Saturday, August 26, 2006

Agrarian basics, part 2
The nature of corporate calling

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many.

If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

(I Corinthians 12:12-18)

Just as the Body of Christ is one body with one calling, and each particular member has his own particular calling, so it is with the corporate agrarian calling of mankind. Which is to say, not everyone has to be a farmer.

For the purposes of this discussion I want to offer a definition of farmer as one whose primary occupation is that of producing food by way of cultivating the earth or animal husbandry, in order to provide for all of his family's needs, and with a view of producing a surplus that can be exchanged for the family's needs that aren't produced at home.

This definition is very specific and is different from the more general way I've sometimes used the word to refer to people who garden extensively, but don't do it to provide a majority of their family's needs. So if you've discussed this with me before, especially in the context of my descriptions of my ancestors' occupations, many of whom weren't farmer according to this strict definition, I just want to be sure that my narrow use of it in this series isn't confused with my more general use of the term elsewhere.

In the comments to the previous post, Eleanor wrote a lovely description of what I had in mind when I started this post, so I'm going to quote her.
...God has given us this earth, put us on it, and requires us to use it and steward it in some way that is best suited to the talents we have and the place where we are. For some that means contributing a knowledge of chemistry in order to rpduce medicines. For others it means a knoledge of metallurgy to produce tools. For others it means a knowledge of music to produce music, or a knowledge of light, color and form to produce art. It seems to me, in light of the way the tabernacle was first built, that everyone should be producing something to the glory of God, and that not all will be producing bread or raising sacrificial animals, but that some will be producing goods. Still others will be teaching others to be able to do these things, and not necessarily within the family only. Isn't this what the Body should look like, after all? We are made to be together, and interdependent, some doing this and some doing that, not only for themselves but for others.

This illustrates what I mean when I say that agrarianism is a corporate calling. We are all called to accomplish the same goal, be we don't all have the same "job" or the same way of contributing to that greater end. There is unity in our calling as mankind, but diversity in the way each us helps fulfill that calling. And, as Eleanor suggested, the particular work we are called to do is not only for the glory of God, but also for the blessing of the rest of the Body. I believe it's true that our particular gifts are not even primarily for our own benefit, though we can get a lot of pleasure out of them.

Now, we see that each member has its own particular gift to contribute to the body, or its own particular function to fulfill in the life of the body, but when we look closer at each particular member, we also see that at the individual level, the members all have certain functions in common. For instance, each cell in the eye has chromosomes which contain the blueprint for the whole body, but which also enable the cell to reproduce; each cell in the eye has mitochondria, which convert food into energy; and each cell in the eye has a membrane which serves in part to regulate the passage of materials in and out of the cell - food in, waste out, so to speak.

The interesting thing about this is that, even though the eye's particular calling, it's particular contribution to the body, is very different from that of the foot, the eye provides for itself in exactly the same way as the foot provides for itself. That is, when it comes to meeting its own needs, the eye functions in just the same way as the foot, but when it comes to meeting the needs of the body as a whole, it has a unique role to play.

So we have the unity of the body and the diversity of the members, but we also have a very striking smilarity between the cells in the way they function.

I want to propose that Mankind as a race is patterned after the Body of Christ. We have a unity of purpose - this corporate calling that I've been talking about in stewarding the earth - and we have the rich diversity of contributions that various members make in order that the body as a whole may fulfill its calling. But in a healthy body we should also see a remarkable consistency in the way each member goes about providing for its own individual needs.

I say "in a healthy body," because obviously the "body" we are talking about right now is very far from being healthy. It's true that this body will never be perfectly healthy until the New Heavens and the New Earth. But it's also true that we Christians will never be perfect even as our father in heaven is perfect, and yet Christ still exhorted us with this standard of perfection, because that is the goal which we are to be working toward.

It is the nature of corporate body-ness in a fallen world that oftentimes an individual will find himself in a bad situation that is not of his own making, or possibly his situation is the result of foolish decisions in the past. A soldier may find himself fighting on the wrong side of an unjust war for many reasons. Maybe he enlisted under a godly king who has since become corrupt. Maybe he ignorantly or foolishly enlisted under an ungoldy king. Or maybe he was impressed into service against his will. However it happened, there he is, and he is not free to make amends for the situation by deserting his post. He must continue to serve in his position, but in a godly manner. If he is given an evil order he must refuse to obey it, and be prepared to take the consequences in the same way that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were willing to suffer for their godly defiance of Nebuchadnezzer's evil commandment.

And if he is given a righteous way of escape, he must take it.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Part 1 found here.

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