3.70 Pentateuch -- The Problem of the Pentateuch

We have spent a considerable time in the Pentateuch, because this is the foundation of all of God's revelation to mankind.  Here as well is the grounding of the Biblical teaching on race relations.  Any modern racial ideology which cannot trace its roots to this source must by that very reason be discarded by the Christian believer -- no matter how universal its appeal or how affirming its message.

         

In fact, the primary message of the Pentateuch to modern man is that the relationship of the races is a spiritual matter, not primarily a political or social one.  This starting point immediately distinguishes the Biblical from the secular activist -- and it ensures that not only must their analyses differ, but also their solutions.  We must keep at a distance the social/political organizer, who interposes some neo-Marxist, anti-Western (and anti-Biblical) agenda -- and always an agenda that is self-serving, that increases the power of his or her own interest group.  These people have succumbed to the "political illusion" (Jacques Ellul) -- the fundamental misperception of reality that all problems of human relationships are political in nature, whether those between male and female, old and young, or between different languages and nationalities.  And all they can propose are political solutions -- realigning borders, changing laws, changing the people who make the laws, recategorizing and demonizing social groups.  

         

The primary activity of the purveyor of the political illusion is the spread of propaganda -- a self-justifying message that shapes and motivates public opinion, but whose basic nature is "the artful presentation of a lie."  And because their view of reality is flawed, the secularists advance solutions that frequently misfire.  Whether we are speaking of matters of international relations or neighborhood conflict, their intervention is more likely to increase  the friction and violence between groups than to resolve them.  A good question to ponder is -- how many contemporary critical social problems are the result of failed past public policies?  This should give us pause before launching out on some bold new initiative.

        

To this political obsession, the Pentateuch presents not just an alternative, but a corrective.  The fundamental duty of man is not to his fellow man, but to God (Deut 6:5).  When he mistreats another person, he has not only committed a crime of civil rights, he has sinned against the Creator.  More than this, the very definition of mistreating another person is given by God, not by civil statute.  The same Pentateuch that proclaims "Thou shalt not kill" sanctions  the "ethnic cleansing" of Canaan.  This is not self-contradiction or inconsistency, but fidelity to a transcendent ethic rooted in worship of the God who revealed Himself to Israel.  In Israel, the "political"  was subsumed to the spiritual, and makes no sense outside that context.  When you overthrow the religious dimension, the ethical dries up as well.  The 10 Commandments are as irrelevant to modern societies as are the dietary regulations of Leviticus, because the spiritual anchor has been cut, and the ship of state is at the mercy of whatever currents of propaganda currently flow.  Human life itself cannot be held sacred in a culture whose deepest values are "political, " ie. not grounded in a cohesive religious worldview.

         

The consequence is that Biblical revelation in general, and the Pentateuch especially, has no value in contemporary political decision-making.  It is rejected as part of the primitive worldview, as no more than ideological clutter left over from the past.  When you think about it, this is an amazing repudiation.  The very roots of Western civilization have been dug up and cast away as rotten.   What then will be the characteristics of the society that replaces it?  In the Pentateuch, God Himself dictates His values, upholds the standards of human conduct, lays down the lines of what constitutes human society  -- and the response of modern society is to ban the book from the public sphere.  It is not even studied for its own sake, as a historical document.  Whether in political forums, or throughout the educational pyramid from elementary to graduate school, the only opinion on any issue that is suppressed out of hand is God's!  

         

The corollary of this disestablishment of divine revelation is the detachment of the spiritual individual from the modern state.  If we grant to the Pentateuch some authenticity, not to say validity, as a record of God's action in history, if we try to enter its world on its own terms, we are immediately detached from our contemporaries.  It is not necessary to be a religious follower of the God of Israel to experience this division.  What is required for this schism to occur between an individual and the political world around him is only that he take the Scripture "seriously."  It is to see it as a spiritual document, and not as merely the product of human authors confined to their own ancient timeframe.  This is, indeed, what it purports to be -- a record of the words and deeds of God among mankind.  And to the degree that it is an accurate representation, to the same degree will all the political solutions of our own day fail, often with tragic results, to lessen the conflicts around us.