Showing items filed under “I: The Tower: the View of the Street: ”

The State

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The Roman Empire was brutal, and built roads.  It killed Christians as subversives, and yet had courts of law (as Paul well knew).  We are not surprised that it was called the Whore of Babylon in Revelation; we are taken aback to hear Paul in Romans 13 to hear that the enforcement of their laws fulfills a mandate of God’s.  Clearly the early Christians could differentiate between their paganism, which they denounced, and their function of maintaining order and fairness, which they extolled. In other words, the State is a relative good, a necessity in this interim period among fallen creatures.  The State is neither to be divinized nor demonized.  They were not shocked to see how imperfectly they fulfilled this limited task.

But in our own case, what are we to make of the roots of Western culture, and of our nation, in the Christian tradition? To be sure, this influence is part of the story, as is the Enlightenment emphasis on the public square free of religion. How might this too be defended from a religious point of view?  What happens when the issues in that public square have direct theological implications? 

Specific questions reappear in history: is there a place for the witness of Christian pacifism?  What about the conditions under which war is justified? Ought the State to have an interest in the defenseless?  What about parts of history which have denied basic human dignity? The classic questions are not far from the front page today! At the very least we ought all to be clear that no ideology or political allegiance can be equated with the Gospel itself.

Read online about just-war theory and give an opinion.

The Tower: Introduction

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The Church’s interior provides human beings with a space to stand and to see things aligned with reality, that is, ourselves and the world in light of God. But from the tower we can see the world around us, wandering from Him but still belonging to Him. And at the conclusion of a service it is out into that world that we go.  We bring the Church with us, like a tortoise with a shell, in that we bring our perception of things under God into our everyday lives, our work,  So the Tower raises the question about what lies beyond: how are we as Christians to look at it?

Our answer will be divided into a series of matters traditionally dealt with in theology, ethics, evangelism, dialogue, culture, the State, and vocation.  But we need in this first entry to offer an overarching way to look at all these.  Let us find this in the category of mission, with the recipients being the Gentiles, that is, the nations of the world.  These traditional questions are different angles of approach on the nations, now that Jesus is raised and the time of gathering, of the Kingdom, has come. These nations are God’s, and yet they are darkened and confused.  They rage and conspire against God’s anointed (Psalm 2), and yet they are fascinated, they have inklings of Him, and they can use the gifts of mind, of words, of hope, to enter into conversations with Christians.  There is no way to consolidate their reactions, though they be incongruous one with another: longing, hostility, partial understanding, a desire for empathy, pride, insecurity.  We as missionaries are their siblings, and yet we bring news they could not of themselves have imagined.  This relation of blessed and costly collision is to be found in each of the classic questions we will ask in the coming entries.

Another way to put the matter is this. Each topic, ethics, evangelism, dialogue with culture, social outreach, politics, could fill a library. The best we can do is to place them all in relation to one another under the heading of ‘mission to the Gentiles in the time of the kingdom.’  They are different aspects of the same question, how shall we relate to the peoples of the earth, in the image of God and as yet enslaved by sin. 

To show this connection, we will consider all these questions in relation to an extended passage from the New Testament, Romans 12-15.  Paul has laid out his central doctrine of grace. He has related it to the mystery of the place of Israel, God’s people, in the drama of salvation.  Consider first, where Paul offers a series of Scriptural passages about the joyful summons to the nations:  ‘praise the Lord, all you Gentiles.’ (v.11)  Paul’s ministry is meant to circle the Mediterranean so as to proclaim the Gospel to them all (or at least those he knew of).  The offering he exhorts the Gentile Churches is a sign of this circuit, binding the nations together with Jewish believers and one another. (So we see that stewardship too, and the question of our use of money in general, are placed in relation to the nations and the time, the kairos, for proclamation to them).


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