For us to know clearly the controversy or the relationship if there is any, between the book of Genesis and Political Philosophy, we will look at the work of Thomas Pangle. This is in his book Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham. This book is of great importance and considerable merit.
In the book, Pangle majorly inquires into the subtly intelligent relationship, if there is, between the traditional political philosophy founded in Socrates and the revelation in the Hebrew Bible. His purpose is determined — to settle on nothing less, but to reinvigorate what he depicts as “the encounter between political philosophy and the Bible” (Pangle 1). This is at the topmost intellectual level.
If one knows Strauss’s work, he or she would identify Pangle’s thinking, which sees the divide between philosophical manifestation and biblical faith. Philosophical reflection is the approach of understanding the whole, with the human mind without any external assistance.
The biblical faith approach is painstaking submission of both mind and heart to the Law of God. Both Pangle and Strauss agree that the antagonism that exists between the two is fruitful for both views, especial in the fact that both clearly show the human possibility projected by the other.
They differ when Strauss sticks to the fact that human reason is sufficient to make one reach the goals of his life. Pangle decides to take the study of the Bible seriously in order to expose it in a better way. He keeps quiet about pronouncing relationship between philosophy and the Bible, probably for political reasons.
He is very serious with political philosophy, and similarly with the intelligent facts in the Bible even though in has several mysteries. One of the mysteries that Pangle focuses on is in his last chapter about Kierkegaard, specifically on the call of Abraham to sacrifice his only son (Pangle 172-181).
Political philosophy deals with the way people are to live in this world and the reason why the living needs ethics, political affairs and economics. It also explains the relationship of these aspects with philosophic way of living. Politics therefore has its own sphere of life that is lead by reason.
This is what we may term as prudent life. It is therefore limited to its nature. On the other hand, the Bible sees prudent life as life of obedience. This is the obedience to the Law of God given through Moses, at times known as Mosaic Law. This includes the Ten Commandments and the elaborate life ethics shown in Deuteronomy. The basis of the Christians faith is obedience, for this means to love God.
It also shows the existence of a relationship between man and God. This is inferred from the Gospel of John when Jesus gives this command about obedience and hearing his word. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).
According to Pangle, there is a similarity between the bible and political philosophy. This is at the point where both focus on the core of our humanity. They both advocate for truth. They agree that human life has to be, by all means guided by the truth alone. They are in consensus on the point that the fundamental theme of our concern for truth is that it is the basis of righteousness and justice. The only thing that might have led the two types of thoughts to irreconcilable incongruity was on the phenomenon of morality.
In his effort to point out clearly the existing rivalry, Pangle begins with Genesis. He explains how the story of creation shows the ultimate existence of humanity. He clearly points out how man is subject to his creator. He agrees with Strauss that the way the Bible begins is understandable. This is when Strauss said, “The Bible begins reasonably…with the beginning” (Strauss 152). Pangle however points out some contradictions.
The first example is the accounts of creation, where God created everything else and finished His creation by creating man and woman. The first account of creations shows that the physical things of nature were first created followed by the plants and animals before human beings were created (Gen. 1:1 – 12, 24 – 29). In the second, all the plants and animals preceded Adam, the man who was first alone.
After the animals had proved to be an incomparable companion to him, Eve the female human was created as the last of the works of creation. She was created out of the man, one of the most fascinating phenomena. Pangle says it appears very hard to take the two accounts literally. On this point he concludes that it is impossibility to appeal to someone’s knowledge, meaning that the whole idea of the deity of God and the Creator is not to be taken literally (Pangle 20).
He farther points out that several philosophers have criticized the very process. He points out the Hermeneutics, and describes them as:
The interpretive stance, which views Scripture as the product of self conscious didactic integration of long-maturing literary traditions carried out by compliers and redactors whose artful but pious intelligence never dared to presume itself, simply the master of its materials or sources – does not require us to solve any puzzling feature by finding behind it an intelligible authorial intension (though we are spurred, in the case of each major difficulty, to strive to do so) (Pangle 21).
He continues to give their description as:
We need not and should ever rule out the possibility that any particular case of contradiction, obscurity, or apparent error, we are confronted by irresolvable unclarity caused either by reverent as well as humbly bewildered human equivocation and incompetence or by divine mystery (or by both) (Pangle 21).
In the same point he also describes the high criticisms. The major spotlight of these critics was on the two accounts of creation. They went down to analyze the story of creation with the aim of disapproving it. The main point is that which appears as inconsistency of the story of creation.
This is the point on which Saint Augustine is in strong defense of. In his book On Genesis, he says that those who do not know the Scripture should not censure it. He says, “For there is no book of Scripture that cannot be censured with ease in the eyes of those who do not understand it” (Augustine 48).
In addition to the description of such important topics as the differing suppositions of the origin of the world and the universe, in the Greek philosophy and the Bible, the core of his discourse is in the chapter talking about “The Creation and the Meaning of Evil and Good” (Pangle 71 – 102).
In this, we see the clarity of the characteristic enigma in the nature of sin and divine impartiality or justice. One thing that comes out clearly is the serpent who takes opportunity of eve’s capacity to envy, which shows itself as the emerging longing for self-sufficiency, that is same as the philosophical reason of craving to govern one’s own life. This is basing on one’s own repository of knowledge. Here the conclusion is that that man preferred the tree of knowledge to the tree of life.
It would be very hard for any one to settle for the option of obedience. This would require far-reaching obedience which we would refer to as conscious submission to the will of God. Here it becomes quite difficult to believe that that is what God requires of human beings. It seems impossible. It seems to go back to the days when governments were very dictatorial, differing from the present day democracies. Strauss says:
It would be a mistake to believe that Hobbes originally preferred monarchy, on account of its natural origin, to artificial democracy. It happens that the earliest systematic exposition of his views is the most democratic. That the precedence of democracy over the other artificial forms of State is asserted most decisively in the Elements has already been mentioned (Strauss 63).
Basically refusing the fact that, obedience to what one has not decided, is not the way to go.
To obey God, looks like to reject the rule of reason and to refuse to be guided by it completely. According to Pangle, the initial decision to obey the will of God rests on human will. This is based on the knowledge of Good and Evil which a person must have acquired. After settling on what is true, the rule of reason and rationality has still played a major role.
This is much similar to what Luther call the realist’s way of looking at values. He writes, “Values are conserved, according to some new realists, not because an omnipotent God sees to it that they are saved, nor because the universe is such that they cannot be lost, but because values are in themselves eternal” (Luther 157).
Pangle goes back to this matter yet again, towards the ending of this work in the section called Abraham at the Peak. The big questions are: was Abraham seeking his own good by obeying to get the promise? Was Abraham ration in that sense? Was he sacrificing every conceivable good for himself? It is had to answer them. If the latter is, is the sacrifice he made achieved the peak of human living, and so looking for good in any case?
Still pointing out to Abraham’s case, he deduces that it was either mad for him to agree to go and sacrifice his only son or he may have done that in terms of what is good for him. This is if we explain the act rationally and by calculating the answer egoistically. Pangle’s first conclusion on this point is that biblical promise and transcendence proves to be a big misapprehension.
On this mater, which lies in high contrast to the piety of the Bible, Pangle states that, it remains firmly within the boundaries of our sound conviction. He further asserts that philosophy has its ideas presented in a systematic manner. The other world has its moral responsibility very incoherent, and is not noble at all. It that sense philosophy stills has the nobility.
As pangle continues his discourse, he comes to a point where thinking philosophically demands that you abandon all hopes. This is for the reason that the biblical piety might be the real way to go. At the end Pangle has not made a conclusion if to denounce all hope as philosophy wants, or to believe in God who loves and is concerned about every detail of our lives. He lives his readers to find for themselves what is most noble.
Augustine, Saint. On Genesis Two Books on Genesis Against the Manichees and on the Literal Interpretation of Genesis: An Unfinished Book. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1990. Print.
Genesis. King James Version. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2008. Print.
John. King James Version. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2008. Print.
Luther, Evans D. New Realism and Old Reality: A Critical Introduction to the Philosophy of the Realists. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1928. Print.
Pangle, Thomas L. Political philosophy and the God of Abraham. Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins UP, 2003. Print.
Strauss, Leo. The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1952. Print.