Sunday, January 31, 2010

What is Wrong With "Covenant"

On another blog, I read this morning where arranged marriages could be a way to "form" intimacy. The one response was affirming of this type of "legal commitment". But, I find there are some problems with this sort of "covenant".

"Covenant" is a term that was useful in biblical times to transmit a way of understanding relationships. Blood covenants were an exchange or co-mingling of blood to symbolize and exchange of life. One would take on the other's enemies, as the "other"'s life became one's own. This was the traditional understanding of marriage. It was a mutual exhange and co-mingling of "life for life". The two became one.

Scholars have disagreed as to whether the covenant (suzerain) was unilateral or mutual. Covenant theologians understood the covenant to be undertaken by God, as God was the only one who could fulfull his own demands (basing their understanding of the perfections of God). This was where predestination came into the understanding of "bibilical theology". Reformed believers believed that God predestined some to respond to his "understaking in the covenant", while others believed in various forms of "foreknowledge".

In the Old Testament one was allowed to take the life of the other, if the other had taken life. This was the basis of justice, an eye for an eye. "An eye for an eye" limited justice to equal measure, because of human's propensity to revenge. Revenge annihilates the other, instead of training the other to limit themself.

Covenant in the New Testament meant that what was considered to be an outside demand, became an inside desire. Evangelicals, or fundamentalists would believe that one would need a "new heart" to do what was demanded "under law". Ususally, these understood the "new heart" to come about by a "re-birth" or "born again" experience. Others believed that one was "born into" the family of God by baptism, or communion of life. Holiness people understood this to be "entire sanctification". One obeyed not from duty, but desire.

But, the Enlightenment undermined the view of covenant. Humans were no longer understood to be pawns under God, King or government, but "self". Holiness people understood this "discipline" to be the "fruit of the Spirit". Rationalists understood it to be discipline of habit. All understood it to be the result of a free choice.

The scientific disciplines were developing during the "modern age" where sociology and psychology were in their beginning stages of understanding human behavior, just as the natural sciences were the result of understanding "order in the universe".

Man was no longer a puppet under God, but understood to be "created in God's image". What does that mean, except that man is created to create, decide and choose for himself?

Liberty became the watchword of the Enlightenment, not covenant. Man was a free moral agent.

Today, the human sciences are grappling again with what it means to be human. Contingency has to be considered along with individual choice. Neuroscience has to be considered alongside psychological and sociological science. No longer is man understood in one demensional ways, as a wholistic view is sought.

The modern era brought us the disciplines we use to continue to understand and form what we will know tomorrow about man, society, and his environment.

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