Politics and the Kingdom of God

It is good timing that has me reading NT Wright’s Surprised by Scripture the same week the news is exploding from a new Indiana law regarding discrimination and religious rights.

Wright’s chapter, “Our Politics Are Too Small” is powerful. Some thoughts:

“…martyrdom (which is what happens when the church bears witness to God’s call to the rulers and the rulers shoot the messenger) is an inalienable part of political theology. You can have as high a theology of the God-given calling of rulers you like, as long as your theology of the church’s witness and martyrdom matches it stride for stride.”

It is realizing that no matter who is in control politicallly at any given time, the final say will ultimately rest with King Jesus. “Thus the church, in its biblical commitment to ‘doing God in public,’ is called to learn how to collaborate without compromise… and to criticize without dualism.”

The church needs to criticize even current forms if democracy. In Wright’s view our current glorification of democracy arises out of the Enlightenment dualism that banished God from the public square Andes elevated “the voice of the people.” We need to hold powerful (democratic) governments to account. We, as the church, also need to be held to a high standard.

“Our culture is moving in all kinds of ways toward a post-post-modernism that has yet to be shaped but for which our public world longs as it lurches from boredom and trivia to dangerous and dehumanizing behavior.”

We need a serious biblical witness to God in public. We need a sound grounding in the Word to display a full wisdom in the world again. We have the shrill voices of fundamentalism, the shrill denials of secularism, and the nihilism of the world. We need a solid representation of Christ in the public square for holistic good.

“Doing business with God in public is always complicated, but it is never dull.”

Somehow we’ve turned the good news into bad news

In Simply Good News, Wright goes into far more detail as to how we’ve managed to distort the announcement of the good news of the Kingdom into one of an angry God and simple fragments of a much fuller truth. It is well worth the time to read through his fuller treatment of how we have gone from proclaiming the good news to offering “good advice” to fragmenting the gospel so badly we’ve reduced it to bumper sticker theology that leaves people with a sense that God is just angry all the time.

A couple of years ago I had a guest speaker at my church and as we sat for the meal before our ministry time, he just began with his theology of God being mad. “God really is mad.” He went on to quote several verses dealing with the anger of God toward sin. It was in that moment I really want to exhibit a bit of righteous anger myself and uninvite him immediately.

The fragments we use are true… to an extent. We need to understand that saying “Jesus died in my place” is true. But to let that be the central part of the good news proclamation is to miss the greater picture, in Wright’s view.

We’ve turned Christianity into a “system.” We have a “system” of thought, a “system” of evangelism, a “system” of what is “central” to the gospel.

Again, it is important to read Wright’s fuller treatment in the book, but his contention is that we are missing the fuller picture of the gospel. We miss God as Creator and we miss the whole idea of covenant. As Creator, the whole world belongs to God and he longs to put that world right at last. It is about ALL of creation being redeemed. You can’t read Romans 8 without coming away with that conclusion.

In covenant, God calls Israel to be his people. It is a call of love. The call to covenant comes out of a heart of love, not anger.

Wright does deal with wrath and the meaning of God’s wrath. He doesn’t negate it. He calls us to keep it in context.

God’s goal in the good news is the restoration and transformation of ALL creation. Then Wright really puts the hammer down on our slim, distorted views of how we see the “central” message of the gospel these days:

To imagine a gospel that has forgotten about creation and covenant; to imagine a gospel with an angry deity who is pacified only by the blood of an innocent victim; to imagine good news that, instead of restoring and completing the work of the world’s creation, is prepared to throw away the world and take some people (“souls”) to a different location, namely a disembodied heaven — this picture looks far more like a complicated form of paganism than genuine biblical Christianity. (p. 74)

Somehow, we’ve turned the truly good news of Jesus Christ into some really bad news.

It’s time to re-think our view of the Kingdom of God.

It is simply good news

I am starting into NT Wright’s book, Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes It Good. 

As usual with Wright at this point in my life, it is refreshing reading. Wright has done such a marvelous job of paring down issues over time. He can be as complicated as the next scholar. Here, he keeps it basic.

It’s about good news. What we offer today most of the time is good advice.

For Paul the apostle, it boils down to this:

God had come in the person of Jesus; God was coming, to the whole world, in the presence and power of his Spirit wherever the good news was announced. And one day — the God now made known in Jesus — would come back to finish the task, to be all in all, to fill the world with his glory and love, to transform everything, to rectify everything, to heal everything with his powerful love. (p. 34)

THIS is some good news! The desperate need of our day is to recapture this vision of good news. It is something to proclaim, to live out, to stay passionate about. This good news is also a scandal and foolishness. But to those who hear and receive, to those who are thirsty and find living water, it is good news. 

Muslim apocalyptic literature

THIS ARTICLE is by a Muslim and speaks to the extremism he observes in ISIS.

It is interesting to see more and more public views of how Muslims view Jesus and the end of time. I am also noticing what I call “evangelical” Islam. It’s an approach that speaks more “evangelical” language. The author mentions his own approach to Jesus toward the end of the article.

Bottom line, I have served God and loved Jesus my entire life, and I followed Jesus into Islam when I realized I became a worse man by worshipping Him and a better man by following him.

Why the Church

This reflection from Alister McGrath gives good insight into the importance of the Church.

We have our imperfections. We have our deep flaws. We also have the ability to reflect the astonishing beauty of our Savior. We must know the HEAD of the Church loves the BODY. 

I began to see the church as a place that helps Christians straddle the two worlds of faith—where we are now and where we shall finally be. It’s like an oasis in a desert, equipping us to work and serve in the world while fostering and safeguarding our distinctiveness as Christians.

I began to realize that the church was an imperfect yet important anticipation of heaven, whose worship and ethos were integral to my faith. The church was a community gathered around the public reading of God’s Word, its interpretation and application through preaching, and its enactment in worship and prayer.

Cyprian was bold, but his statement is one I am coming to embrace, even as a Pentecostal: “He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the church for his mother.”