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April 30, 2008

The Way Things Ought to Be--but Aren’t

As a Centurion in training, I have been reading Cornelius Plantinga's Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. I'm intrigued by a passage in which Plantinga describes shalom:

In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight....Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be....Everyone of us does possess the notion of a world in which things are as they ought to be....We would....agree on many of the broad outlines and main ingredients of a transformed world.

It would include, for instance, strong marriages and secure children. Nations and races in this brave new world would treasure differences in other nations and races as attractive, important, and complementary. Government officials would still take office (somebody has to decide which streets are cleaned on Tuesday and which on Wednesday), but to nobody's surprise they would tell the truth and freely praise the virtues of other public officials...Newspapers would be filled with well-written accounts of acts of great moral beauty...

This passage came to mind when I see each new round of attacks our presidential candidates make on each other. If the world were the way it ought to be, we'd see this, instead: 

Hillary would praise Obama's unusual life experiences; Obama would praise Hillary's experiences as First Lady. Both would praise McCain's experience and integrity. Each candidate would say the others might possibly make a better president. All the candidates would own up to their own mistakes and misdeeds, and ask forgiveness. Each would insist that the race be run as fairly as possible. There would be no attack ads on television. The press would make every effort to be fair to each candidate. Special interest groups would selflessly decline to attempt to influence the outcome of the election, declaring that the good of all Americans was more important than the interests of a small minority. Voters would pray for the wisdom to vote for the best candidate. Election officials would refuse to tolerate any stuffing of ballot boxes. There would be no votes from dead people, and after the results were in, no disappointed group would claim the election was "fixed." 

After the election, the winner would graciously ask the losers for their assistance in running the country. The losing candidates would pray for the success of the winner. And Jimmy Carter would develop permanent laryngitis.

And that, my friends, is the way things ought to be....

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Katharine Eastvold

Okay, I realize that was a joke about Jimmy Carter. Ha ha. But seriously - I was liking your vision of a better politics until you couldn't resist a cynical jab yourself. I guess that's as good a sign as any that we're never get to "the way things ought to be," at least before Christ comes back to reign eternally.



It brought me back to my youth, about 40 years ago. It wasn't perfect but it sure wasn't like it is today. A positive results is that we know who we shouldn't vote for, but it would be far better to stick to the issues and their performances thus far i.e. voting history and how they finance their campaigns. Asking God "What would Jesus do?'

Jason Taylor

Actually the proper formulation would be, "What would Jesus want YOU to do." Jesus was a subject of a client state of a vast empire, and had no right to vote, as a man. Even though in His other capacity said empire was merely a client state of His.

Matt Guerino

Plantinga's book is one of the best we read through the entire Centurion program when I went through it (2006). Using the basic concept of Shalom as a starting point helps me maintain a biblical perspective on all life's events

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