For the sake of posterity, utilitarianism is the belief that actions, deeds, mindsets, etc are good and right when they are of benefit to the majority. We believe, in a general sense, in a God that is utilitarian. The majority of Christianity speaks of a God that is benevolent, and seeking the benefit of the majority, if not all. Yet, this is not the way that God Himself speaks of Himself. It is not that God does not have care upon all, nor that He does not desire the benefit of all, but that our view of benevolence and welfare are not God’s view. Yes, He does give rain to both the just and the unjust, but that does not then mean that God is somehow acting in a utilitarian manner, and I think that every Christian would agree with this.
The word of God is something that is real. It touches the very nexus of our lives, and the way that we react to that relationship will determine the way that we react to all relationships. Jesus’ infamous question of, “What is it to you” reverberates through the question of Paul, “Who are you, a man, to answer back to God?” Our issue that is being rooted out is not the issue of talking back, but the issue of desiring the expedient and utilitarian thing. Fairness means that God treats all the same, and because one has been treated one way, and another treated another way, the balk is that God is now unfair. Why should Abraham be chosen, and why should God love Jacob? What is it that Israel has, that God would choose them over every other nation, so that to this day we Gentiles in Messiah are still perplexed by that election? What is it about us that we are so hostile to the holy covenant? If God is God, then let Him choose. Who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Is this not asking the question of whether God is big enough to include even they who are far off, and to bring them near, even unto the commonwealth of Israel? And, if God has brought you near, then why such glorification or hostility of the one who was originally called?
At the heart of all theological endeavor is the contention between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the principalities and powers. They are utilitarian, teaching us to view the world in a Marxist manner, whether that shows up in communism, democracy, capitalism, socialism, or in the dictatorships of monarchy and tyranny. It does not matter which government you choose, they are all the same fallen government, but different sides of the same coin. God is not it any of it. He doesn’t subscribe to our governments, nor is He limited to using our nations, as if the only way for Him to achieve anything in the world is for the Western empires to do Him a service. If even the Nazi soldiers could wear banners that claimed “Gott mit uns”,1 then who are we to claim that God is also with us? Do we have such magnificent morality that we can make merchandise of the name of God, as if His favor is upon they who are most thoroughly devoted to being a Christian nation? And, if Jesus was the herald of non-resistance, turning the other cheek, giving to they who ask, not returning evil for evil, but doing good to they who hate you, praying for they who persecute you, loving your enemies, and even all of His apostles showed that exact same fortitude of denying themselves, spending all and being expended, for even their own enemy’s sake, then why do we believe that as a “Christian nation” it is our duty, honor, and privilege to attack, scrutinize, belittle, assail, and go to war with the nations that have offended God? Is God for the mass annihilation of souls, and stacking corpses in piles, simply because Israel is God’s nation and we’re going to be there to defend them? Is God for the extermination of an entire people, simply because they are the enemies of God’s people? Or, is there something else that is happening in those Scriptures, and for us to use them as our right and obligation to uphold world peace, ironically using war and devastation to do so, because we believe in a “just cause”, is to fully embrace utilitarian mindsets at the expense of another.
It is detestable enough for a nation to do this, thinking that they are blessing God Himself. How much more heinous is it for the very people who claim to be God’s people, whether Christian or ethnic Israel, to have the same opinion of other nations? If we do not draw the line in even these matters, then where will we draw the line in any of the issues of hearing the word of God? God’s word itself is not utilitarian, seeking the best and most benefit for the world, as if world peace is what God is ultimately after. Who exactly are we worshiping? Certainly the God of the Bible has told us that He has not desired the nations of this world, with their governments as we currently know them, to drop their swords and live at peace with one another. Such a peace is a false peace, purposefully not bombing one another while we think disdainfully toward one another. Peace in truth is a peace that loves, and not simply a peace that has agreed to stop fighting.
To take the Scriptures and use them for the sake of utilitarian values is to attack the very truth and word of God that we claim to proclaim. It undermines the very reality by which we say that we live by. A people who have submitted to that kind of perversion of truth will inevitably look for an escape of the false reality through any means necessary. The very soul of man was made to live in truth, and to swallow the deception for decades displays itself in every means possible to contend against the monotony. As a society we are raising our children to be numb, because truth cannot be truth, and God cannot be God, and the word of God is neutered. Every teenager knows what it feels like to feel nothing, and seek for alternative means of expression and cognizance. Life blurs together in a haze, seeking for reality and truth, but finding pollution and more unreality.
The utilitarian god is not God. Though pulpits proclaim him, he is forged in our own image, seeking to make justification of our actions as Christians built upon a bloody history, and as Christians who identify with our nations more than with Zion. God speaks. He acts. He moves. He feels. He cares. He loves. He lives.
Any theology that is an approach to the Scripture through expediency and utilitarianism is a false theology. If we are seeking that we would have the correct answers in order for a kingdom to be built that benefits us, then we are inevitably seeking first our own kingdom, and none of “these things” will be added unto us. Any search for a kingdom that has us at the center, because “we are the people of God”, or any other misguided, conceptual justification, is not a kingdom whose builder and maker is God. With this as the obvious focus of most of what calls itself Christianity, it is little wonder, then, why we are continually asking where the power of God is, why we don’t hear the Spirit, why there are so many different opinions about various doctrines, and all of these kinds of things.
God does not relate to us through utilitarian mechanisms. He relates to us on the basis of truth and reality. The offense that the old covenant became was that it was made into an expedient mechanism of how to manipulate God. If we would only act in this manner, as it says in the Scriptures, then God would hear us, and we would have such and such blessing. Over and over again God pleaded with Israel, but they would not listen. Over and over again God spoke through the prophets of the things that He approves of, and what His heart truly is, but what was sought after was the list of prescribed actions so that they might please God. Dare we make the New Covenant into the exact same mechanism, only with new, polished gears?
1 God with us