Jesus Christ Is Anti-Establishment

The Well-Established Resistance in the Bible

Paul de Vries is an exclusive CP columnist.
Paul de Vries is an exclusive CP columnist. | (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)

In both Biblical teaching and in personal experience, there is much to learn from crises of the "establishments."

Godly change is a constant staple of Biblical teaching, and also continuing change is central to Spirit-led living. This is especially true now in the politically rowdy 2016. In this transformative year, from every corner there is a nearly deafening drum-beat of each political candidate claiming to be "against the establishment."

Even powerful establishment people want us to believe that they are against the "establishment"!

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What is happening? Should we feel sorry for the poor "establishment" kicked around so frequently? Not really!

Being deeply invested in an establishment has never been required for a Godly path.

Discontent with the establishment is even a time-honored and Biblically-based "tradition"!

The Biblical exemplars of faith were consistently ones that were first personally transformed in their encounters with God, and then they had transformative influence on their circumstances. For example, Chapter 11 of the Biblical Letter to the Hebrews is aptly described as the "Hall of Faith" — but the title "Hall of Anti-Establishment" would fit just as well! That is Hebrews 11, tells us how all the heroes of faith are also model advocates against the establishments of their times:

In the most ancient times, Abel chose to follow God's guidance, not just conform to his elder brother Cain's "established" example.

Enoch pleased God, not bowing to social pressure of his time.

Noah obeyed God as a faithful social nonconformist — and saved his family and humanity with it.

Abraham was driven by discontent with the great cities of his time, because he looked for a city with Godly foundations.

Joseph, while he was the prosperous prime minister of Egypt still clearly prophesied concerning the exodus of his extended family, the Israelites, to leave Egypt.

Moses chose identity with powerless slaves over the pleasures of sin.

Rahab sided with the people of promise rather than with her own uniquely powerful city of Jericho.

Similarly, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets all transformed their circumstances and shook the establishments through their trust in the Living God's presence and guidance.

Consummately, Jesus by fulfilling his calling disrupted and confounded the corrupt political and religious establishments of his time and place.

What a splendid group of Godly non-conformists! These Biblical examplars help show that "faith" and "trust" are not just nouns; they work primarily as powerful verbs, too.

Moreover, vibrant trust in God fuels improvements — starting with ourselves, but always also with the positive ripple effects, both personal and social. Consequently, those who are invested in the "status quo" will frequently feel threatened by any faith in action — by faithful people acting in obedient concert with the Living God. While we know that Jesus is the same "yesterday, today, and forever," an essential part of what stays the "same" is that he continues to move in history. And he moves us, too.

Furthermore, there are many other people who even without Biblical faith also see significant flaws in the establishments they resist. We can generally learn from their observations. However we are never compelled to follow their lead just because they are against the establishment, especially if they are not committed to Biblical truth.

Also, other people's oppositions to establishments can further create valuable opportunities for us — whether we share their views or not. After all, in our lives timing is always so crucial. The times when there are movements against establishments, people are all the more open to positive alternatives.

Overtly dissatisfied people are all the more hungry for new good ideas — sometimes even Biblical ideas!

Personally, I often think of our opportunities for leadership in 1969, another time when the anger at the establishment was also especially energized — because of both the Vietnam War and very serious cases of public corruption. At the University of Virginia a group of us saw this phenomenon as a huge opportunity for a positive change. When we proposed founding the "Office of Volunteer Community Service," we received virtually instant endorsements from the Fraternity-Sorority Council, Student Government, and the Cavalier Daily student newspaper! The establishment university leadership then also endorsed us, and I was hired as the Director of Volunteer Community Service. My team and I recruited, trained, led, and honored one thousand students in a huge variety of worthy volunteer projects in the first year, 1969-1970. This program continues to thrive now as Madison House ( — a continuing model of volunteer engagement.

Resistance to establishments can be intensely healthy, even Biblical. Moreover, times of great resistance are splendid opportunities to introduce improvements or replacements that create more good. And in this year, AD 2016, a year of new great antipathy to establishments, let us be attentive to the huge numbers of multiple opportunities to help create and lead positive change — and also to honor and please the Lord, most of all.

Dr. Paul de Vries is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, speaker and author. He is a specialist in Biblical hermeneutics and ethics and a life-long advocate of Biblical activism.

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