“‘Good and evil,’ tob and ra, here have a much wider meaning than ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in our terminology. “The words tob and ra speak of an ultimate division in the world of man in general which goes beyond the moral discord, so that tob would perhaps also mean ‘full of pleasure’ and ra ‘full of pain'”. (Hans Schmidt). Tob and ra are the categories for the deepest division of human life in every aspect. The essential thing about them is that they appear as a pair and that, in their state of division, they belong inseparably together. Tob, the pleasureful, the good, the beautiful does not exist without being constantly submerged in ra, the painful, evil, mean, impure. And — in this wide sense — the painful, the evil, does not exist without a glimmer of pleasure, which makes pain wholly pain. Tob, the good, is for us always only that which has been wrested from evil, which has gone through evil, which has been conceived, carried and borne by evil. The glitter of the good, that which is full of joy and pleasure, has its origins in evil. … The healthy man is borne up in pain and nourished by that which is full of pleasure; he is torn in pleasure and pain, in good he is torn by evil, in evil he is torn by good. He is divided.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Creation and Fall… Temptaion: Two Biblical Studies”
Reading this section by Bonhoeffer this morning got me thinking about how the tob and the ra, the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’, the ‘pleasure’ and the ‘pain’ aren’t only found in us fallen and depraved sinners, but in everything that we try to create… even if it was created with the best of intentions.
Take for instance the election of Pastor Matthew Harrison to be President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I believe that politics have absolutely no place in the church whatsoever. Instead of elections we should take all of the nominees and say some prayers and cast lots, or draw straws, and put the whole situation into God’s hands… which would make for a very unhuman centric convention. But who are we to serve, God or man?
However, I also agree that we need leaders in our church body to keep Christian unity and a correct understanding of Scripture. We especially need those leaders to be Scriptural, Confessional, missional and Doctrinally minded. Those leaders need to be first and foremost teachers and pastors, they need to know Scripture, what our Confessions say and be able to lead us and our laity from these sources in a world that wants nothing more than to see them destroyed (the leader and the Scriptures) and come up with new and old heresies to drive people away from the church of Christ. I do not wish this responsability on any one man, but pray that the Lord is with Pastor Harrison who tries to lead us who are in the world and, unfortunately, are still part of this fallen, self-centered and egotistical world that want to see him destroyed and be a failure because the last thing that we want is to be shown what sinners and failures we truly are.
As I said the tob and the ra are in everything that we create and that includes our election practices because what should be done in Christian fellowship, unity and love, is done with name-calling, lies and personal attacks on those nominated to positions of power. We created a system, based off our own nation’s electoral system, created with tob, with pleasure and joy and have turned it into ra… something that is pain and heartache.
The ra is our sinful nature that we can not shake off or get rid of by ourselves. Only Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection removes our ra. It is in our very pores and being, and so, it is in everything that we do and create. Just like our election procedures that have been transformed into something that doesn’t promote Christian fellowship, unity or love. Instead, it promotes lying, cheating and throwing people under the bus to further one’s political career in the church.
But just as “The glitter of the good, that which is full of joy and pleasure, has its origins in evil.” so can the Synod find joy, unity and love in what has become a fractured Synod. I wish Pastor Harrison all of the best as he takes the reins during a time of great stife and dis-unity in our church body. May this time of ra of ‘pain’ and ‘evil’ bring forth a new era of ‘tob‘ ‘pleasure’ and more importantly ‘peace’ in our Synod which so desperatly needs some. Let us refind our unity in the Scriptures, the Confessions, our missions and our Doctrinal teaching and practices in all parts of our Synod.