The Judeo-Christian religion has always experienced a tension between expansion and isolation, universality and particularity. From the beginning of the history of the world as outlined in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, we are confronted with a view of mankind that has unity in diversity at its very core. The story of humanity opens in Eden with two (very different) human beings joined together in a dissoluble union as man and wife; the family is at the center of man’s world. However, the story of the unity of mankind quickly devolves into combative tension and difference, dramatically beginning with the Fratricide and rushing forward towards the rise and fall of Babel and finally beings swept away in a great deluge of wrath, to say nothing of water.

As God began to work in history with specific people something like a polarization came about. The Jews understood themselves as a group of people in contrast to Others, the Gentile or the nations. They were a particular group, different and separate from all others, complete with a new sort of religion, a totally different God, and rites, rituals and customs that all created barriers between the Jews and the rest of the world. However, running alongside this radical separation together and underneath it, is the continual reminder that God is not only the God of the Jews but is the God of all mankind, the God who has created all things, established a universal moral order, rules over the nations, and will hold all men accountable for their rebellion, pride, and sin. The Old Testament prophets were consistent and repetitive in their dennoucement of Israelite sin along with pronouncements that God would one day glorify Himself in all the peoples of the world.

These two truths, that God is the God of a particular people and is also the God of all people provides a unique foundation for a Christian theory of globalization. Perhaps most unique, or at least most helpful, given the current reactions to colonialism, imperialism, and cultural hegemony—real and perceived—aspect of a Christian approach to globalization is this dual approach to human diversity. Christianity does not demand a homogenization of culture, although it does place priority on the unifying aspects of human nature and God’s law. By recognizing that there are certain universal aspects to human nature, things like rationality, creativity, communality, and that there also are universal laws with moral import Christianity provides a framework under which diverse communities and societies can be united with a common understanding of themselves, their purpose, and the meaning of their lives, endeavors, and actions. At the same time, this framework is not so restrictive or demanding that is will squelch or destroy the various individual and localized expressions of human nature.

While there are numerous prudential considerations to be made with regard to various global issues and the forms and roles governing interaction between diverse people groups, Christianity, with its universal claims about God and man is able to avoid the human tendency to devolve into sectarian disputes and conflict that pits one local expression of universal truth against another. The Christian context gives usch conflicts access to a higher and more universal vocabulary that makes sense of the differences while still uniting them in fundamental ways.

HT: Reflections on Dr. Samuel Gregg’s morning lecture on Theology and the History of Globalization at Acton University.

Posted by Tex