Montesquieu was a man who rewrote political philosophy of his day. His ideas form a foundation of our democratic republic here in the U.S., and form a backbone of the U.S. Constitution.
Here’s a great quote from one of his writings:
“It is not chance that rules the world. Ask the Romans, who had a continuous sequence of successes when they were guided by a certain plan, and an uninterrupted sequence of reverses when they followed another. There are general causes, moral and physical, which act in every monarchy, elevating it, maintaining it, or hurling it to the ground. All accidents are controlled by these causes. And if the chance of one battle—that is, a particular cause—has brought a state to ruin, some general cause made it necessary for that state to perish from a single battle. In a word, the main trend draws with it all particular accidents.”
– Montesquieu, “Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des Romains et de leur décadence”
Obvious political implications aside, it’s hard not to admire this man’s systemic thinking which was way ahead of his time. That’s the mind of an architect and an an engineer.
Great American mathematician Greg Nash called those types of things “the governing principles”. This is applicable to in any branch of human endeavor. Do yourself a favor and check him out for yourself in the movie “A Beautiful Mind”.
(continued from part 2)
When people think about the word “sin”, they think about the sin nature acted out, or acted upon. Those are the outworkings of sin, usually called “sins” (plural, since they take several forms, depending on the context in which the sin nature is acted out). The entire book of Romans of Romans mention “sin” (singular, meaning sin as a principle or force) well over 40 times (including derived words like “sinful”), and the word “sins” meaning “acts of sin” only 3 times! If you read the first 8 chapters of Romans through this lense, they will make perfect sense. The issue is the sin force / nature, which generates acts of sin (sins) and which end in death. We can simply refer to the sin force as “malfunction”, and acts or manifestations of it as “breakdowns”, for the sake of simplicity.
If sin is malfunction, righteousness is the original perfect functionality. We can substitute that word with “being made right”, or “rightness”, or “right functionality”.
(continued from part 1)
God was on a quest to restore things to the original perfect condition. Since humans had authority on planet Earth, God sent a human (Jesus) with Earth-authority to reverse the effects of Adam’s gigantic misstep. Part of the greatest achievement of Jesus is that he absorbed all the malfunction into himself, and died with it:
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
There it is! Jesus didn’t become sinful, he became sin – he became malfunction itself. So naturally, death had to follow.
Now, for the second part of what Jesus has accomplished. When he rose up from the dead, he had no malfunction / sin left – it was gone! Now, Jesus didn’t just get restored to his original condition. Before his death and resurrection, Jesus was sinless (perfect), but he did get “infected”, as it were, with our sin. He did it by choice, but still. After his resurrection, being contaminated with “sin” became a logical impossibility.
In my earlier post on what sin is, I explained that sin is entropy, or disorder, in an ordered system. Since that post, I’ve arrived at even better explanation. That right here ought to tell you that my views are not static, and I progress in understand more things that uncover the beauty of God’s original design, and his plan for restoration of that original design (perfection can only be restored, it cannot be improved upon, by definition). I am amazed at the plan’s coherence, orchestration, and simplicity (it actually is simple if you abstract your thinking above the majestic complexity of its inner workings).
Let’s start with this: imagine a perfect symbiotic system – everything is perfect, the interrelationships are perfect, nothing is wasted. Then at some point malfunction gets introduced into the system. One part of the system is not perfect now, and since everything is interrelated, the malfunction spreads to other parts of the system, sort of like a virus. You see where I am going with this. The system is the “world / universe”, and that systemic malfunction is what the Scriptures call “sin” – a noun in singular. The specific effects or expressions of that malfunction, which would be manifested as specific breakdowns, are “sins” (a noun in plural).
Let’s just put off the mantle and the gavel of a moral arbiter for this exercise, and let’s examine this issue from an engineer perspective.
In the previous post, we talked about how to differentiate between different active personal forces and their roles in the events that we consider.
How do we apply this to inform our theological worldview?
In the very beginning, God designed things in this world to function in a certain way. If you cooperate with the design, you will reap the rewards deriving from your understanding and correct usage of the system. If you go against the design, you will reap the penalty of your own ignorance. The law of gravity works to keep out feet planted on the ground and prevents us from floating in the air when we walk. We cooperate with the law, and we make it work for us. The very same law works when someone jumps off a tall building. We operate against the law, and now it works against us. Note how in both cases, it works the same exact way, but the results are different.
You can’t blame a designer for misusing his design. The designer is responsible for communicating his design; the user is responsible for familiarizing himself with instructions, and if the designer is accessible – with the instructor. Well, in our case, the design is well-described in the Scriptures, and the designer is very accessible, 24×7!
I want to consider the role of God as a system designer and engineer (or “designer”, for short). A correct understanding of that role is critical in correctly informing our theological worldview.
Let me start off with a simple example that illustrates people using just one agency variable to explain processes involving multiple agencies in multiple roles.