The Kingdom of God, that is, Israel Restored

Jesus and the Sorcerer's Stone - I mean - Victory of God

I’m re-reading NT Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, which should be required reading for anyone who knows English.

Beginning at page 228, Wright discusses Jesus’ quintessential announcement that the Kingdom of God had indeed drawn near in and through his life and work.

It’s funny, Jesus talks so much about the Kingdom of God, but I’m not sure many Christians know what it means.

In my own words, following Wright’s lead, it means this: When a first century Jew heard Jesus say that the Kingdom of God had drawn near, the Jew would have thought in terms of God acting in their day to vindicate His people Israel.  The Jew would have thought that God was coming, perhaps supernaturally, perhaps in the form of a representative hero, to defeat Israel’s enemies and restore the nation to sovereign rule over, at least, her own affairs.  The Kingdom of God could very well have been virtually synonymous with Israel in her rightful place, the blessed of God.

Of course, the astonishing part about the gospels is that the Kingdom of God means all of that and a lot more.  And it turns out the Kingdom comes in a way completely unexpected by the majority of Jews in the first century.

Israel’s enemies (or enemy, more probably) were defeated.  The true people of God were vindicated.  The representative hero of God was victorious and exalted to the throne, his rightful place.

Support a Third Kingdom

Tomahawk chop!

In case you’ve missed it, a coalition of military forces began beating the tar out of Libya & their maniacal leader Muammar Gaddafi.

This morning, my friend wrote in Patheos that, given the example of Jesus, Christians have little place to stand but to oppose this violence.

I don’t question Jesus’ own non-violent approach to life.  His silence throughout the injustice of the Passion is a wonder (and a lesson on faith that I won’t get into now).  I don’t question the call for Christians to likewise walk in this manner (see, for example, 1 Cor 6:1-11).

Rather, the thing that is piquing my interest in this is Jesus’ approach to governments throughout his life.  Connected, as well, is the call that this attitude places on those who claim to follow Christ today.

My starting point is Mark 12:13-17, in which Jesus is questioned regarding the validity of Jews paying taxes to the Roman Caesar, a story referenced briefly in the Patheos piece.  According to the gospel writer, Jesus is asked whether it is lawful (according to Jewish law, one presumes) for Jews in Jesus’ day to pay taxes to Rome, the political power over Jerusalem.

Jesus famously replies in favor of neither Rome (kingdom 1) nor Israel (kingdom 2), but instead goes about his business advancing a third kingdom, the Kingdom of God/Heaven.

Today, would Jesus be backing the Western coalition?  Probably not.  Though he likely wouldn’t do so to the face of the West.  His way was often more subversive.

Would Jesus be backing Gaddafi?  Probably not.  Though here too he would likely be more allusive.

I am certain, though, that Jesus would be speaking and acting on both sides, proclaiming this Third Kingdom, with an absolutely just and righteous King, who delivers genuine freedom and peace and hope and abundant life.

To me, this is what Jesus’ representatives ought to be doing in the West and in Libya: making available citizenship in a truly subversive culture, a Third Kingdom that straddles all boundaries.

The Ultimate Leader

There’s a theological thought that’s been running through my head the last several weeks, and I’m finding it intriguing.  I haven’t yet had time to explore it in any depth, but I’m eager to do so – hopefully soon.  Ready?  Here it is:

God doesn’t ask His people to do anything He isn’t prepared to do or hasn’t already done.

More to follow.

Boyd & Asimov

Some time ago I eagerly and delightedly soaked in Gregory Boyd’s Satan and the Problem of Evil, which, for those not in the know, is the single best treatment of theodicy in the English language.  I’m gonna say Read It, with the full knowledge that, if you are of the Reformed persuasion, you’re going to have a tough time (maybe).

But this isn’t a review of Boyd’s text.

Satan and the Problem of Evil
Really, it makes so much sense, it's silly that not everyone believes this.

It’s been at least a year since I read the book, but last night it occurred to me that a significant (in importance, not necessarily size) portion of Boyd’s thesis is awfully similar to Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.

Among Boyd’s great points is the simple assertion that God is always doing as much good as He possibly can, but he will not violate human free will to accomplish the good.  To summarize briefly,

1. God has established a good portion of His creation with free will, which includes the right to choose for or against Him;

2. the mere existence of that free will means the possibility of evil is ever present;

3. God is always combating evil to the highest degree possible, but He will not violate the first principle to do so.

It’s been some time since I read the book, so I’ve probably done a terrible disservice to the thesis, not least because it cannot be summed up so briefly, but there’s the pieces relevant to what I’m thinking today.

To compare, Asimov’s Three Laws:

This looks like a world I would let the the robots rule.

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Is anyone else seeing this?  I love it.