Posted by: rogermitchell | November 19, 2010

All our mistakes can be redemptive

When you look back at everything through the incarnation [the life, death and resurrection of Jesus], when that is your lens of interpretation for the present, the past and the future, then you can begin to see everything in a different light. I have begun to realise that the Old Testament story of the law, the monarchy and the temple is the story of how the people who God called to reveal himself to the world chose the structures of the beastly kingdom instead. And in his mercy and love God let them. So they turned a covenant of love into a system of commandments like the nations around them, they insisted on having a king like them and a religious temple like them. And when they insisted God gave them what they asked, initially by revealing  himself to them in terms of law, king and temple but all the time setting about showing them the destruction it led to. God walked with them through it all, finally coming as one of them [really one of us, that was the point] to reveal his way in the midst of it all, fulfilling it, confronting it and ending it at the cross. The greek word the apostle Paul uses is katargēsis (Rom 3:31; Eph 2:15)  which, as Giorgio Agamben helpfully points out, he uses to mean abolishing it while bringing through anything good remaining in it. In this way the  covenant of love incorporated the sins and mistakes, not just of Israel, but the whole surrounding political system and brought it to its full end in Christ. He abolished the law, the monarchy and the temple. They are completely over. Tragically, crazily, the ecclesia, the people called his body that he brought to birth by his Spirit after the resurrection, eventually fell to the same temptation. They reconstituted the law, the monarchy and the temple, devised a theology and constructed a church system based on it. Not surprisingly given his record, God adopted the same process all over again, this time not just for the benefit of Israel and their known world order but for the rest of the nations and the whole of ensuing history until now. But the power of the incarnation carried by the Holy Spirit is bursting out of the end of Christendom with the same power that Christ burst out of the tomb with, ready to resurrect a new humanity, a new political body in the earth.



  1. Hello Roger,
    I would like to think that I understand somehow what you mean by looking through everything through the life, death, resurrection of Jesus ( and interpreting the past and the present and the future by that means ) but I am not too sure. Will you be so kind to explain the phrase more?

    I follow your example of the Lord abolishing the law, monarchy and the temple yet at the same time bringing through everything good remaining in it. Is this the same thing as interpreting the past through the incarnation? I feel I am still not quite understanding what you mean ( though the title of this blog is resoundingly clear!).
    Many thanks.

  2. Yes, I do mean interpreting the past through the incarnation, but I mean some quite specific things related to that. I will try and summarise two main points, a theological one and a hermeneutical [interpretative] one.
    i) Since what I regard as a major mistake, or fall, by the church in the 4th century [see ‘my thesis’ page], assumptions were made about the nature of God that were inconsistent with the character of Jesus. The incarnation was then developed as a theological device for reconciling the absolute sovereignty of God with the loving servanthood of Jesus. So by “looking at everything through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus” I am setting aside these other theological ideas about God and arguing directly from Jesus to God and only returning to the other formulations, if at all, once we have settled on Jesus’ character without them.
    ii) The only direct access that we have to Jesus and his character is via the Holy Spirit and the written narrative accounts. In the same way as I suggest setting aside the past theological constructs I suggest we set aside secular rational hermenutics, particularly the modern skepticism that rejects transcendence [again see my thesis page] and with it the possibility that the gospels give us the real Jesus. So by “life, death and resurrection of Jesus” I mean by seemingly Holy Spirit attested faith that the Christ of the gospels could be both Jesus of history and God of eternity.
    Hopefully this helps!

  3. Yes indeed. Thank you! I appreciated your explanation.

    On the theological side, your comment intrigued me to start reading your research.

    How terribly odd to realize ( at least to my uninformed mind ) that the very incarnation was actually developed as a theological device in the past to reconcile the so called sovereignty of God and the loving servanthood of Jesus! Presumably we inherited such theology consciously or unconsciously.

    On the hermeneutics side, I see that what followed was the secular national hermeneutics ( probably mixed with our strangely inherent fear of supernatural, therefore rejecting any form of transcendence?).

    It will be interesting ( and crucial ) to see how this mistake both in theology and hermeneutics can also be redeemed by the power of the Holy Spirit, right?

  4. I like your insightful last observation/ question. It is a reminder that mistakes, even ones of cosmic proportions, need to be countered in the opposite spirit to the one that caused them. As we attempt to approach misformed theology and hermeneutics with love and kenosis we can expect to discover how God redeems even those.

  5. How funny that so much of what christians put forth to the world as ‘gospel’ these days is really Old Testament Law, sometimes not even reinterpreted.

    The good news is that God always behaves redemptively. If we make the wrong decision/choice he behaves redemptively. If we make the right decision/choice he behaves redemptively. It is his nature to do so.


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