorous social science is often purposefully brushed aside and discredited because it makes predictions about the future fate of certain wealthy powerful sections of human society and gives new tools for understanding human society to the poor and the oppressed who, it is feared, may then use them to their advantage.

The poor will inherit the earth

One of my favourite bits of special revelation is the fact that the poor will inherit the earth.

It comes up in Psalm 37:11 and is repeated in a new way by Jesus in Luke 6:20 when he says that the poor will inherit the Kingdom of God (a new revolutionary society promised by Jesus in which those who are now 'first' will be 'last' and those who are now 'last' will be 'first').

I've mentioned this theme in other recent blog posts so in this one I want to just focus in on one aspect that I haven't covered before; why is it that God has specifically chosen the poor (James 2:5) - and not the rich - to carry out the revolutionary tasks of transforming this world?

It all hinges on 2 Corinthians 12:9 which reads: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness". Paul records God having spoken these words to him at a dark time, in the midst of his angst and suffering. Paul then learns to accept and embrace his weakness and even to boast in it. God's power to 'reconcile all things' (Colossians 1:20) does not flow through human strength and power.

The poor and the oppressed and the exploited masses of the world have been chosen because only through them can God's power be made perfect, only through their weakness can it triumph. In 1968 Paulo Freire explained this in his work Pedagogy of the oppressed:

"It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors. The later as an oppressive class can free neither others nor themselves. It is therefore essential that the oppressed wage the struggle to resolve the contradiction in which they are caught; and the contradiction will be resolved by the appearance of the new man: neither oppressor nor oppressed, but man in the process of liberation."

Back in 2 Corinthians we read: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

So what of the rich is there nothing they can do to play a part in this? Let's leave it to these guys to explain how that works: