According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Justice in the Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God as critical principle

by Roger Olson
posted May 7, 2011

Underlying everything I wrote about the distinction between “justifiable” and “just” in my previous post is my belief that the coming Kingdom of God on earth is the Christian’s and the churches’ critical principle for discerning whether something (such as a violent act) can be celebrated.

I have adopted Isaac Watts’ 1793 hymn as my anthem for the coming messianic Kingdom on earth:

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Behold the islands with their kings,
And Europe her best tribute brings;
From north to south the princes meet,
To pay their homage at His feet.

There Persia, glorious to behold,
There India shines in eastern gold;
And barb’rous nations at His word
Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.

To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.

Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

Great God, whose universal sway
The known and unknown worlds obey,
Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
Extend His power, exalt His throne.

The scepter well becomes His hands;
All Heav’n submits to His commands;
His justice shall avenge the poor,
And pride and rage prevail no more.

With power He vindicates the just,
And treads th’oppressor in the dust:
His worship and His fear shall last
Till hours, and years, and time be past.

As rain on meadows newly mown,
So shall He send his influence down:
His grace on fainting souls distills,
Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.

The heathen lands, that lie beneath
The shades of overspreading death,
Revive at His first dawning light;
And deserts blossom at the sight.

The saints shall flourish in His days,
Dressed in the robes of joy and praise;
Peace, like a river, from His throne
Shall flow to nations yet unknown.

Now, I might quibble with a few lines in the poem, but, in general, I think it well describes the coming millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth. (I do not know whether Watts was a premillennialist, but the poem definitely implies a millennium on earth ruled over by Jesus Christ which would make it before the New Heaven and New Earth. I would argue it is a premillennial vision whether Watts explicitly embraced premillennialism or not.)

The poem seems to me to bring together the imagery of the messianic Kingdom scattered throughout the prophets and apostles. For a systematic theological explanation and defense see the many writings of George Eldon Ladd especially The Presence of the Future.

My point is this: I cannot be comfortable with or celebrate something unless I can envision it being present in the earthly millennial Kingdom of God in the future. And I think the church is called by God to prefigure that Kingdom in the present as much as possible.

Will there be violence in that Kingdom? If so, it will be God’s and not humans’. Watts writes about God treading the oppressors in the dust. I don’t know exactly what that means. I would interpret it as God forcing oppression to cease. I don’t take it as necessarily referring to violence. But even if it does, and even if God himself does violence, I cannot be comfortable with or celebrate human violence. I can only condone it as sometimes the lesser of two evils here and now–before the Kingdom comes.

The same is true of poverty. I cannot imagine why any Christian is comfortable with poverty (by which here I mean a condition in which people lack what is necessary to live a fully human life) as it will clearly be abolished in the Kingdom of God on earth.

So, for me, at least, the Kingdom of God on earth, Jesus Christ’s messianic reign at the end of history, serves as the critical principle for determining what social arrangements, conditions and practices I can celebrate. I celebrate them only when I see them as foreshadowing something about that messianic Kingdom.

Now, someone will no doubt argue that America’s killing of bin Laden is a foreshadowing of God’s treading the oppressors in the dust. But America is not God. True, God has given the “sword” to the state to hold back evil, but I can’t imagine that will be true in the Kingdom of God which will be a “peaceable Kingdom” and not one of violence. IF there is violence there it will be carried out righteously by God himself. That is God’s prerogative. I do not recognize any human violence as God’s own violence. And I’m dubious about whether violence will be present in the Kingdom of God at all. I prefer to think of God’s treading the oppressors in the dust as God’s making them stop their oppression. But if he uses violent means to achieve that end, that is his business and not mine to judge.


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