Tag Archives: Christianity

Surprised by Hope (Book Review)

Getting It Wright!

A Book Review of “Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church” by N.T. Wright Reviewed by David D. Flowers

Tom Wright undoubtedly stands at the summit of New Testament scholarship. I sincerely believe he is the most important of Christian thinkers alive today. His writings are a refreshing challenge and a beacon of hope in a world where much of Christianity has lost its way. Wright’s work is unsurpassed as it reminds us all that our faith is not founded on shady history and loose myths about Jesus.

In his book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, Wright challenges this notion of “going to heaven when you die” and spending an eternity in some bodiless future. For if this was the case, Wright’s concern is “then what’s the fuss about putting things right in the present world?”

Is our present language of our future existence reflective of sound New Testament orthodoxy? Do we have a consistent biblical message on “life after death?” Wright doesn’t believe so, and he claims we have instead embraced a Gnostic idea of the future that fouls up our presentation of the Gospel in the present.

Our future home is not “heaven”–for this is where God is presently; another dimension altogether. Our hope is in this spiritual heaven coming down to earth. The climax of all human history is the consummation of God’s spiritual realm (heaven) breaking through to our earthly existence. Therefore, in Wright’s view, it is “life after life after death” that ought to be on our minds.

Only this sort of thinking will lead us to a proper practice of the church. If our beliefs about heaven and the resurrection are wrong, then we are not about the Lord’s business in ushering in the Kingdom of God in ways keeping with the example of Christ.

Wright’s greatest emphasis is on “resurrection” and “new creation” that has already begun in this world. It is time to realize the great significance with that which is at the heart of our faith in Christ (1 Cor. 15:12-28). He writes, “it is (resurrection), principally, the defining event of the new creation, the world that is being born with Jesus.”

It is in the resurrection of Christ that happened in this old creation that gives us hope for a new creation taking place right now in the twenty-first century. “Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible…” (pg.75).

This “new creation” should not be confused with baptizing the culture into Christianity and attempting to enact a utopian dream, as so many in evangelicalism have embraced. This misplaced trust in the myth of progress does not work because it does not account for evil, Wright says.

This myth may sometimes run parallel to our Christian hope, but it “veers off toward a very different destination” that ignores the need for the cross of Christ upon the natural fallen creation. It doesn’t see the need for change within, only uniform capitulation to a set order of ideas.

Wright declares, “What matters is eschatological duality (the present age and the age to come), not ontological dualism (an evil “earth” and a good “heaven”)” (pg. 95). We all have seen how this belief in a Platonic escapism has pervaded our theology and demanded that we adopt a popular dispensationalist view of the future; a future where we “fly away” to “Beulah Land” and spend eternity in a glorified retirement home in the sky.

It is time we abandon this empty belief for one that appreciates the hope given to us in the New Testament; a hope where God restores his good creation and finishes the work he began in the universe. Wright states, “What creation needs is neither abandonment nor evolution but rather redemption and renewal; and this is both promised and guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” (pg. 107).

Wright draws our attention to Christ’s ascension as well as his resurrection. Because of the ascension of Christ, we not only have a savior who is indwelling us and present with his people, but a Lord who is at the same time “gone on ahead of us” by being the first to enter in to our promised resurrected existence. In other words, the work of Christ is finished and yet to be realized. It is reflective of the “already, but not yet” tension of the Kingdom of God.

We await a savior to complete the work he began in us. This completion shall come by way of the parousia or his “coming.”  Wright very simply writes, “he will in fact be “appearing” right where he presently is—not a long way away within our own space-time world but in his own world, God’s world, the world we call heaven” (pg. 135).

Wright challenges our traditional picture of our journey being completed upon death. He argues that there is indeed a temporary “paradise” for believers awaiting the resurrection of the dead and the completion of all things.

Likewise, there would appear to be the same for those who have rejected Christ in this life. When Jesus spoke of “many dwelling places” in his Father’s house, he is speaking of a temporary stop on the journey.  To ignore the finished work of Christ through the final resurrection of the dead is to miss the entire Christian hope.

God’s judgment is a good thing, something that believers ought to celebrate—for evil will be dealt with once and for all and heaven will make its home on earth. On the other hand, the non-believer has much to worry about. Wright calls into question our modern interpretations of hell that reflects a theology from the church of the Dark Ages. Yet, he doesn’t go as far as some “emerging” leaders who, I have reason to believe, may never emerge.

Wright finds it impossible not to believe in some sort of “ultimate condemnation” and loss to human beings that have rejected God’s good grace. He simply says that these folks cease to bear the divine image and by their own choice become “beings that once were human but now are not.”  Whatever “hell” is in reality, none of us would ever desire such a place. The important thing Wright wants to note is that heaven and hell ought not be the focal point of the Christian message.

In the last part of the book, Wright does a wonderful job with making this challenge practical for us all. The resurrection and ascension is not designed to take us away from this earth but instead to make us agents of transformation, anticipating the day when, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

Wright looks at the themes of justice, beauty, and evangelism. What do these things look like in light of this radical message of hope?  What does this look like in retrospect to the resurrection of Christ and the promise that we will inherit the same? Wright believes it is “to live consciously between the resurrection of Jesus in the past and the making of God’s new world in the future” (pg. 213).

My only point of disagreement with this book is in the last chapter. Although I do believe there are nuggets of truth founded in Wright’s attempt to manifest our hope in church practices, his commitment to not only his Anglican heritage but to high church in general is reason enough to move beyond his conclusions and on to a narrative ecclesiology that mirrors the earliest disciples.

It seems to me that this is his only break from a legitimate concern for a Pauline hermeneutic. His hope in a revival within the church practices that came years after Paul, as evident in church history, is wishful thinking indeed. It is here that we begin to replace hope with doom and despair.

“Surprised by Hope” is an excellent book that breathes out an overdue challenge to believers in every corner of the earth. I do hope and pray that its message will start a move of the church to return to the Gospel that looks like Jesus and offers the world more than an escape from a devil’s hell.

N.T. Wright is presently one voice among many that is being heard and has earned the right to be heard in a post-Christian world of conflicting voices. How will we respond? Shall we cling to those chains presently dubbed as “tradition” or will we allow the resurrection of Christ to give us wisdom and understanding into that beautiful hope known as the age to come?

I am pleasantly surprised by the hope we have in Christ… for whose sake I am able to reimagine a world without evil.

 

*Please take the time to vote on this review at Amazon.


The Day of Fire

The Day of FireA Dream of Martyrdom and God’s Judgment on the World

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:28NIV

It was a Sunday morning in 2003 when I awoke from the most vivid dream I have ever dreamt in my life. It was the sort of dream where you wonder if you have actually awakened from it; the kind that stays with you for the next few days.

This was no ordinary dream for me. It has remained with me in its entirety since I experienced it.

I am usually the type of person that looks a bit skeptically at the “dreams and visions” of others. I did not grow up in a “charismatic” faction of Christian faith and practice. Naturally, I proceed with caution when examining the spiritual experiences of others.

So, as a disclaimer, you must know that I consider myself a level-headed person that has tendencies to choose logic over faith; the objective over the subjective; empirical evidence over personal experience.

I was never encouraged to seek out dreams or visions from the Lord. This one was thrusted upon me and lives with me everyday.  I would be a fool to ignore it. Therefore, I can’t help but believe it to have some level of truth in reality.

I often casually joke about my death with others who know me, but I assure you it is no joke to me. It shapes my entire view of the present and the days to come.

I see my life leading up to this event. Sure, it could be that this dream will not have a full and literal fulfillment. I know others may want to interpret it, and they will. No matter what others may say or think about my dream, for me it has already happened.

Back to the dream…

I crawled out of bed and started getting ready for the morning. I was a youth pastor at a small church in a small East Texas town. We lived right next to the church building. I quickly got my stuff together and rushed over to the youth department to prepare for that morning’s many activities.

This entire time the dream was on my mind, but I didn’t have time to think about it because I had responsibilities to carry out. And so I did my thing and postponed further reflection until I had a moment of stillness.

Later that morning when all of my duties had been fulfilled, I sat in my chair next to my wife to listen to the sermon. In the beginning I was listening and then my mind began to drift back to my dream. I slowly began to see my dream play over again in my head. I left myself for a moment and began to relive the dream from the night before.

What did I see? What did it mean? It wasn’t a long dream, but it was enough.

In my dream I am walking with a group of men. From what I remember, there were no women and children with us. We were in a concentration camp of some kind. I don’t remember seeing barbed wire and all that you can imagine would fit the description, but I do remember the soldiers. I do not know whose soldiers they were. But I am certain they were not Nazis.

I was living in the modern world and was experiencing something in the future.

I was walking with a group of men in a single-file line. There was no noise or any talking, only the sound of footsteps in the sand and gravel. We were walking toward a building. Soldiers were shoulder to shoulder on our left. They had weapons, but they were not doing anything. They just watched us walking toward the building.

We walked into a large building through large iron double-doors. I know they were iron because I remember the sound they made when they closed behind us. The doors closed with a loud creak and “CLANG!” I heard the shuffling of feet, as all of us men were crowded together. I heard the faint whimpering of someone close. I felt the moment building as the sound of something turned on and the high-pitched noise grew louder.

Fear started to come up against me and then at the climax of the sound I saw a bright light. It wasn’t a tunnel with a light at the end. The light illuminated the room and then there was a peace that came over me—then silence.

That was when I awoke from the dream.

Something seemed to be missing though. As I was reflecting on the entire dream and within myself asking the Lord, “What does this mean?” I went back to the moment in the dream where we were coming up to the doors of the building and were about to walk inside. I could see something else.

As we were approaching the doors there were soldiers to the left seeing to it that we walked quietly inside. Then I could see us laying open Bibles at their feet. We laid the open Scripture at their feet and walked in quietly. As I reflected, I was wondering what this was about. I looked more intently and the Lord showed me that the Bibles were open to the book of Malachi.

“Malachi?” I thought to myself. All I could remember from the prophet Malachi was that God hates divorce and something about giving the tithe. Of course I knew it was the last book of the Old Testament.

The next year I would translate Malachi in my Hebrew class. But at that time I didn’t really know anything off the top of my head that could shed some light on my dream.

As the service continued around me, I quickly turned to the book of Malachi. I was certain not to be noticed by others that anything was out of the ordinary.

I started with the first chapter in Malachi. The book only has four chapters so it wasn’t going to take me long to find out whether or not this dream had a supernatural origin or if it was an invention of my own neurological processes during sleep. I began reading at verse one. I read the entire first chapter. Nothing! So I kept reading.

In the first three chapters there was nothing that had any relevant connection to my dream. It wasn’t until I began reading the fourth and final chapter. My heart about stopped as my eyes moved from one word to the next. This is what I read…

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.  But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.  Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty.” Malachi 4:1-3 NIV

At that moment I knew that my mind had not conjured up some twisted thoughts resulting from my knowledge of WWII or my past viewing of Schindler’s List. This dream definitely had the signature of God all over it. How exactly did I interpret this dream in that moment?

It was very clear to me.

Those men who were laying this Scripture at the feet of the soldiers were humbly pronouncing the judgment of God that would soon “burn like a furnace.” As we were being led to our death in this “furnace” we were declaring our hope in the Lord.

We were saying, “We will give our lives in this fire, but you need to know that the day is coming when the Lord will overcome the wicked and exalt those who revere his name. He will trample down the wicked and they will be the ashes under the soles of our feet. This is the word of the Lord God Almighty.”

I believe the Lord has led me to share this dream with you. I pray that it will be an encouragement to those of us who have been called by His name to be a testimony of Jesus Christ. For those that do not know Jesus as the resurrection and life, I pray you will consider the word of our Lord. Lord, bless your church in this final hour.

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser (i.e. Satan) of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”  Revelation 12:10-11 NIV

D.D. Flowers, 2008.


Jesus: Change We Have A Hard Time Believing In

jesuspres08If you follow my blog, you know I believe there is something terribly wrong with the Christianity that we have embraced in America. And I wanted to share some quick thoughts particularly on our misplaced confidence in government and our so-called “duty” to vote. Just some thoughts really. Take it or leave it.

Please be forewarned that his one has a bit of a “tone.” You know, a “tone” that is interpreted as “angry” or “anti-American” or something like that. So please read knowing that I am in-fact a bit… hmm… how do you say… fed up. But, I assure you my sorrow far outweighs any sort of anger.

I am working on it. I still haven’t managed to dress up all of my actions in the garb of the hippy Jesus who wears the façade that says, “I am holy because I do not get angry.” I prefer the stance that says, “I am angry because I am holy.”

In other words, I believe any frustration and concern that I express ought to be shared among all who call themselves “disciples of Jesus.” Hopefully, this momentary expression of anger and sorrow will mature into a renewed Christology that will give us all more reason to trust in Jesus instead of ourselves.

And so I give you my thoughts.

Jesus: Change We Have a Hard Time Believing In

I am convinced that our political “freedoms” are instead a bondage that leads us to reject Christ’s methods of change… only to turn and accept the world’s methods of exhorting power over people. I can see that this marriage of the church to the state by acceptance of its methods only produces a nominal Christian “religion” where we can all live comfortable while we overcome evil with a vote.

We can walk away feeling like we have done someone a favor with our vote. Like we have made a difference by playing in to the system of suppressing evil through law and violence. As if we have been called to confront evil in this manner.

Mark my words:

The intermarriage of church and state is the greatest tragedy in the history of Christianity. It violates the heart of the Gospel of Christ.

The church has been sidetracked. Duped is more like it. We have been misled to believe that we have been called to save the culture and remind the sinners that God is watching them like a drunk abusive Santa Claus figure.

Somehow the mentioning of God on monuments, money, and in our many assemblies means that God is pleased. I just don’t get it. You took prayer out of schools? Well, God is ticked now. Watch out! The culture will go to hell in a hand basket because you have quit stamping the god of deism on worldly institutions for political reasons.

Clearly, we have been deceived into thinking our God “blesses” nations when they talk about him and he “curses” when they don’t. I’m not buying this anymore. It is no longer consistent with the Jesus I know. Shouldn’t we have learned this lesson with Israel in the Old Testament through the prophets like Amos and Jeremiah?

You don’t get points for looking religious and embracing sin in your hearts. You don’t escape the judgment of Christ and receive his blessings just because a worldly empire decides to speak Christianese and mix its agenda with God’s plan through the church. How have we missed this?

Is a worldly kingdom “blessed” because it has material abundance? Does it cease to be “blessed” because it stops using the generic name “God” around town? What sort of God in Christ do we have? It’s time we see things rightly about how God deals with worldly kingdoms and how he deals separately with his church. We need to apply his Word appropriately.

God has always used worldly kingdoms to suppress evil and judge other nations who have become corrupt. They are agents of wrath (Rom. 13:4). God then turns around and judges that nation for its own sin and corruption. Assyria, in the 8th century BC, is a perfect example of God using worldly empires as a “rod” of his wrath. He then punished Assyria and held her responsible for her actions and all of the iniquities found in her.

The story of Israel in the Old Testament, and the church in the New Testament today, is to be set apart and to operate under a different set of rules—to count yourself as a citizen of another other-worldly kingdom with a King who is jealous for our allegiance. All along he has wanted his people to recognize that there is no other King beside him. Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.

If Caesar wants your taxes and you are required to carry a drivers license and obey the laws of the land, fine! But give to God what is God’s. Your spirit, soul, and body belong to him. Your efforts and energies are to be spent investing in a Kingdom that is eternal. Kingdoms of the world are temporary systems that are on their way out. Their methods of changing the world are coming to an end.

The church should not be a part of this endless cycle of worldly kingdom violence and her partisan politics of corruption.

The church’s work should engage the injustices of the world in ways that do not violate the principles of the Kingdom of God. This is what we should be discussing in the forums. This is what ought to be on our minds. Forget the glory of Rome and his Caesar. Sure, honor him, but fear God only (1 Pet. 2:13-17).

Of course, pray for these worldly leaders, but do not concern yourself with putting your hand to the political plow of power. It will take your heart captive and sow evil where pride, arrogance, and all forms of hatred hide (Titus 3:1-7; 2 Pet. 2:11-12). We must give ourselves fully to Christ’s manner of engaging the injustices of this cruel world. This means we recognize that Christ is the only candidate worthy of our campaigning.

Therefore, how ridiculous is it to talk about “our country” and use language only reserved for the church as if it applies to nations that have been instituted by God for the sole purpose of executing wrath. God “bless” America? I’m sorry, I have a hard time hearing the apostle Paul say, “God bless Rome.” And apparently, many Christians can’t understand the absurdity in a statement that takes such pride in the kingdoms of this world.

Are we really prepared to say that the answer to the failing economy and the culture wars is to vote the all-inclusive “God” back in to the world’s vernacular? Sorry, don’t buy that at all. The Christianizing of a pagan culture by worldly methods will only produce a pagan “Christian” culture that knows how to talk religious and make a profit off of religious products.

Which is what we have done in the past. We have a luxury Jesus didn’t have? Times are different? I have a duty to vote and play a role in this mess? I think it is time to question these clichés and begin a revolution back to the Gospel of the New Testament.

I am convinced it is time for Christians to lose these “rights” they are told to “exercise” and be left with nothing but the wealth and security of Christ.

It doesn’t seem to bother many of us that Christianity has found favor among the God-haters. As long as we can rest easy at night knowing we still have our “rights” and that gays won’t be able to marry, who cares about the status of their hearts and reaching out to them as Christ would. I guess it doesn’t really matter that the pregnant teenager really needs someone to take her in, not a picket sign in her face telling her she is going to hell or a meaningless vote in a private booth that you were told makes you a “good” citizen.

It’s much easier to believe in a version of the Kingdom of God that is able to advance through politics; that way we don’t have to get our hands dirty—at least not in the sense of touching people who are in spiritual and physical need. Besides, if we take Jesus seriously, we may actually have to talk to some of those folks. We might be asked to love them to change and stop relying on the methods of the world to stir up their flesh to sin more.

It really is a matter of overcoming evil instead of suppressing it. Laws don’t save people. They only provoke the sinful nature of man. Those without Christ need them, but it is the purpose of those institutions of man to use those methods. You think we would have learned that by now.

It is the world that looks for change through politics.

It is the world that believes that peace will come by legislation and the wisdom of generals and political orators. Who are we to mingle with that rabble? What business is it of ours to hop in the very vehicle that will rise against Christ and make its final stand on that last day.

You know the last time I checked, politicians make great anti-christs. Keep that in mind when you are tempted to join in the partisan politics and play this silly game leading up to November 4th 2008. Where is Christ in it all? How did he engage the worldly systems of his day? I’m willing to bet the answer is much clearer than we would like it to be.

Why then? Why so blurry? Because we have grown accustomed to our life here in Corinth. And as Paul said to the original Corinthians, he would say to us, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

Will we trust the way of the cross? The kind of winning that happens by dying? The battle plan that calls for everyone to lay down their arms and fight with love? Will we reconcile ourselves to a Gospel that demands we operate in an upside-down Kingdom or will we call it foolishness and forfeit our inheritance? How will the church respond in my generation?

I believe she will have that opportunity in this country real soon. Many will be unprepared, I fear. They will be shocked when the veil falls from their eyes and they actually are given no choice but to stare into the blinding light of Christ’s Gospel in the midst of suffering.

I am nervous at the thought of it. Yet, I am confident that our faith will undergo a great transformation. We will tap into a power we have not been acquainted with in these worldly chains we have prematurely dubbed “freedom.” I long for that day. Come Lord Jesus, come!

“And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country– a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16


Kingdom Conversations (Faith & Politics)

“Christendom (Christian government, coalitions, institutions, etc.) tries to control morality through civil means because they have failed to uphold the truth in their own assemblies. They have diluted the Gospel and rendered themselves savorless salt. Now they turn to human government to do what the church should have done through Christian influence. The Remnant who takes God at his Word will flourish.” Cup & Cross: An Introduction to Anabaptist History by Michael Martin, 305.

The following blog post is comprised of three responses I recently posted in a conversation that was birthed from the quote above. I have omitted those involved in the conversation and their responses. I am confident that my response will read as a fluid defense of the beliefs behind the quote above. I have pasted this straight from the original posts. If you are interested in reading more on the subject below, please read my blog “Rethinking the Two Kingdoms” and check out the suggested reading.

RESPONSE ONE:

Thanks for taking the time to join in. I understand where you are coming from. I have given great thought to the perspective that says Christians should use their influence in every aspect of the world, especially in political policies and the shaping of human law. Although I believe at times the line doesn’t seem very clear, I do believe there is a line. And I believe Christ has drawn it for us.

The greatest challenge is asking the Lord to remove the scales of culture and human wisdom from our eyes that we might see his truth. Because I know, Lord, we want to see your truth.

There is something we should make very plain. The Body of Christ is not an institution in any sense of the word. So, I would not say that any blanket statements about the true corporate Body of Christ expressed in local assemblies has been made.

The judgment has been made against those individual misguided believers who involve themselves with worldly institutions that by their very nature call for a denial of the way of the cross and the acceptance of methods that run contrary to the nature of the Gospel (e.g. power-over people instead of power-under, killing enemies, slandering politicians in partisan politics, being a religious zealot, etc.). All of this falls under the name “Christendom.”

Here is where I see the problem, brother. We have compartmentalized our faith by dividing the Gospel message into “salvation for the souls of men” and everything else we subconsciously label “OTHER.”

Therefore, we have embraced a humanistic false gospel that largely proclaims heaven and forgiveness of sin but neglects discipleship and any serious concern for a faith that reflects the very Person of Jesus Christ in all matters of faith. Compared to those believers in my Voice of the Martyrs Magazines, we have tasted little of the Gospel’s power in a New Testament context.

The reason it seems like a good idea for believers to involve themselves in a process that actually runs contrary to the methods of Jesus is because we have chopped up our faith to the point of blindness. We find the Sermon on the Mount unrealistic when it comes to overcoming evil.

Since we have accepted a Gospel that first and foremost is concerned for the “salvation of souls,” we reject any serious considerations of Jesus’ teachings. We read the Gospels and writings such as Romans 12-13 through democratic American glasses.

“We are saved!” we proclaim with enthusiasm. Everything else is fair game it seems. Besides, “we are free” the good ole pastor says, “free by the blood of Christ and soldiers–free to vote–a luxury Jesus didn’t have.” I am heartsick by these things. I am still in shock from the first time I heard them with new ears. It was one among many alarms that went off in my spirit as I made my way out of institutional Christianity.

One quick sweep of the church landscape today will prove that we have given in to the temptation that Jesus resisted with the devil–that is the adoption of the power of the kingdoms of the world and working within its system instead of from without.

It would seem that many Christians would rather bow down and pledge to operate within a corrupted system that asks us to reject the subversive nature of the Kingdom than trust in the foolish ways of Jesus that loves enemies and understands that it is men’s hearts that must change.

It is my belief that we are so far from belief in Jesus’ way that we think it preposterous to be content with it alone. We quickly move from these clear teachings to human wisdom and we do not see how our actions oppose those of Christ.

Finally, I too believe that Christianity ought to influence government. But from outside this wicked fallen system and the methods it uses in its fulfilling God’s will to be agents of wrath. We would do well to read the Gospels in today’s context. We would find that there is little to no difference. We must see Jesus living today.

How does Christ relate to the worldly kingdoms? What does Paul say to these issues in Rom. 12-13 and in the books of Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians? His language is very political. Yet, if we have embraced a compartmentalized faith and are looking through the lenses of cultural Christianity, we will only see what we have been trained to see and nothing more.

Christ, give us eyes to see and ears to hear. This is my prayer. May we be bold enough to question and brave enough to follow through to where ever Christ leads us. Even if it leads us to a Roman cross.

Do you know how Christians responded to abortion in the first two centuries of our faith? They took the babies that were discarded and cared for them until they died or were grown. They believed in a faith that acted, not a ballot in a polling booth from a person who believes that sin can and should be legislated by the great Beast called Rome.

And as for war, the Lord has always used worldly kingdoms to punish other agents of wrath that get out of hand and pervert justice. He does a fine job without the bombastic ugly Christian getting his hands dirty with worldly agendas and the violation of Christ’s precepts.

RESPONSE TWO:

Bonhoeffer was right in preaching against the state run church, condemning the actions of the Nazis, helping Jews to escape Nazi persecution, and suffering with Christ in the events leading up to his death in April of 1945. He crossed the line when he took on the methods of fighting evil with evil in his involvement with Hitlers assassination attempt.

This is where I want to share with everyone how I allow Christ’s commands to illuminate the line that runs between the two kingdoms. The line can seem unclear at times. It would appear that many can’t tell the difference between service in the Kingdom of God and the meddling in worldly affairs. So, how do we know what we should and should not be a part of when it comes to civil involvement?

First, I would like to point out that the Scripture seems to indicate that Jesus was not concerned with involving himself directly with civil injustices. He worked the system from outside what Rome was doing. And Jesus lived in a politically hot time! The apostles appear to follow the same order.

In the end, Roman power put Jesus on the cross for his indirect attack on Caesar and the empire by his message. Christ claimed to be a King with a kingdom “not of this world.”

Therefore, it is plain to see from this one episode, Jesus engaged the political powers, but he did so indirectly and from without side the accepted religious and political system. This should come as no surprise. Jesus had decided several years before in the wilderness with the devil that he would not be the sort of Messiah that wins by operating within the worldly kingdoms and their power-over systems.

How do I determine whether or not I will participate and how I will participate in civil affairs? For me… I will not vote or rally the troops to any sort of civic action. Although I am aware of the political climate and I make myself aware of the current events via the media, I keep my distance and pray, “They Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I pray for the agents of wrath as the Scripture teaches and leave the rest to God. I am to be about the business of letting Christ change men’s hearts as I follow him.

The Word is my sword and his love is my life. Any involvement with the kingdoms of the world by use of their methods of justice… only thwarts the whole Gospel message and confuses Christ’s agenda with a worldly one. Jesus is then lost and put alongside other admirable but non-Christian figures like Ghandi.

I want to say that, for now, I believe there is freedom to follow Christ to a place that may allow SOME to participate on a miniscule level. Still, the commands of Jesus apply to us in every situation. We may only participate in as far as we do not violate Christ’s teachings and the way of the cross. If our participation means a violation of the principles of the Kingdom of God… then clearly we may not participate in an action that contradicts Christ.

Finally, we must not confuse pacifism with what Christ modeled. Pacifism is simply a non-violent direct engagement with the powers that be. Its concern is still political change through direct confrontations and working the system. Ghandi is an example of this kind of direct engagement with the government. Although difficult, a person can still hate his enemies but not believe in violence. Therefore, we must see that Jesus’ teachings do not reflect this sort of “pacifism.”

Jesus loved his enemies and prayed for those that persecuted him so that their hearts would be open to the Kingdom of God. His motivation was not political change, even if it occurred indirectly. His concern was the Kingdom of God–that heaven would begin its slow descent to earth that men might be redeemed and given a new sort of existence.

This kind of life ought to start from the moment of salvation. This is the point where we step out of the kingdoms of the world and into a new way of living that reflects the Kingdom that is already, but not yet.

RESPONSE THREE:

I have stated my position thoroughly at my blog and in book reviews of “The Myth of a Christian Nation” and Walter Wink’s “Jesus and Non-Violence”—as well as John Piper’s “What Jesus Demands From the World.” Check them out at amazon.

I would like to conclude that I do believe I take it all a step or two further than simply saying there are two kingdoms and we should remember to which one we belong. And I am OK with that. We are both attempting to live within the principles of the Kingdom of God while continuing to question this “healthy suspicion” of the worldly kingdoms. Maybe my ‘suspicion’ has moved to more of an indictment.

I am not prepared to say that across the board a person should withdraw himself from every civic function. However, I would like all to understand my personal perspective. The Christian must be ever-mindful of the luring power the worldly kingdoms have to corrupt the true Gospel message and living.

Most Christians, I believe, will lose their witness to Christ and blur the line of distinction between the kingdoms when they meddle in worldly kingdom affairs of a political nature. It is not enough to simply recognize that there are two kingdoms and that our “primary” concern is the Kingdom of God. I strongly believe that it is our ONLY concern. This is why we can’t afford to stop rethinking the two kingdoms.

Finally, I want to say I believe that the “power-over” nature of man is evident in almost every area of life as we presently know it. I don’t believe that this means we should cease to work for our boss and withdraw to a monastery in the hills. There is no way to fully escape this system on this side of eternity. And I don’t believe the Lord has called us to remove ourselves entirely from this present evil age.

However, I do want to point out this pertinent fact. Christ isn’t casting our jobs, our mortgage, or our insurance into the lake of fire. He casts the devil, the false prophet, and the beast (i.e. Rome).

It is this human government that stands in complete contrast to that Kingdom which is coming. It is in this system that the anti-christ perverts God’s rule and reign. It is in this system that we must never trust, place our hope, boast in pride, or think of fondly. She is not our friend. For in her “was found the blood of the prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on earth” (Rev. 18:24; see Rev. 18-22).


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