Tuesday, February 23, 2010

God's Kingdom -- the Great Divine Clean up

My friend Steve Kindle, in a comment on an earlier post, suggested that we look to Crossan and Borg to get a sense of the context of the Prayer Jesus taught the disciples.  The second petition, which we will consider this coming Sunday, speaks of the coming of the kingdom, so that God's will might be done on earth as it has been in heaven.

Looking to John Dominic Crossan for a moment, he writes in his book God and Empire this of the Kingdom of God:

"The Kingdom of God" was a standard expression for what I have been calling the Great Divine Cleanup of this world.  It was what this world would look like if and when God sat on Caesar's throne, or if and when God lived in Antipas' palace.  That is very clear in these parallel phrases of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:10:  "Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  The Kingdom of God is about the Will of God for this earth here below.  That earthly presence agrees, of course, with everything we have seen so far about apocalyptic eschatalogical expectation.  It is about the transformation of this world into holiness, not the evacuation of this world into heaven.  (God and Empire, HarperOne, pp. 116-117).  
The concern here, according to Crossan, is with changing the way the world runs and works.  It puts God's kingdom in opposition to Caesar's.  So, what does that mean for us?  We don't live in Caesar's kingdom.  In fact, at least in theory, it's "we the people" who govern ourselves.  It is our kingdom -- so how does that relate to God's kingdom?  In what ways are we participating in the transformation of the world in which we live.  Calvin would have us live in opposition to the world.  Is that what is expected of us?  Constantine would have the world define the Kingdom?  What is that Jesus wants of us?

7 comments:

John said...

In God's Kingdom the will of God prevails not the will of a king or even the collective will of the people.

John

Steve said...

Bob, you raise good questions, as usual. I would challenge your assertion that we don't live in Caesar's kingdom. You even equivocate in "at least in theory" America is "we the people" who govern. Just as with Rome, America is oppressed by the elite 5% who reap vast rewards off the labor of the rest of us. Congress is bought and paid for by corporate America. The military-industrial complex sets our agendas in the guise of protecting our national interests. The parallels go on and on. So, with Crossan, "changing the way the world runs and works" involves confronting American oppressions just as Jesus (and most NT writers) confronted those of Caesar's. This is not to say that Rome and America are wholly corrupt. It is to say both are under the influence of the "powers" (W. Wink) and need to be redeemed. I think that this is what Jesus would want of us. If America were suddenly brought fully into the Kingdom of God, you wouldn't recognize it.

John said...

I think that bringing in the Kingdom involves not only changing leaders, but changing people. The Kingdom is not so much about changes in corporate leadership and ending corporate oppression as it is about internal changes within each person who would enter the Kingdom - getting to the point that we truly love God with all of heart, heart, soul, and mind and loving our neighbor, all of our neighbors, as God loves us.

America is no closer to the Kingdom than was Rome, the self-satisfaction of American Exceptionalists notwithstanding.

The question is: are we as Christians any closer to the Kingdom?

Steve said...

John, I think the change in question is one from master to servant. Wouldn't that change the notion of "public servant!" I don't know how our politicians can describe themselves as such with a straight face.

Regarding your final question: We have so capitulated to Constatinian Christianity that we are now merely a part of the problem; the solution will not come from the church until there is a radical reshaping of our self-understanding. Fortunately, there are signs that it is now underway. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!"

John said...

Steve,

What defines "Constantinian Christianity"?

John

Anonymous said...

Steve makes good points. We should challenge ourselves and our children to excel in our natural gifts, not for personal gain, but for the influence we can have in the world. If we strive to avoid the usual temptations and forgive on the way we'll drive the world in the right directions. We should never forget we're here to learn and live- not to cow-tow to powers that would oppress good humble people (the majority) for their own self interests. By the way, I think that's the definition you ask for John/ God for our kingdom, vs God's support for ours?

In January 313, Constantine legalized Christianity with an edict that read:

let this be so in order that the divine grace which we have experienced in such manifold ways, may always remain loyal to us and continue to bless us in all we undertake, for the welfare of the empire.

David Mc

Anonymous said...

I was being rushed. I meant to say us for God's kingdom vs. of course.