Os Guinness: Politics According to the Bible

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This is a podcast episode titled, Os Guinness: Politics According to the Bible. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week on Truth Over Tribe, <a href="https://twitter.com/PatrickKMiller_" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Patrick</a> sits down with Os Guinness to discuss what the Bible has to say about politics. Os is an author and social critic who has written or edited more than 30 books. This episode includes insights into various revolutions, and Os teaches us about revolutionary liberationism, a cultural Marxist idea. Os and Patrick also discuss hierarchical structures and if the Bible is a source for political and social thinking. Power becomes a theme and how the Bible's critique of power differs from the postmodern critique of power. Listen now for a fresh perspective of American Christianity.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Ok, truth time... Did you like this episode?</strong> Tell us by leaving a rating or review! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 If you did, you won't want to miss what's next (so subscribe now!). And help a friend by sharing this with them. Thank you! πŸ™</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Plus, the conversation is just beginning! </strong>Follow us on <a href="https://twitter.com/truthovertribe_" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ChooseTruthOverTribe" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/accounts/login/?next=/truthovertribe_/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Instagram</a> to join in on the dialogue! <strong>Want to learn more about Truth Over Tribe?</strong> Visit our <a href="https://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/subscribe?utm_campaign=TOT%20Campaign%203B&amp;utm_source=Show%20Notes%20" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">website</a> and subscribe to our weekly <a href="https://choosetruthovertribe.com/?utm_campaign=TOT%20Campaign%203B&amp;utm_source=Show%20Notes%20-%20website" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">newsletter</a>.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08L9R61SH/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The Magna Carta of Humanity: Sinai's Revolutionary Faith and the Future of Freedom</a></p><p><a href="http://info.choosetruthovertribe.com/how-tribal-are-you" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">How Tribal Are You?</a></p>
Intro to Os Guinness
04:01 MIN
Revolutionary Liberationism - A Cultural Marxism
03:04 MIN
Hierarchical Structures and the Bible As A Source For Political And Social Thinking
04:23 MIN
Differentiating The Exodus Revolution and The French Revolution
01:27 MIN
How Is The Bible's Critique of Power Different From The Postmodern Critique of Power
04:26 MIN
How Can Christians Pursue God's Vision For Political Life Together?
03:06 MIN

Keith Simon: Are you tired of tribalism?

Speaker 2: I think a lot of what the left supports is satanic.

Speaker 3: The only time religious freedom is involved is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.

Keith Simon: Are you exhausted by the culture war?

Speaker 2: If they don't like it here, they can leave.

Speaker 4: You can put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorable's.

Keith Simon: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?

Speaker 8: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican party? And the answer is absolutely not.

Speaker 5: From certainly a biblical standpoint. Christians could not vote democratic.

Patrick Miller: We trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.

Keith Simon: This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals.

Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.

Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon and we choose truth over tribe do you?

Patrick Miller: Years ago, I read a short story about an alien landing on earth and visiting America to do an ethnographic study of average everyday Americans. Now like a formal sociologist, the alien describes strange practices of the Americans that he saw practices, the practices that he didn't understand. He talked about how they would gather together in the fall in these giant concrete coliseums to watch the most physically impressive men collide on a small 100 yard plot of grass. He talked about how people would arrive early to convene on asphalt drinking alcoholic libations to the point of intoxication, men and women were both wear specific colors to denote their tribe and even special shirts with their hero's last names written on the back of them. He marveled at the religious rituals, which took place during these events, singing of collective songs, chants, ecstatic jumping up and down, grown adults slapping their hands together in the air and hugging people, even if they didn't know them personally. But often their war heroes or public servants would be celebrated over loud speakers in the Coliseum while those impressive men weren't battling on the field. And there was this elaborate tabulation system, which would use yards and line markers and all different kinds of things to know what was happening. He didn't really understand any of it, but he also noted how all of these religious acolytes in the coliseum, they would respond together emotionally enjoy in disgust and outrage in celebration. Now, of course, he's talking about football, American football, and while nothing could be more unremarkable to an American than a football game on a Saturday or a Sunday or a tailgate, it would strike an outsider an alien as an incredibly elaborate and strange communal ritual. Os Guinness is the author of over 30 books and he is one of the most incisive Christian commentators on our cultural moment. I think this is part because he wasn't born in America. He's kind of an alien coming from the outside. He was born in China during the rise of the Chinese communist party. His family was originally from Ireland and actually one of his ancestors founded Guinness brewing. So that's kind of cool, but his life experiences mean that he is to some degree kind of an alien looking in. And this gives him a unique ability to see what's happening inside of American Christianity and America as a whole, with a fresh perspective, his latest book, the Magna Carta of Humanity is in my opinion, a masterpiece. In it he looks at the roots of the American experiment. He also looks at the original human revolution, which takes place in the book of Exodus in the Bible. Now he juxtaposes the American and access revolutions on the one hand with the French and Russian and Chinese revolutions. On the other hand, now remember he lived through that last one. And so he knows firsthand how these revolutionary visions are among the deadliest ones in history. He talked about how the Chinese revolution ended up taking over 100 million lives and he notes that, that revolution, it undermines the very foundation of what the Bible says about all people being made in the image of God that every person is imbued with profound liberty, which not only needs to be protected, but also cultivated. He's grown increasingly alarmed by what he's seeing happening in America right now, as Progressive's abandoned this biblical understanding of human dignity in favor of a soft totalitarianism of a new form of utopianism, which actually hearkens back to the French Soviet and Chinese communist revolutions it hearkens back to those revolutions, not the revolution that took place in the book of Exodus. I think that his insights are critical and that they will help you see with fresh eyes, how Christians who are invested in expressing God's kingdom on earth as in heaven, have to resist these new developments. So let's hop in. My first question is, do you love stouts?

Os Guinness: I enjoy our family brew very much, but I always enjoy it has to be draft. It has to be poured by someone that knows what they're doing because the secret of Guinness is in the pouring.

Patrick Miller: Okay. So what's the secret to a good pour.

Os Guinness: When you pour half a glass and then wait a minute and then pour the second half. And for some reason it's quite different.

Patrick Miller: Okay. Well, the next time I enjoy Guinness, I will demand a pour halfway and then wait a bit and then we'll get the second half. And I'll see if I notice the difference, thanks so much for being on the show today. I appreciate you taking the time.

Os Guinness: Your very welcome.

Patrick Miller: So Os, you lived through several tragic and harrowing experiences as a young child. Can you tell us some of those stories and how they affected your family?

Os Guinness: Well, my grandfather, the first out to China, one of the first western doctors to do so founded a hospital, there was one doctor in a province the size of Britain and no dentists, no nurses at all.

Patrick Miller: Oh wow.

Os Guinness: My mother was a surgeon. She followed, my grandfather was my father's father. And I was born and my two brothers in an area where we were between the Japanese army who had killed 17 million in their invasion and the communist army on the other side and the nationalist army and the third side. And at one point there was a terrible famine, locust and all that five million died in three months, sadly, including my brothers, I was very small. I don't remember it apart from the stories of my parents, but those my mother told me no food, no medicine, cannibalism, people selling their children for an evening meal and so on. We moved from that to Nanking, Nanjing today, which was the capital of Southern China and so- called free China. So I was there in 1949 at the climax of the Chinese revolution, including the beginning of the reign of terror.

Patrick Miller: So do you have any memories from that or were you too young?

Os Guinness: No, I certainly remember Nanking. I don't remember the time earlier.

Patrick Miller: So you've lived through one of the greatest, not in terms of virtue, but in greatest in terms of size revolutions in the modern era, the Chinese communist revolution, what did that teach you about the nature of revolutions in general?

Os Guinness: Well, I have no illusions about Marxism and having seen being there during the reign of terror, there were trials. I was seven then when my dad said to me, some were in trouble, John K Shack has just abandoned the city and left us to the mercy of the red army. And when they came in three months later, they set up loudspeakers for the city. There were trials in the morning, executions in the afternoon, and my father saw many of his friends herded away towards execution. So my own father was tried publicly, but the witnesses disagreed so much in the eyes of the western world were on them. He was eventually released. So I was there two years under the communists and I have no illusions about Marxism. I actually say in the book that years later, when I was a graduate student at Oxford, I had dinner one night with a friend of my tutor, Isaiah Berlin, the great Jewish philosopher of freedom. Now he'd been a seven year old in the Russian revolution and it turned out, of course I was a seven year old in the Chinese revolution, the two great revolutions of the last century. And as we compared notes, now that this is the early seventies, neither of us could have imagined that America would ever be menaced by Marxism because in those days, America not only had resisted the Nazis and so on. Americanism was known as the alternative to socialism and Marxism. So what's happening today would have been unthinkable.

Patrick Miller: Now, obviously in the fifties, sixties and seventies, there was fear about communism in the United States, although it never took any deep root. Do you think there's something different happening today?

Os Guinness: Well, that fear was to the Soviet Union and above all of course when they too had an atomic bomb.

Patrick Miller: Yes.

Os Guinness: And there was a certain read fear about a communists in Hollywood and so on, but that's quite different to what we're seeing now, but we're not, and this is an important point. We're not talking about classical Marxism. In other words, revolutionary socialism, we're talking about a different type of Marxism, not classical, but cultural. I call it revolutionary liberationism. And this comes from Antonio Gramsci and his significant change in Marxist ideas. It's not the economics that counts above all, it's the culture and you've got to win the cultural gatekeepers, and then you're going to have a revolution.

Patrick Miller: And part of this, if I understand correctly comes because Marxists were so disappointed that they were unable, at least in most western countries to lead the proletariat, those who were in the greatest poverty to actually revolt against their governments. And it seems the new concept is we can lead revolt now, not in the form of the revolutions that you're talking about, not based on our economic circumstances, but based on our cultural identities. Is that how you see things?

Os Guinness: No, that's well- described. The original I mentioned Gramsci sat in jail under Mussolini. He was the founder of the Italian Marxists, trying to figure out why Marx didn't have it right. No was it wasn't economics. It was culture. His ideas were picked up by the so- called Frankford school, a ragbag of intellectuals, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties. They became important here because the leader of the Frankfurt school in the US was Herbert Macuza in San Diego university often called the godfather of the new left. And it was at the end of the sixties. He and Rudy Doge Curry, German radical called for a long match through the institutions.

Patrick Miller: What's that mean?

Os Guinness: In other words, they wouldn't win in the streets. I was intrigued. I first came to America as a visitor, a tourist in 1968, Martin Luther King had been assassinated. Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated. A hundred American cities were ablaze with the riots far more than last year in Portland and so on. And yet the radicals knew they wouldn't win in the streets. They had to win a long match, a detour. They had to win the schools, colleges, universities, the press, the media, the world of Hollywood and entertainment, what they call the entertainment industry and then sweep round and win the whole culture now, of course, we're more than 50 years after that goal. And we can quite clearly see they have done it. And everything from critical race theory to the cancel culture is the fruit of their ideas.

Patrick Miller: Absolutely. In your book, you talk a lot about revolutions and you speak about a different revolution, what you call the Exodus revolution and you call that the Magna Carta of humanity. So maybe share what the Exodus revolution is.

Os Guinness: Well, many Americans don't realize that the American revolution owes nothing to the French revolution of course it preceded it. It owes everything to what happened in the Exodus and that you see later on in Deuteronomy. People think it came from the enlightenment. No, the enlightenment was basically in the 18th century. Whereas the 17th century, it was called the biblical century and a lot of the discussion, many people centering and what they called the Hebrew Republic. Now why? It was the reformations rediscovery of Exodus that set off the thinking. So notions like the consent of the government comes from Exodus three times it says all of the Lord says we will do, Michael Waltzer at Princeton calls that an almost democracy. The most important thing of all was covenant. And the US constitution is a nationalized, somewhat secularized, form of covenant. And it came through the reformation Calvin's, Vingli, Bullinger, Knox, Cromwell. The may flower compact was a covenant. On the Arbella John Winthrop talked about covenant and you see what failed in England in the English revolution became the winning cause in new England and townships had governance. And the first written constitution was Massachusetts and John Adams who wrote much of it, called it a covenant, although we call it a constitution. So the American revolution at its best owes everything to Mount Sinai and the Exodus.

Patrick Miller: So let me try to see if I'm tracking with you, before the reformation, Christians in general, in medieval Europe are relatively unfamiliar with their old testaments, in with what happened in the Exodus. But as the reformation, brings the Bible back to everyday people, they become more familiar with those old testament stories. And they begin to say, wow, we have this amazing treasure trove of a vision for how to understand how societies function and work together. And they'd be in to take those lessons from the Exodus and try to apply them and their lives together. And what you seem to be contending is that in the United States, that came to its fullest fruition. And so the American revolution has its roots in the Exodus revolution, as opposed to what you were just discussing, which was the Chinese revolution, sorry, the Chinese communist revolution, which has its roots in a different revolution. So I'm just curious. What's the other revolution. If the Exodus revolution is one option, what's the other option of revolutionary spirit?

Os Guinness: Well, if you take the five big revolutions, the English 1642 and the American one failed one succeeded, but they both not just English speaking, they both came out of the Bible. The Bible was their source, whereas the French revolution and the Russian and the Chinese and many other revolutions today all have their source in the French enlightenment, not the Bible. But let me go back to a point you just made in passing.

Patrick Miller: Yes.

Os Guinness: When you look at the early church, when Rome in 380 became officially Christian, not under Constantine, but under the emperor, Theodosius what the church did. And this is a great mistake was to copy Greek ideas. We'll leave that on one side and Roman structures. In other words, Rome had Caesars, senators, consoles, and so on. And the church had a pope cardinals, bishops, and so on hierarchical. Hierarchical governments are based on power and it was a Catholic layman Lord Acton who made the famous remark, all power tends to corrupt absolute power corrupts absolutely. And so the church following that you think of the inquisition, terrible notions like error has no rights. All of that came out of the hierarchical structures and the appalling evils of the medieval judge and the French revolution was against that church stayed in France. The reformation went back. We want to be biblical, not Roman and biblical structures were not hierarchical they were covenantal, but let's be frank. If the Catholics made that mistake, evangelicals made another one, we have taken the Exodus as yes, incredible, but a kind of precedent of God's saving me and you. In other words, they turned it into something hierarchical. We've turned it into something personal and spiritual only. The reformation said, no, this is practical. This is political. There are things about it that a very practical, I mentioned the consent of the government and so on. And so they saw it as a precedent and a pattern worth copying. And we've got to do the same today.

Patrick Miller: There's so much, I want to talk about you just brought up. So let me run down one path with you. And it's where you ended there. Which is that most evangelical Christians are accustomed to reading the Bible as a message from God for me, for me personally, which might call me to repent, to trust him, to live in growing obedience. And of course I have no problem with that. I think that the Bible is God's message to people. And yet you're describing the Bible as a source for political and social thinking. So how would you respond to the critique? Someone might say, well, Jesus, isn't political. The Bible, isn't political. It's about saving souls. Os you've just gone too far.

Os Guinness: Well, think of the whole biblical story, the first 11 chapters, the prehistory of humanity, you see the problems. I want extreme authoritarianism on the other anarchy before the flood and so on. Then God calls one man, Abraham, and then a family. But in Exodus, the founding of the people of God as a nation. And then when Israel fails through our Lord, a worldwide people of God, but it's never just me it's us. Yes there's incredible care for the individual because each person made in the image of God is unique. We're unsubstitutable there's no like you. So of course it's individual and personal, but it's we the church, the people of God, Israel and not only Moses and so on. So we've got to capture the I and the we together and not just be selfish. So you can see western individualism is as much an extreme as Chinese collectivism. Bible is I, and we, it's not collectivist, but nor is it individualist. It's both. Now there's an important point by what you're saying, Patrick, many Christians think only the new testament. Now the trouble with that politically is of course that the early church had zero power. So they weren't the slightest bit responsible for the institutions of Rome, they couldn't be. And for evils in Rome like slavery, they couldn't be. So you can see another, that's Paul writing about Philemon that the seeds of freedom are there when Onesimus is astrical Philemon a brother and so on.

Patrick Miller: And just to be clear for our audience, the story of Philemon, Philemon is a slave owner. And Onesimus is his runaway slave who runs to Paul. Paul sends him back with a letter to find Philemon and that's what you're referring to.

Os Guinness: No, exactly. But in other words, people are only looking at the new testament. Look at the time when the church had zero responsibility, politically, socially, but we are the heirs of the old testament to and remember America is based on Exodus. And a key part of Exodus is the reciprocal responsibility of everyone for everyone. Love your neighbor as yourself in Jewish terms that means every Jew responsible for every Jew. In American terms that you mean, every American responsible for every American. In other words, it's a collective responsibility. So Christians just said, it's all about me and saving souls. They've got it entirely wrong. And they've overextended the political situation of the new testament. And we've got to recover some of the great, for example, in the old Testament, you have a high view of human dignity. It doesn't come from the new, you have a high view of truth. You have a high view words and the challenge of evil speech. It doesn't come from the new, the new merely fulfills what the old started. So we got to look at the whole Bible and that dreadful idea, a couple of years ago, with a mega church pastor saying, we got to unhitch our faith from the old testament. That was utterly appalling.

Patrick Miller: I tend to agree with you on that account. I had a seminary professor who called this salvation selfishness and what he meant by that was for a lot of evangelicals we think that salvation is merely an individual matter. And we ignore the fact that both in the old and the new testament, God intends to save, restore all of creation that he has concerns for all people and all places. And, as I reflect on what you're describing, you're saying, yes, let's talk about the salvation of individuals, but let's not leave behind the fact that God has wisdom for how we live life together. I've been trained in my own evangelical circles to read my Bible individualistically. And so I'm curious from your perspective, how do we read the Bible the way you were describing? How do we read it in a way that it is a covenantal text, which can shape a people, a polity, a society, a way of doing life together in public.

Os Guinness: The parents Psalm 119 Lord open my eyes that I may behold the wonderful things in your law. The Hebrew cap just take the veil from my eyes. Now, we all recognize that when we read the Bible we are sinners, so our sinfulness individually, gives us certain veil at a lesser level, the culture and the generation we come in also has avail. So Americans read the Bible, Americanly. I'm English I read it Englishly, the Chinese read it Chinesely.

Patrick Miller: Can I read it Englishly? I like your accent. I want to read it Englishly.

Os Guinness: Of course and we all do that. But Psalm 119 surely means Lord send a holy spirit so I can see your word regardless of my sin, regardless of my culture, which is why we count above all on the holy spirit to enlighten us. But we also count on history. We don't just look at our generation the present and America suffers I call it presentism, we've got to use history to counteract where we are today. And then we got to use travel. I've had the privilege of being in all the continents and traveling around. You can't see what we do here now as the only way to do it, if you've been to Asia or Africa or Europe or whatever. So we constantly need to ask the Lord to take the veil from our eyes so we can really see what He is saying. And it isn't just radical individualism. We'll take, say the word may American freedom has become libertarianism. Don't tread on me, not in my backyard and you don't and all these various things, they are American and they are not biblical. So we got to stay freedom once the Bible mean.

Patrick Miller: Absolutely. And as I try to read my Bible in the way that you're describing, I have to challenge myself because I will always read it like you said, Americanly. I always have a temptation to read a passage and think, what does this mean for me instead of what does this mean for we? And of course, I want to have both. I want to have both present, but when I allow the we to be present your insights about the Exodus revolution, really do come to life. I began to realize God has a vision for how we do social life together. Back to something we were discussing earlier, which was comparing and contrasting the Exodus revolution with the French revolution. Could you describe maybe succinctly how those two revolutions at their heart are different?

Os Guinness: Well, I mentioned the basic difference sources, one from the Bible, one from the French enlightenment, but taking another very important one or let's take to the realism. The American revolution comes from the Bible, the Bible because of its view of sin, incredibly realistic, no leaders, for example, in the Bible are ever airbrushed the greatest king, a murderer and an adulterer. And we know it every great leader like Moses failure at points, the Bible, unlike say the Greeks never airbrushes its heroes. Now that's important for politics because if you have power, it will be abused. So you need a separation of powers. Separation of powers comes from the Bible. They had a king, they had priests and they had profits. The so- called three crowns of government, and you can see that realism through John Witherspoon, the president of Princeton comes down to his student, James Madison, and you read Federalist 51 ambition to counteract ambition, three branches of government. And so on. The French revolution by contrast not realistic utopian. And most of the great communist revolutions have been utopian and utopianism always leads to evil. So there's one huge contrast the realism over humanity.

Patrick Miller: Well, I'd love to hear more about how utopianism leads to evil, but as you're talking, and this is a story I've drawn up in several interviews, you're reminding me of the difference between Augustan story of stealing the pairs. And he steals the pairs and he says, what's wrong with me? There's something deeply wrong inside of me that led me to do this. And then you have the story of John Jock Russo's stealing the asparagus. And he goes a rather different direction. He doesn't say what's wrong with me. He says, what's wrong with society that it made me steal these asparagus. And so Agustin has a very realistic view of himself. I am flawed and Russo says, I am in my nature pure, but it's society, which causes the problems. And again, you're seeing the realism versus the idealism on Russo's part. But I'm curious, how does that idealistic utopianism, you said that always leads to evil how?

Os Guinness: Well, for a very simple reason, if your utopian unrealistic view of human nature, you have an ideal, that's hugely different from the reality. How would you get from here to there from reality to your ideal only one way force, violence, coercion. So the communist revolutions have always been like that. So Mao Zedong who may have killed 75 million of his own fellow Chinese.

Patrick Miller: Wow.

Os Guinness: He was incredibly utopian. He was a poet, had the idea he would write on the blank slate of Chinese character, his own beautiful vision of future. And as I said, he killed 75 million in his terrible attempt to move from the real, to the ideal.

Patrick Miller: So today, as we're looking at utopianism on the far progressive left, we don't hear calls for violence. But we do hear calls for utopia to create utopia. So how do you think that utopianism is currently and will come to life in America?

Os Guinness: Well, you don't see Coles of Hammons, but you see plenty of violence, whether it's Antifa and black lives matters say in Portland or the cancel culture, just stifling, people's free expression of speech. But what we're talking about here is another important contrast, which is justice. In other words, both revolutions see injustice, no question takes away the killing of George Floyd, wrong evil, unjust, terribly so. No question, but the issue is how do they address it? The left God is dead. Truth is dead. There is only power. So you weaponize victims when you discover them and set up a conflict of power, power against power against the status quo. But as the Romans understood, very simply, once you set up a conflict only of power without principle, you can only end in one place the peace of despotism. So you have peace only because there's a power that cannot be rivaled by any other power, which is Chinese totalitarianism. Please, God, no. Now contrast that with a scripture, you address truth to power and call for repentance and confession and forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration. Now I've used single words there you can unpack each of those for an hour and you see the incredible different ways you are remedying wrong. And so there's a close link between freedom and forgiveness because forgiveness guarantees freedom and so on. Whereas the left is merciless and ends only in oppression. And let's be absolutely clear. The left- wing revolutions never work. I mean never and they always end in oppression and young Americans and young Christian Americans who, because they both talk justice jumped to their feet and salute without thinking they are being incredibly naive revolutions on the left, never work. The oppression never ends. Don't drink the Kool- Aid.

Patrick Miller: Let's take a quick pause from my conversation with Os Guinness. I want you to know that all of our interviews are actually available on YouTube. Half of communication is non- verbal. And so it's great to hop on there. You can see not just me, but the person we're interviewing, using gestures and facial expressions and all the things that actually add to the communicative process. So if you like YouTube, if that's where you like to take in your interviews, go and check out Truth Over Tribe on YouTube subscribe there hit the alert button and you'll stay up to date on our latest interviews. Let's hop back in with Os. Borrowing from the late rabbi Jonathan Sacks. You said that the Bible is the most sustained critique of power in human history, which might surprise some people. And as you've already noted, power is a hot button issue in our postmodern world. In 1977, French philosopher, Michel Fuko said power is everywhere. And while he wasn't offering a prophetic statement, I do think it's an apt description of our current cultural moments. We are remarkably in America, cynical about all authority, all power, and we grant special moral privilege to those who by virtue of unchosen identity features are being oppressed by that power in an interlocking grid of power imbalances. And so I'm curious on this team of power, how has the Bible's critique of power different from the postmodern critique of power?

Os Guinness: Well, postmodernism Michel Foucault, and many others. God is dead, they follow nature. Truth is dead. So it's just power against power. You have no alternative to power. That's a problem.

Patrick Miller: So the only way to beat power is more power.

Os Guinness: Let me mention another rabbi, rabbi Heschel. He points out one of the mysteries of human history is why humans don't cry out more against the terrible abuse of power over humans. And he says, his answer is the impressiveness of the spectacle of power. When you see supreme power, military Alexander the great, Julius Caesar, whoever it is, it's so amazing we bow down before it, but he points out the first great voices against power like that. The abusive power are the Hebrew prophets. So God has made humans in his image. You have a standard human dignity above power. You have truth above power. You have God's justice above power. So the deepest source of a foundation for tackling injustice is biblical the old and the new testaments, the whole truth of the Lord in which we can stand against false power.

Patrick Miller: Oh, that is a very clear and succinct way of summing up those differences. And it helps me tremendously, even as I'm trying to reflect, because again, I'm a millennial and I went to a secular liberal university where I studied these postmodern thinkers. And I do think for many young intelligent Christians, we've been so shaped by our education that we have a difficult time articulating what the Bible's view is. And what's the problem with the postmodern view, which has taken over, another thing that you've explored as far as how the Bible addresses and you just brought it up, problems with power is what you've called the Genesis declaration. So maybe explain what the Genesis declaration is and explain how that helps us to resist oppressive power?

Os Guinness: Well, what I call the Genesis declaration is simply Genesis 126 and 27. Then it says, God has made humans in his image and likeness. And you can say a lot of things about that, but I love the rabbis stress. That means that we are like the absolutely unlike. So you go right through the Bible, the Bible almost every time is against images because that's idolatry and it's visual and so on and so on. But there's one exception us, God is against all images because when you have gold, silver, worship the sun or the moon or the storm or whatever that's nature, which he created. That's not him, but we are like the unlike. And so humans are the image of God. And that in history is quite literally the highest worth of humanity. Now that means among other things. So we are only understood upwards. We are never fully understood downwards.

Patrick Miller: Explain that.

Os Guinness: Well, you take, say Richard Dawkins. We are the selfish gene or the common thing we are the toolmaker or Desmond Morris's famous one with the naked ape, all of these are sociological or chemical or anthropological ways of saying we're defined downwards. We are like animals and so on. No, we are never, ever fulfilled that way. Human beings sir pass themselves because they're only understood I was made in the image of God. Now that's the grounds of preciousness. So we're not saying reason some Christians have made that mistake. If you look at say, the image of God is love or reason or whatever, then you can quickly find a human who's not very rational or not very loving. And then maybe they don't know. The least educated, the most handicapped person, the most impoverished economically the most degraded person you've ever find is still made in the image of God. And that's why we care for them as human beings, because we're quite literally moving Patrick post truth. You mentioned that earlier, but post rights and most people today, even liberals can't find a reason why the individual person matters supremely.

Patrick Miller: It seems to me that we are moving to a point where we beginning to rather than see individuals, as you said, as individuals made in the image of God, with supreme dignity and worth by that single fact and virtue, to a place where individuals are becoming avatars of their identity. I'm not Patrick Miller anymore. I'm just a, cis- gender straight white man. And I think you see this on the left, primarily in social justice movements though. I think sometimes you see it on the right in discussions of the far right I would say of race and maybe immigration, but how does the Genesis declaration challenge or support identity politics?

Os Guinness: Well, we are whom God has made us and at the heart of the first sin and the first temptation behind it, was you should become as God. And also the tempted did God say. As you can see behind that, God had an ulterior motive He's constraining you. If you were like this, you'd be really free. So to be really free and freedom is the appeal and the seduction, we've got a break with others and one of them is God, we got to break with the past. We got a break with any categories except what I today think I am. So we break the ultimate folly is breaking with our bodies and you can see the insanity of this and the sort of Gnostic impulses, mine good, body bad. I can break with anything. So I'm a man. Do I think tomorrow I can be a woman? Am I a woman? I think today I can be a man. There's an insanity and a folly in that Genesis three attempt to throw out all binary's, throw out all boundaries. So it's the boundless freedom of me being me that matters. That is absolute. It's a recipe for madness. And you can see America is sowing the seeds of a harvest of confusion and alienation and lostness. So your children and grandchildren are going to experience that in space and the Lord is leaving us. Judgment in the Bible it's not just God's zapping us. It's his leaving us, or sometimes driving us to the logic of our own settled choices. And you'd mentioned, you're a millennial. Well, some of the millennial choices are folly and madness. Now, it's funny that we're called to be not conformed, but transformed Romans 12, one. That means every follower of Jesus should be able to say on the one hand, Jesus is calling me to this. God is calling me to this. And today's world is calling me to that and we should be absolutely clear of the tension, the word and the world and the right meaning of the Hebrew word for faith includes the idea of tension tautness we're in the world, but we're not all of it, but we will be wooly unless we're very aware of the world and where it's different from the word and our Lord and your generation doesn't seem to care about basic principles like that.

Patrick Miller: Oh, those were shots fired Os.

Os Guinness: Just comments made in lay.

Patrick Miller: Well, it's funny you say that as I was walking into this interview, I was thinking how important it is to have these kinds of intergenerational dialogues. And this goes to your presentism in America, that we not only, seem to be historically unaware of what came before us. But we, and actually this goes back to Russell again. He had this notion again, that children were born pure. And we see this coming to roost in the idea that younger people have a greater grasp on truth than older people, which is of course the exact opposite of almost every human society up until now. And so I think it's important for millennials like myself to slow down and listen to our elders and learn from their experience and not trust ourselves as a great founder and source of wisdom. I mean, even as we look at stories right now that a lot of millennials are paying attention to, you might not be, there's a podcast out right now called the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. And one of the points that it's making about the pastor, who's a part of that podcast is that he achieved fame and power far too quickly, that he was too young to know what to do with it. And I see millennials loving the podcast, but missing the point don't you see, you are the man. We run the exact same risks.

Os Guinness: No, I'm in my seventies now, I'm a child of the sixties and the sixties, a lot of mad things about them. But one of the great thing is there was a thinking decade, wrestling decade, you couldn't accept anything unless you'd thought it back to square one for yourself. When the sixties was over, somewhere around early seventies, you had the me decade. People didn't think, now we've gone a long way from that now, but I meet young people. I mean, when the Magna Carta came out, as you mentioned earlier, I was in a restaurant here in Washington. I sat down, waiting for a friend. I had the copy of the book and I put it on the table. I was about to give it to a friend who'd asked me for it. And the way he came in, he said, " Oh, you read books." I said, well, actually I do. But I wrote that one, " You wrote it." He said, my goodness. He said, I haven't read a single book since I left college. Now that's absolutely appalling. And you look at many in your generation or generations behind you, and I don't divide them up like that. You started it, I think that's a bad way of doing it. But you can see no sense of history, no sense of the wisdom of books, if you get everything on the internet and so on. So even we think a lot about eating well, but we don't think about thinking and reading well. And in order to think Christian and biblically, we have to think, well, and not just eat well.

Patrick Miller: I could not agree more. And I think that's where podcasts like this even come into play, is realizing that in each generation there will be media formats that more people consume. And I hope anybody listening to this podcast right now is having their appetite whetted for something a little deeper. And they might actually pick up your book or another book that we've discussed in the podcast to do exactly what you're saying. But this does kind of take me to the practical point. It's easy to talk about the ideas and the Bible about the different kinds of revolutions. But it does leave us in places saying, well what's next, what's a practical step forward. As I look in the past, Christians have tried the moral majority approach, the religious right approach, marrying faith to a party and a set of values, or trying to elect politicians from evangelical ranks. And you may agree or disagree with me on this, but it seems to me that the net losses of that movement in many ways outweigh the gains. And so I'm just curious how can ordinary Christians pursue God's vision for political life together? What is our next step?

Os Guinness: Well, we've already critiqued that in a sense, because you say Christians who baptized their citizenship into the current party politics that's being conformed.

Patrick Miller: Yes.

Os Guinness: That's not being in, but not off. Now, if you look at the evangelicals, and I'm an evangelical unashamed, I'm not going to be a post- evangelical cause so much corruption or whatever. Evangelicalism is matter of principle, it matters to me, but Evangelical was a strung out between two extremes, the old problem of being privatized and having a pietistic faith. And there's nothing wrong with pietism, but a pietistic faith that was privately engaging publicly irrelevant that's bad. The other extreme is to be politicized, to think the politics is the bill and end all of everything. And so we've got to work for a new vision of Christian engagement with public life. But this matters right at the current moment, cause America's deeply divided including much of the church, but America was just before the civil war and it's like that.

Patrick Miller: Yes.

Os Guinness: Just before the civil war, you had a Lincoln who gave you leadership who addressed the evils of his day, slavery in the light of what he called the better angel of the American nature.

Patrick Miller: We lack a Lincoln.

Os Guinness: We lack a Lincoln. Now there's two problems there. One leaders don't understand the nature of the crisis. So president Trump talked to make America great. Again, president Biden restore the soul of America. Neither of them say what made America great in the first place. In other words, any critique or any engagement with today needs to say, what's the vision of where we came from and Christians should be able to supply that because the roots were so profoundly biblical, but not only that. And when I often say that and I said that to senators and congressman here in Washington, people say, well, of course, that sounds elitist. We need Lincoln and there aren't many Lincolns. There aren't many Churchill's now the biblical notion of leadership is not the man at the top or the man in front. It's the person who takes responsibility for the challenge in front of them. So the rabbi they praise someone whose name is not in the Bible. Nahshon and Nahshon was the first man who plunged into the Red Sea. When the Lord drove through the wind. The other is right, saw the miracle in front of their eyes, but they hesitated and Nahshon plunged in. If the law was doing it, he'd follow it. And of course there are many people like that in the scriptures, Finneas, who's praised for taking justice in his hands and doing something. And so biblical leadership is taking responsibility for the sphere in front of you and the level you're in. So all of us in our families and our workplaces and our neighborhoods, we are leaders in that sense. So America needs leadership and many of the answers are right there in the scriptures.

Patrick Miller: I think that's such a powerful message again, Os you're firing on all cylinders, we often look to federal politics. We are obsessed with looking at what's happening on the big stage and we miss the world that's right in front of us. Like you said, our family, our local school board, our business, that we're a part of that maybe we own, or we run or we're an employee and leadership doesn't look like becoming obsessed with Donald Trump or Joe Biden. It looks like taking personal responsibility where you're at for what you can control, what you can change, where you can make any semblance of a difference. And I think if Christians turned our eyes away from what's happening nationally to what's happening locally, primarily because that's where most of us live our lives. We would do some tremendous good in our communities and perhaps show our communities a way forward that they, had lost. And they realized this is the thing that we've been longing for. This is the kind of community that I want to be a part of. So I would recommend that you pick up Os's book, Magna Carta of Humanity, or you pick up his book, The Call, which has had a tremendous influence on my life. And you think through what's the area of responsibility that God is calling you to take in your life today. Os, if you don't mind, would you pray for our audience?

Os Guinness: I'd be happy to, dear Lord, across the miles, we are all in your presence and you have called us to follow you in the times in which we are born. And we are living, teach us to read the signs of the times, to know what course we should follow, teach us to know what it is to serve your purposes in our day and teach us to so live faithfully obediently, engagingly that in some small way, we may, as Paul said, redeem the times in which we're living and Lord we pray that you will have mercy on us and grant us your wisdom and strength beyond our own that by your grace. We may turn the tide and see deeper humanness, deeper justice, deeper freedom in our time, hear our prayer. We ask it in Jesus name, our amen.

Patrick Miller: Amen thanks so much for being on the show with us today Os.

Os Guinness: Great privilege. Thanks so much for having me, Patrick.

Keith Simon: Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.

Patrick Miller: And make sure it's at least five stars.

Keith Simon: Stop no, just be honest reviews, help other people find us.

Patrick Miller: Okay at the very least you can share today's episode, maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain. And if you didn't like this episode, awesome. Tell us why you disagree on Twitter at truth over tribe underscore. We might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.


This week on Truth Over Tribe, Patrick sits down with Os Guinness to discuss what the Bible has to say about politics. Os is an author and social critic who has written or edited more than 30 books. This episode includes insights into various revolutions, and Os teaches us about revolutionary liberationism, a cultural Marxist idea. Os and Patrick also discuss hierarchical structures and if the Bible is a source for political and social thinking. Power becomes a theme and how the Bible's critique of power differs from the postmodern critique of power. Listen now for a fresh perspective of American Christianity.

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Today's Host

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Patrick Miller

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Keith Simon


Today's Guests

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Os Guinness

|Author and Social Critic