Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sovereign Particularity and Palin's Turkey Pardon

Sarah Palin is in the news again. She exerted her gubernatorial (love that word) prerogative to pardon a turkey. To do this, she went to a turkey farm, a logical place. It was all very folksy and fun. On the way out she was interviewed about the presidential race. The catch is that the interview took place in front of the active dispatching of the unfortunate, unpardoned:

This is equal parts surreal and ridiculous[1]. But the first time I heard of it I couldn't help but think about one of the most difficult and controversial verses in the Bible.

22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Now this verse is largely about ethnocentrism. Paul is saying to the Christians of Hebrew descent, what is it to you if God wants to save some of the dirty gentiles? God is all about maximizing his glory by saving the worst of the worst. And the ‘What if’ linguistic structure suggest Paul may not even be fully committed to this idea. This may even just be a rhetorical device.[2] But if we just try to suspend our modern propensity for offense for a minute, and take the verse at face value, that God's mercy is magnified in its sovereign particularity[3], I can’t thing of a better illustration than the stark contrast between Palin's pardoned turkey and those being decapitated before us. We became existentially aware of the benefits of mercy. While I do not pretend to understand Romans 9, there is a ring of truth to this illustration.

[1] The ridiculous part is modern disassociation between meat and death. This is how we used to butcher chickens when I was growing up. We had a bucket with a hole that we stuck the head through and loped it off. Once a gyrating headless chicken bounced out of the bucket and ran at me. Good times.
[2] Like a standard response to the problem of evil that goes like: "I don't know why evil exists but if I could come up with a reason that kind of works, an all mighty God could do far better
[3] The doctrine of ultimate judgment is poorly understood by most Christians and non-Christians. For the best explanation of it I have found check out “Hell: Isn't the God of Christianity an angry Judge?” here


Like a Mustard Seed said...

Hey, came across you at Mork's Pragmatic-Eclectic blog...

Just curious, in your previous post, you spoke about your own preaching, (refering to Driscoll as an influence...), but you don't appear to be a pastor...

What's your church situation like? Do you write sermons specifically for the web? How much have you read, and how much do you resonate with. of Mork's views on the church, and what that actually means?....

stanford said...

Hi Like a Mustard Seed,

I am all layity, but I have a MA in Theology from Wheaton and am passionate about the church...I'm just more passionate about being in the world.

I preach as part of a 3 teacher rotation (with the college pastor and the former college director) at our on-campus college ministry...and then ocasionally elsewhere (adult sunday school, youth group, my brother's church). I'm preaching tomorow on Luke 12.

To answer your other questions, I belong to a mid-size intergenerational evangelical church, and have served there as an elder. I enjoy reading a lot.

I am new to Mork's website so I can't really endorse or come against it. But I certainly enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by.

Joel said...

I'm kind of jealous that you guys had a bucket with a hole in it. We had a wooden stump and a hatchet.

JMBower said...

I'm pretty sure the gentleman at whose farm we spent our childhood afternoons (after school, before picked up by parents) simply wrung their necks.

I may have missed the beheading. I was often distracted by the severed bull's head that lay on the path to the barn, and slowly decomposed over several years. I must have walked past that thing a dozen times a day. It was right in the middle of the barnyard, and it always seemed like it dominated everything else, like chicken-killing, that took place in its domain. It was always there, even if you weren't looking at/thinking about it.

Years later I went back to that famr house, but now someone else lives there, and the skull is gone.

Which is a round-about/gothicy way of saying, I agree about the disassociation of the American public from the means by which their food is produced. My wife is reluctant to get split breasts at the grocery store, in favor of the perfectly cleaned and immaculate cleaned and processed packaged breasts. I, on the other hand, am an unapologetic carnivore.