Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

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

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Saturday, November 9, 2013

24 Advent Poems for Christmas

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived,
reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - Anon

*Many thanks to Journey with Jesus for collecting these poems -
from Dec 1 to Christmas Day and Beyond

Dec 1 - Catherine Alder, Advent Hands

Dec 2 - Daniel Berrigan, Advent Credo

Dec 3 - John Betjeman, Christmas

Dec 4 - Sr. M. Charlita, I.H.M., Advent Antiphons

Dec 5 - G.K. Chesterton, The House of Christmas

Dec 6 - Sr. M. Chrysostom, The Stable

Dec 7 - Pamela Cranston, ADVENT (On a Theme by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Dec 8 - Pamela Cranston, God's Annunciation

Dec 9 - Pamela Cranston, Poem for Christ the King

Dec 10 - John Donne, Annunciation

Dec 11 - John Donne, Nativity

Dec 12 - St. Ephraim of Syria (Ephrem of Edessa), From God Christ's Deity Came Forth

Dec 13 - U.A. Fanthorpe, BC:AD

Dec 14 - Christopher Harvey, The Nativity

Dec 15 - Denise Levertov, On the Mystery of the Incarnation

Dec 16 - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christmas Bells

Dec 17 - Edwin Muir, The Annunciation

Dec 18 - Prudentius, Of the Father's Love Begotten

Dec 19 - David A. Redding, Adult Advent Announcement

Dec 20 - Brad Reynolds, Gaudete  (*gaudete - a medieval hymn or carol of "rejoicing")

Dec 21 - Rainer Maria Rilke, Annunciation to Mary

Dec 22 - Luci Shaw, Virgin

Dec 23 - Alfred Lord Tennyson, A New Year's Poem

Dec 24 - Brian Wren, Good is the Flesh

Dec 25 - Matthew 1.18-2.7 (Jesus' Birth), Luke 2 (Jesus' Birth)

Dec 26 - Mark 1 (Jesus' Ministry Begins)

Dec 27 - John 1 (Christ's Incarnation & Calling)

Dec 28 - John 2-3 (Jesus' First Miracle and Message)

Dec 29 - Romans 1 (Paul's Letter to the churches of Asia Minor)

Dec 30 - Readings in Psalms (5 Psalms in 30 Days covers all the Psalms)

Dec 31 - Readings in Proverbs (a chapter a day for a month)

Jan 1 - Chose a Bible Reading Plan (there are several; print-out the chronological as a guide).
            Understanding the OT will help when reading the NT. And understanding the NT will
            help when reading the OT. Same God, same faith, but now re-read through Jesus.

Jan 2 - Begin attending several churches to discover their traditions, customs and understanding
            of Jesus in relation to the living Christian faith. Begin reading Relevancy22 as a starting
            point for understanding the theological teachings of Christianity, its doctrines & dogmas.

Jan 3 - Begin Walk Thru the Bible's 5 Year Study (yes, it's old timey but it will bring the Bible
            alive through the twangy Texas accent of a beloved pastor now passed away in a common-
            sense approach to people and life's many twists and turns. The Bible is not meant to be
            hard to understand. This little audio study will tell of God's daily presence and love).

Jan 4 - Become acquainted with the Basic Theological Readings of the Bible. Five methods are
            summarily examined comprehensively - each method shows how to read the Bible from
            a different viewpoint that will help give an interpretive structure to Bible reading.

Jan 5 - St. John's Video Timelines Project - An Expansive Review of the Bible, church history
           and church doctrine at the reader's pace while continuing to read through Relevancy22.
           In a way, Relevancy22 is the contemporary twin to the St. John's Timelines Project.
           Where one examines the past, the other examines the directions of the church today.

Unconditional Love Brings Death

by Rebecca Trotter
July 9, 2013
I’ve come across a number of Christians lately who are questioning the impulse to elevate love above any other concern. Love is too soft and squishy, they say. Love becomes an excuse to avoid hard things like confronting sin and enforcing discipline. One writer even asked if we are in danger of making love an idol. (Perhaps he hasn’t gotten to the part where the bible says that God IS love?!?).
I have something to tell you about people who say that love is squishy, soft, a cop-out: quite clearly, such a person has never actually attempted to love unconditionally. Loving unconditionally is the hardest thing any human being can ever try to do. Confronting sin? Upsetting friends and family? Setting boundaries and rules? Pffftttt . . . . Those are the simplest, most natural things in the world for the fallen human mind to do. Loving unconditionally? That WILL DESTROY YOU. It will cost you EVERYTHING. You will DIE if you try to do it.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” ~ Matthew 16:24
These Christians who warn against love are right to be afraid of it. But not because it’s soft and squishy. Just the opposite. Unconditional love is the hardest, heaviest cross a human being can bear. It sent Jesus to his death.
He warned us that it would divide “father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
In fact, unconditional love is so hard and so dangerous that I’ve had mature, devout, loving Christians who I respect warn me against it.
One man told me to never ask God to teach me to love people the way he does. It’s impossible, he said. Another woman told me the same thing about the sort of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s impossible.
Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26
When you love unconditionally, you don’t get to make demands. You don’t get to pressure the other to change, to make you happy, to do as you see fit. When they hurt you, you have to forgive. Every time. When they don’t give you what you need, you don’t get to withhold in return.
To love unconditionally, you have to “be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.”
“Your Father who is in heaven. . . causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” ~Matthew 5:45
Which is the real secret of unconditional love: it has nothing to do with the person you are loving. Human love is all about the other person – how they make me feel, if they are good, what is pleasing about them, if they treat me well. If the person is good, kind, giving, gentle, attractive, useful, then our affection for them grows and we call that love. When someone is bad, mean, selfish, harsh, ugly, useless, then we struggle to call up any affection for them and loving them can become impossible.
Unconditional love works differently. It comes from the goodness of the lover, not the loved. We humans cannot do it unless we have been redeemed and purified in love. And that’s the rub. It is as we attempt to do the impossible – love unconditionally – that we are redeemed and purified in love. Love is a terrible cross. It is the narrow path that few find. It is our salvation.
The truth is that humanity is suspicious of love because loves doesn’t address what we see as the real problem – other people and their sins. Instead, love focuses like a laser on me and my heart. I cannot attend to the work love demands of me and look at the sins of others at the same time. But if I let go of my worry about everyone else and follow love where it will lead me, the Kingdom of God will begin to be manifest in and through me.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” ~ John 12:24
Salvation comes from dying. If you try to love unconditionally, make no mistake about it; you will die. You will lose everything you ever took life from: the approval of others, status, power, comfort, achievement, certainty, rules, talents, relationships, titles, roles – all of it will be lost. God is a jealous God – he does not share his throne with anything or anyone. Because he is the only source of life – in his presence everything else must become dead to you.
When I am hurt by someone, when I am maligned, when my needs are not met, human love dies. If someone mistreats me and instead of fighting back, I absorb that and bring it to my father for healing and correction, what is meant for evil becomes part of my salvation.
People will push your love to its limits so God can remove them. They will trigger your every dysfunction so they can be unlearned. They will create and play with your every hurt so it can be scrupulously cleaned out, sutured, operated on and attacked until it is all healed. They will slam up against your hard places until they are soft and abuse your soft spots until God makes them strong.
“Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” ~ Corrie ten Boom
When you give up your right to judge, to hold a grudge, to be offended, to control and pressure, to withhold affection, to demand that your rights be respected, you will lose faith in everything you know, everything you trust, and everything you depend on so that it can all be cast aside. Learning to love unconditionally will lead to everything being removed from your clinging fingers until you have nothing left to hold onto except God alone. Your life in the flesh must die. And make no mistake – like death on the cross always it, it’s a long, painful, ugly, tortuous death.
”My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” ~ Matthew 26:42
Unless you really want God, unless you really want his kingdom, unless you really want to give yourself over to love completely, this is not a journey you should take. Because before it’s all done, you will beg for mercy a million times over. You will search for a way to quit. You will spend countless hours calling out to the darkness that surrounds you. You will collapse under the weight of the cross. You will despair and feel forsaken by God and man. Dying hurts, but we must die to be born again in the Spirit.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. ~ 1 John 4:18
Those people who are worried about love – ishy, squishy, namby-pamby love? They are right to be worried. Because if we all follow love, then we will have to put down the tools humanity has been been using to try to shape reality with since time immemorial – the rules, the boundaries, the battles. And if we put those tools down – everything will come unhinged. Every boundary will be crossed. Every evil will occur. The dams we have been propping up to keep the worst of human nature at bay will break. We will die. They know this and fear it. But it’s already happening. They can’t stop it and they are going to die right along with everyone else. In fact, the longer they fight love, the longer and more painful the death will be.
But it’s the storm before the calm. These people don’t trust love and are desperate to avoid the storm because they don’t really trust God. They don’t understand that the enemy death which they fear so much has already been defeated for us by Christ. In their heart of hearts, they are afraid that God will be defeated by the forces of darkness, cruelty, sin and, yes, death. And they are wrong. Completely and utterly wrong.
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. . . “ He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” ~ Revelation 21:5,6
God’s Kingdom is a bit like happiness – we can’t get there by trying to create it directly. In God’s Kingdom, there will be no sin. So we wage war on sin, thinking that will bring about God’s Kingdom. But sin can only be defeated through purification by love. In God’s Kingdom, there will be no suffering. So we try to fix, suppress and hide from whatever makes us suffer, thinking that is the way to God’s Kingdom. But the end of suffering comes only when we have walked through the suffering of death to new birth. In God’s Kingdom, no one will stand above or below another, but we will love each other all the same. So we work to elevate the downtrodden and bring down the mighty thinking that will manifest God’s Kingdom. But to love the low and the high all the same, we must unlearn human love and embrace unconditional love and all that entails.
God’s Kingdom is love. It is made by love. It comes through love. It is manifest through love. If we ever want to see the new heaven and new earth God has promised, it can only be found by picking up the cross of love and following it through death, hell and into the resurrection of new life.
I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:3-4

From Old Creation to New Creation - The Story of Redemption and Mankind

The long, difficult story of new creation
by Andrew Perriman
October 30, 2013
I had a long conversation over the weekend with an Asian friend who is engaged in conflict-resolution projects in her war-torn country. She was particularly interested in the importance of inter-faith conversations and practices, and we got round to talking about the difference between Christian and Buddhist worldviews or cosmologies.

As she put it, she is driven in her work by a desire to serve life, perhaps rather loosely sustained by the awareness that everything participates in the divine—I think she might describe herself as a secularized Buddhist, but I’m not sure.

I suggested that although the modern church has often appeared more inclined to bicker over beliefs and boundaries than to make the world a better place, in principle the same desire to affirm and serve life is there. But it is mediated necessarily through the story of the strained relationship between a distinct people and the Creator God, which is all the way through a story of new creation.

I have tried to tell that story on a number of occasions, not least in
Re:Mission: Biblical Mission for a Post-Biblical Church. My view is that there is little point in replacing a simplistic gospel of personal salvation with a simplistic gospel of life affirmation. No doubt it would be an improvement in some respects, but it still fails to do justice to the biblical narrative and is therefore likely to miss its central dynamic, which is the struggle of concrete communities fully to embody the presence of the good Creator God, in the midst of the nations and cultures of the world, through real—not mythical—history.

Anyway, here we go again. Feel free to take issue with it. And keep in mind that telling the story is not an excuse for doing nothing….


The foundational premise of the Judaeo-Christian narrative is the belief that the cosmos is the work of the one true Creator God.

The actual narrative then arises out of the contradiction between the goodness of the Creator and the self-evident corruption of the good creation.

The “original” sin—at the level first of the individual and then of human society—is the ambition to “be like God” or to usurp the place of God in the scheme of things (
Gen. 3:5; 11:4). Inequality, injustice, wickedness and violence are the consequence of this act of rebellion.


The response of the Creator God at this point is to “choose” Abraham, in the shadow of self-aggrandizing empire, to be the father of a new creation in microcosm, grounded in a seminal act of trust and obedience (
Gen. 15:6; 22:15-18). The promises made to him by the Creator undergird the whole ensuing narrative.

The descendants of Abraham are eventually given the good land of Canaan in fulfilment of the promises. The terms of their loyalty to the Creator God are set out in the Law of Moses. This is how they will be a new creation. They have received the original “blessing” of created life—albeit in a constrained, localized form—and are expected to mediate that original blessing to a world that has repudiated the Creator.

The success of the “new creation” project, however, hangs on the continuing trust and obedience of the people of Israel. The Law carries the dire warning that failure to walk in the ways of the Creator—the failure to be a good, new creation—will sooner or later result in invasion, destruction, exile and oppression by foreign powers.


From the Assyrian invasion of the northern kingdom (722 BC) onwards, the story becomes one of continual conflict between Israel and the surrounding pagan empires—invasion by the Babylonians, exile, Hellenistic tyranny, Roman occupation.

During this period the hope is conceived by the prophets not only that the people of the one true Creator God will be delivered from this cycle of conflict and restored, but also that the hostile nations, with their fabricated gods, will eventually come to acknowledge the rightness and sovereignty of Israel’s God.

The Judaeo-Christian narrative divides in the first century AD over the question of how the God of national Israel intended finally to resolve the political-religious crisis faced by his people—how the prophetic hope for salvation and kingdom will be fulfilled.


Jesus proclaims the coming of the kingdom of God as a decisive moment both of judgment and of salvation for Israel.

He presents his people with a stark choice between a broad road leading to destruction and a narrow road leading to life. He calls his disciples to follow him down the narrow road of rejection and opposition for the sake of the future existence of God’s new creation people.

They will be messengers of the coming kingdom event, first to Israel, then among the nations. But they will also be the nucleus of a renewed people of God.

Jesus is condemned as a false “saviour” by the Jewish authorities and executed by the Romans.

Appearances of Jesus to the disciples after his death convince them that the God of Israel has vindicated his “Son” by raising him to life. More than this, they come to believe that God has exalted him to a position of authority at his right hand to act as judge and ruler of the nations.

In this way, through his trust and obedience Jesus has become God’s decisive answer to the political-religious crisis faced by the descendants of Abraham.


Empowered and inspired by the Spirit of Jesus the disciples continue to proclaim the “good news” to Israel. Jews, both in Roman-occupied Judea and in the diaspora, mostly refuse to believe, but many Gentiles, remarkably, find this story of judgment and renewal, crisis and kingdom, God and history, compelling. Their response is to worship the God of Israel in the same Spirit and they become de facto members of the same movement.

As a result communities of radical hope and faithfulness emerge across the Greek-Roman world, formed of people—both Jews and Gentiles—who believe not simply that Jesus died for the sins of Israel and was raised from the dead, but that his resurrection points to a day when the old idolatrous system will be overthrown and the nations of the empire will confess Jesus as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So through this long period of historical transition the God of Israel achieved two things through the faithfulness of Jesus. First, he saved his people from the problem of their innate disloyalty and sinfulness—the flesh—so that they could exist as new creation according to the Spirit rather than according to the Law of Moses. Secondly, he gained recognition from the nations of the empire that he alone is God, and there is no other (cf.
Is. 45:21).


Historically speaking, European Christendom represented this extraordinary new political-religious arrangement for perhaps fifteen hundred years, until the God of Israel was in turn overthrown, in a momentous modern coup-d’état, by secular-rationalism. The western church is having a hard time coming to terms with this latest “catastrophe”, but we deal with the problem, nevertheless, as a sign of new creation, as mediators of the original blessing for the sake of life.

How Paul Saw the Future: The "Day of the Lord" For Saints and Sinners

How Paul saw the future
by Andrew Perriman
October 15, 2013
Paul had a sharp and vivid understanding of what the future held. It took the form of a prophetic narrative that would affect his own people Israel, the nations and the churches. It was not a matter of peripheral interest, an appendix to his theology. The narrative is pervasive in his letters and determinative for faith. People were converted to a new belief about the future. They believed, for example, that a day of wrath was coming from which they would be delivered by Jesus:
"...you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." (1 Thess. 1:9–10; cf. 1 Cor. 1:7–8)
They believed that they would sooner or later inherit, as a community, as a nascent culture or civilization, a radically new political-religious order when the God of Israel would be acknowledged as sovereign over the nations.
he expectation, moreover, was that the coming Day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2), when this vision of the future would be fulfilled, was not far off. The apocalyptic narrative overlay and reinterpreted the immediate historical experience of the synagogues and churches in the ancient pagan world. Its climax would come within a foreseeable and relevant future.
The point to stress here is that biblical “theology”, even at its most exotic and speculative, always addresses or has reference to the concrete, historically determined condition of the people of God amidst the nations.
For convenience the landscape of Paul’s eschatology can be mapped in two parts—what it meant for the “saints” to whom Paul addressed his letters and what it meant for everyone else. Please note that the biblical references are not proof-texts. They are pointers to whole arguments and narratives.
What the Day of the Lord would mean for everyone else
1. The overarching intention of the God of Israel was to judge the pagan system that had for so long opposed him and to install his own “Son” as king on his behalf above all rulers and powers (Rom. 1:18-32; cf. Acts 17:31).
2. He would punish those who had persecuted the churches (2 Thess. 1:4-10). Paul has no concept of “hell”.
3. The “man of lawlessness”, who appears to be a blasphemous pagan king in the mould of Antiochus Epiphanes, would be brought to nothing by the Lord Jesus at his coming (2 Thess. 2:3-8).
4. Righteous Gentiles would be “justified” when YHWH judged the Greek-Roman world and would even condemn unrighteous Israel (Rom. 2:6, 14-16).
5. For God to judge the pagan world with integrity, however, he had first to judge his own people, who had brought the name of God into disrepute among the nations (Rom. 2:24; 3:6). They would not be justified by their works of the Jewish Law on the day of God’s wrath. Rather, the Law would hold them to account (Rom. 3:19-20). Nothing short of a new creation would remedy the situation.
6. Paul does not expect his people to escape the catastrophe of divine judgment, but he retains the hope that after judgment the nation of Israel would repent of its disbelief and so be saved (Rom. 11:26).
What the Day of the Lord would mean for the saints
1. The inclusion of Gentiles in the family of Abraham pointed to the fact that YHWH would demonstrate himself to be God not of the Jews only but also of the nations (Rom. 3:29-30).
2. The churches were communities of eschatological formation—that is, they were designed for an eschatological purpose. Practically speaking, they were the means by which the new future would be brought about.
3. If they were to fulfil that purpose, they would have to be righteous communities—the unrighteous would not inherit the kingdom of God (eg. 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 5:5; 1 Tim. 6:14).
4. The churches could expect to face considerable opposition and persecution in the period leading up to the Day of the Lord. To the extent, however, that the saints were conformed to the image of the first martyr and re-enacted the story of his suffering and vindication, they had the assurance that they would overcome even the last enemy, death (Rom. 8:16-39). They are communities of the Son of Man, against whom the pagan empire made war, but who remained faithful and were ultimately vindicated and awarded the kingdom (cf. Dan. 7:21-22).
5. The Day of the Lord would be a day of battle—of intense persecution. The churches needed to prepare themselves for this in advance by putting on the armour of God (Rom. 13:11-12; Eph. 6;10-20; 5:6-8).
6. Paul was very conscious of the fact that it was the responsibility of the apostles to ensure that the churches were fit for eschatological purpose (1 Cor. 3:10-15). They would be his crown and ground for boasting on the Day of the Lord (Phil. 2:16; 1 Thess. 2:19).
7. Because the authority to judge had been given to Jesus, the Day of the Lord would be the day when Jesus, not YHWH, came to judge and save.
8. For the saints this would at last mean deliverance from their persecutors (2 Thess. 1:5-10) and resurrection for the dead “in Christ” so that they would have a share in the age to come (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:16); the saints would be judged and vindicated and rewarded if they were found to have been faithful (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10).
9. These communities of the saints would then inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50; Eph. 1:14; 5:5; Col. 1:12; 3:24), when Jesus would be confessed as Lord by the nations (Phil. 2:11), and the martyrs would reign with him throughout the coming ages.
10. The reign of Jesus at the right hand of God is to continue until the last enemy, death, has been destroyed, at which point the authority to rule will be given back to God, the Father, Jesus himself will be subjected to God, and God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
11. Finally, creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay (Rom. 8:21).
This is roughly the story that Paul tells about the future, as I see it. It is not an unprejudiced reconstruction of that story. It is as I see it. It is shaped by a number of assumptions that I make regarding i) how Paul has used his source material, the Old Testament in particular; and ii) how he understood the relation of such material to history. It is the sort of narrative that emerges when we read Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic as an attempt to redescribe future historical events as the outworking of the intentions of Israel’s God. Or to turn it around, Paul has constructed a narrative of judgment and kingdom that demands an eventual historical outcome having to do with the real-world, political-religious relation between Israel and the nations.
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Either Paul got the timing wrong or we’ve got the end wrong
by Andrew Perriman
Sat, 05/10/2013
Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, which some would argue was his second (Wanamaker), or his first and second combined (Murphy-O’Connor), was written to encourage a novice community of mostly Gentile believers to stand firm in the face of persecution until the parousia of the Lord, when the wrath of God would come against the world and they would be delivered from their suffering and united with their Lord. This is the narrative—or eschatological—frame of the letter, and it controls Paul’s argument at every point.
The same can be said of his first letter to the Corinthians. They “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7–8). The rulers of the present age are doomed to pass away (2:6). The quality of the apostles’ work will be revealed when a day of fire comes (3:13). The Lord is coming to “bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and… disclose the purposes of the heart”, when everyone will receive his or her commendation from God (4:5). A “day of the Lord” is coming, when “the saints will judge the world”, and the righteous will inherit the kingdom of God (5:5; 6:2, 9). A time of distress is approaching; the “present form of this world is passing away” (7:26, 31). In the Lord’s supper they proclaim his death “until he comes” (11:26). The world will be condemned (11:32). The dead in Christ will be raised at his coming and will inherit the kingdom (15:23, 50-56). Paul prays that the Lord will come (16:22).
In fact, with the exception of Philemon, the same can be said of every one of Paul’s letters—even Romans. They are all written explicitly and intentionally in the light of an impending day of the Lord, a day of God’s wrath, which will entail severe affliction for the churches but also deliverance and vindication. Paul’s churches faced a more or less imminent “end”.
There are two basic interpretive strategies open to us:
we can reinterpret “imminent” or we can reinterpret “end”.
How are we supposed to deal with this, given that the world did not end imminently? We have the same problem, of course, with Jesus. There are two basic interpretive strategies open to us: we can reinterpret “imminent” or we can reinterpret “end”.
We could say that the traditional understanding of the “end” is correct but that Paul got the timing wrong. He expected the world to come to an abrupt end in the foreseeable future—perhaps even before he himself died—but he was wrong about that because in fact one day is as a thousand years with the Lord, even the Son was kept in the dark about the timing, etc. That would allow us to keep our traditional “end” intact—the whole package of second coming, rapture, resurrection, final judgment, inheritance of the kingdom, new heaven and new earth, lake of fire. But it can be postponed indefinitely.
Or we could say that Paul was more or less right about the timing but that we have misunderstood his “end”. We could argue that he shared a Jewish-apocalyptic narrative in which YHWH, as creator of the whole earth, asserts his right to judge and rule over the idolatrous pagan nations, which have for so long refused to acknowledge him and oppressed his people. We would then suppose—once we have understood how apocalyptic discourse works—that his eschatology mostly addresses the historical crisis that would mark the transition from an old age of pagan hegemony to a new age in which Jesus is confessed as Lord by the Gentiles. I have developed this argument in The Coming of the Son of Man: New Testament Eschatology for an Emerging Church.
This approach would mean that Paul has much less to say about our eschatological circumstances. The coming storm fills his horizon and he cannot see what lies beyond—except that he is certain that the creator God will have the final victory over the evil that has corrupted his creation (1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rom. 8:20-22). But it would mean that he has much more to say about the historical experience of the communities under his care. That makes him a much more responsible prophet and apostle. And I’m sure we can learn something from that.