Posted by: rogermitchell | November 26, 2010

Living by Faith (i): reconceiving time

Over the last few days I have been crafting a presentation of living by faith as what could be called practical theopolitics,  or to put it another way, an incarnational lifestyle.  I have arrived at this as part of the final chapter of my thesis for several reasons. The first of these is the subject of this post, and the others will appear over the next few days.

(i) A core insight of my research is that our whole western way of life, with its  so-called secular world view and reduction of everything to economic value, is predicated or dependent on a partly unconscious perception of time. The very phrase ‘post modernity’ carries the idea of ‘after’, [a time word] and can be seen in part as a rejection of and consequence [another time word ‘con-sequence’] of modernity, which describes a period of time, some 300 years, generally believed to run from the middle of the seventeenth century to the middle of the twentieth. This modern period, in turn, was quite consciously a rejection of the mediaeval world, otherwise known as the Middle Ages  [two other very time-sensitive titles]. Many historians [students of past time] have assumed that this whole time-sensitive way of conceptualising reality is the result of the incarnation, described by the apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4 as the coming of Christ at the fulness of time. As a result they refer to the period between the end of the New Testament and the beginning of the mediaeval world as the early church or patristic time, the time of the church fathers. The idea of the Old and New Testaments with their old and new covenants has simply been regarded as another example of this time-sensitive view.

However, the research I have been doing, drawing of course on a variety of other thinkers, suggests that this whole progressive view of time is based not on the incarnation of Jesus, but on the assumption that the fourth century coming together or merger of the mainstream church and Constantine’s Roman Empire was the beginning of the eschatological [end time] peace that the Old Testament prophesied and Jesus proclaimed. Since then Western life has become an attempt to bring about this universal peace by means of hierarchically shaped monarchies or republics based on property and money, and legitimated or mirrored by temple based worship cultures of various kinds. Right now this age-long project appears to be in crisis for many reasons, particularly the failure to bring about universal peace, the destruction of the planet and the misery of the poor. For this reason we need to break free from this Roman, imperial, Christendom way of perceiving time and to reconceive it in a whole new way. It is my conviction, based on sixty plus years of personal experience and the last five years of concentrated academic research, that the incarnation of Jesus literally, actually, was the fulness of time, a full stop, an altogether uncontainable event that reveals, embodies and facilitates the way to live from that point on and that we need to know it is possible to access that fulness all the time and practice it accordingly. That Jesus came to confront and put a stop to imperial time and to flood the present with his loving eschatological peace and that we can do the same. By accessing his loving, kenotic way of life by faith we can literally, not theoretically, reconceive time. As we give, pour out, empty out, who and what we are and have, into the Spirit of God and through our love relationship with him, into the world, we inseminate the economics, hermeneutics [ways of understanding and interpreting] and politics of this world with the deconstructive and re-creative seed of the gospel.

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Responses

  1. yup, bang on. too bad so many of us don’t trust that we can live very well in ‘the fullness of time’ and actually much better than the reality of this time. it means we often choose not to take on the fullness of discipleship and therefore have limited or no real witness. I think i’m speaking to myself here so I’ll stop now. . . c.

    • Cheryl, don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re living it out there!! Bless. Jane x

      • Oh, I hope so, but I do sense there is much more coming and it will demand new things from us. Certainly it will test us, our courage and commitment and willingness to live in that fullness. I tend to be the kind of person who hears God (or thinks I do), leaps in obedience and asks questions (sometimes lots of them) later. I guess I can only hope as I age, as new insecurities arise, that I’ll continue with those leaps. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. There are a number of things that have been bubbling inside of me for a few weeks now.

    1) Understanding the approach and viewpoint that you are proposing.
    2) The discovery that to not ask God questions about Himself is a sin. (The sin of not being interested in Him – I think destroys the walk of most Christians, it’s the big unknown one)
    3) Peter Wilks book – Blood up to your Ankles. This is a book about looking at things from the perspective of covenant. For me it helps me add extra understanding to looking at things from the perspective of a God who’s character is light in whom their is no shadow nor shifting variation. He came to Earth, emptying Himself of all His glory and living as a man. Then putting that along side with the God of the Old Testament wars etc. How do the two combine? Well you said yourself, God doesn’t get everything His own way – by a long shot. But He has cut a covenant with man.
    Peter explains in part of his book that it is the language used which embodies the spirit of the covenant not the letter of the law. This is how covenants were enacted throughout history.

    In all of our understanding, in all of our reinterpreting understanding that God is a God of passion, shows Himself as a dove, comes in the gentle breeze (Elijah). Our agreement, our standing with Him our (if you like) contract with Him – our relationship with Him is at the centre and the keys to all understanding.

    I don’t feel that I have conveyed the passion and inspiration that I have felt during these observations. I love the idea providing practical, do this and get this advice.
    The Bible says those who know their God will do mighty exploits (can’t remember where at this moment in time). But to know Him from His gentle nature and His righteousness (what it means that He keeps His covenant with us – because in general – I never really grasped it and my right walking with Him suffered as a result). I am beginning to get it. It is His good pleasure to heal the sick and bring life back to the dead and use us to change the way people see Him….. What it really means to love Him with all of our hearts, mind’s and strength and to follow Christs example – which is a lot to do with what you are talking about.

  3. Roger
    This is an excellent post for opening up discussions of our perceptions of time…I believe they’re foundational to our mindsets (which need to be renewed). I believe the ‘gates’ of our culture will be transformed as our minds are transformed; it’s mindsets about a myriad of things that hold us in their grip. I’m asking God to transform my mindsets and break the chains around my thinking, feeling and sensing.

    Many folk are being accelerated (I know some people who have just experienced a huge acceleration) or slowed down (just read Steve Lowton’s posts to see this!) and it seems to me this is partly to do with our flawed perceptions of time.

    I do believe Jesus was the fullness of everything, including time. I don’t know all the implications of that because my mind is locked into wrong perceptions of ‘everything’ but my spirit leaps in response to that statement and I want to understand it more fully.

    As the people of God I believe we can live in that fullness fully…some are beginning to move in that already, some are being fast-tracked, others are being slowed down to find it. He is bringing us all to a place of understanding by different routes across our life-landscape and I am seeking to embrace it as fully as possible.
    Words are limiting and I hope this is understandable…like Justin, I feel truly passionate and inspired about what our Father is doing these days – glad to be alive now!

  4. I am so eager to have my mind changed about all of this. Its not that I am enchanted about imperial time at all. I’ve only spent 4.5 months in a 9 to 5 job in my whole 53 years so that kind of time, based on the old monasteries of Europe and Benedictine rule, has never ruled me much. But I sense there is something so much more out there – perhaps it is a sideways step or something. I sense it waiting for many of us. I hope we find it and soon. c.

  5. Hi Roger
    Are you saying that when Jesus was born it was heaven coming to earth and a process beginning of earth becoming heaven/end time peace? Therefore, time in one sense ended and eternity was beginning? And if we conceive time like this then we live differently in our daily life (incarnationally)?
    I’m just trying to get my head around this. Lots of my mindsets are changing at the mo which is very exciting, mostly slowing down as Jane pointed out, and this has been life-giving to me. So I’m hungry for more changed mindsets.

    Thank you. Kate

    • It seems to me the tricky aspect is living differently and how to do that. It has to be an internally-motivated thing. Our bodies, as yet unresurrected, live in the space into which they were born, like Jesus did but, also like him (now!) our spirits are reborn by his spirit living in us and we no longer are bound by that time and space and can move freely outside it. Appropriating this reality is possible for each of us although perhaps to different extent and depth?
      So just teasing this out a little, it seems to me we must live from our spirits not our unrenewed minds although God is working in each one of us to regenerate minds and break off the chains. Unless our spirit is strong in him and we choose to intentionally to co-operate with the Father, we’ll default to our natural state.
      Psychologically we must move from dependency on others to proper critical reflection of our condition and thence to living with this paradox of being in but not of, becoming ready to be spent for and on behalf of others (kenotically, to use Roger’s word). I got some of this last thought from James Fowler’s book Stages of Faith (p208) and there is more…at present, however, I would be ‘talking not walking’ so won’t reflect on it yet.
      It’s enough for me at present to grapple with the mindset issue in myself and those I relate to daily…

      • Thanks Jane, this is helpful. I guess as we just keep walking (and grappling) things will become clearer. The grappling is both stretching and exciting so…here’s to grappling! 🙂

  6. Pretty much exactly so. Well put and thank you too


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