Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Holisitc Kingdom

I have noticed a difficulty in the terminology; “Kingdom of God.” In many recent conversations I have had I’ve noticed that there is a tendency within popular Christianity to distinguish too much of a dichotomy between what is God’s Kingdom and what is not. This may be closely related to the accepted dichotomy between what is “Spiritual” and what is “Secular.” We’ve, somehow distinguished a difference between the world and God’s world. In reality this world, all we see and don’t see, belongs to God and is under His rule.

We often have tried to set the Church apart. This is a noble aspiration in light of God’s calling which St. Paul calls being “holy” (1Thes. 4:3) or being “set apart” (1 Cor. 6:11). But we have decided to do it by a sort of seclusion. We have created a barrier between ourselves, the Church, and “the world,” which is really just all the things we have decided to banish from within our circle. While being set apart is about a certain quality of life we have re-defined it into form of materialism. Not necessarily the sort of materialism that collects things and adds to its wealth but the kind that disallows material and spiritual to overlap. We have decided that society, culture, politics, and general civilization are one thing and the Kingdom of God is another. We’ve decided that these things are “secular” and God’s Kingdom is “spiritual.” Reality is that all these things are part of the Kingdom of God. Due to the nature of God His Kingdom must possess all things, seen and unseen. All things are to be embraced within His kingdom. This certainly does not mean they will keep their form for God’s rule demands change; submission from chaos to harmony. There is not a kingdom of God and a kingdom of this world. There is only the kingdom of God and everything else is waiting to be clinched within the grasp of its fingers. The Eschaton will not be the destruction of one kingdom over another. It will be the warm embrace of a kingdom bringing all things within the reign of God.

The Kingdom of God is not conquest. It is not about zones and boundaries. The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of the hearts of all people. It transcends territory and dichotomy. This kingdom is holistic and it blows all of our definitions and restrictions out of the water for it’s King does not live in buildings made by human hands (Acts 17:24). Our task is not to decide what is and isn’t of the Kingdom. Ours is the task of bringing all things under the reign of God. This spans through, culture, through our political agendas, through how we care for the environment, and through how we deal the lady at the checkout counter. We have an all encompassing mission.

“If what we mean [by the Kingdom of God] is a particular space or sector, we talk about ‘the realm of the good’ and ‘the realm of evil,’ and about ‘the two kingdoms,’ one spiritual and the other secular. But if the kingdom has to do with God, there cannot be two or more kingdoms, because God is one and there is no one besides him.” [1]
_Jurgen Moltmann


[1] Jurgen Moltmann, Jesus Christ for Today’s World (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1994) 8.

7 comments:

SteveW said...

Good thoughts.

I wonder if we should consider that because the headship and rule of Christ extends to include all things (both above and below...(even in heaven and earth and under the earth) that maybe we should consider that the body over which the Head rules also includes all people.

Just thinking out loud. Now I'll wait to see if there are any religious police who read your blog that will pounce on me for that one.

;-)

Anonymous said...

Religious Police?

Never heard of that before.

WES ELLIS said...

Stevew,
Good thoughts. I think you may be onto something but I gues I'll be the "religious police." I'm really just trying to be a reponsible theologian. And as a fellow theologian I preume you will not see me as arguing with you but challenging you.

The Body of Christ, as I assume that is what you are referring to, is more complicated than most feudamentalit thinkers have made it out to be. But I do believe that there is a distiction. Especially in the context in which it is explained in scripture. Paul is referring to a special community; a community of followers all working and living toward a trajectory, that being redemption and healing of the world. It is obvious that not all people are in this community. In fact it may be fewer than we think. But that doe not mean God is not the head of all people. He surely is the head of them just as He is of the body but there seems to be a definate distinction. What do you think?

again, very good thoughts! I am not policing you I am simply trying to wrestle along side you.

Shalom,
Wes

Anonymous said...

I checked out Stevew's post for today (the 15th). It is one of those suspicious commentaries on listening to "men" instead of Jesus. You might start worshiping these "vain men" instead of Jesus.

I was thinking that sounded really good, even uses some quotes from the Bible jammed together from various contexts to make his point. And I was tempted to believe him and go with what he was posting until I thought about it some more... Stevew is just a man saying these things. He is not Jesus. I better not go with him on this one. I might start to worship him.

So, based on his own post, I think it is bunk.

Makes sense not to trust it to me.

;-)

SteveW said...

Wes, I think that the distinction is placed there by those who religiously think that their redemption is due to something they have done. The proclamation is made that "because I believe I am redeemed and you arn't". And thus the distinction and seperation takes place.

It is curious to me that while the religious leaders in Jesus time on earth also thought that way and seperated from "sinners" that Jesus seemed to go out of His way to do just the opposite.

To me redemption is simply the results of the work of Christ on the cross, with or without anything we do even including our belief.

Christ was given all nations and peoples as His inheritance. I do not think that He will lose any of them.

Mike Exum said...

John 1:12

The whole human effort v. divine effort as a means to salvation usually rests on a number of misconstructions. First off, salvation is not an individual thing, it is a cosmic thing. It includes the dolphins (yeah for the dolphins!).

Secondly, it usually pits law v. grace etc. in an abstract non-first century Jewish context. Actually it is more a 21st post Enlightenment context.

For Jews of the day, Law worked in a way to define who was Jewish, and thus "in" and who was not and thus "out". God had given the Law to the Jews not the Gentiles. The Jews were circumcized etc, not Gentiles... Thus, in reality, Law functioned, in this instance, in a way that is very much akin to, almost synonymous with, race. The Jews never viewed the Law as a human v. divine effort kind of thing. They always viewed it as a grace. That is a slur we bring against the law today as we try to argue against "legalists" etc...

But that is not the way NT writers deal with the law. For that matter Paul, in Phil. 3:6, claims that as far as his righteousness in the Law is concerned, he was "blameless". But note that in the verse before he begins by stating his credentials as a Jew.

Jesus does indeed open the door of salvation to those of the rest of the world: Gentiles and cosmos. But it is not a human effort v. divine effort thing; it is rather, a race thing. It is not opened based on who has the law, but who has Christ. Thus it is not based on who or how Jewish someone is, but based on Christ.

My response does not go to the original point of the argument here, but it does contend with Steve's, as I see it.

As for redemption being based on "something they have done" and then particularizing belief as one of the things "done" by human effort etc..., I think that is a mistake that is based on a bigger mistake. People so desperate to pry themselves loose from burdens of law to find salvation are constructing a lot of needless doctrines to solve a problem that is not there. That is a matter for Jews to deal with, not Gentiles.

If the matter were simply that you cannot be good enough to please God and thus you need Jesus to save you, there is plenty of evidence to support that. But to then nit pick at things like "belief" in order to try to establish that conclusion is at least not necessary and at most damaging to both the Kingdom Call and evangelism, and God's desire to have peoples hearts. Remember that He is a jealous God (Exod. 20:5). It is not enough to be an idolator and Jesus saves you anyway. Like John says, "Moses lifed up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have life in the age to come" (Jn 14-15).

Hope that makes sense.

Many blessings....

Danny said...

See my blog for my thoughts