We continue series with Northern Seminary DMin grads who summarize their chapter from Wise Church.
This post is by Ivan Ramirez.
W. Jackson defines politics as "public influence."As much as we as followers of Christ-like to use separation of church and state to keep the Government out of our affairs, we are hopelessly political people. We are intimately involved in "public influence." The question isn't if we are political, but how wise are our politics? This article will argue that wise politics reflect the subversive way YHWH works in the world.
Who is subverting whom?
When speaking of the subversive wisdom of God, I want to begin by explaining why God's wisdom is subversive. God created all things through wisdom, "The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding, he established the heavens; by his knowledge, the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew." In his wisdom, God made all things "good." Some take this to mean that God created suitable conditions for humanity. While I do not deny an element of this present in some usages of the word, it does not account for all its forms. A fuller definition can be obtained when we see this word through wisdom. It is out of this that "the good" becomes synonymous with life.
In Genesis one, we read how God creates light out of darkness and brings order out of chaos. Each day, God is busy ordering and growing what is necessary for life. After everything is put in its place, God creates his image-bearers. When God finishes his work, he looks at it and calls it good. To conclude, "good" as "suitable conditions for humanity" seems a bit redundant since humans are inhabiting space created. In addition to this, when we read about the tree of knowledge of good and evil, are we to conclude that it is the tree of knowledge of suitability and evil? Understanding "good" as life has more explanatory capacity.
Unfortunately, the sound world God created did not stay that way for long. Genesis recounts the hostile takeover of our progenitors in chapter three. They had one job, do not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. But that is precisely what they do. Genesis 3:6 our downfall as subversion. First, Eve looks at the tree "good for food." God has already provided an assortment of trees and plants, and crops that were good for food. What was so special about this tree? The difference was God said no. Second, the tree "was a delight to the eye." Since we do not know exactly how the garden looked, we have no definitive way of knowing what the scenery was like. What are the odds it was unappealing? The word translated as "delight" implies an object of desire. She wanted that tree terrible. Third, Eve looked to the tree "to make one wise." The tragic element about Eve's longing for wisdom is that it was already attainable through God. The type of wisdom the tree of knowledge of good and evil offered was worldly wisdom—a wisdom from below. Adam and Eve subvert God's authority and reject his wisdom for the wisdom of their own.
Consequently, when we talk about the subversive wisdom of God, it is not subversive in the sense that it is rebellious. On the contrary, it is subversive in that it goes against the grain of our worldly wisdom, wisdom that subverts God's original order. It is a bottom-up view in which God subverts the wisdom of this world and the power structures that have been created as a result of our subversion to God's order. God desired a world teeming with life, guided by his wise rule and authority through his image-bearers who were to execute his governance. He got usurpers who establish their own rule, authority, and power structures following their wisdom. For God to re-establish his vision for the world, he must first subvert our wisdom with his own. He does this beginning with Abraham on through to Jesus.
Subversive Wisdom and Jesus:
The battle between the wisdom of the world and the subversive wisdom of God receives its most explicit articulation in 1 Corinthians 1:17 – 24. Oh-Young Kwon insightfully lays out the difference between the two,
"Paul seems to refer to the wisdom of the world as human-thought-based and cultural-conventions-oriented wisdom that dominated the thinking of some in the Corinthian Christian community...Contrasting with this cultural-conventions-oriented wisdom, Paul presents the wisdom of God as the "foolish," yet powerful wisdom of Christ crucified. This sort of wisdom has a power that saves and transforms people who believe in Jesus Christ (1:21, 24;2:7)."
Worldly wisdom created segregation (1:12), elitism (1:20), a celebrity culture of leadership (2:1 – 4; 3:5, 21), spiritual fighting and jealousy (3:3), bragging about things they should be ashamed of (5:2), and lawsuits (6:1) and the like.
Jesus models a "gospel ethic" for public interaction with the political powers. The two things to note about his ethic are 1. he was not afraid to speak truth to power and 2. his way of winning was losing.
Politics are a dirty business, and a gospel that focuses on my need to have my sins forgiven so I can go to heaven does not have the power to transform people's politics. All you have to do is go on any social media platform and read the people's comments in your church. They are devoid of a gospel ethic calling us to be living sacrifices. Instead, they reflect the same hate and arrogance promoted by the wisdom of the world. This is directly linked to a lack of understanding of the gospel and its power to transform our culture-based thinking.
Wise politics are incarnational. World-based politics is inherently divisive. It creates an us-against-them mentality. The very idea of a political party breeds separation. A gospel ethic goes to those with whom they disagree and sacrifices for their well-being. Jesus models for us what it looks like to go to those who are different.
Wise politics speaks truth to power. Injustices exist. Racism exists. Inequality exists. Sex-Trafficking exists. Most of us feel powerless to do anything of real significance about these issues and more. But there are those in positions of authority who can enact some measure of change. It is our responsibility as followers of Christ to speak the truth to these issues.
Wise Politics wins by losing. I'm referring to is our constant need to be correct and our inability to let go of an issue until I have beaten my opponent into submission. This is not the way of Christ. He models for us a system that wins by dying. This is the subversive wisdom of God that forms wise politics.
Wise politics are not only possible. They are available to all who answer the call of wisdom. The call is to lose our lives to gain it. The call to turn the other cheek and go two miles when forced to go one. This call comes from the incarnate Son, who embodies and models subversive wisdom. This is how we can change the world with wise politics.
 W. Jackson, “Reading Romans Through Eastern Eyes” (Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press, 2019), 172.
 Walton, John H., “Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology” (Winona Lake, Eisenbauns 2011), 170.
 For an expanded look at the subversive wisdom of God see “Wise Church” p. 231 – 234.
 Kwon, Oh-Young, “1 Corinthians 1 – 4: Reconstructing Its Social and Rhetorical Situation and Re-Reading It Cross-Culturally” (Eugene, 2010), p. 190.