Thursday, September 21, 2006

the kingdom of God in Christ is political, but...

The kingdom of God, come, in Christ Jesus is political, but this doesn't mean we're now to take over, politically, the United States or any other nation, much less the world. Or that we're to be about our Father's business through political means.

I believe politics in the world is important. Don't get me wrong. But God's kingdom come (already, though not yet in its fullness) in Jesus, while political, since it concerns ALL of life, does not deal with life, as governments of this world do, and in some ways, must do.

I'm reminded of God's word to Joshua, as, in the angel of the LORD, Joshua is confronted by him. Joshua asks: "Are you for us, or for our enemies?" God's reply through this being: "Neither. But as Commander of the LORD's armies, I stand before you." (my paraphrase) Then Joshua falls down in reverence. And the work of God begins.

Remember, we march to the drum that the world cannot hear. It cannot join us. Except in Christ. Not either in the Democrat or Republican party. Nor through any other entity in this world. The victory of God in Christ is not a victory for either, or any of these.

Let's not forget it. Let's remember where our allegiance lies. And learn to live in that allegiance. As those in Jesus who have our feet on the ground, but whose orders are ultimately always from "God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:15; TNIV)- Amen.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ted:

Exactly; as the late John Howard Yoder continually reminded us: the Kingdom of God does not come by force of the sword, but by cross and resurrection.

Ted Gossard said...

Allan,

Thanks for adding that. I'm an admirer of John Howard Yoder, but have yet to make it through his book: The Politics of Jesus. So glad you're around to spell these things out for me, and for us.

Bob Robinson said...

I'm almost with you here, Ted.

I'm working on my final submission on Boyd's book...and I've come to believe that while I agree with him that it is dangerous to equate the Kingdom of God with any particular political entity, government, or ideology, that does not mean that subsumed under the Kingdom of God is every political entity, government, and ideology. The King is king of all, even of those things.

Though in a fallen world "politics" has an evil conotation, it actually simply means "the process by which groups make decisions" (wikipedia definition). There is a Kingdom way to make decisions, and Christians must be active in bringing that redemptive light into the process.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure Ted.

You seem to be saying that there are things that government "must do" that can never be part of the Kingdom of God. If that is true, then Jesus is not King of Kings.

What does it mean to be "king of kings", or to use a modern equivalent "the government of governments"?

Maybe part of the answer is that as the kingdom advances by "cross and resurrection, the democratic party will have to die and the republican party will have to die (factions are not the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:20).

Maybe the United States will have to die too.
Government of United States
= Government of united governments
= King of united kingdoms
= king of kings.
That can't be right :-)
There can only be one king of kings;
or do we want two?

How does the government of the united governments make Jesus their government?

Blessings
Ron

Ted Gossard said...

Bob and Ron,

Please forgive me for not answering you both separately. My thought seems to intersect to some extent with what you're each saying. And due to lack of time, this is what I (already) wrote:

I think I may be amiss with saying, "and in some ways, must do." Or with my thoughts in regard to that.

I do believe governments must act according to their calling in this present age. That to fulfill this, is good. Of course God is King over them, and holds them accountable to do so.

At the same time, I don't believe the kingdom of God come, in Jesus - has that same calling. It is a vision of weapons of war being turned into instruments of peace and prosperity. And it is a radically new way of being human.

I would want to avoid a dualism that says some things are evil, others good. All things have their use. So that government and politics in this world, is NOT intrinsically evil. As I noted, they have their function and calling under the King of kings, in this world.

I want to avoid dualism. And at the same time, the world is the world, in this present age. So that we're forever crucified to the world, and the world is forever crucified to us- in this present existence. I don't see how we can escape that reality.

But at the same time, we in Jesus, through God's kingdom come in him- are salt and light in this world. And this means we can affect great good in "worldly (no evil connotation intended) politics" and government here. Though we need to remember that our calling in Christ, is still different from the calling the King has mandated for the state.

That's someplace near where I am at the moment.

Thanks you guys. Both very good comments. And I will grapple with them later, when I have more time. And may add a comment for each.

Anonymous said...

Ted:

You have said it quite well. We need to avoid a dualism that completely separates, but at the same time, the world is the world and the kingdom is the kingdom.

It is certainly the case that there will be an ambiguity, at times, as to how all of this works out for Christians, but I still come back to the fact that the main issue for Christians in reference to the nation-state is whether or not Christians should be willing to resort to violence on behalf of the state. It is important that Christians assist the nation as it seeks, as you say, to do good. Let us be committed to those projects, but the heart of the matter is whether assisting in the good also allows for picking up the sword.

I do not know how to make sense of the ministry of Jesus apart from the notion of nonviolence. Since Constantine that continues to be the heart of the dilemma.

Anonymous said...

I think Allan has summed the issue up well.

The reason that we get into problems is that we are not satisfied with the gospel and prefer the gospel plus a little bit of force. Its not that we want to start another crusade, although some do. We just want to use the force of the state to stop obesity, to ban prostitution, to make the rich help the poor. Nice goals, but it is still the gospel plus force.

The corollary is that we must narrow down the calling of the state. The state is not evil in principle, but much of what Christians expect the state to do in the modern world is evil. As the Kingdom advances the state will shrink dramatically.

BTW Ted. Your responses are always so gracious, it is hard to imagine you moving to the side of force.
Blessings
Ron

Ted Gossard said...

Bob,

I think your comment is well expressed. And I agree. I wrestle a little how best Christians can bring the redemptive light of the gospel into the process. Certainly not in terms of the religious right- though some of them do this with a good spirit. Much more integration with all that is involved in the revelation of the kingdom of God found in Scripture, and in Jesus- just as you have said, time and again on your blog. And in a more subversive way, as we take up our cross in Jesus, in this world.

Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

Ron,

As always, you share challenging thoughts.

I see the kingdom of God as over all. But not yet has the kingdom of this world become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. Not in the interpretation I accept.

Take Rome, in which Jesus' kingdom of God declarations were made. It was under the kingdom of God, in that it was accountable to God, who is the real King over it. But the kingdom of God invading the world in Christ, was from another place. And was bringing an entirely new way of being human. Which in the end (of all things), obliterates the need for any of the kingdoms of this world (as they are now). Though in the meantime, these nation-states, or governments ("kingdoms") have their place- role and function- under God. That was true before the kingdom of God in Jesus had drawn near, and come "down" to earth.

So in a general, comprehensive way, God's kingdom is over all (Psa 103, I think; etc). But his redemptive rule of new creation is found in his kingdom having come in Jesus.

And yes, God does raise nations up, and judges them, as we see repeatedly in Scripture.

Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

Allan,

On your second comment, very well expressed. This certainly does stand to the fore when we discuss this issue- that is, Christians' participation in the state, including its "sword-bearing".

Helpful words from you here:

"It is important that Christians assist the nation as it seeks, as you say, to do good. Let us be committed to those projects..."

Especially noted by me, because I wrestle with what we CAN do in politics and to the assistance of the state. In the tradition I was raised in, it seemed that there was mostly withdrawal- among our group. Or protest- and we'll do it on our own.

Thanks for raising the issue of Christians and violence. And in the helpful way you framed it.

Ted Gossard said...

Ron,

I like the way you put it: The gospel PLUS: force, power politics, etc.

"The state is not evil in principle, but much of what Christians expect the state to do in the modern world is evil. As the Kingdom advances the state will shrink dramatically."

Very interesting thoughts. I agree about the state not being evil even in its sword-bearing (though I want to flinch from that). But as power has a tendency to corrupt among fallen humanity, so violence tends to be abused. (Hence, an argument on the other side, for Christians participating in the state in the military and police action, as they can bring something of the kingdom of God in Christ into their work. I respect that position, though am not there, myself).

I see nation-states remaining until Christ returns and the kingdom of God completely takes over the earth. What you probably mean here is the size or power of the state diminishing as the kingdom of God advances. That's an interesting concept I would like to see discussed. Certainly, where people's hearts are changed, there is less evil to restrain.

Thanks Ron, for your kind, generous words. I don't consider Christians who are in the military as less Christ-like or less gracious. Nor those who are not, more so. Though I still have a hard time with the taking of life by a Christ-follower, in at least most scenarios.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to do a little more thinking about what the "sword-bearing" means. Maybe the reason that you and I flinch is that we have misunderstood what it means.

I am certain that it does not give a free hand to either the Republicans or the Democrats. I am sure it does not mean open slather for civil government.

In itself Romans 13, is not fully clear about what "sword-bearing" actually means. That means that the boundaries on what is permissable in the kingdom of God, must be defined elsewhere in scriptures (maybe John 13:36????). The sword might could be authority to kill (that does not fit well with Rom 12:21) or it might be an image for something far more constrained. I think the possiblities are quite broad.

Hopefully, Scott M will resolve this problem next week.

Ted Gossard said...

Ron,

Could the ambiguity there be purposeful? Along the call to punish evil as God's agents of judgment/wrath and commend those doing right? I don't know.

I can't see applying the theocratic law given to Israel in the Old Testament, under Moses. All kinds of things are punished there, which Jesus seems to suspend with his teaching (as in the woman, caught in the act of adultery. Though not in earliest manuscripts, it's at least an early Christian writing, and does mesh well with Jesus' teaching and practice, surely). Besides, unlike Genesis 9 probably, this is a giving of a law to a particular nation- the people of God. Even if meant to bring all in, in the end we know a need for a new covenant will come. And Hebrews indicates, a new law as well.

My problem is not with accepting that the sword has a restraining use, symbolic of physical force, when, if necessary, to stop evildoers. My problem is, instead, with insisting that such an institution even given by God is to be equated with this new thing coming on the earth, in Jesus- the kingdom of God. I see the state as a part of God's rule in a different way. While the kingdom rule coming in Jesus is meant ultimately to end the need of such a sword-bearing entity as the state, in the world.

The question then becomes one of how this is to take place, and what it looks like as it does, I suppose. I see the state being dissolved only when Jesus returns to earth. Then the kingdom of God come in Jesus, comes in its fullness. And the redemption of creation, along with judgment- will be complete(d). Of course that brings us back to the question of Christian participation in the state. My answer now, is that our kingdom now, is from another place. However, because of that, there are some services I am commanded to, and can render to "Caesar". And that's where we'd end up drawing different lines. I would not want to kill another human being, say in a war, in serving in a role of the state (that gets sticky in both directions. I must end.....)

Something like all of that, for me!

Would be great if Scot McKnight could resolve all this for us! ha. (Though I greatly appreciate what he shares, and people like him, trying to understand it all).

Thanks Ron. Happy Monday there in New Zealand. We're about a day behind you, right?

Anonymous said...

Hi Ted
Yes we are about 18 hours ahead of you. I hope that keeps us ahead on our political theology :-) It is Monday evening here. I have done a days work, had dinner and washed up the dishes, while you are sleeping.

You seem to have quite a sticky position. Believing that force is wrong and yet having to render to Caesar.

I believe that the Bible puts real limits around what Caesar can do. For example, there are almost no situations where War is justified, so I am freed from the need to fight. That gives me greater freedom to obey the gospel.

Ted Gossard said...

Ron,

Wow. Interesting on time zones.

Good thoughts you have on war. What I don't get is applying what God gave to Israel in the old covenant, to nation-states today. At least not across the board, and in the same way. I speak off the top of my head here.

But still, many good thoughts in your article. I will reflect some on that. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wow!!
18 hours behind does not matter, if you can have breakfast with McKnight.

My assumption is that if God gave it then it must be good, better than anything humans can come up with. Who he gave it to is less relevant.

Ok a lot of it was fulfilled and set aside, but not all. The challenge is to work out which bits. I will be writing something on this soon, because it is a core question.

My prayer is Psalm 119:18: Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

Tony Myles said...

Politics in the kingdom of God are like plastic model car kits. They come with all these pieces that are attached to some generic mold, but ultimately you keep the pieces and throw away the mold.

Ted Gossard said...

Tony,

Thanks. Am not sure what you're getting at.

I think the politics that is inherent in the kingdom of God in Christ, is inherent to the reach of the kingdom of God, across the board to all humankind, and in every part of life and sphere of existence. It's about redemption of God's creation.

Politics in this world is often throw-away. And in the end does not last, except as inspired from the politic of the kingdom of God, which lasts forever.

Thanks again. Sorry I'm so slow to get it. I'll bet alot of people would get it, at least much better, as to what you're saying here.