Posted by: rogermitchell | March 25, 2011

Kenarchic politics (5) publicise the testimony of Jesus

The testimony to Jesus embodied in the gospel narratives needs to be available to everybody in a way that they can receive for themselves. This has three main aspects as I see it.

1. Communication needs to be with unconditional love and without domination or mediation. The testimony to Jesus is a gift we are passing on, not a demand that we are making.  I don’t mean that it can’t be taught or explained, but the emphasis has to be on enabling the encounter of another with the potentially living Jesus of the story, avoiding dependence on the communicator as far as possible, and refusing any hierarchical dependence through the assertion of title, seniority, parenthood, accountability and the like. As the testimony to Jesus itself puts it “call no man your father” (Mtt 23:9). Any initial grounds for dependency need to be turned into friendship and mutuality as soon as possible.

2. Communication needs to be as corporate and relational as possible. As the testimony is to a person in a totally loving relationship with the Father and the Spirit, his disciples, the poor, the ecclesia  and so on, it is important that this relational body at work in the world is part of the communication. Again as the testimony puts it “as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you, continue to live in my love” (Jn 15:9). The main reason why there is such an obstacle to publicising the testimony in the contemporary West is because the so-called church is so often the opposite of the real ecclesia. So the ongoing radical reform and repositioning of the ecclesia has to be part of the communication now.

3. Nothing can be allowed to stand in the way of anybody’s peaceable access to the testimony of Jesus. As the angel said “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people” (Lk 2:10).  Neither religious nor political interference can be allowed to hinder a person or a people-group’s access. This is because although it sums up the image of God that is in everyone, the kenarchic testimony is uniquely embodied in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as portrayed in the gospel narratives which I take to be the overlap of heaven and earth – a fulness of times all need to touch and respond to if they choose to. This calls for a change of mind and purpose away from the individual and corporate autonomy of empire that lies at the heart of human life since the planet’s prehistory.

As with all these guidelines, they are simply that, guidelines. They need a lot of further collaboration to get them clearer and tease out the implications. The coming posts will suggest ways of processing this and of encouraging the momentum of this kind of theopolitics. This needs comment, dialogue, online community and debate more than ever, so keep watching this space!

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Responses

  1. “Any initial grounds for dependency need to be turned into friendship and mutuality as soon as possible.”

    So very very true. I have seen so many well meaning individuals create a dependency upon themselves in their desire to help. We could so easily step in and try to make things right here in Latvia but we have to ask ourselves does God want to provide for that person in a different way, through someone else? Otherwise we will end up with people depending on us when they should be depending on God, we can love and support but as friends not as sponsors.

    I have also seen where so many projects are sponsored by an organisation and they have kept the strings so tight that it has not allowed the recipients to grow and how often does that happen in families too? Our desire should be to see people grow, not feed our need to be wanted.

  2. This is just so brilliant Rog. I had a wonderful conversation yesterday with a woman who used to be part of our fellowship in Leeds, who wanted to go over the history of our Word of Life journey since we re-shaped 11 years ago. She has been asked by her pastor to do a talk about ‘deconstruction’ this Sunday. I asked her if he had any idea how dangerous that could be for him! It is fascinating how, as Joanna points out too, so many well-meaning leaders in particular create a dependency culture. I suggested to my friend that she is loving and deeply subversive…

    I am so grateful for the journey we have been on and I do hope that it has been one which has released others and not tied them down. Thanks for all your input or perhaps rather output (!) on this.

  3. Firstly, Roger, a big thank you for the regular blogging that you have been doing while completing your thesis. It has been so helpful to read your blogs on the relationship between church and empire in the history of Christendom.

    I have found your insights during your blogging a helpful provocation to my own thinking and behaviour. I particularly value your recent guideline posts for a new politics. I have been praying for you from time to time and will continue to do so as you do any last minute tweeking and polishing.

    I should now like to make one comment that picks up on the issue of time and/or timing. I will not make substantive comment upon, re-state or attempt to summarise herein your earlier valuable comments on the notion of imperial time, but should like to emphasise the importance of God’s Kairos time as a backdrop to the guidelines and indeed their unpacking and application. Unfortunately, I am not sure that I can well articulate what is on my heart … However, here goes:

    As we know Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing and only spoke the words of the Father who sent him. Jesus also recognised Father, as source, and that even He could do nothing apart from His Father. Therefore, I believe that one of the main considerations in the unpacking of your research has to be that we become specifically attentive to what God is already initiating, or will soon initiate, in each of the areas you have highlighted and as they relate to where we have been positioned by God. I think that this is probably most clearly relevant to your fourth post on confronting the powers, but has broader application. Let me talk in general terms about the broader application …

    If I look at the earthly life of Jesus it appears to me that it was never a question, in any particular earthly situation or setting, of Jesus in His humanity of asking WWFD [What would Father do], or by inference for us to ask what WWJD [What would Jesus do], BUT RATHER what is Father or Jesus, by the Spirit, SHOWING us, SAYING to us, or DOING in the particular context(s) where God has placed us, and as a consequence how are we to co-operate with Him and His plans and purposes. I would hope that we could all agree that this will not be the same for all folk, or all contexts, or … Our journeys and functional roles are different, as are the timelines that individuals and corporate groupings are on. However, these must surely converge. Roger, my reason for mentioning this is that I would not wish to see the application of your valuable work spoilt by any of us exposed to it, myself included, unwittingly reverting to living from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil rather than from the tree of life.

    As I understand it Jesus in His humanity lived by the indwelling life of the Spirit of God the Father and in complete dependence on Him. For instance He did not live out of His divine omniscience [spelling?] as God – although He was fully God and fully human. Even Jesus, the Word, only came from heaven to earth at the kairos time. However, neither would I wish to see folk: paralysed by doubt, trapped in passivity, imprisoned by circumstances, fearful of taking risks for fear of making mistakes, etc. For as we know our God is big enough to redeem even our mistakes – particularly if our heart motivations are right. Nevertheless, in the words of Ecclesiastes: ‘To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven … … He has made everything beautiful in its time and has put eternity in our hearts, except that no one can can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. [see Ecclesiastes 3:1-11]

    This strikes me as scenario requiring much love, joy, wisdom, grace, peace, … from the Father of lights. Gift-fruit that we must receive in God’s rest.

    Thank you again Roger for what you have shared.

    Richest blessings,

    Dave

    • Thanks very much Dave for this, as ever, insightful food for thought. I agree wholeheartedly with your point about kairos time being relational, and that we connect to it by living in the Spirit, not by a new legalism or system. This is why I’ve suggested guidelines, not rules or commandments. You are very right to underline this, or we are back to empire, which can of course have egalitarian rules and still be hell. As Paul puts it “the letter kills but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6).

      I’m less sure that it is helpful to follow the traditional idea of the incarnation as God setting aside attributes, such as omniscience or the other ‘omnies.’ My current theological standpoint argues from Jesus to God, not the other way round. As I see it, if Jesus does not demonstrate a particular attribute or characteristic then we need to take care not to ascribe it to God. His “if you have seen me you have seen the Father” is very important in this respect. Clearly this way of seeing things has all kinds of important implications which there is not space to deal with in this brief response. My thesis deals with it at some length. Once its been examined I hope to find ways of sharing it more widely!

      • Thanks Roger for your response – so helpful as usual! I am not sure from your response whether I have communicated clearly enough in my original post. After re-reading I think not!

        You see I am not actually comfortable with the notion that in the incarnation Jesus set aside or emptied himself of any of the so-called essential or moral attributes. Neither could I agree that he gave up the use of the divine attributes. That to me would mean that Jesus ceased to be fully God during the incarnation – a position I could not hold. What I was trying to convey was that Jesus surrendered the INDEPENDENT excercise of the essential divine attributes – like omniscience. He was totally dependent upon the Father’s will for the use of these attributes. Clearly Jesus, in HIS DIVINE NATURE, knew all that was in folk. In His deity He was all-knowing. Nothing was hidden from His sight as God, but in his humanity there were certain things he did not know. For instance the Gospels record that only the Father knows of a certain day and hour. [Matt 24:36, Mark 13:32] Also He did not seem to know that the fig tree would have no figs because it was not the season for figs [Mark 11:13]. I am sure you would agree, therefore, that the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ have to be kept in a very delicate balance to truly represent Him in the incarnation. To His already existing divine nature a human nature was ADDED in order that He became FULLY God and FULLY man.

        I think that I understand the desire for a theological standpoint that argues from Jesus to God, not the other way round. Your sentences : ‘As I see it, if Jesus does not demonstrate a particular attribute or characteristic then we need to take care not to ascribe it to God. His “if you have seen me you have seen the Father” is very important in this respect.’ I agree, but to me that is true for each of the DIVINE ATTRIBUTES and the correspondences between members of the God-head. The problem, it seems to me, in arguing solely from Jesus to God is that it does not explicitly and fully take into account Jesus’s humanity and, therefore, that as a consequence Jesus suffered human limitations and that He experienced human development.

        I take on board your final comment about you explaining your position more fully in your thesis and the need to make clear the implications that follow. Therefore I think that it is important that you find appropriate ways to share this more widely. Otherwise any subtleties or nuances in your position might be lost from summaries on your blog and folk might, unwittingly, be misled.

        Enjoy the well-earned break that you have planned and again thank you so much for sharing, publicly, your work in progress over these years. So loving and courageous of you.

        Dave

      • May be at this point I should simply underline the difference emerging in our current standpoints. Then we can be more helpful to each other and the others visiting this blog. I am basically suggesting that the ecclesia suffered a fourth century ‘fall’ when we muddled the imperial power of Rome with the power of God. Since then many of our ideas about God have been invaded with imperial thought forms about hierarchical power and rule. This has especially been hidden in the seemingly respectable term ‘sovereignty’ which the NIV has done the great disfavour of translating the term ‘adonai’ or ‘lord’ with. Under this term we have ascribed attitudes and so called attributes to God that don’t belong to him if he is like Jesus.
        What I am doing is setting these all aside unless we can find them in Jesus who said ‘I and the Father are one’ and ‘if you have seen me you have seen the Father.’ This has the effect of uniting deity and humanity in a common life that sin has interrupted but Jesus came to reunite. It calls into question both the possibility and the importance of developing a concept of God separate to the incarnation that then somehow has to be united with it. Our understanding of God’s charcter, the persons of the Trinity and so on all begin with the testimony of Jesus, and the rest of scripture and theological thought is interpreted through that lens.

      • Thank you for your patience with me Roger. Because you took the trouble to highlight the difference in our current standpoints I am beginning to better understand where you are coming from and where I need to be challenged in my own mindset and behaviour. I hope others will find our dialogue here helpful too. However, perhaps on reflection I have been selfish in my recent posts – since I am not sure that I have helped you much in them although that was one of my intentions. If so I apologise.

        You see I have been seeking to understand, without the theological and research background that you possess, what the the change to the new mindset would mean – both for others, particularly those who I am in relationship with, and myself. Essentially, I attempting to clarify why and what I believe so that when asked I can explain this. However, that may not have been very apparent to you or, I now recognise, necessarily apparent or helpful to others visiting the sight. So I extend my apologies to other readers of this site too.

        I had thought that the mindset change, in this particular area, was more simple than in reality it appears to be. I had thought that because Jesus had a divine nature to which was added a human nature AND that this seemed to be reflected in the fact that we are human and become partakers/participants in a divine nature [2 Peter 1:4] too, that the mindset changes were not so deep or radical. There also seemed to me to be a correspondence to the old and new natures mentioned, for example, in 2 Cor 5:17. I now think that I need to pray and ponder much more on this and not speak further on this from a position of considerable ignorance.

        You see I value relationship over being right, or indeed wrong, on issues such as doctrine, vision, etc and would not wish to damage any relationship by being dogmatic and inflexible. After all it is part of the role of Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Truth, to speak and teach truths and lead us into all truth. I have no desire to usurp His role and after all I must not lose sight of the fact that it is Jesus who is The Truth. Therefore, I shall trust both in the nature of God and that as I remain open to Him He will find a way to bring whatever mindset changes are necessary …

        That said I will close again with grateful thanks,

        Dave

      • Thanks for your much grace Dave! And especially for underlining what I take to be one of the most basic theological principles, namely that loving relationship trumps theoretical understanding. Knowing God is first and foremost relational, and Jesus’ life, death and resurrection make that so clear.

        Please keep the comments coming. Ignorance, when not wilful, is important to share and provides for the humility that all loving relationships are built on. In any case my theological knowledge is not that great despite having been improved over these last six years! And I suspect that your knowledge of science leaves me standing!

  4. Love this post Rog,

    Just a couple of comments……

    There is definitely a culture of dependency (or addiction – same thing really in medical terms). When there is dependency, you have to keep going back for more and more. It becomes a twisted symbiosis. I need the drug dealer and the drug dealer needs me! It is like the kind of parenting that controls and manipulates rather than fully releases and allows mistakes to be made. Like children who never get off the breast, where the mum needs the love and the child thinks they still need the comfort and the milk………..to break the dependency, those in power have to let go of control, but sometimes, those subject to it, have to break free and it takes a while for the one in control to realise they aren’t needed anymore.

    BUT, for those who leave a culture of dependency, another dependency will soon develop (and potentially a less healthy one – not that any sort is healthy) unless we help one another to renew our minds, through relationship, so that we really understand who we are. I think we have a responsibility to one another to help each other to stand, so that we can keep on standing. the danger can be when all support is withdrawn and we tell people they just have to stand, but they have no idea how to, because they were never really given the ability to……….

    So I think we need to find a culture where people who come to know Jesus are given the tools from the word go, not to depend on others, but to be fully equipped to be who they are made to be, so that they can stand and keep on standing. If when my kids are born I think, “oh just grow up and act like an adult”, then I’m kind of missing the point……..I don’t want them to be dependent on me, but I don’t want to neglect them either.

    Things like this blog are so vital in helping us grow up, and a vital resource to those who find themselves suddenly detoxing and needing some points of reference along the way……….thank you. Love the uncontrolling provocation you bring!

  5. Thank You for the ongoing articulation, may you know much wisdom and strength for this final stage of thesis writing. Let the library of heaven continue to be open to both you and sue as you continue to lay hold of reality. I see you worshiping your way through the work of these moments.

    reflections order Some random without

    A kerygma enigma – can we communicate without mediation? Simon Weil translates logos in John 1 as mediation or relation! In the beginning was the mediation and mediation was with God and mediation was God…chambers dictionary offers ‘intercession’ as a second definition for mediation. In that sense, does our gospel communication require a mediation infusion so that our kerygmatic actions are kenotic according to the way of Jesus?

    Can Jesus be potentially living? (‘the potentially living Jesus of the story’)

    My experience is that addiction requires replacement or ‘another dependence’ (Andy’s idea). I imagine this must be relational (see Weil on participation in the godhead /relation) and whilst this is relation with the LORD we need to experience one another (community/belonging). In fact is it the case that we experience the LORD in one another (or whilst doing something we love, have a passion for, more typically creation and scripture)? An Alan Scott soundbite is that ‘experience leads to obedience’. How do we share habits, spaces and means of divine encounter & experience that fuel our obedience to the LORD and shared participation in his kingdom MOR(T)E now and not yet?

    I remember Johnny Barr saying ‘if the Holy Spirit didn’t turn up on a Sunday would we notice?’

    What also resonates for me in this post is the reconfiguration from an emphasis on didactic discipleship to friends ‘follow me’ (what is Father or Jesus, by the Spirit, SHOWING us, SAYING to us, or DOING? – as asked by Dave). Common characteristics of ecclesia are I imagine critical so that the required vertical and horizontal relations are nurtured and grown to maturity. What are those characteristics and how diverse might our ecclesial modes be?

    This may be macro over emphasis but could we say that the testimony of Jesus presupposes relationship with all of creation (emphasis mine) as well as ‘his disciples, the poor, the ecclesia  and so on…’ how might we develop what we understand of the and so…?

    Glad to be in the conversation and looking forward to a future face-to-face…
    Affectionately
    Matt

    PS> visited Ffald-y-Brenin this week, have any of you guys been? Awesome!
    http://www.ffald-y-brenin.org/

  6. Hi Matt,

    It’s a delight to have your ace contribution to this conversation. I’m reminded that my intercessor-Auntie[!] used the word conversation in its old sense of ‘way of life’. I have never forgotten her final prophesy-prayer that concluded with the words “may all the young men be faithful and all our conversations be pure.” May we be part of the proof of that.

    Your point about mediation is important, and I aware that I need to qualify what I mean. There are clearly different ways of using the word. Chris Seaton’s work with Micha Jazz [twitter title ‘mediationman’] is an example of good mediation, something I have been involved in a lot with all the reconciliation work related to the European colonial past. I was unaware of Simon Weil translation of logos as mediation, but it makes sense in terms of kenotic communication, where we give ourselves with the message. This sense of mediation is the opposite of what I’m trying to avoid! Which is the problem of interposing somebody or something between a person and God on which the relationship then becomes dependent. This kind of dependency positions the source or medium of mediation closer to God than the person and reinforces hierarchy as I understand it. This in turn legitimates what I mean by empire. So for me this rules out all priestly mediation in terms of teaching, the eucharist and so on where it stands between an individual and God. So we need to find another word or phrase that refers to this kind of hierarchical mediation because it is this that we need to avoid at all costs, or so my experience and research seems to indicate.

    Two quick responses to your other points. I was describing Jesus as potentially living in the sense that he is not living for the recipient of the gospel testimony unless she or he encounters him. He is of course ever living, but I don’t think we can just assert that, rather we have to seek out ways of helping the recipient of the message into a living encounter. On the point about avoiding dependency, I believe that what we want to promote, and Jesus is all about, is interdependency. Which is what the Trinity appears to be about, and what by creating us they have invited us into, and through the incarnation have made gloriously possible. Interdependence is, I think very different to co-dependency which is something exclusive and stagnant. Interdependent mutual loving is part of what I am trying to express by the idea of kenarchy, an unconditional mutual loving that begins with particular relationships given by God and ripples out in ever increasingly inclusive circles.

  7. Rog

    I like the distinction that ‘priestly mediation’ represents; as you demonstrate the nuances are subtle but vital. Rather than an exclusive tribal identity we are a nation of priests – I believe that’s what you refer to as a paradigm shift!

    I’m still not sure I follow the ‘jesus…not living’ thought…I imagine jesus as more life giving spirit than I can comprehend. Is the human participant in kerygmatic communication necessary? I am suggesting that we are not, but that is its the kenarchic reality that we are invited into this making known – gospel communication. The LORD would and does do a better job without us but his desires have led to this opening of of the trinitarian relationship, for all of creation to find its given place in the godhead. Weil again says beautifully “God and all his creatures is less than God alone”. Intercessory kerygma surely assumes that it is the Spirit (possibly by way of or repeated by us) that is inviting the ‘recipient’ and our role is as friends, who having responded ourselves to the divine invitation, find that the living communication of the godhead (spirit of prophecy) possesses us and therefore we resonate with the life giving word that proceeds from the godhead and defines and sustains all things. This perspective on communicating the testimony of Jesus surely goes further to undermine the kind of dependence on the priestly mediation of the communicator (human medium) that imperial hierarchy depends upon.

    Interdependence – AMEN! Perhaps a useful contrast is the history of how here in NI Equity, Diversity and Interdependence (EDI) have been part of the political framework described as ‘Shared Future’ now shelved by OFMDFM but none the less established within the political rhetoric cf http://www.ofmdfmni.gov.uk/asharedfuturepolicy2005.pdf and the EDI report compiled by a team from UU http://unesco.ulster.ac.uk/PDFs/edi_report.pdf

    Apologies for any clumsiness in my written communication here, a fire side, fire water and holy fire are called for…

    until then

  8. Hi Roger,

    Thank you for this post. You realize my thoughts!
    All comments are also very rich. I do not understand everything but I know what can help me grow in interdependence. We must learn … I like what I said Dolf de Voogd van der staeten, Dutch prophet: when we listen to someone teach or prophesy or to worship, etc. … we are his “subject” but we can not agree with what is said or done, but the listening position we take vis-à-vis this person is important. And so, the share that can be built in a working group on the same shéma.Nous can then learn from each other.
    Mediation makes us completely dependent. From God of men….

    I think the kairos time is important and if it could be related to times and seasons that God has given us to create, it would be a great asset. I am only beginning to glimpse these things … Constantine did so much damage! I just found the prayer imposed on Jews “converted” to be accepted into the church. We lost our roots.

    We pray for your memory, that your thoughts are clear and precise.
    Many blessings.
    With love
    Marie Claire and Jean Luc

  9. Hi Roger,

    The area of dependency is an interesting one.For those who communicate this great news the balance needs to be away from them in person and pointing toward Jesus.This is not always easy as the nature of these relationships means that one person already has something and the other wants it.Maybe this why Jesus always pointed to the father.Perhaps it is time for us to tip the balance again so that those of us with this relationship/knowledge come to a place of being able to pour ourselves out and give away rather than always seeking to gather in and keep hold.
    There is an old saying from a film (I think) ” In the land of the blind ,the one eyed man is king”maybe that is a good reflection on where we are with the way we share the great news.


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