Explorations in Theology

The series explores a theology that is human friendly! Jesus as the true human shows us who God is, and because of his consideration for us ('who are we, that God should make note of us?') defines who humanity was created to be. The nature of sin is to fall short of the glory of God. The glory of God as revealed in the truly human one - 'we beheld his glory full of grace and truth'. This volume is a foundation for the other volumes. And there are ZOOM groups available...
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Looking in the mirror

I appreciated the comments on the article by Michele on the ‘Seven Mountains’, also the one by Stuart suggesting that there is always the danger in throwing out the baby with the bath water. Given that Michele articulated it so well, and that I am also in agreement with her I thought I would write a kind of parallel post here. [And of course it gives me an opportunity to let you know that Volume 3 is out in the next few days… A Subversive Movement, where I say in the preface that I consider that the language of Seven Mountains is probably not redeemable. I was very struck by Michele’s comment that ‘our words create worlds’.]

My middle name is ‘opinionated’ (along with a few others such as ‘uninformed’, ‘biased’, ‘not so smart’) but I try and dismiss opinions I have about what I cannot influence and over what I do not carry responsibility for. I find – for me, because of the above middle names – that is very helpful. I travelled many years to the USA, until 2009, but when I realised I was not carrying responsibility for the land there I had to leave that to others and then keep my mouth shut. In recent weeks I am seeing afresh that we can look that direction but what we are viewing is a mirror not a window. For that reason I will make a few reflections (no pun intended).

Conspiracy. Hard to prove wrong, particularly as the goalposts continually move. Back (way back) in the day credit cards were highly suspicious… now we are all glad for them. The vaccine, and Bill Gates… (glad I use open source, Linux… I will be so safe.) Many of the current conspiracy theories will just disappear, but conspiracy theories will simply live on. (There were ones in the first century, and I find it very amusing that John in Revelation pulls on a few for his visions, sending them up in the process!!!)

And the early church following Paul’s lead knew they had to get control of Rome, install a god-fearing Caesar. So they worked tirelessly for this, rejoicing at every change of legislation that favoured them. [I am still searching for the text that will back that up, but just give me time… Oh can’t find it… Oh yes does not exist!!!]

No that just was not the focus. I have no doubt that the gospel was political, indeed political before personal (volume 4 to come) but politics that were not and can never be wedded to a political party, can never bow at the feet of nation-statehood, nor simply (and simplistically) look for ‘godly’ legislation that for example becomes single-issued. All the above far from dealing with contrary spirits to the Gospel will simply strengthen them, as all ‘right/wrong’ dividing lines do when they are not subject to the ‘life / death’ divide.

The church in Europe is post-Christendom. Thankfully. Although we have quite a catch up to make with that reality, there are circumstances here now that will help us. I am so positive about Europe, secularised Europe. Thankful for the genuine revival movements of Asia but the time line of Europe is different. (And if I can say it, the USA is the child of Europe so follows the time line here not the time line of (e.g.) Asia.) In the situation that has no hope of restoring Christendom, that is secularised, what an opportunity to re-discover the political Gospel that is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes; the Gospel that will enable us to endure persecution, not the supposed ‘persecution’ of legislation that affects my life-style!! Thank you believers in China for enduring and continuing to endure through your great tribulation. Your suffering produces fruit elsewhere as well as in your land.

There are debates about ‘false prophecy’, about what might still happen. In the mirror I think what I see is that we might have restored to us the political Gospel in such a way that we are not preoccupied (if that word was Spanified it would read ‘worried’) about legislation and whether it marginalises us or not. [I write this as I see in Europe, and in a part of the world that I am still connected to, Brazil, a huge shift of allegiance to the right that shouts pro-life on one issue but is not so pro-life with regard to the next generation at many other levels. Allegiance… no Jesus broke the ‘which Caesar has your allegiance?’ line of things. Left / right… no.]

And as for left / right I watched a Spanish commentator living in the USA shake his head in disbelief. He said in the US Biden can be labelled a ‘communist’, but his policies in Spain would make him a comfortable fit with the PP party (right wing inheritors of Franco’s Falange party!!). It becomes so convenient to put a label on someone quickly.

Not sure we really want a Cyrus… We can be so quick to draw lines from ‘that’ to ‘this’. However not sure if we would really want a Cyrus if the parallels are really to work. 1) the people were not in their own land, but captive; 2) the one raised up was not one of theirs. Now make the parallels, although it is very hard to do so as point 1 above does not fit, but hey ho… Maybe we could go for something like it was discovered that there was major interference in the Brexit vote but God raised up a Cyrus straight out of Brussels to come and he (always a ‘he’ when from Brussels!) made some edicts that declared it all had to be reversed. OK just a little humour… but time to back off from the quick analogies we make, particularly when we pull on one part that is certainly far from analagous. Come on people, come up a little beyond the 666, revived Roman Empire stuff. So little, little, little in the Bible abut anything that comes close… but last time I read it so much about following Jesus where he goes.

OK back to the mirror as we are living at the turn of an era. (Currently I pick up language of moving from holocene (stable climate for millenniums) to an anthropocene (the effects that will long shape the future from our abuse of the planet) era. We, as believers, might use different language, and I like the ‘Christendom’ language, or the third aspect of outpouring (‘to those afar off’) . Regardless of language the mirror helps us see what we need to give attention to. So in summary!!

  • A recovery of the political Gospel, what I term the Pauline Gospel. A positive, crazy vision for a transformed world (although his language is much better, replace ‘world’ with ‘creation’). This has nothing to do with post-millennialism (nor pre-, nor a-), but has everything to do with an obsession that the whole of society can be changed to be in some measure a reflection of heaven and heaven’s values. Those values being rooted in how we see others – and so how we talk about them, write about them, tweet etc.
  • Taking a true pro-life stance. Life for everyone, which means that we who have life will have to become life-givers, not life protectors.
  • A by all means vote for a party, a person but connected with a ‘but I am not too serious about it, and it is not a matter of life and death’ stance.
  • A renunciation of all other allegiances other than the one to Jesus. All allegiances colour our perspective (what we see will make us blind in other areas) and our ‘prophecies’ will be skew(er)ed. Skewed and skewered I fear.
  • Get up each morning happy that we have another day to influence the future, not through promoting our nation, nor our ‘church’ but the presence of Jesus that will deeply inconvenience me but bless someone else, particularity someone I once labelled as an enemy.

6 thoughts on “Looking in the mirror

  1. If I am reading you rightly then the true radical nature of the gospel is to be political without seeking or retaining power, even to influence the culture. Back to Roger’s kenotic, politics of love. All politics really means for kingdom seekers is the opportunity to love, more and more. I would suggest in real and practical ways. It does not seek power to control either passively, aggressively, blatantly or with subtlety. Far from it. So no more 7 mountains or whatever geographical imprint we want to stamp on the need to control others. Gone all the mandates aside from giving life to others by giving ourselves. It is the most radical and difficult thing to do. Anything else will always end up toxic and destructive.

  2. Thank you such a great post. As I was reading I had an idea/picture of seeds being planted in the earth which would grow into the kingdom if watered by love for friend and enemy, care for the poor, love for the stranger, the laying down of one’s life for someone else maybe even literally etc., -the kingdom growing from ground up to change and restore. So different from having powerful allies imposing our pet agendas. I remembered what you said about 9/10 years ago when talking about Islamic terrorists and fear of Islam in the west in general. You had said in response to those Christians who had suggested we should arm ourselves against them that it would be better for us to get a knife in our back than to do that. Such a powerful kingdom truth. It is just as relevant now when some prophets/pastors have suggested the idea of Christian militia groups to impose law and order to defend ‘Christendom’. I find that so deeply disturbing. The kingdom can only come through a kenotic, non violent, servant stance by the people of God and in fact maybe anyone made in image of God who behaves that way.

  3. I’ve been thinking about the idea of the anthropocene age and the age of the Spirit.
    We might say that we were already in the age of the Spirit, but right now I suspect there is a real coming together of these two things if chosen. I agree it presents a choice- the kenotic one and the allegiance to Jesus (though not one of militant return) it is a matter first of heart change that leads to behaviour change. Is this not the first sphere and love of the body of Christ? I believe in transformation of society, but how easy that drive can start to replace our first love. And then what decisions we make and justify.

    1. Interesting to put the age of the Spirit into the current context of the anthropocene age. Without doubt an amazingly challenging era is here now… A pessimistic view (realistic?) could be a major shift in the world’s population, particularly if pandemics will increase (so many more this and last century than at any other time in history). Global changes? My thoughts have gone a lot to what I term a third wave of the Spirit – ‘for you’, ‘for your children’… ‘to those afar off’. What does that mean. Then what if Paul got the first step of the process – an ekklesia in every city, region… Two aspects – where would he think an ekklesia was required now? Would he be thinking geographic or…? And if he had the first step maybe we should be asking why an ekklesia.

  4. In terms of ekklesia I’d love to say something defining and clever, but hey ho! Maybe another day. I’m really not sure I have anything that constitutes a concrete idea. Like many I have deconstructed lots, but I am experiencing delays in reconstruction! I do know that I often end up there because the question of what we are supposed to be as people and as community is a/the practical end of theology.

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