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Kierkegaard“A person is not eternally responsible for whether he reaches his goal within this world of time.  But without exception, he is eternally responsible for the kinds of means he uses.  And when he will only use or only uses those means which are genuinely good, then, in the judgment of eternity, he is at the goal.” (Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing)

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“Lack of success and enmity cannot dissuade the messengers from the fact that they are sent by Jesus.  As a mighty strength and consolation, Jesus repeats: ‘Behold, I send you!’  It is not their own way or their own enterprise; they are sent…

BonhoefferWho can always distinguish between spiritual wisdom and worldly cleverness?…Wherever the word is, that is where the disciples are to be.  That is their true wisdom and their true innocence.  If the word must retreat, because it is obviously being rejected, then the disciples should retreat with the word.  If the word remains in an open struggle, then the disciples should remain.  They will have to act wisely and simply at the same time.  But the disciples should never set out on a road out of ‘wisdom,’ when that road cannot be approved by the word of Jesus.  They should never justify with ‘spiritual wisdom’ a way which does not correspond to the word of Jesus.  Only the truth of the word will teach them to recognize what is wise.  But it can never be ‘wise’ to break off the smallest piece of the truth, for the sake of some human prospect or hope.  Our own evaluation of our situation cannot make us see what is wise; only the truth of the word of God can do that.  The only thing that is always wise is staying with the truth of God.  Here alone is the place where of God’s faithfulness and aid are promised.  At all times it will prove to be the ‘wisest’ for the disciples at this time and in the coming time to simply stand by the word of God…

The good news will be propagated by suffering.  That is the plan of God and the will of Jesus…Jesus’ messengers can receive no greater consolation in all this than the certainty that in their suffering they will be like their Lord…So Jesus will be with them and they will be like Christ in everything.” (Dietrich BonhoefferDiscipleship, pp. 193-95, in the section entitled “The Suffering of the Messengers”)

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Wayne Meeks argues that this is the particular strategy and purpose of the book of Revelation:

Common“The business of this writing is to stand things on their heads in the perception of its audience, to rob the established order of the most fundamental power of all: its sheer facticity.  The moral strategy of the Apocalypse, therefore, is to destroy common sense as a guide for life.” (Wayne Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians, p. 145)

Robert Jenson contends that all Christian theology is meant to share in this subversive task:

“The gospel’s contrariness to human proclivity [means that] the history of Christian theology within any culture can always be read as a sustained effort to dislocate that culture’s ‘common sense.'” (Robert Jenson, “A Reply,” in Theology as Metaphysics, p. 3)

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What Is The Gospel?

Robert Jenson“The gospel is the telling of Jesus’ story–as the decisive event in the life-stories of teller and hearers.  The gospel tells of Jesus’ death and reputed resurrection–and claims therein to recount the crisis and resolution of the story am now living.  Therefore the telling of the Church’s story requires two kinds of words.” (Robert Jenson, “Proclamation Without Metaphysics,” in Theology as Revisionary Metaphysics, p. 4)

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“The history of the impact of the Sermon on the Mount can largely be described in terms of an attempt to domesticate everything in it that is shocking, demanding, and uncompromising, and render it harmless.” (Pinchas Lapide, The Sermon on the Mount: Utopia or Program for Action?, p. 3)

SermononMount“In following this history [of Christian interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7] we find ourselves faced with the question whether the times when the Sermon on the Mount has had special historical significance were not always those in which men allowed themselves to be challenged by Jesus’ demand and commandment in a radical and direct fashion, and sought, with the most thorough-going personal decision, to put the Sermon on the Mount into practice…In these moments the attack was always directed towards a Church which, with its sophisms and theologisms, sanctioned the existing world and its ‘orders,’ and which had put the dynamic power of the Sermon on the Mount, so to speak, under lock and key…

Time and time again Christianity, with the assistance of its theology, has known so well and still knows how to intercept, so to speak, the thrust of Jesus’ challenge, to divert it and to settle down peacefully in spite of it…We are most certainly in danger, to put it drastically, of putting the Sermon on the Mount away in storage by means of dogmatics.  Looking back on all the aforementioned expositions of the Sermon on the Mount in their diversity, we soon discover a dangerous tendency running through them all, which at least in its effect can be noticed again and again.  They all aim at limiting its application, they all contain a characteristic ‘only’…This manifold ‘only’ is obviously highly suspect.  Again and again it became a shock absorber, which made the real meeting with Jesus’ word bearable and therefore illusory.” (Gunther Bornkamm, “The History of the Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount,” in Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 221-25)

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Barth“True Church law [or “order”] is exemplary law.  For all its particularity, it is a pattern for the formation and administration of human law generally, and therefore of the law of other political, economic, cultural and other human societies…What is at issue?  Primarily, it is a matter of the insight that in the formation and administration of its law the Christian community, while it is first and decisively responsible to its Lord, assumes also a two-sided responsibility–both inward and outward–on the human level.  This is not a divided or twofold responsibility.  It is two-sided.  The inward responsibility to itself involves an outward to the world.  It orders itself–its own life which is distinct from that of the world.  It does this from its center in public worship.  It does it above all in its ordering of public worship.  But it does not do it for the sake of itself.  It does not do it in self-seeking, however holy.  If it did, it would come into collision with its basic law–the law that in its totality and all its members it is pledged to service in the discipleship of the One who came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister.  We return to our definition that the Christian Church, as the body of Jesus Christ and therefore the earthly-historical form of His existence, is the provisional representation of the humanity sanctified in Him. Jesus Christ did not sanctify Himself for His own sake, but for the sake of humanity…

[The church] exists in the service of the witness which in its existence as the community it owes to the world, and cannot therefore withhold from it…It would be quite wrong for the community to think that in its formation and administration it has to do only with itself, with its own affair, with its divine service as the center of its life.  For its own affair, that with which it is concerned in its divine service and in its whole life understood as service, is the witness that it owes to those who are without.  In relation to those who are without it cannot, therefore, be indifferent or silent or preoccupied with itself.  It can be genuinely preoccupied with itself only when it is also concerned with them and is aware of its responsibility towards them…

To what end?  Certainly not in order to claim that the law valid in the Church must also be the law of the state and other human societies.  Certainly not to demand or invite these to appropriate the provisions of ecclesiastical law and therefore to replace their own law by canon law.  Certainly not to ecclesiasticise the world and especially the state as the all-embracing form of human society…To do this it [the world/state] would have to recognize what it does not acknowledge: the lordship of Jesus Christ as the authority of the One in whom the reconciliation of the world with God has been accomplished; the majesty of His Word and the power of His Holy Spirit.  The law of the state and all other human societies is worldly law in the sense that, even though its members and representatives may themselves be Christians and belong to the community, it does not reckon with the basic law which is decisive for the community but is based upon, and shaped by, very different (historical and speculative) principles.  Directly to take over the law of the community even at a single point the world would have to abandon its own assumptions and become the community…

But why not in the sense that it [the church] has to express the Gospel to the world in the forms of its particular law [public order/structure]?  What the Christian community owes to the world is not a law or ideal, not an exactment or demand, but the Gospel: the good news about the actuality of Jesus Christ in which it is helped, its sins are overcome and its misery ended; the word of hope in the great coming light in which its reconciliation with God will be manifested…The decisive contribution which the Christian community can make to the upbuilding and work and maintenance of the civil consists in the witness which it has to give to it and to all human societies in the form of the order of its own upbuilding and constitution…In the form in which it [the church] exists among them it can and must be to the world of men around it a reminder of the law of the kingdom of God already set up on earth in Jesus Christ, and a promise of its future manifestation.  De facto, whether they realize it or not, it can and should show them that there is already on earth an order which is based on that great alteration of the human situation and directed towards its manifestation…That there are other possibilities, not merely in heaven but on earth, not merely one day but already, than those to which it thinks that it must confine itself in the formation and administration of its law…

If the community were to imagine that the reach of the sanctification of humanity accomplished in Jesus Christ were restricted to itself and the ingathering of believers, that it did not have corresponding effects extra muros ecclesiae, it would be in flat contradiction to its own confession of its Lord…It may be model law because neither in its establishment nor its execution is it supported by any alien power, but can arise and be practiced, as is actually the case, in mutual trust.  No worldly law can be satisfied with this presupposition…Of what value is the force which compels observance if it cannot also appeal to the mutual trust which is the law within the law?…In the last resort [this] cannot be achieved even in part without the total self-giving of each to all.  The existence of canon law can demonstrate this truth in paradigmatic form.” (Karl BarthChurch Dogmatics 4.2.67.4 [“The Order of the Community”], pp. 719-24)-

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Vanstone“Either this dependence and limitation must be a source of increasing resentment and frustration and even self-contempt; or there must be a rediscovery of the dignity which belongs to man as patient, as object, as one who waits upon the world and receives that which is done to him.” (W. H. Vanstone, The Stature of Waiting, p. 66)

“So it may be that the thought of the handing over of Jesus—of His transition from action to passion—can be of practical help to people who must face, or have already faced, a similar transition in their own lives…‘Passion’ does not mean, exclusively or even primarily, ‘pain’: it means dependence, exposure, waiting, being no longer in control of one’s situation, being the object of what is done.  So the passion of Jesus ‘connects’ not simply or even primarily with the human experience of pain: it connects with every experience of passing, suddenly or gradually, into a more dependent phase or area of life—with going into hospital, with retiring or losing one’s job or having to wait upon the actions of other people and other factors beyond one’s control.  If the thought of the passion of Jesus is helpful at all, then it may be helpful not only to the person who is bearing the ‘cross’ of pain but also to the person who feels that he is ‘on the sidelines,’ that he has become useless or ineffective, that he is no longer making his mark in the world or his contribution to it.  ‘To be handed over’ in ways such as there is particularly disquieting to a person who, by habit or temperament, has been exceptionally active and energetic or a notable achiever; and such a person may well find comfort in the thought that a similar pattern appears in the life of Jesus—that He also passed from activity and work and achievement into a final phase of waiting and dependence and passion…It might emerge from recognizing that, according to the Gospel story, the transition which Jesus made was no mere misfortune but rather a kind of triumph, no diminution of Himself or His calling but rather a kind of elevation.  If a man should be guided by the Gospels to see such worth and quality in the transition which Jesus made, then—and perhaps only then—he may have a possibility of seeing his own transition in a new and more favorable light.” (W. H. Vanstone, The Stature of Waiting, pp. 70-71)

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