Favoritism Is Good? Fish!!

Does anyone even read my Stanley Fish links? Anyone?

Earth to anyone!

Because now Fish has taken a long enough break from revealing everyone else’s presuppositions to reveal one of his own, and I think that’s pretty interesting. Have a listen.

[The liberal notion of fairness] asks you to regard ideological/political differences as articles of clothing; they are cosmetic rather than essential; the person is what he is apart from them and it is the person, rather than the accidents of birth or belief or nationality, who merits your respect.

This Fish denies. People can’t be separated from their beliefs or their ethnicities. And he’s partly right. Modern Western Liberalism is wrong, for example, to say that religious people should be able to set aside their beliefs as they enter the public square. It’s as if they regard those beliefs as inessential—you can take them on and off and still be you. Religious people know this is not so. My religion is an essential part of me.

However. Fish is still wrong. The provocative title of Fish’s article reveals this fact: “Favoritism Is Good.” Any Christian who knows his Bible knows that Fish has to be wrong somewhere with a title like that, even if he’s partly right. Because the Bible says very specifically that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34), and we’re instructed to be like Him in this respect (Jas 2:1, 9; cf. Eph 6:9; 1 Tim 5:21). When someone who is not part of my tribe comes into my church, I’m not supposed to give him short shrift.

Here’s where biblical presuppositions are so necessary. According to Genesis 1 (and Gen 9:6, and James 3:9), there is an equal amount of God’s image in every one of us, and this is what demands mutual respect among all tribes and all individuals. Every man, woman, and child on earth—including the unborn, the elderly, and the disabled—is made in the image of the immortal, infinite creator God.

Fish has deconstructed his world and, quite rightly, shown that liberalism isn’t really as evenhanded as it claims. It is just another tribe. But in Fish’s view that’s all we’re left with. A bunch of tribes scrabbling for advantage. In God’s view, something links us all, something more fundamental than our tribal affiliations. A bit of the divine.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

3 thoughts on “Favoritism Is Good? Fish!!”

  1. To be honest, no I don’t typically follow your Fish links. Typically, I get Fish’s articles directly from Google Reader. To be fair, I did add his feed because you kept linking to them.

  2. I don’t know Mark, I think you may have written this one too fast. Fish is on to something here that the Scripture also reflects and must be balanced with with the passages that you are citing.
    God has poured out favor on a people that are separate and distinct from other people that exist (Revelation 5). He enters into special covenants (Genesis 12; Sinai; I Sam 7; Jer 31) with His people that become the means of special blessing for those people alone. Those who are not a part of this group are called “enemies” (Romans 5:10). At the end of time all those outside of the tribe are damned (Revelation 20:15).
    Even among humans God recognizes certain levels of “belongingness” that merit special favors – A man is to love his wife not based on a fair evaluation of her humanity but on the covenant that exists between them (Malachi 2:14) and the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:25). Likewise a wife is to be subject to her own husband not treating all men as equal. Paul admonishes men to care for their own families before anyone else (1 Timothy 5:8) and to do good first to those of the “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

    In considering the passages that you mention I would bring everything together like this: God does not show inappropriate favoritism and neither should we. Of course anything could be inappropriate, but “favoritism” in general (and Fish touches on many of the aspects of this) is not wrong but practiced by God and should be by us as well.

    James 2 is a good example of this. When favoritism is shown to the rich man instead of the poor man it is condemned because of reasoning behind it (2:4) presumably, greed.

    I’m certainly not defending people who refuse to love their neighbor but I think it is important to realize that we are not all isolated, independent and equal human beings. We all equally share in the image of God, but that does not mean that we are all equally related to ourselves or God.

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