Posted by: rogermitchell | January 1, 2011

time to start again

What I like about twitter [click on the big ‘t’ on the blog if you are as yet unfamiliar], is the challenge to formulate a big thought in 140 words or less. Even when successful it leaves the obvious implications hanging, something I find really helpful, as it indicates where to go next. So yesterday I tweeted “Looking to a new year when a new understanding of the incarnation impacts our political thinking and undying love erupts throughout society.” This will certainly have left hope and possibility hanging on a thread for some people, if they can relate to the statement at all. However I have found that there are strands of faith available that can make that thread as resilient as the elven rope that Sam and Frodo made it down the rocks with [Sue and I are just completing an annual new year re-run of Tolkien’s trilogy]. Examples of such strands that can really help us are to be found in aspects of the work of three contemporary theologians, John Caputo, Graham Ward and Tom Wright.

Caputo presents God’s primary motivation as love not power in his book The Weakness of God. In so doing he suggests that the relationship between name and event requires emptying the name of any baggage that it brings to the event that does not belong to it. This is exactly what we need to do here at the end of Christendom, in order to start again with the event of the incarnation without bringing with us the baggage that has accrued to the name of God and his people in the succeeding years. In Christ and Culture Ward rightly points out that the only objective access that we have to Jesus of Nazareth is the narrative text. He offers an approach which he calls an economy of response through which we enter the story in an experiment of relational openness that sets aside the primacy of the rational and makes an experimental encounter with the Jesus of the gospels accessible. In this way it is possible to meet the Jesus of the incarnation at a level deeper than the intellectual. Tom Wright, in his book The New Testament and the People of God, while recognising the crisis of rational certainty consequent on the failure of Christendom embodied in modernity, commends what he calls a critical realism through which it is still possible to stay within recogniseable bounds of reason while accepting the historicity of the gospel Jesus. Taking these three approaches together allows us to jettison the imperially sovereign God while encountering and earthing the radical politics of the gospel Jesus as the underlying characteristics of God and the cosmos. From this kind of standpoint it is possible to enter the second decade of the third millenium since the incarnation with a new start of faith, hope and love.



  1. Roger: I’m not sure how this all fits but this morning I read an article in a back issue of New Scientist (I’ve got access now that I’ve returned to Canada). The article was a fascinating look at how the brain works and it found that western style thinking – that is educated, industrialised, rich and democratic is very unusual in the world – only 8 to 10 percent of the population qualify. The over dependence on undergrads in academic settings in the western world for psychology tests has skewed our understanding of how people think. Westerners think much more egocentrically for one. We tend to describe events and locations even in relation to ourselves. Others in the world do not. We also perceive the world very differently than the other 90 percent. All this to say. . . if we are going to rethink the incarnation and reintroduce ourselves to Jesus then maybe we need to understand our own educated, western biases in our approaches. It may be a very valid viewpoint for research but it also may leave out lots and certainly makes it difficult to communicate results with any who are not thinking the same way (90 percent of the world’s population for example). Anyhow, it was a fascinating article and it made me think of the way we have understood and articulated the gospel.

  2. Thanks for this Cheryl. This weekend we have friends staying, three of whom are eleven and under. While this trio are exceptionally bright, they illustrate the point that a significant sector of the population are not academic thinkers! Jesus said “as you receive the least of these my little ones you receive me.” This statement has massive significance tothether with “blessed are you poor for the kingdom of God belongs to you.” In the end a bias towards the poor and children is more likely to bring the presence and blessing of the incarnation than any research or academic argument.

  3. Its interesting that your seeing things that way – because for me, faith hope and love has sprung up in me like never before, however, that’s with regards to my relationship with God.
    With regards to your statement… You said in an earlier post something to the effect of – Now we see the economic and Empirical model of the World unravelling – . The problem is for me is, it may be shaking, but it’s also culminating, into what? A global interdependent one world economy (even more than before). I see a world where the promised deluge of miss-information has arrived so that people might believe a lie. I believe firmly that Jesus will return at the end of the Great Tribulation.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying Him right now, as is almost inferred by your writings, I believe as we seek the REAL face of Jesus, He explodes into our reality and we are finaly able to serve Him the way we should have from the beginning. However every day I see the gathering of prophecy around me, society is changing, long held beliefs are changing, people are going to and fro and knowledge has increased. The children of Israel are returning to the Promised Land, and I don’t mean just the Jew’s, I mean the other tribes as well – (an example) this hasn’t happened in approx 2711 years!

    • Hi Justin, thanks for the comment. The problem with the way you are putting things, for me, is that it misuses prophecy. The Old Testament prophets, as Tom Wright among others affirms, used prophecy to challenge and change the present world, not to separate the world into two worlds, one heading for destruction and the other for blessing. As I see it the only particular importance of the Jews and the ecclesia after them is their task and potential to bring faith hope and love to the rest of mankind.
      Have a great new year,

      • OK, what you did just there was start a line of questioning (and a major one at that), not close it. Arghh here I go again… Tom Wright you say? Found his website, do you have a particular book in mind?

      • Tom Wright’s book The New Testament and the People of God mentioned in this blog post Part III chapter 10 is a good place to look.

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