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
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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
Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma
It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds
assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Whatever happened to the People of God?

Andrew Perriman
Sunday 29 May 2011

One of the ways in which emerging theologies have attempted to correct the individualistic bias of much modern Reformed and evangelical theology has been to stress the cosmic dimension to salvation. So, for example, J.R. Woodward, whom I greatly regret having missed when he passed through Dubai last year, started off a recent post on the “key elements of personal salvation” with the words: “While the Good News of Jesus Christ is both personal and cosmic in nature….”

This emphasis on the cosmic dimension, which relies principally on a few New Testament texts that speak of the final transformation of all creation (cf. Rom. 8:20-22; Rev. 21:1-4), is a substantial improvement on soteriologies that are narrowly focused on the journey that a person makes from conversion to his or her eventual arrival in heaven. There is much social and ethical good that can be drawn from the vision of a world made new. In Love Wins Rob Bell speaks of the essentially earthy and humane vision of the life of the age to come that is found in the Old Testament prophets:
…Jesus and the prophets lived with an awareness that God has been looking for partners since the beginning, people who will take seriously their divine responsibility to care for the earth and each other in loving, sustainable ways. They centered their hopes in the God who simply does not give up on creation and the people who inhabit it. The God who is the source of all life, who works from within creation to make something new.
But in both J.R. Woodward’s opening clause and in Rob Bell’s rich account of the life of the age to come a crucial biblical component has gone missing. The biblical story does not say that “God has been looking for partners since the beginning”. It says that God chose a people in Abraham to be a “new creation”. Bell’s characterization of this people as partners who would “take seriously their divine responsibility to care for the earth and each other in loving, sustainable ways” is conceptually anachronistic in the first place, but we may let that pass. The more significant problem is that it gives the impression that God was looking for well-disposed, eco-sensitive volunteers. That seems to me rather badly to misrepresent the place of a people bound by covenant to the creator in the biblical story.

This has a bearing, moreover, on how we understand the “good news” of Jesus Christ and the locus of salvation in the biblical story—and I think it helps us to see how emerging theologies and New Perspective approaches to the New Testament still fail to connect. You would think that the personal-cosmic spectrum would encompass pretty much everything that needs to be said about salvation. In fact, it collapses—perhaps unintentionally—the structure of a biblical theology by circumventing the role of a chosen people.

So we have Rob Bell’s God looking for individuals to participate in the work of creational renewal, and we have a “good news” of salvation that has no reference to the community to which it was originally proclaimed, namely first-century Israel. There was a similar oversight in Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change.

Jesus did not come to save people from their sins. He came to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). The gospel was a public and political announcement to a nation. That is a very different type of story with a very different type of outcome. The story of salvation in the New Testament is, at its heart, the story of the salvation of a people from the “final” destruction of the impending Jewish War—a salvation which, through the over-abounding grace of God, led to the inclusion of Gentiles in the community and the eventual victory of the church over its pagan enemies.

This national-level narrative provides the basis for—and certainly the starting-point for—whatever we want to say about both personal salvation and cosmic salvation. On the one hand, individuals, in different ways, participate in the story of the people of God. On the other, the story of the people of God generates the hope that in the end all creation will be renewed.

The problem here is not merely exegetical. By disregarding the corporate dimension, the emerging model excludes, or at least greatly reduces, the difficult sphere of practised justice. A significant layer of cosmic and humanitarian concern is added to the outlook of the individual, legitimizing the engagement of Christians in social action. But this does not fundamentally change the structure of things: we still have a very “modern” theology organized around the needs and potentials of individual participants in secular society.

We can understand the emerging church’s reluctance, on the one hand, to perpetuate the failings of the old institutional church, and the desire, on the other, to recover some degree public credibility, some ethical integrity. But this cannot be achieved at the expense of diminishing the concrete life and witness of the church as community—indeed, as a place where “new creation” is practised and not merely talked about.


Addendum: Knowing Rob Bell and being acquainted with both his ministry and teaching I wish to add that Bell does teach the concepts of "community" or rather, "participatory communities" in the message and ministry of God in the reformation of the world and mankind. And, as a new investigator/acquirer of the message of emergent Christianity (or as someone who would like to make its updated message mine own in some way), it is my understanding that though we live in an age of individualism, the bible is first and foremost a community message that must be participated in as a community (unlike our current age's focus). However, I imagine a good sociologist will tell you that it takes both/and - that is, its takes an individual to lead a community, but it takes a community to enrich an individual.  Thus, kudos to Andrew Perriman is his similar assessments based upon his world travels and the worldly communities that he has participated in.


No comments:

Post a Comment