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A Jerk after God’s Own Heart (When He Comes 3)

[Read When He Comes part 2 here.]

If only they had known.

The simple truth was that in both of these stories, the kings were deeply flawed. King Arthur was often naïve, jealous, and angry—eventually tearing his own kingdom apart and driving it to destruction. Richard the Lion Hearted, the real-life king of the Robin Hood stories, was so focused on crusading and gaining power in France, that he completely neglected his own kingdom. Neither of these guys was someone that you wanted to pin your hopes on.

Too bad they weren’t like King David.

David, of course, was the great king of Israel, a man after Gods own heart (Acts 13:22). He defeated most of Israel’s enemies and established a kingdom of note in the ancient world. Indeed, he was such an amazing king that after his death, all future kings of Israel would be measured against his standard. Did they love God as much as he did? Did they rule as wisely as he did? Were they a king like David? David was the gold standard for kings in Israel.

David was a jerk.

You heard me right. David spent most of his life killing people. He got so good at it that people sang songs about how many people he’d killed. Now, you might want to excuse all the killing because he did most of it in battle. Still, you don’t get to be really good at slaughtering people by being a nice guy. Nice guys get dead. David was not a nice guy. Indeed, he even stole another man’s wife. As the king, he could have had any number of available women. Instead, he chose a married woman. And, to make it worse, when she got pregnant and his attempts to cover up his adultery failed, David had the husband killed. Even late in his life, David was still making decisions that ran contrary to God’s will. Just before he died, he led Israel to do something that he knew full well God did not want him to do. The result? Thousands of Israelites died (2 Sam. 24).

So, David was a violent, adulterous murderer who repeatedly acted against God’s will.

David was a man after God’s own heart.

What? How can that possibly be? Surely God does not want us all to be violent, adulterous murderers. Of course not. David made some terrible mistakes. But, what made him a man after God’s own heart was that he understood grace. David knew full well that he was broken and sinful, unable to love God perfectly, and prone to error. But, David also knew that God was loving and gracious, always ready to forgive, and constantly calling his people to return to him. So, when David blew it, he threw himself before God and called on his mercy and grace (Psa. 51). Even in his brokenness and sinfulness, he was a man after God’s own heart.

So, Israel had a pretty good king. He was a great warrior, a talented leader, and more importantly, he was a man after God’s own heart. But, he was still flawed, broken, and sinful. David defeated Israel’s enemies and established his kingdom in the land, but David could not restore shalom. Indeed, his life often resembled shoah more than shalom. And, like all of us who are locked in bondage to sin and death, David died. His reign ended. And soon after, his kingdom shattered. David was a great king, but the people needed more.

And God promised to send them precisely what they needed. God promised that one day he would establish David’s kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:29; Dan 2:44). And, the king who would sit on this throne would be unlike any previous king. This king would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” and there will be no end to his government and his peace (Isa. 9:6-7). His reign will be characterized by true righteousness, leading God’s people into the kind of security that only a perfect king could provide (Jer. 23:5-6).

Just as he did in the Garden (Gen. 3:15), God looks at the plight of his people and he promises.

I will send someone. And, when this one comes, everything will be better. I will establish my king on my throne, and he will accomplish my purposes. David was good, but the coming king is far, far better.

When he comes…God’s kingdom will be established forever.

[This is the third part of a chapter on OT promises for the future of God’s people. Read the rest here.]

No King, No Kingdom (When He Comes 2)

I grew up on stories about King Arthur. Great stories. Every time you turn the page Arthur and his knights are feasting, celebrating, jousting, slaying monsters, and just having an all-around good time. It sounds like a great place to be, with peace, justice, and plenty for everyone (except the monsters, of course). And, at the center of it all, the king—leading, ruling, judging, and partying. It all works because the king is there ruling over his kingdom, making sure that everything is as it should be, striking out at anything that threatens the  peace.

But, what’s a kingdom without a king? The depressing part about the Arthur stories is that you know it won’t last. By the end of the story, Arthur will be dead and his kingdom will lie in ruins. (If you didn’t know how the story ended, I’m terribly sorry for giving it away. And, by the way, the Titanic sinks.) Without Arthur, everything falls apart.

It’s quite a simple principle really: no king, no kingdom. Until he comes back, nothing is going to be the way that it should be.

The same idea shapes the story of Robin Hood and his merry men. From one perspective, this is a story about a bunch of men who spend all their time camping, drinking, wrestling, singing, and annoying rich people. To me, it always sounded like Peter Pan for adults.

At the heart of the Robin Hood story, however, rests something much more significant. The kingdom is broken. Richard the Lionhearted, England’s king, has been gone for many years. In his absence, Prince John, the king’s brother, and all of John’s cronies have taken over the kingdom, oppressing the people and pillaging the land. The land is now ruled by greed, power, violence, and hatred.

Robin Hood and his merry men have a very different vision of how things should be. They see a kingdom ruled by grace and peace, a kingdom where the rich help the poor, the strong serve the weak, and everything is as it should be. They see a kingdom where the king rules again.

In many ways, these are stories about faith and hope. Despite all of the problems the kingdom faces, all the enemies they encounter, and all the evil they see, Robin Hood and his men press on toward their vision of the kingdom. The king has been gone for so long, many begin to wonder if he will ever return. But, Robin Hood’s men continue to long for what could be, what should be.

However, it all rests on the coming of the king. Robin Hood and his men can trick Prince John day long, and it won’t change anything. They can steal from the rich, give to the poor, and have all the forest parties their hearts desire. But, without the king, the kingdom will still be broken, evil powers will still control the way things go, people will still be oppressed, the vision will remain unrealized.

When the king comes, however, it will all be different. That’s the hope at the center of the story. That’s what makes Robin and his men work so hard toward this future vision. That’s what makes them “merry”. In the face of all the injustice and oppression, they have their vision of the kingdom and they live out that vision to the best of their ability in the forest – their little outpost of how things should be. And they have hope.

When he comes, it will all be better. When he comes, the kingdom will be restored and things will be as they should be.

When he comes….

[This is the second part of a chapter on OT promises for the future of God’s people. Read the first part here.]

Flotsam and jetsam (1/20)

  • Peter Wallace comments on the future of preaching, as he observed it at the second annual National Festival of Young Preachers.

I have seen the future of preaching, and it’s a beautiful thing.

When Mark Noll declared that the scandal of the evangelical mind was that there was no mind, he meant to criticize the lack of cultural and theological engagement among evangelicals. I agree there is a scandal involving the evangelical mind, though I understand the problem in the exact opposite way. It is not that there is no mind, but rather that there is no evangelical.

The kingdom of God, then, is the good news that the right rule of God, and the right rule of man—a rule our ancestors Adam and Eve lost—have come together in the right rule of one right God-man: Jesus of Nazareth. In his sin-resisting life, his wisdom-saturated teaching, his demon-exorcising power, his substitutionary, conquering death, and his justifying, victorious resurrection, Christ is king.

As Wittgenstein demonstrated, we cannot live, even at the level of everyday life, without trusting. And yet trust is a theologically ambivalent starting point for a theory of knowledge because of the persistent untrustworthiness of human beings after the Fall. Not only have the noetic effects of sin crippled our perceptions, they have given us reason to doubt the motives of others.

From a grammatical point, it seems clear that this is the right interpretation of vs. 38 which simply says in the Greek “he said to them ‘Enough’!”  It does not read “Two swords are enough”. What we have here is an idiomatic expression used to close off a discussion.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/10)

This shift of focus away from the activity of the church towards the activity of God, however, exposed a critical bifurcation in the argument, a fork in the road—and many theologians took the concept of missio Dei in a direction altogether unintended by Barth and the German missiologists….If the church participates in the mission of God, the possibility arises that the mission of God in the world may be thought to happen more or less independently of the church.

But there are other indications that though this event was used to bring about peace for a time, the twelve might not have been as faithful leaders at this point as we might have hoped.

One of my pet peeves is the fact that most Christian lay people and even many pastors don’t seem to know what they think the “Kingdom of God” means or have no idea what the Bible really says about it and yet use the phrase all the time.

  • Here’s a roundtable discussion on Christians an Internet Presence with Trevin Wax, Steve McCoy, and Brandon Smith discussing social media, blogging, and other forms of Christian presence on the internet. One interesting quote from Trevin Wax:

The blogosphere is a neat thing, but it’s also a gigantic echo chamber, and the noisy links create the false perception that we are very important and have something so valuable to say.

  • If you spent way too much time during your teen years (or youth  ministry years) watching The Princess Pride, here is the quiz for you: “Prepare to Die: A Princess Bride Quiz.” I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I scored a 10 out of 10 on this one.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/6)

I actually had work to do today, so I’m a little slow in getting this out. Nonetheless, here are some interesting links for your web browsing pleasure.

For believers…the most decisive turning point was the year 33, when a Jewish rabbi—the Messiah—was raised from the dead in Roman-occupied Palestine….This turning-point is not only celebrated but is deepened and widened in its effects every Lord’s Day.  Wherever this gospel is taken, a piece of heaven—the age to come—begins even now to dawn in the dusty corners of this passing evil age.

While shame and remorse can be an appropriate motivating factor to correct ways of thinking and living, in the wrong hands it is often misused. Stigma unaccompanied by truth is merely an apparatus of a culture not oriented toward Christ, no matter how much they may resemble the Church.

All this being said, no, you do not have to read Lewis to be a thinking Christian. No, Lewis does not answer every question. No, Lewis is not the greatest theologian of the twentieth century. But I personally have found Lewis to be a worthy dialogue partner and someone who anyone can access, great or small, theologian or lay person. You don’t have to read Lewis, but you won’t go wrong in doing so either.

Give us some examples of university theology that has no ecclesial value or some ecclesial theology that reveals how this can be done better by pastors. I’m ready to be convinced but I want to see what is actually involved here.

How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?

That is the question that The Gospel Coalition has been asking this week, soliciting responses from Don Carson, Ray Ortlund, Russell Moore, and Mike Wittmer. In sum, they responded as follows:

Don Carson:

  • By making sure that we actually do evangelism.
  • By being careful not to malign believers of an earlier generation.
  • By learning, with careful study of Scripture, just what the gospel is, becoming passionately excited about this gospel, and then distinguishing between the gospel and its entailments.
  • By truly loving people in Jesus’ name.

Ray Ortlund

  • By changing the question to, “How can Christians neglect the work of justice in the world without undermining evangelism?”

Russell Moore

  • By aligning our mission with the mission of Jesus, which included not just personal regeneration but also disciple-making.
  • By understanding the gospel accounts in terms of redemptive love for the whole person, both body and soul.
  • By understanding the gospel as a message of reconciliation that is both vertical and horizontal, establishing peace with both God and neighbor.

Mike Wittmer

  • By recognizing that Christians need to stop the perpetrators of evil and violence.
  • By recognizing that Christians need to seek justice to help the victims of oppression.
  • By understanding that we do both of these ultimately because we love Jesus – we do these things, and we tell them about Jesus while we do, because they matter to him.

Reading through these responses, I have to say that I resonated with Russell Moore’s the most (though Carson’s was pretty good). Moore was the one who made the clearest connection between the Gospel as the good news of God’s redemptive plans for his entire creation, and the things that we do in the world as those who have been transformed by that Gospel and now act as its witnesses/messengers in the world. So, social justice dovetails with evangelism in that both are necessary aspects of those who live as messengers of the Kingdom. As such, neither necessarily undermines the other. But, both can become obstacles to the other when we lose sight of their unity in the Gospel.

Eccentric Existence 14 (hope)

[We’re continuing our series on David Kelsey’s Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology.]

Throughout this work, Kelsey has emphasized the open-endedness of being human – we are finite, contingent, mysterious, and (in our fallen state) sinfully ambiguous. At the same time, Kelsey has consistently pointed to the fact that we are beings summoned into relationship by God and called (despite the ambiguities) to live faithfully in our everyday realities. As we discussed in the last post, this means that although our action in the world is both important and necessary, any particular actions is wrapped in its own ambiguity. For Kelsey, the confidence that grounds human action lies not in our certainty that a particular action is indeed the “right” thing to do or that it will foster the growth of the Kingdom in the, but in a “joyous hope” that looks to the inbreaking of the Kingdom. For Kelsey, human life in this world seems best described as living faithfully in the midst of an inherently ambiguous world through a joyous hope that God will redeem human action in its ambiguous faithfulness and accomplish his eschatological purposes.

What is “Joyous Hopefulness”?

Kelsey begins his discussion with the following definition of hope:

hope, like faith…, is best construed as personal bodies’ attitude in which they are oriented toward their ultimate and proximate contexts. It is an attitude of expectancy that a good and desired transformation of our quotidian contexts,…now actually begun, will be fully actualized. (501-2)

The hope that Kelsey has in mind, then, is directed both toward God as its object and ground (ultimate context) and the world in which this hope is lived out and fulfilled (proximate context). Any hope that focuses on just one of these two poles will ultimately lapse into something that is sub-Christian and unable to ground meaningful human living.

And, Kelsey further defines Christian hope as that which expresses hope in joy. This “joyous hopefulness” corresponds to the “doxological gratitude” that is the only appropriate and faithful response to the divine summons that constitutes personal identity (see here).

The Public Nature of Hope

The twofold context of joyous hopefulness means that hope must always be public. Kelsey is keen to emphasize that joyous hopefulness cannot be understood merely as “a mode of subjective inwardness” (502). It is not merely a feeling or attitude. Instead, joyous hopefulness is “a disposition to enact certain types of practices publicly”  (502). And, by “disposition” he does not mean some kind of inner attitude that simply motivates human action. That still bifurcates hope from public practice in a way that Kelsey finds unsatisfying. Instead, he argues:

[E]nactments of eschatological hope cannot be defined without reference to the hope they enact. As appropriate response to the public eschatological mission Dei, eschatological hope is best defined as a personal bodies’ orientation that disposes them for enactments of certain practices in public proximate contexts….Joyous hopefulness is a settled and long-lasting attitude. It orients personal bodies in their quotidian contexts as agents, disposing them across extended periods of time to engage in certain types of socially established cooperative human action. (503)

Joyous Hope in an Ambiguous World

But, Kelsey wants to emphasize (yet again) that we live in an inherently ambiguous world and that this means that the possibility of hope does not lie in anything that we see in the world itself, but in the promise-keeping nature of God himself. Hope must always be grounded in our ultimate context or it will co-opted by the finite and sinful social structures and practices of the current age. For Kelsey, “the possibility of such hope lies solely in the actuality of God keeping God’s promise” (504), and never in our attempt to discern the “progress” that we think is taking place around us.

To a large degree, of course, this is because we live in a sinfully broken world. And, short of the eschatological culmination of God’s purposes, our proximate context will always remain sinfully ambiguous. Joyous hope in this age, then, “is a disposition to act hopefully in tyrannical and oppressive circumstances of excessive social and cultural control that appear to offer little possibility for individual human well-being” (504-5).

But, Kelsey also wants to remind us that much of the ambiguity lies in our creaturely finitude.

Hence, eschatological hope is not in the first instance hope despite sin and evil. The disposition to act hopefully is a disposition to act in creaturely quotidian circumstances in ways hopeful of their flourishing in eschatological blessing even when the quotidian happens to be neither chaotic nor especially oppressive, even were it, contrary to fact, not at all distorted by sin and bound in evil. (505)

Joyous hope, then, is a disposition to act publicly in the world, seeking the flourishing of all of God’s creation in faithful response to God’s call and the hopeful expectation “that eschatological blessing will be fully actualized in and upon our proximate contexts” (506). This does not rob human action of meaning, though it does relocate our source of confidence in the meaning of human action.

What does joyous hope look like?

Kelsey, of course, argues that it is impossible to provide a systematic schematization of joyous hopefulness. But, he does argue that it is possible to comment on its general shape.

we must say that in response to God relating to draw them to eschatological consummation, personal bodies’ practices of joyous hopefulness consist of socially established cooperative actions of personal bodies in community that exemplify, however incompletely, the quality of common life that constitutes personal bodies’ eschatological glory. (512)

So,  joyous hopefulness finds expression in “socially established cooperative actions…in community” that seek to model in our everyday realities (to the extent possible) the kind of life that will be characteristic of eschatological glory, which he summarizes briefly as being mysterious, cosmic, finite, contingent, marked by growth and development and by aspects that are both individualistic and communal.

And, though he refuses to describe specific practices since the details need to be worked out by each community in their quotidian, he does offer seven guidelines for such practices:

  1. They should be “utterly realistic” about our quotidian worlds.
  2. They should be holistic, orienting the “entire array of personal bodies’ powers” and shaping them toward eschatologically hopeful practices.
  3. They should cultivate the intellectual disciplines – critical reflection will be necessary to shape and guide these practices in an ambiguous world.
  4. They should discipline the affections – orienting our emotions (affections directed toward some object) in eschatologically hopeful ways.
  5. They should help us learn to be open to the “gift of help” – recognizing our contingency and dependence.
  6. They should direct us toward healthy dependence on others.
  7. They should discipline our “imaginative powers” – seeing the world in ways shaped by eschatological hope.

Again, though, it’s important to emphasize that for Kelsey a practice grounded in joyous hope, and therefore shaped in these seven ways, is not aimed at achieving the liberation of the world and the inbreaking of the Kingdom. We simply can’t accomplish these things and were never intended to. The Kingdom always breaks into the world from “outside” and is always a divine act, a gift. Joyously hopeful practices, on the other hand, are ways of modeling lives shaped by eschatological hope in the midst of finite and sinful ambiguity.

p. 501-2 “hope, like faith…, is best construed as personal bodies’ attitude in which they are oriented toward their ultimate and proximate contexts. It is an attitude of expectancy that a good and desired transformation of our quotidian contexts,…now actually begun, will be fully actualized.”

Eccentric Existence 13 (social action)

[We’re continuing our series on David Kelsey’s Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology.]

In the previous post, we discussed the pneumatological framework of Kelsey’s theological anthropology. And, we saw that Kelsey presented the Spirit as both gift and promise. The Spirit is both the gracious presence of God with his creation (humanity’s ultimate context) and the promise that God will continue to lead all of creation (humanity’s proximate context) toward its eschatological telos. This immediately raises the question of human action in the world. Do we have any role to play in the eschatological consummation of God’s promised purposes? If so, what is that role and how should we go about it?

The Meaning of Human Action

According to Kelsey, “Perhaps the most important anthropological question about our proximate social contexts is whether historical change…is meaningful” (478). Is there any for us to look at the messy, complex world that we live in, as well as the sin and brokenness that so often accompanies even our most well-intentioned actions, and still come to the conclusion whether there is any real meaning to the historical changes that we work so hard to achieve.

Do such changes amount to a movement toward any goal of such transcendent value that it redeems the suffering and loss? Or is unrelenting historical change finally sheer ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing’? (478)

At this point, Kelsey sounds very much like James Davison Hunter in his recent work To Change the World. Both express significant reservations about whether we can have any real confidence about whether our actions really are leading to meaningful change in the world. Instead of working in accordance with God’s eschatological purposes, even envisioning ourselves as contributing to and ushering in God’s eschatological Kingdom, isn’t it entirely possible that we are instead acting in our own selfish best interests, furthering the sinful world orders that we seek to undermine? Does human action have any real meaning in this broken world? Or, are we hopelessly compromised in our sinfulness and can only wait in anxious anticipation for the fulfillment of God’s eschatological purposes. For Kelsey, it appears to be a little of both. He does want to affirm that human action in the world has meaning, but only in a highly qualified way.

The Ambiguous Nature of Human Action

If you’ve been following this series, this emphasis on the ambiguous nature of  human action should come as no surprise. Kelsey has routinely emphasized that sin, finiteness, and sinfulness all contribute to making it nearly impossible to systematize virtually any aspect of theological anthropology. Instead, at every turn we are confronted and frustrated by ambiguity and complexity. Human action in the world is no different.

First, Kelsey appeals to the Wisdom literature to contend that there is “no overall teleological order” (479). God did not create any single creaturely existence that precisely mirrors “the inexhaustibly rich and complex beauty of God’s glory” (479). So, the ambiguity of human action is integral to being God’s creatures. Rather than trying to find the ideal expression of God’s “will” in every situation, we are instead called to find the best expression of human faithfulness in our particular quotidian. And, it was precisely for this that God created us as creatures who have “their own time and space” (480). By giving us time an space to be ourselves, God creates the opportunity (and responsibility) to use that freedom for his glory. It’s our task to respond to this gracious gift in faithful hope.

Of course, our inherently creaturely complexity is rendered even more ambiguous by the reality of sin. Instead of just being manifold expressions of human faithfulness in our finite quotidian realities, the existence of God’s creatures is “radicalized into a living contradiction when their creatureliness is distorted in sin” (481). Thus, we fall into “inexplicable self-contradictoriness” (481) that renders human action opaque and often absurd.

Given these two kinds of ambiguity – the ambiguity inherent in being diverse creatures living in his manifold creation and related to by God in complex ways, and the ambiguity introduced by sin and its absurd contradiction of all that God intended – there is an inherent “ambiguity in every historical change that is apparently a change for the better” (484).

The Missio Dei

At this point, one would be forgiven for thinking that Kelsey was going to introduce a God-of-the-gaps resolution to the problem. Human action is ambiguous because of our finiteness and fallenness, but don’t worry, God’s action in the world will make sense out of everything. For Kelsey, though, the missio Dei actually introduces yet another source of ambiguity.

the missio Dei moves in God’s own very peculiar way sometimes with, sometimes against, and sometimes obliquely at cross-grain to the various trajectories of change that we can discern in our social and cultural contexts. (487)

Rather than clarifying the situation, we see that God’s action often works against what we might think of as the betterment of the world order and society. Indeed, Kelsey points to apocalyptic language as a great example of how the missio Dei often works against the natural currents of the world.

apocalyptic imagery concerns the structure of the cosmos, not the logic of history….Paul does not use apocalyptic rhetoric for that purpose. He uses it to describe a radical change in the structure of the world, a shift from an old creation to a new creation. (490)

We sometimes think that we can easily identify the ways in which God is at work in the world. But, what we are often doing is identifying God’s action with what we think the world really needs. When we see those things happening, we presume that it is God at work. Kelsey argues, though, that apocalyptic imagery forces us to consider the fact that God’s inauguration of the Kingdom through Jesus’ resurrection means that “all such principles used to constitute a socially constructive lived cosmos” have been radically relativized” (492-493). Instead of operating in accordance with our preconceptions and socially derived views of human flourishing, God breaks into the world and “unilaterally constitutes a new social reality, a new lived world” (496).

God’s work in the world thus constitutes another source of ambiguity in the world. The apocalyptic inbreaking of God’s eschatological reign is so radically other that we often fail to recognize it when we see it.

Grace and Judgment

At this point, one could legitimately begin to wonder if Kelsey’s qualified affirmation of human action in the world is really a resounding “no.” Given all this ambiguity, how could human action have real meaning? For Kelsey, the answer is to recognize both God’s grace and his judgment on all human action. Since all of our actions are inherently ambiguous, we must anticipate God’s judgment on everything that we do.This judgment is not simply the result of ambiguity, since at least some of the ambiguity comes from our the finiteness and diversity of God’s good creation. But, God’s judgment falls on “our idolatrous reliance on culturally relative values to generate such blessing on their own” (499). Thus, we can never afford to fall into a complacent confidence that assumes God’s stamp of approval on our actions. Instead, we should recognize the diversity, messiness, and brokenness of human existence, seeking to be faithful in every situation, but always also anticipating God’s judgment on our every action.

At the same time, though, we anticipate with eschatological hope God’s gracious mercy.  “God drawing humankind to eschatological consummation does entail that, by the creativity of God’s free love, what has been distorted will be transformed, the threat of meaninglessness overcome, and living deaths liberated into true life” (500). Even while anticipating God’s eschatological judgment on our actions in the world, we can still stand firm in our hope that God’s grace is sufficient and that he will accomplish his purposes in the world. Human action is not thereby rendered meaningless, we are still called to live faithfully in our quotidian, but it is seriously qualified in light of the inbreaking of God’ eschatological Kingdom and the sinful ambiguity of our creaturely contexts.

A new book on Paul

I just received an announcement about a new book on Paul that will be coming out in the fall: Tim Gombis’s Paul: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark, 2010). Like most of the books in the Perplexed series, Tim’s book strives to provide a clear and concise introduction to his topic and its most pressing/challenging issues. So, after an introduction and a brief chapter on Paul’s life and ministry, Tim devotes chapters to the following:
  • The Structure of Paul’s Thought
  • The Cross and the Spirit: Life as the Kingdom of God
  • Paul and Judaism
  • Salvation: Divine and Human Action
  • Paul and Women
  • Politics and Religion
Tim’s a solid NT scholar and the book should definitely be worth checking out.

Desiring the Kingdom 8

Moving into the final chapter of the book, James K. A. Smith deals with the question of what all of this emphasis on “liturgy” has to do with Christian education. He begins by continuing his critique of the traditional “worldview” approach to education. He sees this as trying “to produce professionals who do pretty much the same sorts of things that graduates of Ivy League and state universities do, but who do them ‘from a Christian perspective’, and perhaps with the goal of transforming culture or redeeming society” (218).  But, he thinks that this approach leaves their desires untouched. ” So, he asks, “Could it be the case that…while I might be able to think about the world from a Christian perspective, at the end of the day I love not the kingdom of God but rather the kingdom of the market?” (218).

Instead of this “domestication of Christianity” (220) that does little to disrupt or transform our way of being in the world, he argues that Christian education should have the same goal as Christian worship: “to form radical disciples of Jesus and citizens of the baptismal city who, communally, take up the creational task of being god’s image bearers, unfolding the cultural possibilities latent in creation – but doing so as empowered by the Spirit, following the example of Jesus’s cruciform cultural labor” (220). Thus, Christian education needs to be seen as “extensions of the mission of the church.”

He then walks through three specific practices that he thinks would help make this happen. First, we need to reconnect “Church, Chapel, and Classroom.” Tapping into his argument that we are shaped by liturgical practices, he sees the chapel as an excellent way to connect the practices of the church with the everyday world of the university, so that Christian teaching is formed by “a Christian social imaginary” (225).

Second, we need to reconnect “Classroom, Dorm Room, and Neighborhood” as providing the proper environment for learning. He argues that residential universities provide unique opportunities for creating “intentional communities” shaped by “full-bodied Christian practices,” which could then be extended into the surrounding community. In this way, what is learned in the classroom stays vitally connected to the lived practices of people in community.

Third, we need to reconnect body and mind. He doesn’t comment on this one very much because it’s really been the argument of the whole book. We don’t learn as disembodied minds, but as embodied persons. A truly Christian education should be shaped by this anthropology.