Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Friday is for Friends

posted by xscot mcknight

Any time someone brings up the petitions in the Lord’s prayer that concern God’s kingdom coming and God’s will being realized faces the inevitable: What does the Lord’s Prayer say about political power and global issues? In chp 4 of Telford Work’s book, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, Telford starts in the direction of “your will be done” and instead we get a detour — a detour that deconstructs the church’s strategies in wielding power.
Our next book will be Edith Humphrey, Ecstasy and Intimacy. It is a book about the Holy Spirit and the Christian life.
I believe it is impossible to read the Bible and to be quiet about politics. How can we read the prophets or Jesus and not think of political powers? The issue is how we engage the powers. The problem is how to avoid scuffles in doing so. Is there a way forward? What are your suggestions for engaging politics in the context of our communities of faith?
Well, back to Telford’s book. He uses Walter Russell Mead’s book called Special Providence to expound how the church has become complicit as businesslike Hamiltonians, missionary Wilsonians, protective Jeffersonians, and tribal Jacksonians. It would be too much to find a way to reduce all of this to manageable little chunks — his discussions are lengthy — but he sums them up in “self-” terms on p 102: “Yet each of these political visions centers on the self — self-advancement, self-realization, self-protection, and self-assertion.”
Thus, “Constantine is not the villain; we are” (103).
So, what is the alternative to complicity and villainy? To do God’s will. What is God’s will?
Here Telford has a theory I’ve not seen but which, the more I read it, got me to thinking. Here it is: “The will of the Father is none other than the Holy Spirit” (103). “When we pray the Father’s will to be realized on earth, God’s answer is nothing less than the third person of the Trinity” (106).
He gives some nice textual connections between the Father’s will and what the Spirit does. E.g., the Spirit is the the finger of God, the Father’s will to deliver and author the Torah (Exod 8:19; 31:18 and Luke 11:20).
The interplay of wills in the Trinity is the model of how we do God’s will: I like this — “in which the heavenly theocracy and earthly autocracies pursue their ultimate ends, expose their true natures, and by grace reconcile” (108).
The “Spirit” as the will of the Father — now that’s an idea worth pondering this day with friends.



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Peggy

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:02 am


Makes perfect sense to me: the Holy Spirit is that which both reveals God’s will to us and enables obedience by us. The Holy Spirit, in this way, is God’s activity of faithful covenant-keeping.
I tremble to even mention that perichoresis flitted across my mind as you talked of “interplay of wills in the Trinity”! 8)



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Ted M. Gossard

posted November 30, 2007 at 2:52 am


I like this, too. The Spirit as the will of the Father- in Jesus, and in the community of God in Jesus, in this world. So that the Spirit’s primary work in this world to the principalities and powers is to be through the church (Ephesians), God thus showing his manifold wisdom.
And the thought on reconciliation; a good argument for us to not give up on engaging the powers, yet to do so in the peace and perseverance of Christ- in God’s grace.



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Diane

posted November 30, 2007 at 7:45 am


This sounds akin to the early Quakers’ assertion that Jesus Christ has come to teach us himself, without the need of priests. The Quakers thus sat in silent worship, waiting for the Holy Spirit (the”Light”) to instruct them corporately as to God’s will. Then–the amazing part–they acted on it, even if it didn’t make sense. Now they act, but I would argue more out of reason than from intense communion with the HS. That being said, your summary only whets my appetite to actually read the book, which I can imagine going in a very different direction from the early Quakers.



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Darren

posted November 30, 2007 at 7:57 am


Maybe it’s not the same thing, but his point about the Holy Spirit reminds me of Lesslie Newbigin’s idea in (I think) The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, where he talks about the presence of the “new reality” in the world, the Holy Spirit poured out on all believers. God’s will is that this new reality become more and more manifest in the world.
The crowd at Pentecost said they had never seen anything like what they were seeing that day. It was totally new, God had come down to live among humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, now he was living IN humanity by the Holy Spirit. It still is a new reality. It still is God’s will, and the way we live out God’s will.



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josenmiami

posted November 30, 2007 at 9:36 am


My first thought in reading your post was ?ahhhh? a friendly conversation sounds good after the Calvinism-Arminian war,? and then my second thought as I got down through the paragraph was, ?crap! more books to order.?
I can?t keep up with you Scot?I am still doing grad school reading. The problem is, all of the books you mention sound like ?must reads? for me?hence my dilemma. I think what I am going to do is enter this books into my bibliographic database and link your commentary to them as notes?to go back later when I have more time.
Both books by Telford and Humphrey sound extremely interesting to me. Telford?s, because my research interest in the masters and now in the doctoral studies is church and state, faith and politics. As I go along, I generate more questions than answers. You (or rather Telford) are absolutely right in my opinion about political visions and the connection to the self. There no one In history who has had a greater impact politically than Jesus, and yet he did it by surrendering the self, and praying ?not my will but thy will be done.?
I used to pray the ?Our Father? every morning with a special emphasis on ?Let your kingdom come, Let your will be done in MY HEART as it is in heaven??
I have also been on a quest to discover a deeper experiential relationship with the Holy Spirit. ?The kingdom of God is ? righteousness, peace and joy IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.? Your (Telford?s) comment on God?s will being the Holy Spirit is fascinating.
I finished reading the last chapter of biography of Pope John XXIII by Christian Feldman yesterday, through my tears on the treadmill ? impacted by the political influence of that good man. Here is a priceless quote from page 138: ?And finally, this can?t be said often enough: He trusted the Holy Spirit.?
Pope Roncalli went from being a farmer?s kid, to being the spiritual leader of a billion Catholics by simply being good, kind to others and faithful to God. He was ready to leave this earth to go to be with God in 1939, almost 20 years before becoming the Pope. Not only did he change the face of Catholicism with Vatican II, but on October 25, 1962, he was instrumental in helping Kennedy and Khrushchev pull back from the brink of global nuclear war because he had taken the time and the risk to begin to build some trust and conversation with Khrushchev a few months earlier. ?For such a time as this??
Diane #3: I LOVE the Quakers! I started visiting a ?Friends? church recently. I like the quite, and the idea of holding people in the light?and I am not in the mood to listen to some guy talk for 45 minutes.
Darren #4: Do you know the name of the book by Newbigin? Sounds like another book I should read if it deals with pluralism.



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Paul D.

posted November 30, 2007 at 9:47 am


“The Spirit as the will of the Father” and of the Son. This is how I understand such assertions by Paul as “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16) This concept is appealing for its dynamic quality as well as keeping both the goal and way of spirituality together, with implications far beyond that of faith and politics. Good stuff.



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T

posted November 30, 2007 at 10:34 am


This sounds good. It makes me think, among other things, that “obedience is better than sacrifice.” I realize that some use this as an excuse to ignore many larger global issues, but don’t we inevitably have to ignore many important things in order to effectively obey God’s call on us particularly? (Jesus limited the scope of his work out of obedience, as did the 12 after him, as did Paul, as did Mother Teresa, etc.) It sounds like Telford is saying that any ‘worthy’ activity can still be done out of selfishness, and frequently is, as a compromise means of avoiding or usurping God’s particular governance of us through the Spirit.
It makes me think too, that the Holy Spirit is often rightly associated with power, but it is not an impersonal power. It is the Spirit, the very inner person, of God himself. If any person’s will is within that person’s spirit, then the will of God is also within his Spirit. The kingdom of God is justice, peace and joy IN the Holy Spirit (in the will of God, as part of his inner person). I’m seeing that verse much differently right now, as I am with “kingdom” itself. Much thanks to you and to Telford.



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Howard Walters

posted November 30, 2007 at 11:12 am


There something very incarnational in this line of thinking about the will of God and Holy Spirit. Paul’s thinking in Ephesians about Jesus being “formed in us” by the Spirit also adds a piece. As God Himself is incarnated in us, and as we die and He lives through us and is increasingly formed and present in us, then God does “do His will” on earth as we/He acts in union. So the Holy Spirit as the Will of God is true both as the means to God’s end (as the Spirit enlivens and empowers us, and indwells us) and also as the end itself, as God chooses to be with His people and to make this earth His kindgom. So the prayer that “God’s kingdom would come and His will be done” is one not of dominance, but a prayer of submission–that we would be crucified and die that He might be incarnate in us to do His will and create His kingdom. Living out the Jesus Creed can then be conceived less as “we are creating the conditions of God’s kingdom” and more construed as “we are getting out of the way and letting God build His own kingdom” as we “present our bodies as instruments of righteousness. May we be reduced and may Christ be formed in us all! This is a great conversation thread to move into Advent!



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Howard Walters

posted November 30, 2007 at 11:16 am


A comment about Jesus Creed (not necessarily belonging here): the section in the book about Joseph and Mary is one of the most moving treatments of the “Christmas Story” I’ve ever encountered. We’re reading these sections as a family out loud on Christmas Eve this year. I can’t even read the Joseph section without tears and I’ve encouraged folks in our faith community to use this devotionally this year. Blessings Scot for your gift!



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Kyle Strobel

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:10 pm


Scot, thanks for your thoughts on the book. I haven’t read Work’s book, but your comment on the Spirit as the Will of God reminded me of a conversation you and I had at AAR. This is exactly what Jonathan Edwards argued in his “Discourse on the Trinity,” that the Spirit was the Will of God (which would also be God’s love), and the Son was the understanding / idea (and therefore image) of God. So for Edwards, a person is that which has understanding and will, and therefore personhood in God is grounded in the perichoretic union the three have within the inner life of the Trinity.
So for Edwards, it is God’s will / love that unites believers to union with himself, and therefore spirituality consists of an inclination and disposition at the heart of the believer that is grounded in that union with the will of God.
Not too many people interact with Edwards on his trinitarian understanding (although that is rapidly changing), but it seems like there might be some resources here that overlap what Work is trying to accomplish in his book.



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Friend of Pascal

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:43 pm


Jose, I think Darren #4 references “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.”



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Peggy

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:46 pm


josenmiami,
“The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society” is the name of Newbigin’s book. :)
Thanks, Kyle…that’s two occurrences of perichoresis, now ;)



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Dana Ames

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:53 pm


Speaking of tears, Howard, your comment #8 brought them to my eyes… Thank you.
Dana



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Peggy

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:05 pm

fjs

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:34 pm


today that is what I want… “let your kingdom come, let your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” somedays when i see so much injustice, that is all that i can even pray. it becomes like a jesus prayer that is repeated again and again and again because there are no other words to voice the longing. one cannot even think what to pray–so we allow the Spirit/Will to groan within.



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RonMck

posted November 30, 2007 at 2:35 pm


Your question, ?How can we read the prophets or Jesus and not think of political powers? The issue is how we engage the powers.? is an important one.
In theory the answer is easy: we just follow wherever the Spirit and the scriptures lead us. In practice this is hard, because we are usually so attached to our political institutions and nationalisms that we cannot hear what the Spirit and the word are saying.
For example, my reading of 1 Sam 8 is the presidency will have to go before the Kingdom of God can come. My reading of Deuteronomy is that there is not place for Congress in the kingdom of God. My reading of Galatians 5:20-21 concludes that there cannot be political parties in the Kingdom of God (not even if it is Republican). My reading of Daniel 7: says that a union of states is very dangerous.
My reading of these passages may be wrong, but I suspect that most Americans cannot even begin to consider the possibility that they are correct, because their attachment to their political institutions is stronger than their attachment to the word of God. This leave no choice but to rush to that old serpentine line, ?Did God really say that?..??
Confronting the powers is not enough; we also have to confront our own idols. Idols sit on the high places, but they are constructed in our hearts.



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Shlomo ben Yaakov

posted November 30, 2007 at 2:55 pm


B”H
Hi Scot,
I was wondering if the comment, Thus, ?Constantine is not the villain; we are? (103) is possibly a mild rebuke of Yoder’s position?
Shlomo



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BeckyR

posted November 30, 2007 at 3:54 pm


Yeah Ron. In terms of God’s will being the Spirit’s activities and combining that with what to do with politics and global issues. I tremble that I could be as blind as those christians who did not see or speak up on what Hitler was doing. I assume I am not any more commited to Christ as they were. And that I can be so blind.
On the other hand, I do think God raises up people like Martin Luther King Jr. There is lots to be argued about the man and his movement at the time, but I can imagine participating in his movement with the Spirit in me. I am old enough to have a sense of what he did in the US but not old enough to have been cognizant enough to participate in what he was doing. It is in hindsight, listening to things about him, reading things about what his movement did, and watching tv about him that I understand more of what he accomplished.
Yet I know I could be so blind as to choose to not let myself be aware and my heart pricked by what Hitler’s or mini Hitlers of our day are doing. And on the one hand we do have that going on in the ethnic slaughters going on in other countries. Then I hear John what’s his face’s song about feeling ineffective and waiting till we can have influence – “waiting, waiting for the world to change.” I feel and perhaps in reality am unable, to make a change in the big political bad things going on. I can only influence my small corner here in my world.



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Dianne P

posted November 30, 2007 at 6:14 pm


Kyle #10, thank you for that exposition on Edwards. It was very helpful to me.
Two thoughts come to mind, no three. The first is that I can hardly wait to read this chapter tonight after a church group meets at our house. Hopefully this won’t lead me to shoo them out so I can hunker down with this book ;-)
Second, ?Constantine is not the villain; we are?. This reminds me of a powerful experience I had while reading Tozer’s “Pursuit of Man”. Tozer on the *self sins* was an epiphany for me, to realize that all of my sin was really about *self*. Whenever *self* creeps in, regardless of the disguise, sin is its ever-present dark shadow.
Third, a personal quest. Being raised in the Eastern Christian church, I continually yearn to better understand the theology behind the Eastern approach to the Trinity and the Spirit. I know that this was very powerful for me in my early years, and continues experientially to this day, but I don’t know how to begin to wrap words around that experience. I do know it has nothing to do with the usual experience of the Spirit that is discussed/experienced in Protestant churches today – at least those in my limited circle – that largely seems limited to the Nicky Gumbel-Alpha approach to speaking in tongues etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just that my story has been a very different one, but I can’t describe it very well. Arghhh. Whenever I can plow through a few sentences of Gregory of Nyssa, I encounter *A-ha* moments. But being one of the amateurs who are so graciously indulged on this site, my understanding of dear old Gregory is somewhat limited. So far the book by Rupnik came the closest, and I think that Work’s may be headed that direction as well. I look forward to tonight!



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josenmiami

posted December 1, 2007 at 10:30 am


thanks for the link to Newbigin’s book… Amazon.com loves me!
This is an interesting thread. One comment I would make is that the cnocept of the Kingdom of God is a very dangerous concept. I believe it is central and will be a key issue to wrestle with in the near future, but there are multiple understandings of what exactly is the kingdom of God and how it should function.
There is a Conservative Religious Right version of the kingdom of God, there is a liberal protestant concept of the kingdom of God, there is a liberationist understanding of the kingdom of God (See Gutierrez). The Reconstructionists would see the kingdom of God being implemented as a theocratic imposition of Old Testament law … in my mind, not all that different that the Al Queda vision of Hakayaat allah and their desire to impose Sharia law. The Marxists even had their vision of the utopian kingdom (without God) that was the worker?s paradise.
We need to be really careful to distinguish what kind of kingdom Jesus had in mind. I personally like Brian McClaren?s ?experiential, interactive relationship with the Holy Spirit? but as Scot pointed out, there are probably some component that McClaren?s definition fails to capture.



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fjs

posted December 1, 2007 at 11:59 am


sounds like this might be a great book to read…I’ll pick it up. I have been observing the plight of immigrants in this country without documents.
A family in our town was invaded by the ICE and the mother, with child clinging to her was torn away and taken into custody for merely not having documents. (a civil offense) A family in our church also lost their daughter and grandson to Mexico when her husband (who came when he was 2) was taken into custody by the ICE and deported. (several in our church witnessed the dehumanizing cruelty of the judge who heard the case) Their lives have been turned upside down and their families have been torn apart.
Since 911, the tension has risen and I wonder what it will visibly look like to deport 12 million people. And what will be the effect on families left behind? (not to mention our relationship with Mexico) Prior to 911 there was a tacit welcome for any who needed work. Then children were born, families, settled and over the years lives were built. The immigration system we have in place was designed for another era and is not functioning with justice in mind. Yet legislation offered is being driven by fear and self interest not justice.
I am looking for biblical answers because in the post 911 fear, I see something happening in the hearts of people who say they are Christians that is unkind and unjust and ill-informed by fear of the other.
I am concerned that we don’t have a solid biblical paradigm to deal ethically with this current national delimma. The bible says so much about welcoming strangers as if they were our own people… Christ himself was a refugee, many undocumented people are believers and have shared the eucharist and same waters of baptism, as christians how can we reconcile all of those texts with the current ICE behavior and our national climate toward undocumented immigrants.
There is a serious need to comprehensively examine this issue from a biblical and theological lense. It is bigger than what we see on the surface. It is bigger than making and breaking laws…there is something going on in the heart that troubles me deeply.



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josenmiami

posted December 1, 2007 at 12:02 pm


I agree.



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Dianne P

posted December 1, 2007 at 1:48 pm


#20 and 21. Suggest that you try to get this book, if only to read this chapter – Work’s analysis of Jeffersonian, Jacksonian, Wilsonian, and Hamiltonian brands of Americanism and their parallels in the American Christian church(es) touch on your points in ways that seem far too complex to try to elucidate here, at least for me. Maybe someone else could take that on??? I only want to say that in Jacksonian Christianity, the tribe takes precedence over Christ. I see this happening in how we treat the stranger among us, hunkering down and raising the boundaries around our tribe.
And there was special pleasure for me, in the discussion on Trinitarian theology, to see a footnote for the beloved Gregory of Nyssa. Scot, if you’re ever pondering something from the more classic realm to discuss here, I for one would certainly benefit from anything by or about St. Gregory.



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Anonymous

posted December 4, 2007 at 11:41 pm


Camassia » Stuck in a moment

[...] I am not — just to state this upfront — returning to blogging. I’ve been posting occasional comments on other blogs, but I think my sabbatical was the right choice and I’m not done with it yet. But the other day I stopped by Jesus Creed, and discovered that Scot McKnight is blogging his way through Telford’s new book on the Lord’s Prayer. So far, he’s blogged chapters one, two, three and four. As you can see, the first chapter is of special interest to me because yours truly is in it. Reading Scot’s post reminded me that, yes, I’m a character now in a book being read by Christians all round the country, which is really weird but kind of thrilling. (Other, shorter reviews are here and here.) [...]



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