I’ve been studying through Exodus. I can’t tell you how many times I have read the account of the plagues.
But there is a recurring theme that is so common that we miss it. I know that this might sound strange, but I think you know what I mean. Something that is repeated so often that we miss how utterly astounding it is, like a shaft of sunlight bursting through the overhanging branches.
The message that Moses gave to Pharaoh was this:
Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go.”
After the 8th plague,when Egypt was almost completely destroyed, Pharaoh said,
Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.”
When you pause for a moment, you realize something astounding. The Hebrews were God’s people. But Pharaoh had a deep-seated belief that they were HIS people. He believed that he was entitled to force them to work, dispose of them how he willed, and do with them what he pleased. He was Pharaoh. They were slaves.
It was a mindset that was so deeply engrained in him that it was unquestioned – a presupposition, to use Van Til’s phrase. “Presupposed entitlement”, if you will.
Presupposed entitlement is the assumption, partly inborn, partly acquired through culture, that one is entitled to exert power over another, simply by virtue of their ontology.
Pharaoh was Pharaoh. Of course he was entitled to do whatever he wanted to with the Hebrews. They were Hebrews.
This thinking is common with all fallen men and women. And it is so deeply engrained that we think it before we can even think. For this reason, it is very simple to gather a following, instill them with a sense of superiority over a group of people, and foster that presupposed entitlement. Whole cultures are consumed by it.
Just this past week, two white men were arrested. Three months ago, they got their guns, and got into their truck and followed a black man down the street. The black man was jogging. They demanded that he tell them what he is doing in their neighborhood. He, being afraid, lashed out and ended up getting shot.
There were no prosecutions until the video went viral. The men claimed that they thought he was responsible for a string of burglaries. It was assumed by EVERYONE in law and order that these two men had the right to do what they did. I do not wish to try the case, but I do want to look at some of the rhetoric surrounding the release of the video.
“He was told clearly to stop. He didn’t listen to instructions. He should has stopped and done what he was told to do.”
“It was self-defense”
The two white men were not police officers. They were not authorized in any way to command anyone to do anything. And right there is a perfect example of presupposed entitlement.
We are white. He is black. Of course we have the right to stop and question him.
This morning, a white man stopped a black delivery driver and demanded that he explain what he is doing in the neighborhood.
I have often marveled at the similarities between the arguments of patriarchalists and the arguments of slavery apologists . The similarity is right here: “We, as men, have the God-given right, by our creation, to order women around – oops, I mean “lead”. We have God-given ontological superiority (woops, I mean “role of authority) and women have the God –given ontological role to submit.”
Substitute “white” for male, and “black” for female and you have the exact argument of the slavery apologists of the nineteenth century.
Perhaps this is why patriarchalist like Doug Wilson also defend chattel slavery as good for the black man…the heart of the issue is the same: White men have ontological entitlement to own and sell black slaves by virtue of their ontological superiority. Males have ontological entitlement over women for the same reason.
I have gotten pushback in certain circles for criticizing the “Bible belt culture” – accused of attacking the church.
I was not attacking the church. But I was indeed criticizing the “Bible Belt Culture”. The sort of entitlement that fills one’s head – where they believe that they have the unquestioned right to command a black man, or command a woman as they see fit – does not come overnight. It is engrained by the culture that one is in.
It is true that this entitlement is inborn, because we are all born of Adam. But what I am really talking about is this: only in an entitled culture could two white men use these excuses to escape prosecution for months.
“They thought he was a burglar. They told him to stop. He didn’t stop as he was commanded to.”
Presuppositional entitlement. “I will allow them to go, but they must leave their little ones at home.”
I have the right to command people as I see fit.
This has nothing to do with Christianity.
25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called`benefactors.’
26 “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.
27 “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. (Luke 22:25-27 NKJ)