Relational Order

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This is my contribution to Cindy’s Book Club on Roots of American Order.

In chapter 8, Kirk describes the shift toward modernism that began in the civil wars of seventeenth century Britain.

A fundamental paradigm shift occured during this time that allowed a previously untenable concept: a secular government. Societies have always been built on the foundation of a shared religious belief. And just what allowed this shift?

A changed belief about what man is.

And I was struck with just how many remnants of the modern philosophy of man still find expression in my own thinking and doing, though I avow the Christian belief that man is created in the image of God for the purpose of knowing and glorifying God by taking dominion of and stewarding creation.

The innovative theory of the seventeenth century was that man is primarily a self-seeking, self-interested economic being, rather than a duty-bound creature capable of honor and integrity.

Instead of the ancient & medieval concept that the best men are the honorable men, the men who put their place and people and position above themselves, Hobbes and others taught that men are simply self-aggrandizing individuals, obliterating the need for a hierarchical society, for a moral order. Duty requires authority, submission, and responsibility; self-interest only requires looking out for number one — it is easier to manage, manipulate, and control.

This concept dovetailed with another concept I have been pondering lately: motivation & rewards. I listened to an audio version of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us — you can watch an RSA summary video to get the gist — where he claims that the carrot & stick model, the rewards model, the view that man always seeks to maximize his own economic status is simply not true. Interestingly, he shows that this model was created during early industrialization, and it created methods for control of individuals by those with money and power.

What are some ways we can still, even in our Christian homes, think about our children as purely economic, self-seeking beings?

  • Assume they need economic or glitzy or fun or tasty rewards in order to be motivated
  • That is, we treat with their appetites rather than their soul
  • Believe happiness and satisfaction comes from ease or laziness
  • Treat them as machines or animals to be tweaked or prodded by formula

What are some ways we can treat our children as image-bearers of God?

  • Assume creating, stewarding, and knowing are intrinsically satisfying and motivating
  • Believe work produces happiness and satisfaction
  • Grant them measures of responsibility and autonomy as they mature

Can you think of some other ways we treat our children as either self-aggrandizing individuals or duty-bound community members?