Archive for the ‘Kingdom of God’ Category

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief
July 13, 2008

The third and final section of The Fidelity of Betrayal is focused on “The Event of God.” This portion of the book, as with the other sections, is very difficult to discuss in one blog entry. I could write many entries about Rollins’ notion that doubting God is not the same as doubting the miracle of faith – the intervention of God. I could also write many pages about Rollins’ call for communities where belonging comes before believing. And I think I could start a whole new blog to work through the ideas of the last chapter, where Rollins begins to discuss what it might look like to forge faith collectives where “transformance art” and “theodrama” provide space for God to give God. But I simply can’t address all of it. So instead I will leave you with a few of my final thoughts about fidelity, betrayal, and moving towards a church beyond belief.

First of all, I want to make it very clear that Rollins is not simply playing games with this call to betrayal. “The Fidelity of Betrayal” is not just a clever title to help generate interest in the book. Rollins is calling for us to betray Christianity. To betray the Bible, God, and the Church. But we must remember, Rollins is calling us to a faithful betrayal. Rollins believes our ideas about God and the Bible, which take form in the Church and Christianity, point to a transforming event, a miracle that we cannot deny. And this miracle is what provokes our faith and our attempts to explain our faith. But these explanations and beliefs always fall short of expressing the miracle that has transformed us from the inside out. The miracle is unexplainable but undeniable. So we must always betray the solidification of the radical miracle of faith into mere beliefs. This does not mean we cannot hold beliefs, but we must hold them with great humility, always being willing to betray these beliefs – to rethink and reformulate these beliefs. And we must always acknowledge that these beliefs cannot hold the transforming event they attempt to describe.

I sincerely appreciate Rollins’ call for faithful betrayal, but more than anything I am intrigued by Rollins’ call for a church beyond belief. Again, this is not merely clever wording. Rollins is challenging us to move beyond churches centered on commonly held beliefs. Again, let me make it clear, beliefs are not bad. But we must move beyond beliefs as the central focus. Instead, we must acknowledge the centrality of the life transforming miracle these beliefs attempt to describe. A miracle that is truly beyond belief. A miracle that is beyond the system of Christianity. So what might a church beyond belief look like? This is what interests me more than anything else. With Rollins, I am interested in the development of this type of church. In the past I have called it “a church that’s not a church.” (also see this post, which describes a significant shift in my thinking about church). Rollins plays with the terms “religious collective,” “transformance art,” and “theodrama” as he tries to describe such a group.

In conclusion, I leave you with some of Rollins’ thoughts about the formation and nature of these experimental collectives:

“Here I am referring to the formation of passionate, provocative gatherings, operating on the fringes of religious life, that offer anarchic experiments in theodrama that re-imagine the distinction between Christian and non-Christian, priest and prophet, doubt and certainty, the sacred and secular – gatherings that employ a rich cocktail of music, poetry, prose, imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual, and reflection: gatherings that provide a place that is open to all, is colonized by none, and that celebrates diversity.

“Such an immersive, theodramatic space would aim to affirm the need for (1) collective reflection; (2) a space where individuals can lay aside political, religious, and social identities; and finally (3) offer creative, ritualistic acts that invite, affirm, recall, and relate the event housed within the religion without religion that is Christianity.”

And finally:

“These temporary spaces will likely appear as much in art galleries, on street corners, in bars and basements, as they will in churches and cathedrals…[E]verything, absolutely everything, will be designed to invite, encourage, solicit, seek out, recall, remember, reach out to, bow down before, and cry out to that unspeakable miracle that dwells, quite literally, beyond belief.”

I realize this is all pretty wild and crazy. Would something like this even be a church? Would it be Christian? Personally, I think those are the wrong questions. I don’t care if it’s really a church or truly Christian. I think it might be something “other.”

What do you think? I’d really love to hear your thoughts about a church beyond belief.

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Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer

A New World
July 8, 2008

“You are Christian only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in, so long as you emphasize the need of conversion both for yourself and for the world, so long as you in no way let yourself become established in the situation of the world, so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come. You are Christian only when you believe you have a role to play in the realization of the new kingdom, and when you urge everyone you meet with holy unrest to make haste so that the promise might soon be fulfilled. So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life.”

– Henri Nouwen

(HT: McLaren)

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Individualistic Christianity
June 19, 2008

Hasn’t the individualistic question about personal salvation almost completely left us all? Aren’t we really under the impression that there are more important things than that question (perhaps not more important than the matter itself, but more important than the question!)? I know it sounds pretty monstrous to say that. But, fundamentally, isn’t this in fact biblical? Does the question about saving one’s soul appear in the Old Testament at all? Aren’t righteousness and the Kingdom of God on earth the focus of everything, and isn’t it true that Rom. 3.24ff. is not an individualistic doctrine of salvation, but the culmination of the view that God alone is righteous? It is not with the beyond that we are concerned, but with this world as created and preserved, subjected to laws, reconciled, and restored. What is above this world is, in the gospel, intended to exist for this world; I mean that, not in the anthropocentric sense of liberal, mystic pietistic, ethical theology, but in the biblical sense of creation and of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

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(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

Blogosphering
April 30, 2008

A confession of over indulgence

At Next-Wave, Josh Brown writes:

I am a hypocrite. Hear me roar. I sip my smoothies and blog with my expensive technology. I listen to my indie music with my utilitarian wardrobe. Don’t mess with me! I give money to the poor. I pay extra to get our electricity from “green energy”. Come! Come follow me. Downward mobility is the way to go. But wait . . . I am not going downward. I’m accessorizing my middle mobility. This is not change I am doing. This is not life that I’m creating. I’m perpetuating a myth. I’m soothing my guilt. I am the great politicizer. The great moralizer. The great theorist!

Why does God allow suffering?

Writing as a guest blogger at RLP, Sarah Bickle refuses to accept some of the “bull-oney” theories people offer to those dealing with suffering.

NT Wright on the Kingdom of God

Paul Fromont points us to an interview with NT Wright where he reminds us that “we don’t know how the Kingdom works” and that it “is always a surprise for us.”

Too much emphasis on the Gospels?

Michael Spencer reminds us of the danger of the gospels. I couldn’t agree more.

You could get a lot of wrong ideas reading the Gospels too much. You could start thinking that Jesus is in favor of some kind of social gospel where people give away lots of things, live in community, get in trouble for their radical compassion and stand outside of the religious establishment much of the time.

In fact, really….the Gospels have some good stories, but wouldn’t we be better off to study things like Romans 3 more often, so we really know what the Gospel is about?

Should men be ordained?

Eugene Cho points us to ten compelling reasons to reconsider.

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Themes in the Gospel of Luke
January 15, 2008

Since I don’t have much to say right now, why not post a really long document to completely refute that idea?

This is a document I put together with the help of notes from many others in the church I am a part of. Basically I wanted to narrow down the message of Luke to several recurring themes (I ended up with seven). If you get a chance to read through this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did I miss something really important? (I’m sure I did) Did I include something that isn’t really in Luke? (probably so – but I tried not to)

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The Good News of the Kingdom of God

Because of his goodness and love for all creation, God is establishing a revolutionary new world order – an underground and growing movement. This movement is inaugurated by the coming of Jesus of Nazareth – the long-awaited Messiah and the unique Son of God. Jesus came to declare a message that God’s new world order has arrived and will one day come in fullness. We are called to join this movement now and to proclaim Jesus’ revolutionary message of hope to all who have ears to hear. By joining this Kingdom, we are called to a new way of living. The result of Jesus’ kingdom living was crucifixion. But death cannot contain the Kingdom of God. After his sacrificial death, Jesus resurrected and ascended into heaven. The people of God’s Kingdom also live in hope for their own resurrection and for the future return of Jesus who will come to bring the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God looks radically different than the kingdoms of this world

The Kingdom of God is not a Kingdom of violence but one of sacrifice and service. It is a kingdom from above and an active movement of God into this world. Rather than being overt and obvious, this Kingdom is spreading and growing in subversive and underground ways that may go unseen and unnoticed by many. But let there be no doubt, the Kingdom of God is among us and even within us. The Kingdom of God is not an exclusive Kingdom but is radically inclusive and open to all who will follow and obey, especially those who are among “the least” – poor, sinners, women, Gentiles, unclean, hungry, distraught, marginalized, prisoners, sick, oppressed, children, uneducated, have-nots, servants, slaves. In the Kingdom of God the least are the greatest and the humble are exalted. In the Kingdom of God the unbelievable and impossible is expected and anticipated. At times the Kingdom defies our expectations, but it always works for the redemption and healing of the world.

People must have a fertile and open heart to hear and receive Jesus’ message of the Good News of the Kingdom of God

Those who hear Jesus’ message must have eyes to see and ears to hear in order to truly receive the good news of the Kingdom of God. God does not come to the proud but to the humble and trusting. Jesus’ message only settles and grows in soft and open hearts, just as a seed settles and grows in soft soil. Jesus seeks after those with an openness to his message and a willingness to believe.

Joining the movement of the Kingdom of God requires radical sacrifice and a change of heart, which is revealed as one follows, trusts, and obeys Jesus

Those who have soft and fertile hearts to receive the message of the Kingdom will respond in repentance leading to forgiveness. These ones will not be ashamed of Jesus and will give up their treasures and desires found in this world. Entering the Kingdom of God is not easy for those who hold on tightly to the things of this world but to those who release the cares of this world, the smallest faith imaginable is enough to bring acceptance into the Kingdom. While many will give up great riches or pleasures to follow Jesus, all must daily deny the kingdoms and treasures of this world to continually live in and contribute to God’s Kingdom.

Following Jesus and living in the Kingdom of God leads to a new way of living and acting in this world

To live as a member of the Kingdom one will first and foremost love the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – who is now revealed as the God of all people. This love for God will also lead to a new and empowered love for others. Jesus taught and modeled this life of love through his life and teachings, which he called for his followers to not only hear, but most importantly, to obey. Jesus’ teachings are exemplified by radical acceptance and forgiveness of others, the pursuit of justice for the oppressed and marginalized, humility, love for enemies, the giving up of possessions, giving to the poor without expectation of repayment or reward, service and sacrifice for others, the pursuit of peace, faith in God’s provision, compassion for those who are sick or in prison, and refusing the place of honor. However, Jesus has not given his followers a new law; rather, he has called his followers to remember the spirit and meaning of the law. In all matters Jesus calls his followers to pray for the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven and for God’s will to be done.

There is God-power for those who believe and enter into life in the Kingdom of God

Even as Jesus spent many hours in solitude and prayer, so also God’s people will pray and find power to live the way of Jesus and the Kingdom. This power will come not only through prayer but also, and especially, through the sending of the Holy Spirit for all of God’s people. Jesus taught that God gives good gifts to his children and will certainly give the Holy Spirit to all who ask. Jesus promised that he would give his followers the words to say in times of great need and he proclaimed power from on high for all those who receive the Holy Spirit. As a result, following Jesus, living in the Kingdom, and obeying Jesus’ teachings is natural for all who hear the Good News of the Kingdom of God and trust in Jesus.

In the age to come there is resurrection and reward for the righteous, and judgment and punishment for the wicked

Those who believe, follow, and obey Jesus are hopeful and ready for the final judgment and coming of God. Knowing that God rewards the righteous and will bring justice for those oppressed by the wicked, members of the Kingdom of God live in hopeful expectation of the return of Jesus, the resurrection of the righteous, and the coming of the fullness of God’s Kingdom. Empowered by the very spirit of God, the people of God live both for the Kingdom of God today and for the future fullness of the Kingdom, which is the redemption and restoration of all God’s world.