The Reality of a Present God

The conventions of social life, social theorists tell us, are only human constructions. But the regular occurrence of some patterns of human behavior may cause us to think of them virtually as necessary, immutable laws. Most cultures accept social hierarchies and the use of force, for example, as necessary for the preservation of order.

The Bible offers us a somewhat different perspective: what most humans understand as "natural" patterns of social organization or as "laws" of human nature are, in fact, the symptoms of a fallen creation. The stories that follow the account of creation in Genesis describe some of the behaviors that have become normative in a broken creation: brother will rise up against brother, man will seek to rule woman, and people will build walls and cities to protect themselves.

As humanity seeks ways to cope with the consequences of the Fall, it may even idolize its own warped solutions. In North American culture, for example, we have come to worship both the individual—the essential expression of alienated humankind—and violence—the preferred means to establish our security and demonstrate our superiority. Individualism and violence stand together at the foundation of our most cherished institutions. They have become the central realities—the laws of nature—around which our society has been built.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1999
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