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Archive for February, 2017

yoder“This new body, the church, as aftertaste of God’s loving triumph on the cross and foretaste of His ultimate loving triumph in His kingdom, has a task within history.  History is the framework within which the church evangelizes, so that the true meaning of history is the fact that God has chosen to use it [history] for such a ‘scaffolding’ service…

The ultimate meaning of history will not be found in the course of earthly empires or the development of proud cultures, but in the calling together of the ‘chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation,’ which is the church of Christ.  The church is not fundamentally a source of moral stimulus to encourage the development of a better society–though a faithful church should also have this effect–it is for the sake of the church’s own work that society continues to function.  The meaning of history–and therefore the significance of the state–lies in the creation and the work of the church.  The reason for Christian prayer in favor of the political authorities is that ‘God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2).  The function of the state in maintaining an ordered society is thereby a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world. [Footnote: The term evangelization should not be conceived too narrowly as limited to the recruitment of individual converts for the rank of the church.  Yet neither may it be reduced to a generalized proclamation of social goals independent of the call to faith or of the building of the believing community.]…

Often in past history Christians have been concerned for the life and work of the state because they felt that it was itself of the most fundamental importance in achieving God’s purpose in the world, whether this purpose called for the defeat of a political enemy or the establishment of a good society…The first level of the church’s faithfulness, and in a sense the test of the validity of everything else she shall say later, will be her own obedience to the standards of discipleship.  If it is clear to the church, as it was in New Testament times, that the central meaning of history is borne not by kings and empires but by the church herself, then her first duty to society will be the same as her first duty to her Lord…

The church is herself a society.  Her very existence, the fraternal relations of her members, their ways of dealing with their differences and their needs are, or rather should be, a demonstration of what love means in social relations.  This demonstration cannot be transposed directly into non-Christian society, for in the church it functions only on the basis of repentance and faith…

The church is more truly political, i.e., a truer, more properly ordered community, than is the state.” (John Howard YoderThe Christian Witness to the State)

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bonhoeffer“By the way, I notice more and more how much I am thinking and perceiving things in line with the Old Testament: thus in recent months I have been reading much more the Old than the New Testament.  Only when one knows that the name of God may not be uttered may one sometimes speak the name of Jesus Christ.  Only when one loves life and the earth so much that with it everything seems to be lost and at its end may one believe in the resurrection of the dead and a new world.  Only when one accepts the law of God as binding for oneself may one perhaps sometimes speak of grace.  And only when the wrath and vengeance of God against God’s enemies are allowed to stand can something of forgiveness and the love of enemies touch our hearts.  Whoever wishes to be and perceive things too quickly and too directly in the New Testament ways is to my mind no Christian.  We have already, of course, discussed this a few times, and every day confirms for me that it’s right.  One can and must not speak the ultimate word prior to the penultimate.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, Works vol. 8, p. 213, to his friend Eberhard Bethge in 1943)

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