Monday, February 4, 2008

Salads, Whole Grains and the Goal of History

I've been eating more vegetables lately. Of course, I've been on that track for some time. A fellow student of mine in seminary, noted for his sharp mind, and keen eloquence, once stopped mid-sentence, dumbfounded by the strange, green grasses I pulled out of a bag and started munching during a theology seminary course. A round-table setting, I had the perfect angle of being next to, but of the the peripheral vision of, our instructor, Dr. Forbes. Wheatgrass, apparently, was not in my fellow student's category of eligible edibles.

Now, in eating vegetables and whole grains, I am startled by how easy it is for me to simply go to the store--at any hour and on any day--and purchase for myself a bag of spinach or mixed greens (organically grown, even), take them home and have a highly nutritious, life affirming, body-says-yee-ha! rejoicing meal. Not too long ago, such a thing would be unheard of. I am amazed at the dependency we have upon farms, logistics, packaging, fuel, highways--and yes, even rain. If it weren't for industry with its smoke-belching machines, I wouldn't be able to satiate my bodily need for things that are contrary (too some) to age and all its technologies: power plants, irrigation systems, farm equipment--the list goes on and on.

Not too long ago, children died in childbirth, along with their mothers, at an alarmingly high rate. Children also died of diseases that are now cured. Myself, I would not be able to walk today if it weren't for anethetics, and the precise power of medical surgery.

All of this makes me think of God's goal for human history. God has set up his kingdom on this earth. It is a spiritual kingdom, it is not of this world, Jesus advised Pilate. And we often think of this world, this physical world in gnostic terms: full of evil matter. Not that many Christians would admit this, but the proof is in the pudding. Many Christians have a negative view of history, of material things, of all things natural. Nevertheless, God's kingdom is here on this earth--this physical earth. And we humans are just that--human. Christ came in a body. His kingdom, of course, is not of this world in the sense that it neither originates from this world nor does it follow the principles of this world. God's kingdom rather, is subsumed under the auspices of his rule--his law (not the law of Moses as an entire system, but God's law, his nature, his desires for mankind as revealed in the entirety of Scripture).

The goal of human history can be nothing less than victory for the Godhead through the implementation of God's kingdom through the church of Christ. The gnostic tendency on the contrary is found in the sentiments of fundamentalist doctrine found in premillennial dispensationalism. The latter issues a dismal understanding of the goal of human history: we tough it out until the rapture, for this earth is not my home. The worse life gets and the more wars, natural disasters, disease and all-around general suffering there is is all for the better, because we know the end is near.

But the parables of Jesus offer a different picture: the kingdom of God will grow like the wheat in a farmer's field. The kingdom of evil will be present, and we will suffer pain, injustice, martydom and other maladies. But the kingdom of God will continue to grow. In Daniel, it is the rock that starts like a small pebble and grows into a mountain and covers the whole earth. Jesus taught that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church. How can we expect anything else but ultimate victory for his disciples?

So, when I am housebound in a cold Michigan winter, and yet am able to eat fresh vegetables grown in a farm in California, I am absolutely amazed at the prosperity we have here in our great country. How are we able to feed so many hundreds of millions of people every day? It is because God has blessed us with land, and the knowledge necessary in order to provide health, properity and freedom in our land. These principles are unique to our nation's heritage and they are unique to the blessings the Lord desired for his people under the old covenant. The new covenant offers much of the same with a view to victory for God's people. The blessings of God's kingdom are spiritual and physical. The meek shall inherit the earth.


Flickernail said...

There is more to the Gospel of Christ than kingdom making, there is discipleship making. Neither are independent of the other. Could it be that God works through both--those who are highly evangelistic and those who are highly kingdom driven?

chris van allsburg said...

I agree that discipleship and the growth of the kingdom must be conjoined. And, evangelistic efforts are a necessary component for the growth of the kingdom. I would see the great commission (making disciples of all nations, and teaching them to obey all Jesus has commanded) as the perfect call to fuse the two efforts into one complete purpose and goal.

thanks for the comment, flickernail!