Journalism & the Two Mandates
The Biblical narrative of Genesis 3 shows that the first pair chose the way of Prometheus seeking autonomy from God. This was not just an individual act. In Genesis 11, human’s collectively choose the same path in building the tower of Babel.
The disillusion with the imperial ego of the modern human has led to the postmodern decentred self. Kenneth Gergen writes, “With post-modern consciousness begins the erasure of the category of the self. We realize increasingly that who and what we are is not so much the result of our personal essence but how we are constructed in social groups. The initial stages of this consciousness results in a sense of self as a social con artist manipulating images to achieve ends. As the category of the real self continues to recede from view, one acquires a pastiche like personality.”
The road from the plucking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge leads not to a self-reliant rational subject in possession of knowledge which liberates and transforms but to a de-centered self where no knowledge can take lodging. Images replace substance; signs replace knowledge.
The Genesis narrative underlines strongly that true ethical knowledge is only possible in an obedient relationship of the creature to the creator. Without a prior commitment to obey God, no true knowledge is possible.
Several Biblical narratives pulsate with the tension between the sovereignty of God the creator and the freedom of the creature. The prophets highlight this particularly, “As I have planned so shall it be” says God, Isaiah 14:24. Isaiah 96 records “yet, they have rebelled against me” (1:2, 3:9). The creator permits freedom but does not leave the situation open-ended. He offers promises and ensures their fulfilment. The freedom given to the creature is in a context where the creator is already moving history towards his final purpose. Freedom is not outside of time. It is within time which itself is moving to a consummation.
The Biblical view of freedom locates it in the individual’s free response to God’s actions in history past, present and future. It is to freely choose the future God has promised and act in the present in the light of that future. In contrast to the Biblical view of individual freedom is the understanding of freedom that sees individual autonomy as an absolute right. Such an autonomy is best preserved when all negative constraints to individual freedom are minimized. The biblical emphasis is not an individual autonomy which is an expression of the fall but on the individual as a person. The model of personhood is Jesus Christ. The content of his personhood is his clear sense of his identity as the Son, his integral relationship to the Father and the Spirit i.e. his personhood in the community of persons and the strong sense of his role as the Messiah. Likewise our human personhood must combine the dimensions of individual identity, our relationships to others in community and our specific calling in the world.