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Archive for January, 2013

Kingdom and Mission

images“The great missionary proclamations in Acts are not given on the unilateral initiative of the apostles but in response to questions asked by others, questions prompted by the presence of something which calls for explanation…What really needs to be said is that where the Church is faithful to its Lord, there the powers of the kingdom are present and people begin to ask the question to which the gospel is the answer.” (Leslie Newbigin, Gospel in a Pluralist Society, p. 119)

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The God Who Blesses

imagesCASY2M19“Blessing is a rich biblical notion that has been rather neglected in Christian theology.  Blessing in the Bible refers to God’s characteristically generous and abundant giving of all good to his creatures and his continual renewal of the abundance of created life.  Blessing is God’s provision for human flourishing.  But it is also relational: to be blessed by God is not only to know God’s good gifts but to know God himself in his generous giving.  Because it is relational the movement of blessing is a movement that goes out from God and returns to him.  God’s blessing of people overflows in their blessing of others and those who experience blessing from God in turn bless God, which means that they give all that creatures really can give to God: thanksgiving and praise…Blessing is the way God enables his creation to be fertile and fruitful, to grow and to flourish.  It is in the most comprehensive sense God’s purpose for his creation.  Wherever human life enjoys the good things of creation and produces the good fruits of human activity, God is pouring out his blessing…

Salvation too is God’s blessing, since salvation is the fulfillment of God’s good purposes for his creation, purposes already expressed in creation.  But salvation is the fulfillment of God’s purposes in spite of the damage evil does to God’s creation.” (Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, pp. 34-35)

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imagesCACRAINB“The reward of virtue will be God himself, who gave the virtue, together with the promise of himself, the best and greatest of all possible promises.  For what did he mean when he said, in the words of the prophet, ‘I shall be their God, and they will be my people’?  Did he not mean, ‘I shall be the source of their satisfaction; I shall be everything that men can honorably desire; life, health, food, wealth, glory, honor, peace and every blessing’?  For that is also the correct interpretation of the Apostle’s words, ‘so that God may be all in all.’  God will be the goal of all our longings; and we shall see him forever; we shall love him without satiety; we shall praise him without wearying.  This will be the duty, the delight, the activity of all, shared by all who share the life of eternity.” (Augustine, City of God, 22.30)

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You Are My Witnesses

imagesCASY2M19“Coercion contradicts the nature of truth.  It opens the door to the distortion of truth into a vehicle of the will to power.  There certainly are few more oppressive regimes than those that believe they stand for a truth that must be enforced.  Because Christians have, sadly, in the past themselves treated Christianity as a truth to be enforced, we need to be very clear and resolute about this.  It is in the very nature of Christian truth that it cannot be enforced.  Coerce belief and you destroy belief and turn the truth believed into a lie.

Truth must be claimed in a way appropriate to the content of the truth.  Scientific truth, for example, has its own means of claim and methods of verification.  The image the Bible often suggests for the way its truth is to be claimed is that of witness.  This is an extremely valuable image with which to meet the postmodern suspicion of all metanarratives as oppressive.  Witness is non-coercive.  It has no power but the convincingness of the truth to which it witnesses.  Witness are not expected, like lawyers, to persuade by the rhetorical power of their speeches, but simply to testify to the truth for which they are qualified to give evidence.  But to be adequate witness to the truth of God and the world, witness must be a lived witness involving the whole of life and even death.  And as such it can show itself to be not self-serving.  In our time witness is likely to the main contender for truth against the various manifestations of the will to power.” (Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, pp. 99-100)

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imagesCASY2M19“Can the biblical narrative resist, in a way that is true to the character of the biblical God’s rule, the narratives of global power that dominate our world today?  One element in an answer to this is the fact that the biblical metanarrative itself took shape partly in opposition to the globalizing powers of its day…It is against these dominant narratives [Egypt, Babylon, Rome, etc.] that the biblical metanarrative takes on its most imperial and militant colors…These visions construct a counter-narrative disputing the imperial one, opening up a different way of seeing the world.  They empower non-violent resistance to oppression, enabling God’s people to continue to refute the finality and divinity of the empires.  But they do not suggest that the kingdom of God is merely a more powerful or more successful version of the imperial powers.  Their witness is an to an altogether different kind of rule…To the domination of the no-gods, the rule of the true God is opposed not as a rival of the same kind but as qualitatively different.” (Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, pp. 101-04)

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imagesCAYLGSDZ“When God’s original purpose to bring blessing to all creatures by humanity (created as imago Dei) was stymied by the violent quest for autonomy and control recorded in Genesis 3-11, God chose Abraham and his descendants to bring blessing to the nations in order to restore humanity to its original vocation.  But as God’s elect, Israel was a dismal failure.  Whether the impediments were external and military or internal and ethical, Israel never accomplished the purpose for which it had been chosen.  Time and again God sent his appointed agents of plot resolution, beginning with Moses, continuing through the judges and the Davidic kings to the long list of prophets.  These all shared a common calling: to restore the people of Israel to their calling of bringing blessing to the nations, thus restoring all human beings to their calling of mediating God’s blessing to the earth and all its creatures.” (J. Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh, Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age, p. 135)

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imagesCAADCD6L“Theoretical knowledge is only a small and by no means the most important part of what passes for knowledge in a society.  Theoretically sophisticated legitimations appear at particular moments of an institutional history.  The primary knowledge about the institutional order is knowledge on the pretheoretical level.  It is the sum total of ‘what everybody knows’ about a social world, an assemblage of maxims, morals, proverbial nuggets of wisdom, values and beliefs, myths, and so forth, the theoretical integration of which requires considerable intellectual fortitude in itself…

Such knowledge constitutes the motivating dynamics of institutionalized conduct.  It defines the institutionalized areas of conduct and designates all situations falling within them.  It defines and constructs the roles to be played in the context of the institutions in question.  Ipso facto, it controls and predicts all such conduct.  Since this knowledge is socially objectivated as knowledge, that is, as a body of generally valid truths about reality, any radical deviance from the institutional order appears as a departure from reality.  Such deviance may be designated as moral depravity, mental disease, or just plain ignorance.  While these fine distinctions will have obvious consequences for the treatment of the deviant, they all share an inferior cognitive status within the particular social world.  In this way, the particular social world becomes the world tout court.  What is taken for granted as knowledge in the society comes to be coextensive with the knowable, or at any rate provides the framework within which anything not yet known will come to be known in the future.  This is the knowledge that is learned in the course of socialization and that mediates the internalization within individual consciousness of the objectivated structures of the social world.  Knowledge, in this sense, is at the heart of the fundamental dialectice of society.  It ‘programs’ the channels in which externalization produces an objective world.  It objectifies this world through language and the cognitive apparatus based on language, that is, it orders it into objects to be apprehended as reality.  It is internalized again as objectively valid truth in the course of socialization in the double sense of the word, in the sense of apprehending the objectivated social reality, and in the sense of ongoingly producing this reality.” (Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Knowledge: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, pp. 65-66)

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