Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reconciling the Irreconcilable

For Paul a lot more than a simple faith in “Jesus as Messiah” had to take place after his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. For Paul he had to “reconcile the irreconcilable”. The resurrection to him wasn’t just a signet proof of Jesus’ authenticity which thereby demanded a belief and following of "The Way". Remember, Paul was a devout Jew in the strictest sense. He was brought up at the feet of Gameliel, steeped in the customs & traditions of ancient Judaism and blameless regarding Torah. No, a simple posit of faith wasn’t suffice. What Paul needed was a radical shift in his thinking, (what someone today might call “a paradigm shift”), really, a re-theologizing of his current perspective of God’s plan for humanity and what that was supposed to look like. Again, the Jewish religion of Paul’s day was as much diverse and fragmented as the Christian religion is of our day. There were a variety of anticipations and explanations of what the coming kingdom was to look like and be. Paul held to a sect of Judaism which called themselves “Pharisees”. They believed in the resurrection of the dead at the final judgment. Thus Paul had to rethink his views as the “resurrection” had happened in Jesus. What did this mean? What were the implications, etc? These were the kind of things he had to grapple with and put into a context that fit not only his worldview but now this small growing cult called Christianity. This Paul did when he went to Arabia, he received what he calls the “revelation of Jesus Christ”. After those years he finally had his head wrapped around his gospel with all the apocalyptic implications i.e. resurrection of the dead, gift of the Spirit (God's Presence), gentile inclusion etc. etc.

This should lead us to an application today of perhaps the need to "reshape", "rethink" and/or even "re-theologize" our understanding of some of the key components of "the faith". I would suggest two aspects immediately taken from Paul's shift. One is the understanding of the Kingdom of God. Without being able to go into greater detail here, there needs to be a realization that its not off in some distant future, but has already intervened in time and history and began its rule & reign in the first coming of Jesus. Although, not fully culminated into what it will be, there needs to be a vital change in that we see it as already here. Think for a moment of the Gospels... How often did the phrase "kingdom of God/Heaven is at hand" occur. Also, remember the parables; specifically the one of Jesus speaking of the kingdom like a mustard seed, how it was the smallest of all their known seeds yet it grew to be one of biggest plants etc. The same needs to be thought of in terms of the kingdom, much wasn't expected in Jesus of Nazareth's life, death, etc. but look what grew out of it.

Secondly, i believe another major shift in todays theology should be our notion of inclusion vs. exclusion. Again, for Paul, he saw this effected in his gospel. An ecumenical shift needed to take place. This polarization of "Jews/non-Jews had to be reconciled if Abraham's seed was to bless all the nations, etc. His understanding of the gentile inclusion was vital in his thinking. So too, we would do well to reshape our understanding of ecumenism. For Paul (as should with us) there was a great amount of allowance for diversity in the church. No matter what your background: cultural, ethnical or religous, all were unified in Jesus the Christ. An amazing thought, that religous Jews could now participate at the table with pagan Gentiles. Today, there needs to be an "ecumenical reform" within the church, according to Paul's gospel...

8 comments:

J.Skjou said...

Hey Chris!

Is this the unity and diversity blog, or historicity :)

I'm Wright there with you on the Kingdom statement.

For me, understanding the Kingdom’s “present-ness” has been a central theme, even inspiring hope when things were dry. I’ve always appreciated the words of Dunn concerning the now of the Kingdom: “Paul’s gospel was eschatological not because of what he still hoped would happen, but because of what he believed had already happened,” which was the expected end (resurrection) invading the middle. In trying to bring the truth of inaugurated eschatology into practical everyday affairs, Dunn is helpful as well when he gets to the heart of praxis: “What matters is the fact that the powers of the 'age to come' are already shaping lives and communities, as they would also in due course shape the cosmos.” What it comes down to then is allowing the life to come, the new creation, to play out moment by moment in the present—because it is present in the Holy Spirit, through whom we perform the works of new creation (Gal 5:22-23). Praise God for Him invading our lives!

Hope things are well for you!

J.Skjou said...

wait a minute--did you leave us hanging at the end of the post. Do you now how that feels??? It makes me feel like you dont care. How would you like it if.......

Chris Brown said...

Joshua,

i was/ am gonna post this on "unity and diverstiy" as i thought it fit for contribution there as well.
As far as leaving you hanging with the ... at the end of the post, i figured i was doing everyone a favour by not rambling on and on. Although this was more a rough draft of something i hope to develop alot more in the future, i really see these two aspects needing to be re-worked within the walls of christendom. I think the academy has certain assumption which the laity lacks and these two aspects being part.

Ron said...

In our day, I think (and you couldn't help it if it's true) we've been so tainted by what has been popular concerning eschatology. I was just reading a friends blog the other day; the comment that struck me (because it so prevalent amongst Christians today, including myself at one time) was "it's all going to burn." Now... who in their right mind would invest yourself into something that is going to burn?

With 2000+ years behind us as a church, I think its imperative that we start to rethink the kingdom and what its suppose to look like. Like the parables you mentioned and other clues in the scripture, we ought to gather that it (the kingdom) doesn't look like with thought it would.

I do not ask that You taken them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one ~ Jesus (John 17:15)

SOOOO many more thoughts on this.

J.Skjou said...

Is this the Ron we all love and know? Mr. Vornberg himself?

Ron said...

It is as you say :-)

barb michelen said...
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bernard n. shull said...
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