Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thinking Regally

That is, thinking about life and history in terms of the kingdom of God. This has been a subtle change in me over the last few years, especially since I have been involved in reformed circles. A friend of mine also said thinking according to a kingdom paradigm encapsulates the changes he's made over the last ten years.

I went to a theological forum in November, which discussed the doctrine of justification, and almost mentioning in passing, one of the theologians present informed us how important it is for evangelical Christians to stop thinking soteriologically (doctrine of salvation) as first and foremost, but rather replace that with a foundation of kingdomness. When we think of Adam's call in the garden for example to take dominion of the earth, this is God's regal command to expand God's kingdom throughout the planet. In fact, it is God's kingdom that he is building through Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, Jesus and the Apostles and it doesn't stop there. God is active in history, and is using us, the Church to build his kingdom here on earth.

In contrast, thinking soteriologically, is much like revivalism. "Are you saved? You there! How about you? Are you saved?" And so on. I have grown tired of thinking in theses terms. Walking down the street and wondering if total strangers are saved or not can be very stressful, and encourage an unhealthy obsesssion for knowledge only God knows and has decreed. (Not that assurance of salvation is not known--leaving that aside for the moment).

A soteriological paradigm of existence carries with it an even greater problem, I think. It's soulish. It doesn't deal with "the whole man." But Jesus dealt with the whole man. He healed people, and told them to repent of their sins. The first words of his mouth were: "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand." Repentance and turning from sin are thought of in soteriological terms: being forgiven of sin, given eternal life, escaping the damnation of hell. But we repent in order to enter God's kingdom, not just escape hell, and live in thankfulness for being forgiven, and living under the power of the Holy Spirit in order to live holy lives. These things are necessary and right, but do not capture the total picture of meeting the needs of humans, or the rest of the needs of the planet: the animals, and the environment, for example.

Beginning with a regal approach to thinking about the Christian life starting with the cultural mandate of Adam to bring dominion to the earth under the auspices of God's sanction encourages us the look at the whole person. The whole person needs clean water, good food, clothing, shelter, good work. The whole person is made up of a body, a soul, emotions, hopes, dreams, unique gifts and personality. The whole person lives in a family, in a society, in a state, region and country. "Getting someone saved" without a view to the fulness of God's kingdom and the wishes God has for meeting the needs of the whole man diminshes the image of God in man and destroys the hope of the gospel in a world growing increasingly skeptical and hostile to the message of God's son.

God wants his children to prosper, and be happy and healthy. I dare say this in lieu of the false gospel of "health and wealth" and the other false gospel of "God wants to meet your needs." Both are false because they do the opposite of the soterioligal paradigm: promote the kingdom blessing at the expense of the necessary requirement of entrance: repentance of sin with a faith in the blood of Jesus. Moreover, not all of God's children will be happy and healthy. Many will die. But the parables of Jesus have a view to the victory of God in human history--our history--and much of that is paid for by means of the blood of the martyrs.

The kingdom of God brings paradox on many fronts. In this case, God wills freedom and prosperity for humans and for the earth and everything in it. However, he calls us to suffer, and deny ourselves and to not store up treasures on earth, but rather in heaven. For me, it means having ambition to succeed, to excel, to grow, to have aspirations, to believe that I am capable of good things--great things. It means redeeming, the home, the marriage, the arts, the culture, the politics & laws, the schools. It means redeeming everything. And everything we endeavor to do, as my friend says, must be thrown against the Cross to test it and see if it is good.


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