In Steve Taylor’s book, The Out of Bounds Church?, he suggests Peter performed the DJ role for the emerging churches of Asia Minor: he mixed a few CDS into one fluid sound. (By the way, I missed Taylor’s book in my comment in “Fashion or Fad” [see sidebar] that the emerging movement could make use of 1 Peter. Sorry Steve. Nice book.) Peter does this very thing now when it comes to encountering those who do not believe in Jesus.
For some, 1 Peter 2:6-8 is an opportunity to cash in the chips of Calvinism. The text can be used to support such a theology. After all, Peter makes this comment:
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But, we’d do Peter a real disservice (not to say ourselves) if we cashed the text in for a theory of double predestination. The passage, while predestination is present, is about teaching Christians how to connect everything to Christ and, in particular, to connect themselves to Christ and his fate. And it is written for Christians who are suffering, and who need to see their connection to the Elect One, Jesus, who himself suffered and who was nonetheless precious with God.
Jesus is the Living Stone (v. 4) who was rejected; they are living stones (v. 5). As Jesus was rejected, so they are also being rejected. As the Living Stone who was tossed aside when the workers were trying to find a cornerstone became the capstone, so the living stones (resident aliens, temporary residents) are rejected but, if they trust him, they will never be ashamed (end of v. 6). Incorporation into Christ, the Living Stone, as living stones is the point of Peter’s reflection. And it is a potent pastoral strategy: start with Jesus.
In summary, in this short passage Peter connects Jesus’ entire life with Isaiah 28:16 (the cornerstone placed in Zion), and then connects — in true Jewish fashion — to a similar text in Psalm 118:22 (the stone rejected becomes the capstone) and then to Isaiah 8:14 (that stone becomes a stone of stumbling). Peter’s point: Jesus is God’s elect and, though the workers rejected him, he came full circle to become the crowning jewel of the building. The readers are to see themselves in Jesus.
At the center of Peter’s understanding of God’s redemptive work in this world is God’s redemptive work in Jesus Christ. A genuine emerging theology is christocentric: from the inside out. It works out from Christ — and I think we can learn to think with Peter by learning to think christocentrically. Peter’s readers are suffering — where to begin? With Jesus’ suffering.
And just as believers believe and so join in the Elect One so unbelievers don’t believe because they disobey. All of this is “destined” (2:8). However one takes it, human responsibility is not denied.
Seen in emerging context I think it is important to see that Peter’s words here are designed to explain to his readers the state of things: they are God’s chosen and are challenged to cast their faith in him (v. 6 again). The readers are asking two related questions: why are they suffering? and why do others not believe?
And the best way to begin answering both of those questions is to begin with Jesus: the Rejected One became the Capstone, and this was God’s plan all along.