Order. It’s a small word with some big implications. Star Trek’s Borg Collective, for example, believes that they are bringing order to chaos every time they assimilate a culture and add to their own perfection. Plenty of episodes have explored the theme of order – in Justice to consider whether or not capital punishment is befitting someone who disturbed newly planted flowers, in The Hunted to consider how soldiers can be reintegrated successfully into society, In Devil’s Due to see how order can be undone when the world ends, In The Masterpiece Society how elements that are out of order risks harm to the whole society; and that’s just The Next Generation. The other series’ episodes explore civilizations that are built on order, have fallen to chaos, are completely free, and have no freedom. So perhaps I’ve been predisposed to be careful about order and it’s implications.
1 Corinthians 14:33 begins with; “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace …” I always thought it to be a confusing choice of words; especially that in other translations the pairs used are “harmony & confusion” (Message) and “confusion & peace” (King James Version). This means that order is essentially a godly trait. There’s an order to everything they say, from the angels of Heaven to the depths of Hell. Everything and everyone has it’s place and there’s a place for everything and everyone. That’s why so many are attracted to systematic theology and the order it represents in trying to understand God’s divine order in everything in order to learn how they can live up to it.
The thing that science fiction often explores that religion does not is the human tendency to corrupt ‘good’ order into an institutionalized form of ‘evil’ for lack of a better term. It’s an even scarier thing to imagine that the concept of order as a divine good means that religious people are more likely to believe that living in disorder is akin to disavowing God’s instructions for our lives. But isn’t it possible that we’re reading order out of the Bible because we want to see it there? Creation order, for example, seems to do just that. Creation order is not the chronological order of events in creation starting with Genesis 1, but the idea that it is part of God’s divine order from the creation of humanity in Genesis 2 and 3 that women are to be subordinate to men. ‘It is the order of things (at creation)’ that is ‘very good’ before the original sin. It’s adherents point to ideas like Adam was created first and that he named Eve ‘woman’ (and later on ‘Eve’) proves that he has authority over her. You’ll notice that there’s no Bible verse that actually says either one: “That because the man was created first, he was given authority over the woman who was created last.” or “That because the man named the woman, he was given authority over her.” People who want to read order out of Bible, see creation order as a divine mandate and they see that everything everyone says and does in Genesis 2 and 3 affirm that order. But me, I just don’t see it. All I see is a story about a guy, a girl, a snake, a deception, and a willful disobedience that serves as an explanation for our fallen world but not as an ideal that we ought to restore or replicate today.
Time and time again, God didn’t do things in order. He didn’t choose the first born, he didn’t use the strongest members of the strongest families of the strongest tribes, he didn’t choose the sons of a priest to be his prophet, for a God of order, he seems particularly drawn to disregarding order whenever it suited him to do so. Revelation ends by pointing out that the old order of things will have passed away. It’s not very specific about exactly what that means, but I’d like to think that it includes a lot of our current ideas about order, living in order, being subordinate or superior to another, and everything that goes with it will eventually be gone one day. Will it be gone because the world is ending? Or will have disappeared long before the end because society has come to see that a little disorder is better for everyone than the free will killing demands of complete and total order? I don’t know. But this is something I do know, the ancient world was one of superiors and subordinates and we are not that world.