Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Religion or Revolution? 2

posted by Scot McKnight

Boyd.jpgGreg Boyd, in his newest book, The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution
, takes no prisoners, minces no words, makes his points, states them clearly, and calls the reader to decision.

The issue for him has to do with whether we want to participate in what he calls the religion of Christianity or the Jesus revolution.
How central to the gospel and to the Christian faith is following Jesus? Is a Christian someone who follows Jesus? Or, would you define “Christian” in another way? How would you define it?
Boyd is like many: his own maturation in the faith led him to see the problems with the Church when held up against the standard of the Gospels. He learned the problem in three ways: the bloody history of the Church, the centrality of the example of Jesus in the Gospels/NT/early Christianity, and Moral Majority, which showed to him many things, not the least of which was their crusade to take back the country — and Boyd didn’t think that approach came from Jesus. Jesus didn’t seek change through assuming or gaining political power. He sought change through the cross.
“History teaches that the best way to destroy the Church is to give it political power” (13).
What is the Moral Majority’s “theory” on the relationship of State and Church? What is Boyd’s? What is the Kuyperian view? We need to discuss this so I’m counting on folks to pitch in…

His discovery is the discovery of the kingdom in the Gospels. “To the extent that any individual, church, or movement looks like that [Jesus], it manifests the Kingdom of God. To the extent that it doesn’t look like that, it doesn’t (14).  He defines kingdom as reign, as God’s reign, and any time someone submits to God’s reign the kingdom is present. 
The Christian religion focuses too much on what one believes. But the bride of Christ is married to Christ in its love. Obeying Jesus is the only way a person can be called a Christian. This kingdom is a new kind of Life.
Those who submit to the Jesus, who is the Head, form the Body. The Head and the Body form “Giant Jesus.”


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Sarah

posted November 4, 2009 at 12:30 am


“History teaches that the best way to destroy the Church is to give it political power” (13).
What does this say about groups such as Gamaliel who seek to influence the “powers that be” to make decisions that are consistent with religious values or ethics? Would Boyd support that work or reject it based on the above quote?



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MattR

posted November 4, 2009 at 1:02 am


The Moral Majority theory, I thought, sees our nation as inherently Christian, thus the role of the state included upholding ‘Christian’ morality. To me, it always came very close to America as the Kingdom/dominion type theology…
Boyd, seems to lean in the Anabaptist direction on church/state issues… ie: the church’s power is through the cross, non-violent coercion, etc. Whenever you mix political/state power and the church, both lose.



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Dave Leigh

posted November 4, 2009 at 1:55 am


Second to last paragraph, did you mean:
“But the bridge of Christ is married to Christ in its love.”
or:
“But the bride of Christ is married to Christ in her love.” ?



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Ted M. Gossard

posted November 4, 2009 at 2:56 am


I too, as I understand it, at least have a strong leaning to Anabaptist theology, but I wonder how to look at it in terms of political activity. Daniel certainly participated in the state, though this was prior to Jesus’ coming with the kingdom of God, a reign manifested in a new community of God’s people (I think that was Scot’s definition of kingdom, or close to it, in the recent lectures at Ashland Seminary).
We Christians can only speak of kingdom values, and the justice that Jesus brings, a higher justice, I believe. The justice in this world is messy in its application and puts everyone in compromising positions and practice sooner than later it seems. I can see a good Christian in political office who holds to less of an Anabaptist view. But I can’t see a Christian in at least major political office, or certainly not Commander-in-Chief (with all respect to the president who I largely support).
Yet I think Kuyper is right in that as Christians we need to work at bringing the kingdom of God to bear in every sphere of life in this world, political sphere included. Do we do that only indirectly as the light of the world and the salt of the earth in Jesus? I prefer to think largely so, but not solely so. So that we can and in love should take stands, for the poor, those not having access to health care, the unborn, etc. But just thinking and wondering what insight someone might have to help me on this.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted November 4, 2009 at 3:00 am


….I should say that I adhere to Anabaptist theology, coming full circle to that in which I was raised, as a Mennonite. I say strong leaning in the last comment I made, only because there are differences among Anabaptists as to what and how this theology plays out in life. (Anabaptists are certainly a spectrum in their beliefs and practice in reference to their distinctives.)



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Jim

posted November 4, 2009 at 7:12 am


If you want to hear a really fascinating interview get a copy of Krista Tippett’s interview with Charles Colson, Greg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne.
One of the great things about it is that it gathers much of what is in this discussion side by side. (it was a panel interview) Can be obtained via “Speaking of Faith” here…
http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/evangelical_politics/
(Incidentally, the picture at that link is priceless; sort of shows the evolution of the evangelical church over the last 40 years or so in dress.)



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Dan

posted November 4, 2009 at 8:09 am


Any critique of the Moral Majority also has to look at Jim Wallis and “God’s Politics” with the same level of scrutiny.
Most conservative Christians I know do not believe in a “Christian nation” in the sense they are often accused of. They believe there are some broad Christian principles that are universal truths, things like “do not murder, do not steal” that need to be codified into civil law to have a stable society. They do not in any way want a national church or a tight mingling of church and state.
I would put it this way, they agree that the structure or machinery of the church should not be linked to the structure or machinery of the state, but they are equally convinced that individual citizens can, should and must elect representatives that share certain core values.
My frustration with these discussions is that the “right” is so often accused of “seeking power” by opposing live birth infanticide, partial birth abortion, the redefinition of the family. Those on the left who advocate for “social justice” issues, opposition to racism, opposition to particular wars, opposition to sexism, are not “seeking power” just advocating “kingdom values”. I think Boyd overplays the “power over” notion and applies it mostly to the right.



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T

posted November 4, 2009 at 8:10 am


On the first set of questions, yes, following Jesus is central to the Christian (little Christ) faith and to the gospel, IMO. Are we called to trust the atonement? Yes. But that is only one facet of trusting Jesus, which is the focus of the New Testament. Putting our faith in him simultaneously includes trusting his atonement, his resurrection, his promises, his teachings, his plan for overcoming evil, his Spirit, his ongoing leadership, joining his people, etc. The gospel is at the core, the proclamation of a person, the “Christ”-ened King, and his great deeds and plan for the world. This gospel calls us to quit working against him (because of what we all naturally trust and love) and start trusting, loving and following him above all.
But Luther defined “gospel”, despite the much larger NT usage, as “properly nothing else” than our justification. (Very odd for a founder of the ‘sola scriptura’ movement.) Our idea of God’s “salvation” has also been similarly whittled down from the much larger biblical usage of that term to our legal status alone. Our “orthodoxy”, our ‘right teaching’ or ‘right belief’ of Christianity only includes facts about Jesus, generally speaking, but no teachings of Jesus. I think it is hard to understate how thoroughly, at least in its core concepts and our mental mapping of the faith, that we have divorced being a Christian from becoming a little Christ. Kudos to Boyd and the many others that point this out.



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Rick

posted November 4, 2009 at 9:04 am


Part of the problem comes from those who equate the U.S. with Old Testament Israel (the promises and commands given then are the same for our nation now).
That being said, I agree with what Dan #7 stated,
“My frustration with these discussions is that the “right” is so often accused of “seeking power” by opposing live birth infanticide, partial birth abortion, the redefinition of the family. Those on the left who advocate for “social justice” issues, opposition to racism, opposition to particular wars, opposition to sexism, are not “seeking power” just advocating “kingdom values”.”



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Dec

posted November 4, 2009 at 9:36 am


I think trying to define a Christian is an almost impossible task. You could say that a Christian is a follower of Jesus, but which Jesus? As He says Himself, many will come to Him having cast out demons in His name, but He will claim to have never known them.
I think bringing the Holy Spirit in front and centre helps a whole lot when it comes to defining a Christian. Following Jesus is really about being led by the Spirit of God, so that our convictions and our conduct are constantly being shaped by the empowering presence of the Spirit. And more than that, being shaped into the form of a cross.



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Jjoe

posted November 4, 2009 at 9:37 am


Speaking as one who has been on both “sides,” one of the main reasons I am now a Democrat/Independent was the prevailing idea that being a Christian and being a Republican were the same thing.
Getting back to the question, I think there are a lot of people who would say they follow Jesus but instead pretty much ignore his teachings and follow Paul.
Or, alternatively, ignore his teachings because they’re already “saved.” This dovetails nicely with American culture, in which it’s all about the individual.



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Jason Powell

posted November 4, 2009 at 9:38 am


To Dan #7,
I’ve actually listened to Greg debate with Wallis about whether or not what Wallis would like to accomplish is much different than that of the Moral Majority. The premise is simple….politics can not create a true Kingdom type of reign.
Of course the fear is that if we jettison our efforts along social or political lines that all hell will break loose. That’s the type of fear that keeps extremists at both ends gaining “converts”. I think Greg would disagree…if…and only if…we the church returned to what we were called to do: Model the Kingdom and help people to follow Jesus.
Greg would say he is not a supporter of abortion. And yet, he realizes the issue is a sin issue…not a political one. No law will change the heart of men (or women).
Truly what is needed is a missional revolution. Individuals and churches taking on what Scot has called a more “robust gospel”. Living the ehtos of the Kingdom in front of the world (justice, mercy, reconciliation). And helping others to become radical followers and disciples of Jesus (evangelism). This is how the church influences culture–from the fringe. One life and one system at a time.
To the extent that we follow Jesus we are bringing the reality of the Kingdom to manifest itself in our world. The liberal failing (and honestly the conservative one too me thinks) is that somehow we are going to build…and arbiter the Kingdom. THAT’S NOT OUR JOB…IT’S JESUS’. Our job is to model and invite people to dream the dreams and envision the visions of what the Kingdom is like and then attempt to live our those dreams and visions in our dark world for the sake of people who hate us, who think we’re stupid, and who want nothing to do with us.
Viva Le Revolution!!!



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Joe James

posted November 4, 2009 at 9:41 am


I just want to say a quick word to the folks who keep appealing to the Old Testament for examples of seeking power and defending militarism.
Two things: First, I hope you realize that you have taken a step away from orthodox Christianity, when you attempt to usurp the Sermon on the Mount with an example from Daniel or David or Gamaleil. In other words, you are making little attempt to clarify or even deal with the fact that the earliest Christian communities did not allow their citizens to participate in the affairs of the state. They did not permit participation in the states wars or the states legislation. Any orthodox Christian has to wrestle with why the earliest Christians understood scripture this way. My understanding is that they placed primacy on the Sermon on the Mount as a way of ordering Christian Community. Secondly, you ignore large portions of Old Testament literature that abhor participating with the principalities and power brokers of the world. Indeed, the entire book of Hosea, is a poetic metaphor for Israel’s whoring with Assyria. In the end God tells Israel to repent and he tells them exactly what to say when they repent:
“Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount war-horses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
Then there is the clear split in Old Testament literature in I Samuel 8. This marks the time when Israel no longer trusts the invisible God as their King and Ruler, and calls for a tangible king, so they can “be like the other nations”. God warns them that they will be at constant war and much blood will be shed for man’s ends. You also have to deal with the fact that the Creation Narrative was tacked onto the beginning of Genesis around 586 BCE, under Babylonian captivity, as a way of countering the Babylonian Creation Narrative that claimed that the world began with the god’s fighting & warring against one another. The Hebrew narrative describes a world created out of God’s love and grace, in peace. Then you have to deal with the fact that nearly all (perhaps all) of the wars post-I Samuel 8, have a prophet in the wings begging Israel (in the name of YHWY) not to fight. Jeremiah even tells them it would be better to go to battle unarmed and die unjustly than to fight and win.
Orthodox Christianity holds to Jesus as the One who most fully embodied the will of God on earth. He taught and lived sacrificial peace-making. His primary means was the cross. The disciple is called to carry that same cross. Contrary to popular teaching on this passage (Mark 8:34-38), Jesus is not asking us to ward off immorality and struggle against our personal sins. He is rather calling us to give up our lives for the Kingdom on behalf of the world.



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Rick

posted November 4, 2009 at 9:45 am


Jason #12-
So if slavery was still legal, Greg would not try to stop it politically (in addition to trying to change hearts)?
“No law will change the heart of men (or women).” But it may save lives.



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John W Frye

posted November 4, 2009 at 10:13 am


While not my preference in the way it is said, “the church is Giant Christ,” I think Boyd is right in stressing “the body” as the agent of change, not individual little Jesus-revolutionaries. Christians are trying to figure out how to be personally radical and revolutionary, when it is Jesus Who is the Radical One. The church is the continuing presence of Jesus in the world, not a collection of little tiny individual revolutionaries.



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Joe James

posted November 4, 2009 at 10:13 am


Rick #14 –
I can’t speak for Boyd, but I think he would do something about slavery similar to what Clarence Jordan did in Georgia during a time a deep seeded racism and hatred towards African-Americans. Clarence Jordan started an interracial, Christian farming community in Americus, Georgia.
He could have appealed to the law against racial inequality (because it is indeed embedded in our very constitution!) but instead he formed an alternative community as a witness to the world of the deep south. They suffered persecution, abuse, even murder. But they prayerfully embodied God’s kingdom manifest on earth.
This, I think, is what Lee Camp, Greg Boyd, and others propose are appropriate Christian responses to social injustices. The embodying of a peculiar way that stands as a witness to the rebellious world around it.



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Rick

posted November 4, 2009 at 10:17 am


Joe James-
“This, I think, is what Lee Camp, Greg Boyd, and others propose are appropriate Christian responses to social injustices.”
That is a great response by Jordan. But does it need to be the only one? Does it always have to be an either/or, not a both/and?



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Joe James

posted November 4, 2009 at 10:29 am


Rick –
I think the prophetic warning of Lee Camp and Greg Boyd is that relying on power, legislation, and in general the imperial forces, to accomplish any ends, disregards faithfulness to and trust in God.
In other words, at what point in using the state’s means to accomplish the Kingdom’s ends do you become reliant upon the state in a way that betrays faithfulness to God. Wouldn’t, rather, the calling of discipleship require that we are not only faithful to God’s ends, but to his means as well?
I think what you ask is a very good question, but we must also ask ourselves how to avoid becoming Herodians!
Peace –
Joe



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T

posted November 4, 2009 at 10:43 am


I think it is clear from the NT that some of us will be called to give the gospel “to kings” and other political and governmental leaders. But this is not a gospel of forgiveness alone. It is a gospel that says that Jesus is–right now–the true and rightful lord of heaven and earth, in whom is eternal life, who offers amnesty for all rebels, but will eventually judge everyone (governor and governed alike) according to what they do. It says that now is the time to rearrange all one’s loyalties and loves around this Jesus. I know that causes some problems for American governors just like it did for Roman governors and Jewish leaders, but that’s the gospel. Jesus paid the ultimate price for the whole world and is entitled to ultimate love and allegiance from the whole world, right now.
That said, how Jesus would have that love and allegiance take shape for particular pols or future pols who hear it is probably more diverse than we are generally prone to accept.



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Jeremy Berg

posted November 4, 2009 at 11:22 am


Jason & Rick –
Here is Boyd’s thoughts on navigating the abortion issue: http://www.gregboyd.org/qa/christians-social-issues/what-is-your-stance-on-abortion/
We don’t have to guess or presume on most of Greg’s positions. They are available here:
http://www.gregboyd.org/category/qa/christians-social-issues/christians-politics/
Blessings!



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Rick

posted November 4, 2009 at 11:37 am


Joe James-
Just as seeing the US in the same light as Old Testament Israel is a problem, so is seeing the US in the same light as the Roman Empire. Using the term “the imperial forces” in the context of a democratic republic is not a fair representation.
In that regards, one must define “reliant upon”. If we put our trust in government, then that is a problem. However, if attempt to utilize the tool of government (as we can attempt to do in a democratic republic), then is that being unfaithful to God? Is that much different than utilizing medicine for healing? Is that too being unfaithful to God? Or is it using a tool He has made available.
Likewise, how far are we to take your limits of utilizing government? Should we not contact the police if we know of a crime?
All that being said, I appreciate and agree with your call to discipleship as our priority. I think that lack of emphasis has been a significant part of the problem.



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Michael A

posted November 4, 2009 at 12:11 pm


“if attempt to utilize the tool of government (as we can attempt to do in a democratic republic), then is that being unfaithful to God? Is that much different than utilizing medicine for healing?”
Rick,
Are we really going to compare the use of medicine to cure one’s own body with the use of government to control the use of another’s body or resources? If so, I’d rather forego the medicine.
I’m with the anabaptists when it comes to political power. Constantine did a huge harm to the church when he gave her power. The reformers, overall, made a decision to side with pragmatism (eg, Luther’s distinction between private and public life). I’m not sure that type of decision can really stand intense scrutiny.



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Joe James

posted November 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm


Rick –
Do you have a problem with John generalizing all kingdoms throughout history (and his own future)? He refers to them all as one functioning unit, whose ruler is Satan. Also, Luke does the same.
Peace –
Joe



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Rick

posted November 4, 2009 at 12:26 pm


Michael A.-
The medical analogy can be stretched too far, so I was not indicated a direct correlation. I was stressing the use of tools (government or medicine) on such issues as “healing” and protection.
I have read countering opinions on the question of Constantine’s decision, but I tend to agree with you.
Jeremy-
Thanks for the links.
Found it interesting that Boyd said, “This doesn?t mean it?s wrong to participate in politics. It just means we have to be careful to keep this participation distinct from the Kingdom of God and careful not to place our ultimate trust in it.”
And also, “We?re to pray for our leaders and sacrificially serve our neighbors. But we must never buy into the world?s ?power-over? way of solving social problems. So follow your conscience on political participation, but be careful, and never put your trust in it.”
Although I may think his decisions fall too far to one side, I think his overall concern is wise- We need to keep our motivations and trust in check when considering political involvement.
Joe James-
It sounds like you go beyond what even Boyd is advocating. You are calling for a full abandonment of Christians in politics and government, no exceptions. Is that correct?



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Joe James

posted November 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm


I don’t know that I am “calling” for that. I am, however, like Boyd, sympathetic towards those that do abstain from the politics.
Of course you bring up a good moral dilemma of “Would you call the police if…”
However, this is not the question at hand. (Although, I think the question is both a good one, and an important one!) The question we are dealing with is one of political influence within a particular state. My argument is that the moral goodness/badness of the state in question is biblically of no consequence.
I am of the mind that both ethically and theologically this is a question of engagement. Jesus undoubtedly was confronted with similar questions of engagement. The Zealots engaged at a particular level, with particular set of means, toward a particular end. Same with the Pharisees. Same with the Sadducees. Same with the Herodians. Jesus rejected all these “ways” of engaging the world. (See John Howard Yoder’s “The Original Revolution”)
The question for the serious disciple is why Jesus rejected them? If that question makes us uncomfortable, then we could at least ask ourselves why they empire rejected Jesus?



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John Sobert Sylvest

posted November 4, 2009 at 1:18 pm


I commend to all the thoughts of John Courtney Murray regarding the dangers of civic coercion. Humanity enjoys a rich institutional life, socially, economically, politically, culturally and religiously. The socioeconomic-politico-cultural realm is ordered, horizontally, toward interpersonal relations, which are juridical, and the church is not bound to any of their forms or systems.
The dignity and rights of persons and families and the exigencies of the common good are essentially juridical. Even then, only the public order aspect of the common good is the concern of the state, not the full common good, because excessive coercion, in the end, can not advance public virtue as well as, for example, substantive public argument, which makes for a better school of virtue. Moral statism thus violates the subsidiarity principle every bit as much as excessive economic interventionism.
For its part, then, the religious realm is ordered, vertically, in human relations to God, which are transtemporal.
While integrally-related, the juridical and transtemporal orders of discourse are also distinct in their modes of freedom. In the transtemporal order, the church enjoys a positive freedom “for” belief and evangelization. In the juridical order, the church enjoys a negative freedom “from” secular coercive constraints.
In my view, the church should not seek coercive assistance in furtherance of its mission, neither via social conservatism nor liberation theology. It does otherwise seek to permeate and improve the temporal order.



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Rick

posted November 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm


“The question we are dealing with is one of political influence within a particular state.”
What then makes this tricky is that, in a democratic republic, we are (in a sense) the government. We don’t work for the state or empire; rather, the government works for, and represents us.
We don’t want to use it for power. Instead, we want to use it, as a tool, to help and protect people- but not trusting in it, and not emphasizing it over our own efforts.
There have been instances in which this has worked. For example, the Celtic church was able to influence leaders (political and clan) to impact communities. Likewise, Wilberforce used his voice, and the voice of others, to put a stop to slavery in the UK.
You stated:
“I am, however, like Boyd, sympathetic towards those that do abstain from the politics.”
If that is their conviction, then I don’t disagree with you. However, as Boyd wrote, I see it as a matter of one’s “conscience”.
I would hope we could develop some kind of missional approach to politics and government, and could stress the danger of turning government/politics into an idol(s).



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Jason Powell

posted November 4, 2009 at 3:15 pm


Rick et al,
I believe there is nothing inherently wrong with voicing a faith based opinion in the political realm. I have and will do so based on how I think the ethics of the kingdom speak to such issues.
I say all that, and yet, I have no lasting or true hope that the Kingdom ethics that will shape my voting will, in fact, bring about a world that looks like the Kingdom
The world will be effected in a “Kingdom way” when the church…from the margin…moves out into the greater world to love, live, and evangelize like Kingdom members.
Politics has it’s role…and politicians do to. But their efforts will always be flawed (liberal and conservative). I simply refuse to place my hope for the future in that arena.
Too simple an answer for too big a problem, but I’ve got to go to work.



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Joe James

posted November 4, 2009 at 3:54 pm


Rick –
I agree with that last statement. I would be more than willing to work that out.
I still am a little nervous about how confidently you are able to distinguish the political structures of America from those of other nation-states in a way that frees us from the claims of John in Revelation about Babylon, and Luke in Luke 4. Indeed you say, “What then makes this tricky is that, in a democratic republic, we are (in a sense) the government. We don’t work for the state or empire; rather, the government works for, and represents us. We don’t want to use it for power. Instead, we want to use it, as a tool, to help and protect people- but not trusting in it, and not emphasizing it over our own efforts.”
I am just not able to make such a distinction theologically. I would still be curious to know what you do with Luke 4. Indeed here we see the very temptation to Jesus is to shift the power of government to him (of all nations). It seems to me to cross the line into the devil’s playground.
But I definitely am more sympathetic and understanding of your own approach to government than most evangelicals!
Peace –
Joe



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Blessed Economist

posted November 4, 2009 at 8:15 pm


I really appreciate many of Boyd?s insights. His exposure of Christian blessing of military power is excellent.
Boyd suggests that the ?Church does best when it is a persecuted minority?. The problem with this is that when it ?does best?, it grows and often becomes a majority. The issue that he does not really deal with is that once, Christian increase to a majority, they must start having an influence in the political sphere.
The problem is that most Christians think that ?having and influence? means moving into halls of government and wielding the power that was previously held by others, and using it to impose Christian values. Jim Wallis would use this power to establish social justice. The moral majority would use it to prevent abortion. Both are wrong, because the kingdom of God is not established by political power.
We need a totally different vision based on voluntary authority, in which as the gospel is successful, the political sphere is turned upside down and mostly shrinks away. This will not happen if Christians leave the political sphere alone.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted November 5, 2009 at 5:50 am


I wanted to add yesterday that I appreciated John Frye’s comment- #15, but this blog told me some error had occurred, but that my comment hadn’t been lost, just press here, which I did, but it was lost. This one will get through since I’ll remember to copy it before sending.



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Rick

posted November 5, 2009 at 7:03 am


Jason #28-
Well said.
Joe James #29-
Good thoughts. In regards to Luke 4 (and the other passages mentioned), I agree that there are aspects of government/politics that we need approach with caution. Essentially, we need to avoid having a mindset that we can trust it, or use it as an ultimate sense of power. It should be seen as just 1 tool (among many), not the main priority.
However, for those of us in the US (and other democratic republics, or related structures), we live in a tension of being a part of that structure, having it work for the people, yet also (at times) it being a different entity. If we are to speak Truth to power (Jesus to Pilate, Paul wanting to go to Rome, etc…), we have the unique opportunity to do that from the outside, and the inside.
In a missional approach, I don’t think we should limit opportunities to reflect Christ by blocking off certain sections of culture and society from our efforts. Politics/government are 1 section of our society. The problem is that many have just focused on that section, and ignored or limited involvement in other sections.
All that being said, we should keep in mind the passages you mentioned, and guard ourselves from entering into an unhealthy relationship or idolizing ungodly power.



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Joe James

posted November 5, 2009 at 10:09 am


Rick –
Amen to all of that!
Something Stanley Hauerwas asked one time about “When does Romans 12 apply to Caesar?” made me think about the church’s witness to the state. John Howard Yoder even wrote a book “The Christian Witness to the State”.
I wonder though if there is a way that Christians can have a meaningful witness to the state without defiling itself (which, in my opinion, the church has done a fair amount of in this country!). I mean, ultimately the state is going to have to confess that it is self-serving and unfaithful to the way of Christ… right?
Peace –
Joe



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Rick

posted November 5, 2009 at 11:29 am


Joe James-
“I mean, ultimately the state is going to have to confess that it is self-serving and unfaithful to the way of Christ… right?”
As a separate entity? Yes. All the individuals involved? No.
Any institution can be seen as a self-serving in some sense, including businesses. Yet do we want to totally avoid them?
Your question, “I wonder though if there is a way that Christians can have a meaningful witness to the state without defiling itself”, is the heart of the matter. There are no easy answers, but I don’t think it means we should not try- especially if we see it as 1 more mission field, rather than a way to gain power.



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nathan

posted November 5, 2009 at 1:08 pm


the “Right” gets more attention because it is undoubtedly the “majority report” amongst evangelical christians.
the “substance” of the Right’s positions are not really what’s being critiqued.
it’s the “how”, the means, by which they have done their work that is worthy of critique.



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Joe James

posted November 5, 2009 at 2:21 pm


Rick –
Agreed. This may seem like a “left field” question, but as I read your responses, I am curious to know if you think the American Empire ought to repent of it’s foundational sins (genocide, murder, greed, racism, slavery, etc) and if you do think so, then what would such repentance look like, concretely speaking?
Peace –
Joe



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Rick

posted November 5, 2009 at 3:09 pm


Joe James-
Interesting question(s), especially since it would mean using the power of government for moral restitution. I can’t say I have “concrete” solutions, since they are complex situations.
But overall, I would first hesitate to call it the “American Empire”, since “Empire” can bring to mind harsh regimes such as Rome. There have been bad characters in American history, but there also have been quality characters. But the U.S., with all its faults and mistakes, still strives for worthy goals such as freedom and liberty. That cannot be overlooked. However, I get the spirit of your wording.
I wonder if a government entity, a secular entity at that, can “repent”, or is that a responsibility for individuals within government.
This then brings up the issue of legal action. If a nation “repents” for past sins, then what does that mean (legally) for those today who had nothing to do with those situations? We need to be careful on that front.
All that being said, I think affirmative action was and is a step in the right direction. Clearly there is more to do on the racial front, but it is also clear that great gains have been made. I always think that the racial situation in the country is not as bad as some make it out to be, but nor is it a good as others make it out to be. I do think more focus should be made to make sure African-American communities are being adequately equipped so they can have access to equal opportunities. Still much to do, but there is a trail of progress in recent decades brings hope.
In regards to Native Americans, I think they have not had sufficient focus put on their situation. They have not been properly equipped- not by a long shot. In short, $ and training is needed in those communities.
In regards to greed, that is a matter of individual hearts. We can only look at the actions/consequences that come from greed (some mentioned above), but we cannot hold an institution such as government responsible for “greed”.
To sum up, if I had to look at what actions should be done, it would be to make sure those communities that are still suffering from such injustices are allowed and provided the necessary focus and resources so they (quickly) can have equal access to the vast opportunities (“life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness”) the U.S. provides.
But again, your question is good. Hopefully Christians can lead the way towards further progress in healing those areas and situations.



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Joe James

posted November 6, 2009 at 11:56 am


Rick –
Thanks for your response. Well said… I agree with most of what you said. I wish we could talk in person about that word “empire” Ha!
Peace –
Joe James



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