Q1 What to do with the passages where Jesus says things that don’t sound or seem consistent with kenarchy?
opportunities to deepen and expand our understanding of kenarchy
Kenarchy expresses an attempt to find a new word for the kingdom of God without the baggage of Christendom, or in theological terms, free from subsumption of transcendence by sovereign power. So in responding to Hardy’s questions from the previous post, I will not be defending the conclusion that kenarchy epitomises the teaching and example of Jesus in the gospel narratives, or that Jesus’ message was counter to the Roman imperial construct of peace through sovereign power. This is the heart of my thesis and I have defended it elsewhere (see for example Church, Gospel and Empire: How the politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2011, particularly Ch 7.) So the question I address to the statements from the testimony of Jesus that Hardy identifies is ‘how do they expand our understanding of kenarchy?’ This positions such comparatively rare and potentially ‘problematic’ passages or seeming aporias as opportunities to deepen and expand our understanding of kenarchy.
kenarchy encompasses both good and evil ‘otherness’ with love
In his correspondence Hardy cites Matthew 13:40-42: “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the culmination of the age. The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will gather from his Kingdom every cause of sin and all who do evil, and they will cast them into the furnace of fire. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” So taking note of the wider context of Matthew’s narrative, we notice that there is real evil and an actual devil (vv38-39), something that I contend is central to the testimony of Jesus. These statements of Jesus are a reminder of this. That is to say, from the point of view of kenarchy, to love my enemy is not to suggest that he is not my enemy, but that love is the only way to relate to her or him, or overcome the real evil that she or he might represent. Of course not all apparent enemies are evil, and the “other” is a crucial and necessary category of love, discovery and growth. But kenarchy encompasses both good and evil otherness with love, and therefore such love includes the enemy in its focus and operation.
kenarchy meets the devil and all our enemies with life laying down loving, not violence
In my contribution to Discovering Kenarchy (Wipf and Stock, 2014, forthcoming) I point out the way that Jesus deals with the devil in the temptations. There is no inconsistency here, for Jesus does not use violence against the devil but engages in conversation with him, having deliberately gone out to meet him (Lk 4: 4-13). What draws the devil and everything else to the cross is Jesus’ life-laying-down, kenotic love. The cross is not God’s violence against sin and evil, rather it is God’s embrace of every form of human and satanic evil and violence against both divinity and humanity. In the light of this, the incarnation is the climactic demonstration that kenarchy meets the devil and all our enemies with love, not violence. Hence the inclusion of things that cause sin and those who do evil in the kingdom of God (v41 above). So what is the implication of “cast them into the furnace of fire” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth?” Rather than some default to the retribution and vengeance at the heart of sovereign power, this is the profound reality that I was trying to configure in Hardy’s “zinger,” in the previous post, in which I stated “To put it another way, the cross is a gateway into a cosmic cesspit, or in Jesus’ terms a Gehenna.”
the furnace, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth is the conjunction of unconditional, forever, kenotic love and implacable, selfish autonomy
I have never been an advocate of universalism, although I have no hesitation in stating that love is as universalist as possible. But I don’t see how love and universalism can possibly fit together, because love cannot be forced. Otherwise it is rape. Kenarchy in no way suggests that love for the other, for God, or for my enemy is obligatory for those who do not want it. How could it be without it being domination and sovereignty all over again? So the point at which “every cause of sin and all who do evil” encounters the unconditional, unstoppable, life-laying-down love of God is the climax of the cross. Of course there is weeping and gnashing of teeth at that point, how could it be otherwise, but the greatest weeping and gnashing is on the part of the one who loves. Those who weep and gnash in utter frustration and fury need to be contained in the weeping and gnashing of the unstoppable love at the heart reality. The furnace, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth, are the conjunction of unconditional, forever, kenotic love and the implacable, selfish autonomy that sin, evil and Satan represent. This is what I am referring to as a cosmic cesspit, or in Jesus’ terms a Gehenna, which the cross is the entrance to. The Psalmist puts it clearly “where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold you are there” (Psalm 139:8 KJV). Seen from this perspective, God does not flee violence and evil, God confronts it with love, carrying the pain of it in the vault of love in the heart of divinity. The good news is that in partnership with him humans can access this for one another.