According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Church and Kingdom as Inaugurated Eschatology in Process of Finality


Amazon Link

Book Description

According to Scot McKnight, "kingdom" is the biblical term most misused by Christians today. It has taken on meanings that are completely at odds with what the Bible says. "Kingdom" has become a buzzword for both social justice and redemption so that it has lost its connection with Israel and with the church as a local church.

McKnight defines the biblical concept of kingdom, offering a thorough corrective and vision for the contemporary church. The most important articulation of kingdom was that of Jesus, who contended that the kingdom was in some sense present and in some sense in the future. The apostles talked less about the kingdom and more about the church. McKnight explains that kingdom mission is local church mission and that the present-day fetish with influencing society, culture, and politics distracts us from the mission of God: to build the local church. He also shows how kingdom theology helps to reshape the contemporary missional conversation.


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The Biggest Mistake in Kingdom Talk
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/11/21/the-biggest-mistake-in-kingdom-talk/

by Scot McKnight
Nov 21, 2014

The most common mistake I hear when people are talking about kingdom is comparison talk. It goes like this or this or this or this:

  • “So you think kingdom and church are the same (but not identical), then you need to come to my church because that will show you the difference.”
  • “Kingdom is the ideal, church is the reality.”
  • “Kingdom is justice, but church is injustice.”
  • “The church is but an approximation of the kingdom, a manifestation of the kingdom, but it is not the kingdom because the kingdom will be a utopian, perfect, just, reconciled, loving society.”
  • “The church is now but the kingdom is not yet.”

Each of these fails on a fundamental element of how the NT talks about kingdom. So, I want to provide a crash-course in just a few paragraphs in what is often called “inaugurated eschatology.” (I am using Kingdom Conspiracy in what follows.)

Present, Future, Both Present and Future

Instead of providing an RSS feed-length listing of Bible verses, I will give two statements of Jesus for kingdom as present and kingdom as future.

The kingdom as present:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).

The kingdom as future:

Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God (Mark 14:25).

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once (Luke 19:11).

No matter how you cut your bread – lengthwise or crosswise or just nip off the crusts – these texts indicate with clarity that the kingdom of God, that long awaited promise, was already present and still in the future. It is reasonable then to argue that for Jesus the kingdom was both present and future. It was, to use the terms of the arch inaugurated kingdom scholar, George Eldon Ladd, “present without consummation.”

The Church as Inaugurated Reality

Back to our point about the big mistake: What do we compare the church to? The present inaugurated kingdom or the future complete and glorious kingdom. Read on because the church too is an inaugurated reality.

Church as Now and Not Yet

There is one fundamental observation that changes the whole perception of what church is and once we do we will be able to compare church and kingdom more accurately. The church is an eschatological reality as well. The futurity of the church is often ignored. We now need two columns on the board: on the left write “Church Now” and on the right write “Church Not Yet.”

The Church Now

For the Church Now we think of Paul’s constant struggles with his churches, and who can ignore Corinth and the back and forth letters and travels all over morality and theology and division and … well, the church at Corinth was a mess. The same messiness is found in all other churches.

The Church Now is the church gathered in broken leadership, broken fellowship, broken holiness, broken love, broken justice, and broken peace. Every page of each of Paul’s and Peter’s and John’s letters and the Book of Hebrews and Jude leads to the same observation: the Church Now falls short of the Church Not Yet.

(Dan Kimball, what say you?)

At this point we need to make an observation: because so much of “church” thinking focuses on the Church Now without examining the Church Not Yet, any comparison of church with kingdom, which tends (as I have said already) to focus on the Church Now over against the Kingdom Not Yet, tends to conclude that they cannot be the same.

Yet, if we compare Kingdom Now and Church Now we arrive at the same place, and as we are about to see, if we compare Kingdom Not Yet with Church Not Yet, we will discover once again a full overlap.

The Church Not Yet

For the Church Not Yet I think not only of the promises that the church will inherit the kingdom (Matthew 16:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:18; Philippians 3:20) but even more of Ephesians 5:25b-27, where you can see the Church Not Yet in full glory:

… just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (see also Colossians 1:22).

Notice the terms Paul uses of the Church Not Yet: radiant, without stain, without wrinkle, without any blemish, holy and blameless. These terms do not describe the Church Now except in part; they instead describe what the church will be.

When?

When the kingdom’s fullness arrives or, to use now completely appropriate terms, when the church’s fullness arrives. I think, too, of Revelation 21-22, but especially of the long, beautiful passage about the church as the bride of the Lamb descending in full glory into the New Jerusalem in the New Heavens and the New Earth, proving once and for all that the church, like the kingdom, is an eschatological reality with a Now and a glorious Not Yet [aspect to it]. I quote Revelation 21:9—22:5:

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. - Rev 21-22

Kingdom describes the people governed by King Jesus. All we see of that kingdom now is an inauguration creating a tension between Kingdom Now and Kingdom Not Yet.

But church describes the very same realities: the People of God (Israel Expanded to be sure), is an eschatological reality, a People of God that has a Now and a Not Yet.

C.K. Barrett, a leading New Testament scholar of the former generation, called the church an “eschatological monster, a prodigy.” And he defines the church as “the people of the interim.”[ii] He’s right: the church is now and not yet, partially redeemed on its way to full redemption. So, what is said of the kingdom in the New Testament is said of the church in the same New Testament. To quote Bonhoeffer:[iii]

… the church according to Paul’s understanding presents no
essential difference from Jesus’ ideas [about the kingdom].
- Bonhoeffer

If we want to make comparison, we need to compare Kingdom Now and Church Now or Kingdom Not Yet and Church Not Yet. To compare, as so many do, Church Now with Kingdom Not Yet is not fair to the church (or the kingdom).

The mistaken notion that only the kingdom is the final form of God’s redemptive community drives the current inability to see the important overlap of kingdom and church today. If kingdom is the future perfection and the church the modern mess, then kingdom and church are not comparable.

The mistake is to compare the incomparable:

  • To compare present church to future kingdom is to compare the incomparable. (Kingdom wins.)
  • To compare the present kingdom with the future church is to compare the incomparable. (Church wins.)
  • To compare present church with present kingdom is to compare the comparable. (The same.)
  • To compare future church with future kingdom is to compare the comparable. (The same.)

So let’s return to that opening and I’ll rework the whole by comparing present kingdom with the future perfect church:

  • “So you think kingdom and church are the same (but not identical), then you need to come to my inaugurated kingdom group because that will show you the difference.”
  • “Church is the ideal, kingdom is the reality.”
  • “Church is justice, but kingdom is injustice.”
  • “The kingdom is but an approximation of the church, a manifestation of the church, but it is not the church because the church will be a utopian, perfect, just, reconciled, loving society.”
  • “The kingdom is now but the church is not yet.”

Let’s get our analogies straighter.

Let’s not diss the church in the name of the kingdom. The church is the Body of Christ and Jesus is the king of the kingdom. You can’t have one without the other.

Thank you. God bless.

- Scot


References

[i] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a seminar paper for his theology professor at Berlin (R. Seeberg), all but identified church and kingdom but found two (mistaken) distinctions: the church is present while the kingdom is both past Israel, the present church and the future completion. I see the church as Israel expanded and I see the church as future as well. See “Church and Eschatology (or Church and the Kingdom of God),” in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Young Bonhoeffer, 1918-1927, ed. Hans Pfeifer et al, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 9 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 310–324, here referring to p. 314. On p. 315 he says the church and the kingdom in the here and now are “temporally identical entities.” But see his more expanded sense of kingdom of God when it includes the state’s mandate for order in Bonhoeffer, Berlin: 1932-1933, 292–295.

[ii] C.K. Barrett, Church, Ministry, and Sacraments in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1985), 13, 25.

[iii] Bonhoeffer, The Young Bonhoeffer, 1918-1927, 316.


The Many Voices of the Church - A Quick Assessment of the 2014 ETS & AAR Conference Meetings

Each November the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and American Academy of Religion (AAR) conferences meeting separately as independent organizations to discuss Christianity and Religion both in America and globally throughout the world. ETS emphasizes its evangelical doctrinal themes as it perceives them (largely now through the Southern Baptist lens it seems: sic, What Happened to Evangelical Theology?) while AAR speaks to a broader range of non-evangelical themes.



The ETS meeting will be held Wednesday through Friday, November 19-21, 2014
at the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center in San Diego, CA.



AAR site link here
The AAR meeting will be held Saturday through Tuesday, November 22-25, 2014
at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California


Because there are so many program sessions between each group it is hard to digest specifically the heart throb of 21st century Christianity without paying attention to book titles and media-generated themes throughout the year from a variety of publishers and news organizations. Generally, to read through the program sessions of each conference is to notice news worthy trends of interest to everyday Christians around the world in one fashion or another:

ETS Program Sessions - 128 pages

AAR Program Sessions - 133 pages

For instance, for the Tony Jones follower, we see an interest in whether Emergent Christianity is still a viable player within today's brand of evangelicalism, and if not, then in what way it may have left its dissenting mark upon present church structure, worship, governance, and ideology since the 1990s (sic, Is the Emergent Church relevant?).

For the Christianity Today reader the question of Stan Grenz as a proper evangelical was discussed as to whether the revered evangelic theologian in his remaining years was pursuing Open Theology, gay rights, and a postmodern theology ala the later paths of Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Tony Jones (sic, see article below, What Happened to Evangelical Theology?). Or whether he might rightly be acclaimed by the conservative Protestant and Catholic church as its own brand of conservative evangelicalism which has traditionally been less open to these contemporary Christian movements.

And inasmuch as Grenz is the theologic divide between a conservative Christianity or a postmodern one may be the very reason that we are having these discussions today against a more dogmatic form of Christianity.

Learning How to Divide True from False

It is to this divide in evangelicalism that Relevancy22 had responded over recent years to provide another voice to a non-dogmatic version of enculturated conservative Christianity. That is, the themes that have been rehearsed in each of the separate sessions of both the ETS and AAR should be themes that have been well-responded to in the many articles found within this blogsite over the years. Built not as from one voice or denomination but broadly from many voices, theologians, scientists, and scholars.

Why?

So that a broader, more inclusive Gospel of Christ might be proclaimed relevantly into this needful, contemporary world crying "God is Dead (or unconscious)" when in fact this very God is dead to us and not to Himself. A God who lives through His church by willing hearts, minds, hands, and feet able to hear His voice and grasp His plan of salvation not by structure or device but by Christ's very heartthrob for humanity itself.

To understand that no one branch of Christianity gets a say on how to interpret the Bible by delimiting its message to a more preferred message by some - whether they be a majority or a minority of Christians. But to learn to read the Bible in a broader manner based upon the certainty of its major themes - that of love and reconciliation to all men everywhere through Christ Jesus our Lord.

To recognize deceptively trendy arguments declaring Scripture as primary authority and tradition as presumptive authority can be both true-and-not-true based upon the decreeing church body announcing this (con)scripted phrase. Mostly, for conservative evangelics, the message of the Bible can be a stricter one than for the non-conservative, progressive, or post-modern evangelic who sees the Bible's message more broadly and less limiting to its gospel message and lively contents.

What Is Theology When Measured in Relational Terms?

Again, at Relevancy22 we have questioned evangelical premises such as these by providing a larger base of reasoning to help the searching reader against the pulpited mantras of the day through basic deconstructions and reconstructions of today's church messages (mostly schizophrenic it would seem to this writer/theologian) of the Gospel of Christ.

That all theology is driven by the gospel's trinitarian mission of evangelism emphasizing relational openness and outreach with a passion for humanity. That God's love must be the primary trajectory of all doctrines, dogmas, and theologies of the Bible upon which hope and truth are built. For without God's love there can ultimately be no hope nor persuasive truth, only a hopelessness measured upon a foundation of certain death and destruction.

R.E. Slater
November 23, 2014

*as reminder to new readers, Relevancy22 is primarily built as a
reference-and-resource site rather than as a daily blog.


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... Grenz was on the forefront of introducing trinitarian mission to evangelicalism. The fundamental definition that “God is love” is the beginning of seeing that God passionately pursues a relationship with humanity. The eternal life of God is lived out in a set of relationships, including the inner relationship of the Trinity and the relationship between God and humanity. “God is social, not solitary,” was one of Stan’s axioms- John Franke

I suppose it’s to be expected that a group of evangelical scholars would want to have some control over the legacy of one of their most creative colleagues. But I think that Stan was on a trajectory of openness and relationality that would have made him quite uncomfortable with the current climate of evangelical theology. Maybe he could have stemmed the tide of ideological expulsions and such, but others have tried that here and left instead of continuing to fight- Tony Jones


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What Happened to Evangelical Theology? [#ETS2014 Liveblog]
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2014/11/20/what-happened-to-evangelical-theology-ets2014-liveblog/

by Tony Jones
November 20, 2014

This weekend I’m attending the Evangelical Theological Society and American Academy of Religion, and I will be liveblogging some of the sessions that I’m attending.

“Assessing Stanley Grenz’s Contribution to Evangelical Theology: 10 Years Later,” that’s the name of the session I’m attending at ETS. But Stan’s death isn’t the only thing that happened ten years ago at ETS. That was also the year that ETS voted against Open Theology, for all intents and purposes expelling people like Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, and John Sanders. Now, when you look through the program book, in addition to the annual reaffirmation of inerrancy in the image above, you will see that many sessions are dominated by Southern Baptists.


8:50am Jason Sexton just presented Edna Grenz, Stan’s widow, with a volume of 20 essays in his honor. She implored the gathered scholars to not just continue Stan’s theological rigor, but to also treat one another with humility and respect as they debate one another.

8:54am Sexton continues that many, looking back, do not think that Stan really understood postmodernism. Some also incorrectly believe that he had departed evangelicalism before his death. This would only happen, Sexton says, if we look exclusively at Stan’s academic work and ignore his spiritual and ecclesial life.

Sexton also thinks that Stan is unfairly criticized for his book on homosexuality,Welcoming but Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality. Instead than being a recalcitrant evangelical, Sexton says, Granz was “ahead of us” on sexuality, women, postmodernity, and the Trinity.

Who’s the real Stan Grenz? That’s what Sexton tried to discover in his dissertation, but he says Stan cannot be found in the secondary literature — the books and articles about Grenz. That’s because, “Maybe we’re afraid of what we might find, how the real Stan Grenz might push us beyond our own boundaries.”

Stanley Grenz
9:05am Derek Tidball takes on the topic of Stan Grenz and Evangelicalism. He says that evangelicalism is virtually impossible to define doctrinally, so others define it historically. But Grenz argued that evangelicalism is a living, mutating organism. By seeing the Bible as the book of the community, Grenz was faithful to his Baptist roots, and that’s something that evangelicalism at large should heed. Stan is wrongfully called the “godfather of the emerging church.”

Comment: Already the tone in the room is to say as loudly as possible, Stan Grenz lived and died as an evangelical! In other words, people who think he was anything short of evangelical when he died are wrong. Implied is that, had he lived, he would have not followed the path of people like McLaren, Pagitt, and me — who were so influenced by him — but he would have stayed firmly within the evangelical camp. Looking around this conference, I cannot affirm the same. I didn’t know Stan well, but from what I knew of him, he would not feel comfortable with the strident conservatism of ETS.

9:20am Gregg Allison, from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is tackling Stan Grenz’s ambiguity, a subject that has been raised in every presentation so far. Allison is “mildly critical of Stan’s vagueness.” Allison lists a litany of doctrines that evangelical’s believe, and he quotes Grenz as saying that tradition has “presumptive authority.” That’s a phrase from the field of law, saying that there are presumptive truths, but they can be overturned by evidence. Scripture has primary authority, tradition has presumptive authority. That, in a nutshell, was Grenz’s theological method.

Comment: It seems that since Stan’s death, evangelical scholars have worried about where Stan would have ended up, especially because his theological proposals were not as settled and definite as they would have liked. But it’s the very “presumptive authority” that would have allowed Stan to change his mind on something like homosexuality. For so many of us, Stan opened up the beauty of postmodern philosophy. The epic talk in which he compared the original Star Trek to Star Trek: The Next Generation, put the most complex of ideas in a common, vernacular language. 

Indeed, I would argue that when you read Brian McLaren’s writings on homosexuality, for instance, you find the very kind of theological reasoning that Grenz taught us. The very vagueness that makes evangelical theologians uneasy is what made Stan so compelling as a theologian to us in the late-90s and early 2000s.


9:45am John Franke, who co-wrote an excellent book with Stan, knew Stan for 10 years before he died. When John thinks about Stan now, he always thinks about the man, not necessarily ideas. The ideas matter, Stan taught John, but what really matters about theology is whether it makes you a better person. When John first attended ETS, he was very put off by how competitive the environment was. But Stan was immediately hospitable to John, and even came to Biblical at John’s invitation to lecture — for free.

Franke says that Grenz was on the forefront of introducing trinitarian mission to evangelicalism. The fundamental definition that “God is love” is the beginning of seeing that God passionately pursues a relationship with humanity. The eternal life of God is lived out in a set of relationships, including the inner relationship of the Trinity and the relationship between God and humanity. “God is social, not solitary,” was one of Stan’s axioms.

“He was a beautiful man, who lived out his theology, and invites us to do the same.” That’s Franke’s final word on Grenz.

[Final] comment: I suppose it’s to be expected that a group of evangelical scholars would want to have some control over the legacy of one of their most creative colleagues. But I think that Stan was on a trajectory of openness and relationality that would have made him quite uncomfortable with the current climate of evangelical theology. Maybe he could have stemmed the tide of ideological expulsions and such, but others have tried that here and left instead of continuing to fight.






If Christianity were illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you?




Let’s Pretend the World Is the Way That It Is
http://peterrollins.net/2014/10/lets-pretend-the-world-is-the-way-that-it-is/

by Peter Rollins
October 10, 2014

I’m currently exploring the possibility of releasing a paperback version of The Orthodox Heretic and was looking over some of my old parables. I’ve a particular connection with the one below, as it was the first I ever wrote. I remember that it came to me late one night after I’d seen a bumper sticker that read, “If Christianity were illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

If you want to hear the rest of my parables as they were intended (i.e. with an Irish accent), click here, or you can buy the book here.

---

In a world where following Christ is decreed to be a subversive and illegal activity, you have been accused of being a believer, arrested, and dragged before a court.

You have been under clandestine surveillance for some time now, and so the prosecution has been able to build up quite a case against you. They begin the trial by offering the judge dozens of photographs that show you attending church meetings, speaking at religious events, and participating in various prayer and worship services. After this, they present a selection of items that have been confiscated from your home: religious books that you own, worship CDs, and other Christian artifacts. Then they step up the pace by displaying many of the poems, pieces of prose, and journal entries that you had lovingly written concerning your faith. Finally, in closing, the prosecution offers your Bible to the judge. This is a well-worn book with scribbles, notes, drawings, and underlings throughout, evidence, if it were needed, that you had read and re-read this sacred text many times.

Throughout the case you have been sitting silently in fear and trembling. You know deep in your heart that with the large body of evidence that has been amassed by the prosecution you face the possibility of a long imprisonment or even execution. At various times throughout the proceedings you have lost all confidence and have been on the verge of standing up and denying Christ. But while this thought has plagued your mind throughout the trial, you resist the temptation and remain focused.

Once the prosecution has finished presenting their case the judge proceeds to ask if you have anything to add, but you remain silent and resolute, terrified that if you open your mouth, even for a moment, you might deny the charges made against you. Like Christ, you remain silent before your accusers. In response you are led outside to wait as the judge ponders your case.

The hours pass slowly as you sit under guard in the foyer waiting to be summoned back. Eventually a young man in uniform appears and leads you into the courtroom so that you may hear the verdict and receive word of your punishment. Once you have been seated in the dock the judge, a harsh and unyielding man, enters the room, stands before you, looks deep into your eyes and begins to speak,

“Of the charges that have been brought forward I find the accused not guilty.”

“Not guilty?” your heart freezes. Then, in a split second, the fear and terror that had moments before threatened to strip your resolve are swallowed up by confusion and rage.

Despite the surroundings, you stand defiantly before the judge and demand that he give an account concerning why you are innocent of the charges in light of the evidence.

“What evidence?” he replies in shock.

“What about the poems and prose that I wrote?” you reply.

“They simply show that you think of yourself as a poet, nothing more.”

“But what about the services I spoke at, the times I wept in church and the long, sleepless nights of prayer?”

“Evidence that you are a good speaker and actor, nothing more.” replied the judge, “It is obvious that you deluded those around you, and perhaps at times you even deluded yourself, but this foolishness is not enough to convict you in a court of law.”

“But this is madness!” you shout. “It would seem that no evidence would convince you!”

“Not so,” replies the judge as if informing you of a great, long-forgotten secret.

“The court is indifferent toward your Bible reading and church attendance; it has no concern for worship with words and a pen. Continue to develop your theology, and use it to paint pictures of love. We have no interest in such armchair artists who spend their time creating images of a better world. We exist only for those who would lay down that brush, and their life, in a Christ-like endeavor to create a better world. So, until you live as Christ and his followers did, until you challenge this system and become a thorn in our side, until you die to yourself and offer your body to the flames, until then, my friend, you are no enemy of ours.”