Saturday, September 27, 2008

How do we define the ‘kingdom of God’?

Scot McKnight points out the need for a clear definition in his article about Brian McLaren and the ‘emergent’ gospel in Christianity Today.

McLaren Emerging

[CHRISTIANITY TODAY] “Kingdom and Church Kingdom talk has become trendy and fashionable among emergents, and God be thanked that they are one group among many that are forcing us to reexamine what we think about Jesus' kingdom vision. But the lack of a thorough definition of kingdom is a major concern. On my blog, I spent several months slogging through what the Gospels say about the kingdom, text by text. I have discovered two points that cannot be denied: There is no kingdom without faith and attachment to Jesus Christ, and there is no kingdom without attachment to Jesus' followers. In other words, Jesus' kingdom vision is not that far from Paul's church vision, yet there is little ecclesiology in either Secret Message or Everything Must Change.

So my second question for McLaren is this: What is the relationship of kingdom to church? Can his emergent view of the kingdom lead to the New Testament picture of the church?”

[joseph] Here are two of my own favorite scriptures regarding the KoG:

Luke: 17:22 - "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."

Romans 14:17 - "For the kingdom of God is … righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,"

I define the KoG as “The heavenly father’s loving leadership in our lives through the authority of Jesus and the daily guidance of the H.S. “ The kingdom becomes manifest in our lives through our moment-by-moment inner surrender to his life and initiative which inevitably result in inner righteousness, peace and joy which exercise a gravitational pull that changes the external world around us."

So .. .how do you define ‘the kingdom of God’?


Bruce said...

Jesus didn't define the Kingdom. He described it in metaphor. When Paul used the grammar of defining, he also used metaphor.

The Kingdom IS a mustard seed.
The Kingdom IS righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The Kingdom IS a little leaven in a lump of dough.

steve H said...

The kingdom of God is God ruling all things in heaven and on earth.

Here are a few more statements:
1. God rules according to the counsel (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) of his own will.
2. In this age following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God the Son who is the Man (the last Adam), that is Jesus the Messiah, actively holds the rulership on behalf of the Trinity, working out that rule on earth through the Holy Spirit.
3. The body of Christ (in other words “the body of Messiah—the anointed one”) assembled as “ekklesia,” constituted and empowered by the Holy Spirit represents the rule of Jesus the head of that body on earth.
4. Because God is love the kingdom is the expression of love. Because of who God is (his nature and character) the kingdom on earth is described as righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

One final suggestion -- the Bible's
revelation of the kingdom does not start in the New Testament. We should start in the Old Testament. Jesus unveiled that kingdom in his life, actions, and words (although given the nature of the parables, one could say he concealed the kingdom too).

Brian Emmet said...

If I may, let me ask us to remember the question Joseph posed, and attempt to direct our responses in that (general) direction.

Jesus spoke most often about the kingdom metaphorically and parabolically. This "encoding" may have been the result of a desire not to stir up King Caesar "before my hour has come," to subvert normal Jewish cultural understandings of what it means for "God's kingdom to come," and to simply "hide in plain sight" truth that some folks just aren't interested in: "What did the fellow Jesus have to say today?" "Oh, he just told some confusing stories..."

I've likewise found Romans 14:17 a helpful handle, and a helpful "diagnostic" tool. Wherever there is a lack of genuine joy, that indicates a lack of shalom; the lack of shalom points to the foundational problem--broken or absent righteousness (understood both relationally and morally/ethically). The "kingdom flow" moves from righteousness into peace into joy, but we tend to recognize our distance from the kingdom through experiences of un-joy (e.g. the prodigal son). If we just attempt to restore joy ("therapeutic culture" anyone?) without addressing the underlying broken shalom and broken righteousness, we still end up distant from the kingdom, even if we're "feeling much better, thank you!"

smokin joe said...

Wow ... fast response! I find that there is more participation when we first start out a discussion. Once it gets over 25 or 30 comments... it starts slowing down.

Bruce, point well taken, if you prefer to describe, rather than define, not a problem.

Steve ... good stuff... I agree about the O.T. but I cannot be help finding Jesus and the gospel as a 'central' starting point for me.

Brian: ditto on joy.

After I wrote down my definition, I realized it was a definition of MY personal and subjective experience of the KoG, and did not take into account the larger 'objective' aspect of the kingdom that Steve used in his definition.

After we hear from a couple more people, my next question is 'how do we effectively communicate truths of the kingdom to the under 30 crowd?' ... or perhaps keying off of Bruce, are there any new or updated metaphors that will do justice to the KoG but communicate especially effectively to this generation?

Bama Stephen said...

I always loved how Ern Baxter would quote Romans 14:17 in full, and then he would say, "The Kingdom is ... in the Spirit." The Kingdom cannot be fulfilled in our flesh or our zeal, but only in the Spirit. Also, the Kingdom is eternal, meaning it was, it is, and it is to come. It is the reign (government) of King Jesus in our lives and over all the heavens and earth.

It's amazing to me now how much "Kingdom" has become a trendy word in so many church circles; back in the 1970s, it was fairly radioactive when Ern, Bob, Don, Derek, and my Dad would teach on it. Of course, what they taught of the Kingdom, and what many hip, hot young whippersnappers are teaching today are not necessarily the same thing, and do not carry the same sense of fatherhood, brotherhood, accountability, sacrifice, and requirements.

Words such as "submission," "obedience," "militancy," "government," and "Cross" are still not showing up on bumper stickers and t-shirts. I fear sometimes that "Kingdom" has been trivialized by some pop teachers in the same way that Bonhoeffer was concerned about "cheap grace."

Amazing, too, that concepts like "joy" and "Cross" are not at odds in a Kingdom worldview.

Just a few thoughts here late at night. Great topic, as always, Brian!

Bama Stephen said...

Quick note: I am especially passionate about the issue Joseph raises: how to communicate the Kingdom to our "under 30" friends? One key may be in the concept of "incarnational reality." Selah. (Hehehe, I'd better finish my sermons for tomorrow's services.)

John M. said...

Wow this thing just keeps moving forward -- kind of like "God's Divine Bulldozer" that Mumford used to talk about when referring to God's soveign will and purpose.

I like everything about the Kingdom that has been said so far. My euphemism for the KOG is "God's Big Story". I use it with my 7th graders and talk about God writing them into his story, his mission to redeem the planet and its people, and that when they find their place in the story they will "feel His pleasure".

My suspicion is that I could use similar language to connect older under 30's to God's Kingdom purpose.

Dow Robinson's derivation of how the Aztecs translated KOG, is "God's Loving Rule".

Speaking of McClaren, I finally finished EMC last week. If any of you didn't finish it because our thread moved away, I strongly recommend that you do. You are secure in your theology, so his "abberations", both perceeived and real, won't shake you.

But I believe that we all need to grapple with the questioins that he asks -- and give conisderation to some of the solutions he purposes, even though by his own admission, they may seem unrealistic.

After all in terms of the present mess, what is more idealistic and unrealistic than the "glory of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea"? I think we all believe and agree that it is going to happen. The open question is how much is our part in bringing that state, and how much is God's part.

McClaren thinks that much responsibility rests on the shoulders of God's people. Maybe he thinks all of it does -- he's not totally clear in his escatology -- again that's not the point.

Jesus said "occupy until I come". I understand "occupy" to be an active, passionate, perhaps militant occupation of culture and society, the "earth" if you will, with His Kingdom leveaning and salting influence both to preserve and to change. So radical that as long as we're alive on the planet our single passion and driving motivation will be "Your Kingdom [your loving rule] come on earth as it is in heaven".

McClaren's "thought experiment" in chapter 33 is worth the price of the book. If you don't feel uncomfotable and like someone is reading your mail by the end of it, you are either dead or a Pharisee!

Brian Emmet said...

Perhaps we could approach Joseph's question "negatively;" what I mean is this: the invitation to enter kingdom is often connected by Jesus with a command to repent: "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" So of what need we repent in order to enetr the kingdom?

I'm asking for a more pointed or focused response than "being my own God" or "living a self-protective life." I think the answer looks a bit different from the "church" side than it does from the "30-something secular unbeliever" side, and I'm interested in both (and not to imply that the are the only two poles). I do not mean to be moralistic or to rehash the "what should the church look like" question we have already discussed extensively. I do want to pose it as a way of answering "How do we define-recognize-understand the 'kingdom of God'?"

Bruce said...

I can pretty much "Amen" everything that I skimmed across here. There's a (tangential?) matter to defining the Kingdom of God that might impact our thinking. It's Jesus' teaching on sowing the seed on the path, on the rocky soil, where the birds eat it, and where it sits and dies and grows to a harvest. Our culture is pervasively short-memoried by training across the life cycle, hence the birds eating the seed of the word, and pervasively overbusy, hence the trampling of the word that is unable to bear fruit because of the worries of this world and the desire for other things.

I think everyone who has contributed here has a gut feeling for the KoG. The Holy Spirit seems to have taught everyone here about the KoG. If we're not experiencing the KoG with likeminded people, I suggest that it rests with these two problems that Jesus said would oppose the KoG.

Bruce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smokin joe said...

This sounds like a fun way to approach the topic. Let me start with myself, and then I will move to the other two groups … young secular people and church people.

I have been in a constant spiral of repentance (not sure if up or down) for the last 3 or 4 years for two things: 1) my anger, which has pretty deep roots and has grown over the years, and 2) the way my own ego and need for identity and personal fulfillment has infected every aspect of the way I do ministry. I’m not sure if I have completed that process yet, or if I still have more to go in order to continue entering the KoG. I’m sure I will find out. God is faithful to continue giving light.

My son is part of our Tuesday group, and he told me recently that he felt that the core issue he needs to surrender to God in order to progress spiritually is the right to ‘self-determination.’ I felt that it was a very perceptive insight on his part.

For the rest of our Tuesday group, probably all of them have the same issue with self-determination, some have issues with dominant fears, others need to repent for unbelief, a couple probably need to repent for their desire for maximum sexual fulfillment apart from covenantal commitment.

Probably all of them (including me) need to repent for too much self-love and not enough agape love for others.

Regarding church Christians, I would say a major issue that requires repentance (massive in my humble opinion) in order to fully enter the KoG is the issue of judging. Not ‘anakrino’ style discernment motivated by the desire to heal and restore, but ‘krino’ style judgment that wants to condemn the guilty, especially with assumptions based on externals. I was reflecting the other night how the scriptures tell us that although we judge by the ‘outer’ person, God sees the heart.

I think some Christians, particularly young ones, will need to recognize and repent for their tendency to compartmentalize their faith and their social/work/study life into two different worlds with two different modes of behavior and two sets of attitudes … even two different vocabularies!

I find this over and over in young Christian grad students – they have not learned how to integrate their faith in the real world where they go out to party and have a good time with friends. They leave Christ at home (or at church) and when they go to church, they leave the “F-bomb” and other things that they resort to so freely with their friends, at school or at the pub. What our Tuesday ‘God-party’ does is to challenge them to allow Christ into every area of their life without first ‘cleaning up.’

There is lots to repent for … I could go on for multiple pages on what I think spiritual leaders (including myself) will need to repent for ... but lets leave that for another conversation.

...only the Spirit will know which issue is key and where to put the finger at the right moment. However, the easiest way for my young secular friends to learn the art of repentance is to model it for them through my own example.

Bruce said...

The Kingdom of God as it is in church life is explicitly taught to be a GIFT ECONOMY. In church, as in friendship and in romantic love, and in some rural and preindustrial communities, exchange of goods and commodities are driven by voluteer, free will offerings, even though --it is necessary to say-- the PRESENCE of a quid pro quo, a "this for that." But this quid pro quo is conspicuously NOT "work for hire."

When you come together, each one has a gift to be used for the building up of the body, the Apostle writes. He elsewhere writes that each one should do his/her gift zealously as for the Lord, as if each gift had equal economic value. Of the pastors, instruction to the flock is to share all good things with him who teaches.

Transitional stage: as the community becomes more formal, or as a formal society becomes more communal, the group has practices formerly used to mediate payment for services rendered that must now be understood to be transitional forms. They *look like* business transactions, but they *mean* love and sharing.

Let him who teaches well be considered worthy of double wages. Let married couples pay what they owe each other in their conjugal duties. An apostle says that he could command obedience but he appeals as a brother (Philemon for one example). If the Jews gave us their spiritual goods, could we not give our natural goods?

Church community, friendship and romance all break down, one may observe, when the outward trappings of gift exchange are treated *inwardly* as payments-for-service-rendered. Offerings become obligations. One's gifts are measured for their economic value on the exchange market. Example is Eli the High Priest's sons who rejected meat which was theirs by random drawing and only accepted the best stuff that they went after.

smokin joe said...

hi Bruce, I didn't understand you. It was a little over my head. Any chance you can restate that in simple laymen's English?

Brian Emmet said...

When Jesus called Israel to "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand," he was doing something fairly familiar, but which also turned out to be radically unexpected.

The familiar side of it--a prophet calling Israel to return to the Lord, and to being truly the people of the Lord--has been overly-individualized by much of Western Christianity: "Quit smoking, cussing, whoring, stealing, lying, etc. so that... (a) God won't get totally disgusted and destroy you or (b) you'll go to heaven, or (c) you'll be included in the party when God puts all his enemies to flight (= "the kingdom comes"). Nothing wrong with repenting of cussing, etc., but it only goes so far.

The call to repent was a corporate addresss to Israel: you are failing at your calling to be the people of God. Repent, because God is about to "do the kingdom" in a way that you will miss out on unless you repent of being a "false Israel." Have we been/become a "false church" in a way somewhat parallel to Israel?

When addressed to the Gentiles, the call to repent would include turning away from all idols (obviously, those idols need to be named/identified before they can be forsaken) and all your God-denying behaviors (breaking his law, desecrating his image in your neighbors, sexual immorality, etc.)

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph's response to Bruce came in at the same time I was typing, but I would echo his request of Bruce: I didn't quite see where you were going, Bruce...

smokin joe said...

by the way, Brian, I found this comment on a jesuscreed discussion thread today called "Ironic Faith." It leads me to think that you, Steve and John are more 'emerging' (not emergent) than you might think. It also goes back to your question about the difference between McLaren and old fashioned theological liberals:

9. I think one difference between old-fashioned liberal Protestants and emergents may be that the liberals were often ultra-modernists, whereas the emergents (at their best) are rediscovering the great tradition of Christian orthodoxy rooted in the Fathers and the daily office etc. In fact, I was surprised that this wasn’t one of Scot’s 8 points. It seems to me that the two youthful movements at odds with mainstream/popular US evangelicalism these days are both going back to tradition - the Young Reformed types to the 16th/17thC, the emergents to the Fathers/mystics/Celtic Christianity etc.
Comment by John C — September 30, 2008 @


based on John C.'s comment, if it is accurate, most of the regular participants in this blog are 'emerging' back to the early church ... (:-) goofy, ironic laughter).

smokin joe said...

hey Brian,

assuming that your question about a false church parallel to a false Israel was not rhetorical, I would simply answer in the affirmative: 'yes.'

Bruce said...

Sorry about the academic-speak.
Some of us here had cited Peter Berger and other sociologists, so I assumed there was a sociology thing hap'ning here. I was using their language.

A gift culture is when people give up what they have and get what they need by giving and receiving gifts. There's no obligation attached, although there's a fair expectation that people will reciprocate. A for-pay culture is when people sell what they have and buy what they want with the money, in formal exchange.

A good example is when neighbors watch each other's kids. You watch mine, I watch yours, we're all friends, it doesn't much matter, they can eat dinner with us if you're tied up, blah blah blah.

If one friend has a private little notebook with dates and times that she babysat the neighbor kids, the switching back and forth looks a lot like the first example, but it's shifted to a quid pro quo arrangement in her heart. I watched your kids, and now you owe me.

Likewise when people take each other out to dinner. I took you out last time, so now you owe me. Jesus said that when you throw a party, invite people who can't pay you back. They might owe you, but God will pay you back.

A shepherd lays down his life for the flock. It's what he is, it's what he does, simply, without restraint, without pay. A Christian following his pastor will share all good things with his pastor, and with others, making sure that good teachers get a full paycheck. This is a Kingdom gift-economy.

In contrast, a life coach will only give advice if you sign a contract indemnifying him of all harm and (often) pay up front.

The shepherd, as part of watching the people of God, loving them as his very self, gets cared for by his people, rightly getting pay out of the gifts that people rightly bring. God imposes an obligation, but it's not as cut and dried as Service For Pay.

What we used to call "Institutional Church" was, is, characterized by a For-Pay economy. Like the life coach, the shepherd is hired or fired. If the Holy Spirit blows through the people of God, they will start appreciating the pastor as a gift from God, and he will love them rightly, and they will pay him rightly. As they rattle the for-pay economy they live in, they will set things up so they can honor the guy with money, but the spirit of it all is that they are honoring the guy with their gifts, not paying him for services rendered.

Billy Graham set up the finances of the BG Evangelistic Assn so that he was paid a typical salary of a big city church pastor, even though if he accepted the abundance that his appreciative people gave, he'd have been wildly rich, for the time anyway. That's an example of the For Pay model being reinterpreted to serve the Gift model, keeping the old form but new heart.

I don't know what the CGM brothers received as their ministry recompense back in the day, but I'm of the opinion that if it was closer to a doctor, lawyer or other affluent professional, that it was a good and decent attempt to reinterpret the For Pay model as the Gift model of pay.

In contrast, some CEOs give themselves million dollar bonuses before they declare bankruptcy, and some heads of ministries pay themselves exorbitant bonuses, calling it "reaping the harvest", but rightly taking the name, "fleecing the flock."

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, my question was not rhetorical, and thanks for pointing out that I might be more "emerging" than I know. I trust that, if true, it will prove to be a good thing!

What I was trying to get at is that Jesus confronted Israel with the fact that they had totally misconstrued their understanding of their corporate identity as the people of God. So while there was a lot of good old-fshioned sin, as well as the works-righteousness hammered on by the Reformers, that might not be the center of their problem. Perhaps it was more of a world-view level issue for Jesus. The at-hand kingdom he announced radically redefined Israel's two primary corporate identity markers, Temple and Torah. The kingdom "works" very differently than they had understood, operating through cross-and-resurrection, instead of Torah- or Temple-purity. Jesus largely agreed with the Pharisees on issues of personal sin--adultery is wrong, as are divorce, lying, stealing, etc; Jesus was not a "moral reformer" in this sense.

For us today: how might the church have become "false" through falsely understanding its corporate nature/identity, the world in which it operates, and the God who calls it into being? If the Pharisees had to give up on the restoration of the Davidic monarchy (at least as they understood it), and the restoration of Israel as the "chief of the nations" (in the sense they would have understood that), and their misconstrual of what it meant to be "God's chosen people," what might we need to give up on (= repent of)?

Bruce, thanks for the clarification on the reality that the kingdom does not operate according to buying-selling, but to giving-receiving.

smokin joe said...

Bruce, have you ever read The Gift by Marcel Mauss? He was an anthropology student of Emile Durkheim and carried out research on the role of gift giving and exchange in Pacific Island cultures ...

Max Weber would take your thoughts about the difference between a 'gift-culture' vs. a monetary exchange culture a bit futher in the area of institutionalization. His key word is 'rationalization' and is a characteristic of modernity.

In a rationalized bureaurcracy (or society) not only is monetary exhange made impersonal and rational, but also jobs, roles and functions are rationalized ... and often impersonal.

In most denominational organizations, the role of pastor is interchangable. One guy retires (or falls into sin), you bring in another guy to fill the "role". It is not a relationship of a father to a family... it is more like a CEO or manager ... you can hire and fire. My vineyard friends have this down to a science... you "hire" pastoral staff to do a specialized job ... if they don't produce according to pre-defined expectations ... you fire them. Nothing personal. By-the-way, in our group we never developed a 'rational bureacracy' there fore we are unable to replace pastors ... when the pastor dies or leaves, the family either multiplies or more likely dies with him.

Brian, I am not making an "all-or-nothing" statement that the whole church is false... I am only responding affirmatively to the way your framed the question. Thats my gut 'feeling' and it corresponds to what a lot of other people are saying, such as Barna. I'll give some thought to how to back that up with examples, although there is a danger that it will take us back down the road of talking about the church.

It seems hard to get away from that topic, n'est pas?

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, I didn't understand you to be making an all-or-nothing statement, and agree to not going down the church road again just now! I guess I wasn't so much asking what the church should be as of what might we need to repent... before we can become what we're supposed to be. For example, for Israel to heed Jesus' call to repent, they would need to give up on their nationalistic impulses that would seek to define themselves as a "nation" (as opposed to God's people), and to do so primarily on the world's understanding of "nation" (or kingdom, state, etc.) Are there situations that are roughly parallel for the church in the West. Sometimes it may be easier to see where repentance is necessary than it is to see the kingdom, or what the church should become as an agent/herald/ambassador of the kingdom. The sins we need to repent cloud our vision for everything else?

Bruce said...

Yeah, thanks. I have read some Durkheim and dipped into a few of those other guys. Derek or Bob used to say that a church could start and stay focused for about 5 years, max. Then, in my words, they rationalized the relationships and functions.

Haven't read The Gift, tho. It was that understanding that inspired me, about gift culture vs pay culture. I think the arguments about women in ministry hinge on viewing ministry as impersonal roles rather than the transmission of life. If ministry is mostly a "doable task", then it's irrational, unreasonable to restrict anyone from any job for which they technically qualify--women should preach, unrepentant people who are trained in psychology and pastoral counseling should counsel, and so forth. If it's all about the transmission of life, then personal holiness AND sexual biology AND gifting--all three--pertain to church office.

John M. said...

Brian, I don't have time to say much, but I think you're on to something important by asking what does the church need to repent of.

Later I'll give some of my opinions, but a general observation is that many of the elements of repentance needed by the First Century Jewish community are perhaps present in the 21st Century Church.

And yes, I would agree that there is a lot that is analogous between the Temple System of Jesus time and the present state of the Chruch.

I would like to see us stay on this for a while and see what the Lord shows us. I believe it's a significant concept.

On a personal note regarding repentance (Joseph, thanks for baring your own soul regarding personal repentance), I find myself, now that I'm in my late 50's needing to repent of things that I didn't seem to need to repent of when I was in my 20's, 30's and 40's. I hope that's because I'm seeing my own sin, pride, lust, hard heart, self-deception, narcicissm etc. more clearly than I did when I was younger.

But it's still quite unsettleing to feel less mature and more "in the need of prayer", and grace and forgiveness than ever before in my life. I, seriously, have struggled with sin, both internal and exterior, more in the last couple years than ever before.
In my pride I would have thought I would have it more together by now.

Oh yeah, and I didn't used to cuss or feel a need to like I do now...

But unlike some of my very good friends, I haven't yet taken up smokin' or drinkin' that hard liquor! Hee Hee :)

Brian Emmet said...

Apropos of nothing, just for fun, and definitely not to derail this conversation, but check out this link on what "real men" can do once they have given in an purchased one of those new, ulta-slick, ultra-tiny Smart Cars (from Mercedes Benz):

smokin joe said...

hi guys, seems we have hit a brief lull in our converation... I posted a link to jesuscreed in which McKnight respond to an email from someone asking him why he does not convert to RCC or EO. I thought his response contained some invaluable insight about the church ...

Brian, sorry if I am posting too much, just let me know. There is no reason why we cannot keep several converations going at once.

by-the-way, we had an awesome tuesday night god-party last night ... it was vulgar and raucous at places but we got down to some serious and intense conversation about accountability, transparencey, integrity and walking in the light. About halfway through, one of the my grad school friends pulled me aside to confess some areas of serious temptation and ask for prayer. It was a first.

I took some video with my camera...if i get a chance, I'll try to post it on youtube for you guys.


John M. said...

Brian, here are some suggestioins of what the American Church needs to repent of. These repentance points are taken from an Intercessors for America email that was sent to me by a friend. I know I am guilty of all or most of these.

Greed - Dear God, we repent for ourselves and on behalf of those around us for greed, corruption, lust, gluttony, laziness, and entertainment addiction so prevalent in our society, that has brought judgment upon us.

Complacency - Lord, we repent of complacency, comfort seeking, consumerism, and self centeredness so common among us as believers, Messianic and Christian alike. Amos 6:1 - "Woe to you who are at ease (complacent) in Zion."
Mercy - We cry for mercy; rescue us from the punishment our sins deserve by Your covenant grace in the blood of Yeshua (Jesus). Rescue the millions of families and children who may suffer and die because of this crisis.

Work Ethic - We turn back to basic biblical values of diligence, integrity, and honest pay for honest work.

Debt slavery - Father, your word says that debt is slavery (Deuteronomy 28:44; Proverbs 22:7). We confess that we have sold ourselves into slavery for the sake of immediate gratification and luxury. Heads of our financial institutions have sold us into slavery for the sake of dishonest profiteering.

Bruce said...

My comment is half tongue in cheek, and half a suggestion that we need to repent of disrespecting our elders:

John M. sounds like a fundamentalist.

I don't remember where I read it--maybe Blue Like Jazz--but the contemporary author said that what "not loving the world", being separate unto Christ, meant to him growing up was to have a way of life characterized by all these things.

I suspect John M is right, by the way.

John M. said...

Hey Bruce, thanks for the comment. The kind of fundamentalist-legalism I experienced growing up did not even consider the idea of corporate sin, it was all individual and consisted of, "don't drink (alcohol), don't chew, don't smoke, don't cuss, don't go to movies, don't dance or listen to popular music (except country or bluegrass; that was OK) don't have a TV (until the late
50's and then that one seemed to drop off the list, (except for the most radical), don't let your hair grow (for males), don't cut your hair (for females), don't wear shorts (male and female), always wear hose with your aknle-length skirt (females), and if you're really spiritual they'll be dark with a seam up the back, so no one will mistake that you don't have them on, no jewlry or makeup (females; that was before males started wearing jewlry and makeup!) -- oh yes, and no "mixed bathing", meaning no swimming if the opposite s-x was around. Notice that gluttony is not on the list beause there were a lot of fat Christians in those circles, many times the preacher himself. If I've forgotten some, I'm sure Smokin Joe or Steve H. can fill in.

Acutally the word "fundamentalist" is a good word, meaning root, fulcrum, foudation, but it has been hi-jacked by well-meaning, though mis-guided folks and the media's portryal (sometimes accurate, sometimes exaggerated) of them.

Consequently, because of all the cultural bagagge it has accumulated, it's not a word I would use to describe myself.

Bruce said...

I mean 'fundamentalist' as a term of endearment.
The emergent-style source that i read, and can't remember who, said in a paragraph near the front of the book that the way they related to the world was to avoid getting too entangled in secular affairs, work hard, care for their neighbors and family and church members, avoid entertainments, avoid avocations so you could devote yourself to the things God actually called you to, avoid debt. There was nothing out of order in any of that, and it's the default common sense of my family's Christian heritage, not necessarily my own personal practice.

That list looks a lot like the kind of list that you called American Christians to turn toward.

John M. said...

It doesn't look like anyone is too much in the mood to repent, or they're so busy repenting that they don't have time to post about it! If anyone has more to say on that topic, we certainly have not exhausted it.

But I want to go back to the original question, "How do we define the 'Kingdom of God'"?

I think what we've said so far is good, but my question is, does it go far enough?

If we define God's Kingdom as "God's loving rule" or as the influence of God's sovereign rule or whatever, what does that mean? How is it visible? What does it look like? Leaven is invisible in the loaf, but the effect of the leaven's presence is very visible.
A mustard seed is nearly invisible, but what it produces if visible.

Like Bama Stephen, Romans 14:17 is one of my favorite definitions of God's Kingdom. But if we define the KOG as "righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit", what does that look like? More than just a pentecostal meeting, I hope. Although I totally enjoy that type of meeting, I think there's more to the Kingdom than the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit.

Is "rightteous" (cf Romans 14:17, Matt. 6:33) simply a synonym for God's holiness, or does it have the connotation of "justice" as McClaren defines it in EMC?

Is peace simply a "personal sense of well-being" or an "absence of conflict" or does it have the deeper connotation of "shaloam"?

And is joy simply personal euphoria and happiness, or does it have a connotation of God's peresence, and of extending the joy of His presence to others.

Does the Holy Spirit bring "only" the gifts (as is we couldn't use a lot more of them!), but does his identification with the Kingdom also include, creativity, cultural influence, the incarnation of God's vision and influence into our world...

Matt. 6:33 indicates that seeking God's Kingdom first, results in provision of basic necessities, "all these things [food, clothing, daily necessities] will be added to you".

Does that mean that as "Kingdom" people we would be seeking just wages, food, clothing and shelter for the poor and homeless? Should we be on the front lines agitating against injustice, oppression, and human slavery, even when it might threaten our own personal investments or national interests?

Has "free-market capitalism" become a euphamism for greed? Does the U.S.'s seeming need to become the "democratic messiah" of the world and the need to prop up our selfish American consummerism and our dependence on easy credit, and creature comforts we consider necessities, actally emulate the values of God Kingdom? Are these american cultural values distinguishable from the Church's values? Should they be?

All right. Surely, I've stirred up someting here. But I didn't write just to stir up discussion. These are real questions that I'm grappeling with.

Bruce said...

About the gifts, they include those other things. They spill over to the world.

steve H said...

What does God's loving rule or the influence of God's sovereign rule look like? In a word--Jesus. I like the way E. Stanley Jones put it in "The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person":

“This Unshakable Kingdom and this Unchanging Person belong together. If we present the Person without the Kingdom, then the Person may have individual relationships but would lack social relationships. Or if we present the Kingdom without the Person then the Kingdom would have social relationships but would lack personal relationships. But if you put them together you and a complete and total relevance and meet man’s total need.
Hitherto we have had the slogan 'Jesus is the Answer,' but Jesus is not the answer unless we give Jesus’ answer—-himself and the Kingdom." (Chapter 1, p. 38)

"This unity of the order and the Person is not something imposed on the account. It is its warp and woof. 'But when they came to believe Philip with his good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized' (Acts 8:12 NEB). The order, the kingdom; and the Person, the name of Jesus-—both of them are called the Good News. Again the final emphasis of Paul, the chief exponent of the Good News: 'He dealt at length with the whole matter; he spoke urgently of the kingdom of God (Moffatt: 'from personal testimony') and sought to convince them about Jesus' (Acts 28:23 NEB). The order, the kingdom of God and the Person, Jesus, were one. Again: 'with a welcome for all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and without hindrance' (Acts 28:31 NEB). 'Proclaiming the kingdom of God' (the order) and 'teaching the facts about the Lord Jesus' (the Person). Thus the Acts of the Apostles closes on the dual note of the order and the Person."
(Chapter 1, p. 39)

Brian Emmet said...

I think the issue the church in the West may have missed is not so much the Who of the Kingdom (Jesus) or the What (e.g., righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit), but the How, as in how does the kingdom work, how does "it" accomplish "its" purposes?

"By the Spirit" is an essential part of the answer, and we can talk more about that. But the Spirit is only poured out after the cross and resurrection.

"By death and resurrection" is the part of the answer that I think is so hard for us to get ahold of, or better, aligned with. My hunch is that most of us should probably keep on doing what we understand God to have said to us, always being open to fresh direction, insight, understanding, etc.--but without all the insecurity and anxiety about getting it right, achieving results, being noticed, making an impact, and so on. And perhaps also without expecting much necessarily to happen as a direct, straight-line consequence of our actions. Resurrection does NOT "follow naturally" after death, it is NOT "the flowers always come into bloom after the long nasty winter." There is no natural link between what happens on Calvary and what happens at the empty tomb on the third day.

Let me hasten to add that I think God is absolutely calling some of us to pioneer, experiment, "to boldy go where no man has gone before," and that the rest of us, not so called, should do all we can to support the pioneers. Who knows what God will cause to grow? It could well be the new, cutting-edge, immature and unproved impulses of some wild and crazy folks, and it could be the less with-it faithfulness of some stuck-in-the-muds... who can tell what God will do with our obedience? Not ours to determine, let's just die to everything other than being faithful and see what all God will do with it, or despite it.

I also want to make clear that I am not trying to cut off this discussion, or issue the last word, or anything like that. I just want us to help one another DO whatever God is saying to us, and to support, encourage, pray for, give money to, etc. each other as we go along. I want to die to whether I'm getting the church right, or whether my church is a kingdom kind of church, and try to continue to love the people and help them grow in faith, hope and love, and to try to hand some of that off to the next generation. I don't feel like I'm doing any of this perfectly, or even very well, but I want to die to that self-assessment (without losing the drive to learn, improve, grow, change, etc.) I want to see Joseph's patio meeting grow into something beautiful for God, and John's classroom to continue becoming a secret discipleship lab, and Bruce to produce a graphic novel, without having to determine whether what grows will be an annual or a perennial, or something altogether unknown or unexpected.

Bruce said...

Thanks for the encouraging word.
And Amen for you other brothers.

smokin joe said...

excellent comments Brian ... a strong AMEN!

John M. said...

Excellent perspective Brian. I'm there some days! But I keep reverting back to self-consciousness. Thanks for the remiinder to stay dead and let the Lord take care of the resurrection and the fruit.

Steve, I really liked E. Stanley Jones' book, although I read it a long time ago, so it's not too fresh in my mind. On the surface, I like the answer, "Jesus", and I defnitely like the personal/social combination.

But I'm looking for something more specific. Unless we ask some deeper questions, I think the "Jesus" answer can be a cop out.

Does the "personal" Jesus just amount to a pietistic, fire insurance policy or does He make a difference in how we live and view the world?

And most importantly for me at this time is, what does the "social Jesus" mean? What should we as God's people be doing on a social level? Is business as usual enough or is God calling us to more?