Posted by: rogermitchell | July 11, 2011

God’s governance and Israel (ii)

I am surprised in some ways that if the last post made waves, then they weren’t overtly directed at my door. Which is not to say the post was ignored. Hundreds of people clicked on it, and one friend has emailed me personally. But it may be that some of those who were concerned by it may have preferred to steer clear of controversy, for which I am grateful. The last thing I desire is controversy for its own sake. But because of the urgency of the Spirit for his kingdom at this time, and the way in which now, as in Paul’s day, a wrong emphasis on Israel stands in its way, there are three further important issues I want to raise following on from the previous post, which are firstly moral, secondly hermeneutical and thirdly eschatological.

i) A moral issue

Many people explain their apparently unquestioning support of the contemporary nation state of Israel by pointing to bible verses promising blessings for those who bless Jerusalem or Israel and implying curses on those who curse them (Ps 122:6; Gen 12:3; Num 22:6 etc). But evaluating and criticising the morality of the politics of  national leaders is not at all the same thing as cursing Israel or Jerusalem. It can in itself be a means of blessing them. But there is a deeper issue here. An approach to life that is motivated by the desire for personal or corporate blessing and the avoidance of cursing is an immature, and, I suggest, profoundly unchristian one. The deeper theological question is whether God is good, not whether he will bless or curse anyone. Without further light on the character of God, the apparent inclusion of something in scripture or an appeal to divine sovereignty, is not enough. It is not the Bible we worship, or just any God. If the Bible revealed a bad God, we ought neither to obey it or worship him. This is why the Bible is incomplete without the incarnation. On the basis of God’s revelation in Christ we can understand that God is good and so we have the key to interpreting the Bible in a way that is consistent with his goodness. This brings us to the next point.

ii) An hermeneutical issue

There is, in my view, a misguided exegesis of Old Testament prophecy which misses both its original role and its fulfilment in Jesus the Word made flesh. The Jesus hermeneutic which is explored in this blog means that the primary fulfilment of all prophecy is in him, and anything we may think still seems to remain must fit with its prior consummation in him. Any applications of scripture and interpretations of prophecy, biblical or otherwise, that are not consonant with, that is look, sound, smell, taste like, the Jesus of the incarnation, who says “love your enemies” (Lk 6:35) and at the cross prays “Father forgive them for they know what they do” (Lk 23:34), are less than Christian. The blatantly imperial, sovereignty-autonomy, me-first attitude of ‘I will bless Israel and God will bless me, make me rich or whatever’, is the opposite of Jesus’ kenarchic love and his full revelation of God’s promise to Abraham. This attitude is part of the much larger and, again, in my view, similarly sub-Christian approach of premillenial eschatology which is expanded in the next point.

iii) An eschatological issue

Much of eschatological (end time) thinking of evangelical, pentecostal and charismatic theology is, often unconsciously, influenced by the premillennial theology that underlay some of the holiness movements in the US and particularly the Brethren movement in the UK. This refers to a nineteenth century development in eschatological thinking which is essentially sub-Christian in its concepts and hugely destructive in its theological and practical effects. This particularly effects the contemporary ecclesia’s ability to recognise the full implications of  the visitation of the Holy Spirit for re-equipping it in its calling to serve the poor with the gospel of the kingdom. It takes the bless-me approach to cosmic dimensions by suggesting that the whole strategy of God in human history has been to take a people for himself out of the world rather than locate a people like himself in the world. This eschatological position is the fulness of the partnership of church and empire. It assumes God to be a cosmic emperor and that Israel and the church are his people to be together removed from the world so that their enemies can quite literally go to hell via firstly experiencing a period of earthly conflagration that the church are all spared. But how good is that? It is difficult to envisage anything more at variance with the life-laying-down kenotic loving of God in Christ. Fortunately it is far from the character of God arrived at by arguing from a Jesus hermeneutic. He took on himself all the sins of the world and entered and swallowed up the fulness of hell on behalf of his enemies and calls his people to live lives of the same mind and attitude.

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Responses

  1. radical and wonderful Roger. It almost makes me want to cry . . . I have hungered for such teaching and wisdom. There is much fruit in your work from the past several years and I am sure much more to come. We so need to move on to what is real and right, the world is desperate for it. We have been chained but so many things, some that came about with good intentions or at least without bad ones, and some that were simply stupid or ignorant or dishonest from the get go. But oh, how we need to be released from it all and released to be what God has called us to be. I just hope I have the courage to follow such leading. It is either very scary or very freeing to be approaching old age with such a challenge – nothing to lose and everything to lose. I await to see what God calls me to post thesis and post doctorate. So for now back at it. . .
    c.

  2. “It assumes God to be a cosmic emperor and that Israel and the church are his people to be together removed from the world so that their enemies can quite literally go to hell via firstly experiencing a period of earthly conflagration that the church are all spared. But how good is that? It is difficult to envisage anything more at variance with the life-laying-down kenotic loving of God in Christ. Fortunately it is far from the character of God arrived at by arguing from a Jesus hermeneutic.”

    Well said Roger

  3. Roger, this is awesome stuff. You have made this so clear. I totally agree. Thank you for such excellent work.
    The issue of eschatology is so key. It is amazing how many subconsciously or more worryingly, consciously hold the position that the “whole strategy of God in human history has been to take a people for himself out of the world rather than locate a people like himself in the world.” We have to wrestle with these issues and where we have been blind to let Jesus spit on us so that we can see. For those who want to grapple with the eschatology stuff more (as there can be some difficult scriptures to interpret on some of this stuff, especially when certain scriptures have been used to uphold more escapist theologies), I would wholeheartedly recommend Martin Scott’s podcasts on this subject. They are each 15 mins long (although there are alot of them!), they are easy listening and very thought provoking. http://www.3generations.eu – search ‘podcasts’.

    • Thanks for this Andy, and especially the recommendation of Martin Scott’s podcasts which I heartily endorse!

  4. Brilliant! Thank you.

  5. Roger, Darrell and I were just having this discussion with about the Jesus attitude we should have towards the world and those whom Christians reject because how they presumable disrupt our lives – the rights we Christians in America protect with the weapons of our hateful words and unloving acts. We came to the conclusion that when we have be able to grieve over these issues within the bounds of love and can say things like Jesus “they know not what they do” and really mean it, we can begin to be a people of radical prophetic justice using our voices to confront unrighteousness where we see it. It seems to be of utmost importance that we free ourselves from having any needs tethered to the structures we have configured for our security otherwise our voices come out sounding reactionary and desperate. If we can reorient ourselves to eternity and not within the boundaries men create this may be what “taking back our nation for God” (borrowing from a mistaken world view) might look like. Otherwise we assimilate to gain security or react according to the threat, creating a double-mindedness or sorts. Then we read this post. We are thanking God for you and can’t wait to see what may happen in a post-needing-anything-from-these-man-made-structures world – when walking into darkness as light is the norm instead of running from it or instead of killing (even if softly) those who are bound in it so we can be safe.


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