Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Where is our hope?

posted by xscot mcknight

This was published in my monthly column on the Out of Ur blog.
Somewhere between 6pm and 8pm, Central Time, on November 4th, 2008, the eschatology of American evangelicals will become clear. If John McCain wins and the evangelical becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that evangelical has an eschatology of politics. Or, alternatively, if Barack Obama wins and the evangelical becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that evangelical too has an eschatology of politics. Or, we could turn each around, if a more Democrat oriented evangelical becomes depressed and hopeless because McCain wins, or if a Republican oriented evangelical becomes depressed or hopeless because Obama wins, those evangelicals are caught in an empire-shaped eschatology of politics.
Where is our hope? To be sure, I hope our country solves its international conflicts and I hope we resolve poverty and dissolve our educational problems and racism. But where does my hope turn when I think of war or poverty or education or racism? Does it focus on November 4? Does it gain its energy from thinking that if we get the right candidate elected our problems will be dissolved? If so, I submit that our eschatology has become empire-shaped, Constantinian, and political. And it doesn???t matter to me if it is a right-wing evangelical wringing her fingers in hope that a Republican wins, or a left-wing evangelical wringing her fingers in hope that a Democrat wins. Each has a misguided eschatology.
Now before I take another step, it must be emphasized that I participate in the election; and I think it makes a difference which candidate wins; and I think from my own limited perspective one candidate is better than the other.
But, participation in the federal election dare not be seen as the lever that turns the eschatological designs God has for this world. Where is our hope? November 4 may tell us. What I hope it reveals is that:
Our hope is in God. The great South African missiologist, David Bosch, in his book Transforming Mission impressed upon many of us that the church???s mission is not in fact the ???church???s??? mission but God???s mission. Our calling is to participate in the missio Dei, the mission of God in this world. So, at election time we can use the season to re-align our mission with the mission of God. Therein lies our hope.
Our hope is in the gospel of God. God???s mission is gospel-shaped. Some today want to reduce gospel to what we find in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, while others want to expand it to bigger proportions (and I???m one of the latter), we would do well at election time to re-align ourselves once again with the gospel as God???s good news for our world. Therein lies our hope.
Our hope is in the gospel of God that creates God???s people. God???s gospel-shaped mission creates a new people of God. In fact, the temptation of good Protestants to skip from Genesis 3 (the Fall) to Romans 3 (salvation) must be resisted consciously. We need to soak up how God???s gospel-shaped work always and forever creates a gospel people. The first thing God does with Abraham is to form a covenant people, Israel, and Jesus??? favorite word was ???kingdom,??? and Paul was a church-obsessed theologian-missionary. Herein lies the challenge at election time. We are tempted to divide the USA into the good and the bad and to forget that the gospel has folks on both sides of political lines. Even more: we are tempted to think that the winners of the election are those who are blessed by God when the blessing of God is on God???s people. God???s gospel-powered mission creates a new people, the church, where we are to see God???s mission at work. Therein lies our hope.
Our hope is in the gospel of God that creates a kind of people that extends God???s gospel to the world. Chris Wright???s big book, The Mission of God, reminds us that election is missional: God creates the people of God not so the people of God can compare themselves to those who are not God???s people, but so that God???s people will become a priesthood in this world to mediate the mission of God, so that all hear the good news that God???s grace is the way forward.
Our hope is in God???s mission in this world, and that mission transcends what happens November 4th.



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Jeff Borden

posted October 3, 2008 at 3:36 am


Amen



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Angie Van De Merwe

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:08 am


I obviously have come to disagree with you.
The culprit? God’s working in the world…through people or through history, or through predestination, or ???
I believe that man is a responsible being, period. We do not and can not know anything else, really. Too many people have been given “heavenly platitudes” of theological understandings or Scriptural exhortations, that just become absudity!
We just do not know, because we have limted understanding of this world, much less of God. So, I think presuming that we have an “Absolute” knowledge, or can bring hope of something that we only “know” by faith” is mis=guided. Yes, hope must be grounded in reality. That does not mean that we see everything “hunky dory”, otherwise it would not be hope, but that we work for the “ideals” of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…



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Bill Victor

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:20 am


NT Wright sort of covered this when he discussed evolutionary optimism in Surprised by Hope.



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Karen Zacharias

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:24 am


Excellent piece, Scot. Amen. Amen. Amen.



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Anonymous

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:31 am


As I was saying… » Blog Archive » Evangelicals and the Election

[...] http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=4370 [...]



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Randy

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:35 am


Amen and Amen to Scot’s comments. I’m not really sure what Angie means (#2) but life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are illusory concepts…and inextricably tied to American ideology, not Jesus Christ. Voting will not bring on the Kingdom, but it can advance American ideology…whatever that is, was, or becomes. Well said, Scot. Thanks.



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kj

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:39 am


This piece is the only thing keeping me from being completely despondent about the current state of the campaign. Thank you, sir.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:46 am


Yes. With the practically “evangelical” fervor I witness among Christians, it’s quite evident that our hope is misplaced. I’ve got some fervently working on me now. We put too much and the wrong kind of weight on this, I think, and I also think we can all be guilty of this from time to time.
God uses nations, even our own (the U.S.) in his Mission, but our confidence will be misplaced if it’s in what he uses; it must be in him and trying to live according to his working.



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John Frye

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:47 am


Scot,
Sometimes I sense that evangelicalism has been so seduced by USAmerican power that our unholy alliance with any political party is considered biblical obedience. Apocalyptic categories are used to pressure for votes and this signals that the Bible has become a political tool rather than the grand Story to save us from the empty promises of human beings. This is so sad.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:48 am


I will say, though, that I tend to see what God does through nations and the U.S. as rather an aside, as the heart of the work is through his people, the church.



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reJoyce

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:48 am


Thank you. I needed this today. (Much more than I needed the hateful political e-mail that someone forwarded me this morning.)



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Ted M. Gossard

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:50 am


God’s work in the Romes of this world has its place. Like Scot says, in the work of the gospel, to free God’s people for that work. And it’s big, about all of creation in the new creation in Jesus, I believe.
Good post and thanks, Scot.
John, #7, Excellent point.



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sojourner

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:51 am


If we invite God into our decision process and we believe and behave as if He has provided direction, then we have made a connection between flesh and spirit – hope and faith – God and man.



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Bill

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:59 am


Well said. One thing you said, “I hope we resolve poverty and dissolve our educational problems and racism.”
None of these is solved by Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, socialists, communists, fascists, Ralph Nader, etc.
No. Racism is a heart problem and you can’t legislate it away. Poverty, as bad as it is, wasn’t even eradicated by Christ when He walked His earth. Partly a heart problem, partly a politcal problem, partly spiritual, partly economic and legislation won’t solve it. Maybe the Church ought to pitch in more than it does. Hmmm. Talk about missional. “The poor you have with you always.” It depends what you do about it (ignore or engage).
Education, not sure if this is completely a government issue that will be corrected by any politcal party. Goverment creates educational problems more than solves them. Once again, I wonder if the Church could do anything about this? Hmmm.
All of these dissolve when we set our hearts, souls, mind and strength on God and we love our neighbors as ourselves.



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Anonymous

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:07 am


The Hope of Man « i’m still thinkin

[...] Read this post by Scot McKnight. Its really good. Our hope is in the gospel of God. God???s mission is gospel-shaped. Some today want to reduce gospel to what we find in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, while others want to expand it to bigger proportions (and I???m one of the latter), we would do well at election time to re-align ourselves once again with the gospel as God???s good news for our world. Therein lies our hope. [...]



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Angie Van De Merwe

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:07 am


Because of some of the comments, I must suggest that one party’s platform is not our hope…no..for it is the discourse itself that brings about an attitude of humility before a God that we cannot comprehend.
The discourse is an education about issues that are too big to be solved and yet, we continue to hope for resolution, somehow. Just because there is no resolution in the present and there is much evil that we would like to see dissolved, does not mean that we don’t work toward and for the values of, yes, American “ideals”. For American “ideals” are God’s “ideals”. Isn’t this what Jesus worked for? Hope for those that were not included? We must decide for ourselves where we fit in struggling to bring about resolution or hope…
Because I do believe that God’s desire is for life, liberty and blessing for all…



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Bob Brague

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:14 am


God’s desire is for holiness and all that that encompasses.



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Neil

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:18 am


Thanks for the good word–it’s absolutely true. In addition, we might add that not only is our hope not in political parties and candidates, but also that our hope is not in the Cubs.



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dopderbeck

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:21 am


Excellent



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Anonymous

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:22 am


Radical Legacy » The Election and a disciple

[...] Part of being a disciple of Christ is keeping focused on Him while circumstances pull us toward other distractions.? Elections, especially national elections, tend to? fall into this category as they place our hope and energy in other power structures.? Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed? writes about how to avoid that? particular trap.? How we handle such events is a reflection of our focus, and is being observed by those around us. [...]



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Anonymous

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:23 am


Elections and Hope | Through a Glass Darkly

[...] Posted on October 3, 2008 Excellent post on Jesus Creed.? A must-read for all of us during election season. [...]



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Adam D

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:30 am


Now that preaches!



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ChrisB

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:38 am


If [whoever] wins and the evangelical becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that evangelical has an eschatology of politics.
Um, “Golden Days” = “the Kingdom of God?”
People can be very, very happy/excited or discouraged about the outcome of a presidential election without mistaking it for the second coming. In one sense, it’s akin to having “your” team win the Superbowl.
As I said here before, no president can bring in the Kingdom, but he sure can screw up the earth. Relief that [the other guy] didn’t win and won’t get that chance isn’t misplacing our hope. Frankly I’m getting tired of the new “prophetic” line that American Christians worship politics. I think those who believe this are a small minority.



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Travis Mamone

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:58 am


Amen. Thank you for reminding us where our hope really comes from.



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B-W

posted October 3, 2008 at 9:48 am


I’m torn on this one. On one hand, I want to affirm your main point, that no political candidate or election can hope to fix all the problems that plague humanity. But I think you too quickly connect our potential worldly hope or despair to our eschatology. I used to think that elections didn’t matter (not your position, as you make quite clear). The aftermath of 9/11 changed that. There will obviously be those who disagree with me, and we’ll never know for certain, but I’m convinced that if the election of 2000 went the other way, we wouldn’t be in the sorry state that we are now as an American nation. I therefore held great despair when the election of 2004 failed to reverse that course.
Does that mean that I have an eschatology of politics? Based on empire? I don’t think so. I have no illusions that everything would have been “fixed” by a Kerry victory. At best, I think it might have stemmed the bleeding. But it was still important to me that the bleeding be stopped, and that simply didn’t happen. Instead, the nation “stayed the course” for at least four more years, with at least some quite predictable results.
If I care about the direction of our nation, and care about the outcome of the election (something with which you, Scot, seem to agree with me on), I see no contradiction between being “depressed and hopeless” (in worldly terms) about a bad result, while still realizing that everything is ultimately in God’s hands. It’s not a failure of eschatology, it seems to me, to be upset that things will (in that scenario) get worse before they get better. I still have ultimate hope, you might say, and I will still maintain enough of that kind of hope to continue to do my part (as part of God’s church) to improve things here on earth.
Just because I have rather strong feelings about the outcome of the election doesn’t change that. Don’t be so quick to connect these strong feelings to my eschatology.



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BeckyR

posted October 3, 2008 at 10:08 am


I come across as conflicted on this issue. I do not believe we are to build a christian nation through politics, or that is, the imposition of morals created s law by congress. We are to first of all just live our christian life and hope there comes opportunity to verbally share our faith. We become christians one by one and that is what makes a christian nation, not imposed morals.
On the other hand there are some moral related bills that can be passed in congress that reflect hhristian morals. And I’m all for that. It ranges from the abortion issue to social services issues. But that does not make us a christian nation. Just gives us some good things.



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L.L. Barkat

posted October 3, 2008 at 10:23 am


This question of hope, how much we participate in its fruition and how much is in God’s hands, I never can quite settle it.
In the meantime, I do feel called to act justly in my own little space. And to walk hand in hand with The Merciful One. (I love that title for God, btw… am teaching Hebrew to my kids and found that the other day… imagine having a name like The Merciful One!)



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Crowm

posted October 3, 2008 at 10:39 am


Totally agree here Scot!
It’s amazing that after posting today and surfing others, I read this post. There seems to be a theme today.
Thanks and blessings!



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Travis Greene

posted October 3, 2008 at 11:08 am


“For American ???ideals??? are God???s ???ideals???. Isn???t this what Jesus worked for?”
No, it isn’t.



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Randy

posted October 3, 2008 at 2:52 pm


I see that Scot’s post has generated quite a bit of good and thought provoking discussion. Just what we need.
Peace,
Randy



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Anthony

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:26 pm


If I remember correctly, about 1500 years ago a bunch of Christians erroneously aligned the mission of the Church with the well being of an empire, and consequently began to wonder if the Gospel was going to continue when a Barbarian King sacked the capital city of that empire, a city long considered a beacon of hope, and a symbol of order in the world. Fortunately, a well known North African Bishop thought otherwise and penned a classic that has continued to call Christians to be very careful when considering providence, politics, and the difference between the hope that is offered by the city of God and the hope that is offered by the city of Man.



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Julie Clawson

posted October 3, 2008 at 9:17 pm


I have to agree with ChrisB here -
“As I said here before, no president can bring in the Kingdom, but he sure can screw up the earth. Relief that [the other guy] didn???t win and won???t get that chance isn???t misplacing our hope. Frankly I???m getting tired of the new ???prophetic??? line that American Christians worship politics. I think those who believe this are a small minority.”
It’s much bigger than what we place our trust in – preventing further injustice is as big of an issue as “hope”



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Wendy

posted October 4, 2008 at 5:19 am


to angie, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. let’s not equate the importance of a man-made document (the declaration of independence) with the bible. that’s a big mistake that we american christians make over and over . . .



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Anonymous

posted October 4, 2008 at 7:42 pm


Paul M. Dubuc » Blog Archive » Where Is Our Hope?

[...] “Where is our hope?” is the title of a recent posting on Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed, and it sums up pretty accurately my own preferred attitude toward the coming November elections. I try to make informed decisions when I vote. I try to listen to advocates for both sides and read different points of view. It often happens that the more I do this the less clear my choices seem to get. It’s especially difficult when I’m surrounded by so many people who believe the choices are clear. I marvel at, and sometimes envy, their certitude on the matter. Eventually I come to what I think is a reasonably confident decision according to my own conscience and, in the process, a hopefully respectful attitude toward those who disagree with it. I think it’s helpful to understand McKnight’s use of the theological term eschatology in the meaningful sense of what we view as being of ultimate importance, the means by which God fulfills his purpose for humankind. It’s important to me to remember that politics is not my faith, my ultimate source of hope. My faith informs my political choices but it is not identical with them. I sometimes wish I could split my vote and give different candidates a percentage. Maybe if we could do this it would relive the pressure that so many seem to feel in seeing their own, and everyones else’s, vote as an expression of 100% confidence in a candidate. We wouldn’t be so tempted to only listen to one side and disparage the other. But maybe the better solution is just to realize that we must often make difficult choices in this world, make them as responsibly as we can and live as best we can with the ambiguity and uncertainty knowing that our ultimate hopes lie above and beyond them. [...]



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Anonymous

posted October 5, 2008 at 11:50 pm


from where I’m sitting 10-5-08 « brandon clements

[...] In the midst of election year, in the throngs of how we as Christians should participate/respond to the culture we live in, this article is a good reminder about where our hope is found. We need to remember that our trust and hope is always found in the true King and never in the next Caesar. [...]



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Anonymous

posted October 6, 2008 at 7:41 pm


I do (mostly) know what’s going on down there! «

[...] And to keep it all in Godly perspective, I came across a blog post by Scot McKnight entitled Where Is Our Hope? This is the attitude I think all Christians should take as November 4 approaches. [...]



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