Must Everything Change? 16

We finish up our series of Brian McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change. The last section of this book sums up the whole book and makes an appeal.

The book is an appeal for a revolution of hope.
The most radical thing we can do to face the global crises of our day is to believe — “a new framing story” (278). “Jesus proclaims that simply believing his good news brings salvation. This is ‘salvation by grace through faith’ in a planetary sense: if we believe that God graciously offers us a new way, a new truth, and a new life, we can be liberated from the vicious, addictive cycles of our suicidal framing stories” (279).
Jesus’ radical hope is to offer himself for us. Here are Brian’s own words that I think express a “theory” of the atonement — “Then he stretched out his neck, as it were, inviting them [the dark machinery, the wolves] to pounce, and they did. Ironically, though, as he exposed his own neck, he also exposed their vicious wolfishness and in that way he sabotaged them, defeated them, rendering them ugly and incredible. After all, they could no longer claim to be agents of peace and promise after torturing and killing a good and peaceful man so violently and shamefully” (280).
So, he calls us to both a faith in Jesus and the faith of Jesus.
“Doing so will require one radical, irreplaceable thing in us: faith — faith that the old narrative of domination is suicidal, and that a new story (good news) is available if we will only rethink everything and believe it” (281).

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  • I don’t know about suicidal…but I agree that the old story of dominion is certainly not the heart of God. The agape way that Jesus shows us is radical and runs against the grain.

  • Vic

    Scott, what’s your take on McLaren’s distinctly Postmodernist language and political slant in this book?
    I’ve always been uneasy with his use of the words “narrative” and “framing” which seem–to me at least–to end run the concept of objective truth.
    I’m also curious to know what you think of his “theory” of atonement that you quote. It seems to me to be “framed” in terms of earthly politics rather than the defeat of sin and death on the cross.
    I always find his work provocative, but I don’t share his enthusiasm for Postmodernist thought, nor for what I consider to be a faith in a (redeemed) humanity’s ability to remodel creation into a new heaven and new earth without an apocalypse.
    I’d freely acknowledge that I’m not a member of the theological choir to whom I think he’s preaching, but I’m nevertheless trying to keep an open mind.

  • I think Brian has shown the deceptive weakness of “pax Americana” or any imperial peace other than the peace of the kingdom of God. Many react to Brian, it seems, because he refuses to anoint America as “God’s way of salvation” in the world. The “Way of Jesus” is not “the American Way.”
    From Lutsk, Ukraine,
    John

  • Diane

    John,
    Hope you are having a fruitful time in the Ukraine. As usual, I agree with what you have to say, and also agree with Brian that Jesus overcame the fangs of the wolf with a different kind of power. My question is, if the personal is the political, how do we start enacting this alternative in our own lives and at the grassroots level? (Of course, this assumes a commitment to following Jesus as a first step.)

  • Ben Wheaton

    I have one question:
    How does McLaren’s notion of the atonement solve anything on earth, much less our assuaging our guilt before God?

  • Ben Wheaton

    Correction: take out the first “our.”

  • Ben,
    Good point. McLaren’s view of the cross in this section of his book, and I saw it in an even briefer form in his Secret Message, is a Girardian theory of atonement. That is, the cross exposes the unjustified violence wrapped up in turning victims into scapegoats, demonstrating that God is on the side of the victim and not on the side of the powerful. McLaren never quotes Girard that I know of; he could be absorbing this idea from Walter Wink.
    The issue here is whether this is true … not whether it is a complete theory of atonement (which it isn’t). Does the cross manifest the evil of human powerful perpetrators against innocent victims? I would say yes. How about you?

  • RJS

    Scot,
    You didn’t ask me – but I will answer anyway. I also would say yes – yes, but as one piece of a much larger and much more profound framing story.
    Over emphasis on this part alone to provide the framing story will distort just as deeply and with just as disasterous results as anything McLaren justly criticizes.

  • Was Jesus a victim? He was victimized, yes. But a victim has no choice. He had a choice.. and He chose us, to die for us. I may be splitting hairs, but I think it is relevant. Victim sounds whimpy, victimized Savior sounds incredibly strong and loving… sinse we are “framing” the situation.

  • Ben Wheaton

    Scot,
    I do not think that the conception of Jesus’ death that McLaren posits is a major focus of the biblical texts. I believe that this conception is true, but it is also sidelined. Why do we need another example of man’s wickedness and its ultimate futility? Proverbs is full of this sort of doctrine, that the wicked through their own wickedness effect their own downfall and show themselves for who they really are. Note that in Peter’s initial sermon on Pentecost his focus is not on how the leaders and people were “shown up” for who they really were, but were merely actors in a larger drama. In fact, you might almost think that Peter was excusing their actions (He wasn’t, but you get the picture)!

  • Scot, are you going to give us more of your own view of the book?

  • Tom Hein

    I agree with Ben Wheaton. Sure, it’s part of the text.
    But, I would still rather go with Jesus’ own words, “For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
    He came to serve, and to show us how to serve, but he also came to give his life as a ransom (substitutionary atonement).

  • T

    Ben,
    I do think there is an important aspect of the cross highlighted here, namely that of Jesus practicing what he preached regarding how to deal with enemies and what part that doctrine plays in reconciling the world to God. The cross, of course, is doing many things simultaneously, a few of which are (i) to let loyalties to various idols play themselves out fully, inevitably and publicly to a Cain-like murder (to expose this even to the wrongdoers themselves) and, relatedly, (ii) to attempt to reconcile (or make one) the wrongdoer and the victimized–both God and Man, and even (iii) what true leadership, authority, or power looks like and does. The ‘way’ of Jesus–overcoming evil & the powers of the world (as enfleshed and championed by Rome and the Jewish leaders) with good–is on display and being put to the ultimate test by its author.
    On the whole, I think something like Brian’s plea here (regardless of how one feels of his applications of it in previous chapters) is necessary for those of us who have had much more faith ‘in’ Jesus than the faith (and practice) ‘of’ Jesus, especially as it concerns overcoming evil within those that practice it, even within the power structures of the day. We’ve tended to preach the cross/atonement to the world (making it a purely vertical accounting transaction) more than demonstrate it to them with a different power source and loyalty, trusting the power of costly giving to win our enemies over, and our own resurrection.

  • interesting topic guys (and the few gals here gathering). of course maclaren (like most of us) engages in rhetoric to make his point. but i see this as a good thing. we need shaken, stirred and re-poured into the world. as a liberationist i have to say i applaud his attempt to move the focus of mainstream evangelicalism from simply being a “heavenly” transaction to showing how it has something profound to say about the injustice of so much of our (of rather ‘their’, where ‘they’ are the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised…) suffering.
    rather than simply accepting unjust conditions there is something powerful in the death of christ which encourages us (even provokes us) to see the injustice happening to others, be outraged by it and take action. here. now. on earth. not waiting for the eschaton to make everything ok.
    life BEFORE death as christian aid puts it.

  • Brad Cooper

    I have to agree with Ben and others above.
    This seems to be one of the basic messages of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. This profound message impacts the people of Israel to this day through the psalms and the passover feast.
    But it is not the central message of the cross (thought it can certainly be read into it). If it’s presented as such, those who do not have a solid understanding of what Christ did for us are likely to gain a distorted view of the atonement.

  • Scot,
    Now that you’re at the end of this book, I’ll chime in for my two cents and say that the point of any book and author written about The Book and The Author should always spur on the “Berean” in us…to go back and check our story with His Story. To ponder…hmmm…is there something about my thinking that has gotten too narrow…too broad? Have I neglected some parts and over-emphasized others? Have I strained at gnats and swallowed camels?
    That’s what I love about the wonderful work you do on this site–you host a table for the Bereans where we can discuss together where we are today, where we have been yesterday and where we might discern God would like us to go tomorrow.
    So, thanks for that…again!

  • Mike

    Since when is meeting the needs of “the oppressed, the suffering, and the poor” the main message of Christianity?? It is an offshoot of a Christian’s love for Christ because of what Christ has done for us. You can send a million tons of food, provide housing, and give a bunch of money to people to meet their earthly needs, but what does that matter if they are going to spend eternity in hell? I have a tremendous issue with the postmodern thinking of “community” when that “community” completely discards (or tries to “rethink”) the gospel. Christ willingly and humbly dying for us, as a lamb to the slaughter, is the only hope that people have!! Acceptance and belief of that, repentance and turning from sin, and willingly surrendering your life to Christ and God’s perfect will are what saves!

  • Mike

    and belief that he resurrected from the dead…Sorry, left that out…pretty important 🙂

  • mike, i appreciate your concern for people’s eternal destinations (whatever that may actualy entail) but i’m sure we can both agree that while we are pondering the eternal hereafter we can AT THE VERY LEAST feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned.
    we do these things AS we pontificate over our theological correctness.
    and, if matthew 25 is to be believed, it may turn out that we have believed in the right way.
    my point is not to rekindle the tired debate of orthodoxy vs orthopraxis but to point out that without action faith is dead ie. it is not faith at all. ie it has no salvivic effect whatsoever. belief behaves and from genesis through revelation it is clear that ‘christian’ belief behaves on behalf of the poor.

  • ‘salvivic’ will of course be the new word all the col people are using instead of the decidedly old-school ‘salvific’.
    oops! :o)

  • and col is cool!
    ok i’m done!

  • Part of me feels like I, and some others, have been kind of hard on McLaren as we went through this, so I had to ask myself why.
    None of us are surprised to hear that there’s poverty, hunger, or pain in the world. You can keep from thinking about it for a while, but occasionally it’ll break through and you have to ask why you are so comfortable when others live hand to mouth. That’s when you wonder what you can do about it.
    You can give money to charities, to missions, even to microfinance groups, but in the end, all we really feel like we can do is throw money at the problem. Well, after many billions of dollars have changed hands, nothing seems to have been accomplished. In fact, some things (Zimbabwe) have actually gotten worse in the last decade.
    So people either want to not think about it or to know what to do. McLaren wants you to think about it, and he doesn’t seem to have many concrete suggestions about what to do; instead we get platitudes like “work to improve the system.” The few concrete ideas he does offer seem to come out of the same liberal playbook that has been tried ad nauseum here to no avail — e.g., “international minimum wage.”
    That’s terribly frustrating, and it’s annoying that he seems to think he’s sharing some kind of great wisdom with us. Plus, his “emergent-speak” (e.g., “framing” story) is irritating.
    That said, he’s keeping people talking about this, and so maybe something will come of it.

  • Dianne P

    With full confession that I’ve not read McLaren’s book, I do think that there have more fruitful discussions (as in bearing fruit in me) on this blog than in McLaren’s emergent-speak. And I am a lover of emergent-speak 😉 – I just think it needs to go somewhere.
    So much of McL reminds me of sitting around in college (many years ago, I confess), late into the night, and having the *oh wow man* talks about life and the universe. At some point, after one’s 20s, I think we need to move from *oh wow man* to *now what*. That’s why I get weary of McL. He reminds me of the bumper sticker approach of the modern evangelical church that some of of us are running from. I don’t see McL tearing up the bumper stickers and going for something different, deeper – but just replacing them w/ different slogans. And to paraphrase, w/ apologies to Donald Miller, it stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s just about who has the more clever bumper sticker. (my apologies to McLaren and to McLaren fans, as I’m sure he means his writings to be about God at the very core, but it just doesn’t read that way for me.)
    I apologize if this sounds like a McLaren bash. I didn’t mean for it to be. It’s more of an attempt to get at my frustration w/ this book, but even more, an expression of gratitude for the posts on this book.
    A grateful heart to Scot Mc and to all who post here – a safe and gracious place that challenges me to live out the Jesus Creed.

  • Korey

    ChrisB #22
    I think in this discussion people have been talking some about what to do about it (i.e. “poverty, hunger, or pain in the world”) and debating what to do about it and not to do about it. I think there is fertile ground here to explore, providing we all can be charitable to various suggestions. For instance, I have been challenged by Michael Kruse’s thoughts and am grateful for his list of resources concerning theology and economics. And although I am a member of the historically and still mostly “liberal” UCC, it’s clear to me that he supports free markets not out of selfishness or greed or apathy, but out of a concern for and engagement with his Christian convictions (Maybe that shouldn’t need to be stated, but I suspect many, including myself, frequently make judgments and unfair assumptions of others based on our own intellectual history). I would like more discussion of this too and feel myself relatively open to a wide variety of approaches. I even value getting into the details of concrete legislation and personal decision making in terms of personal finance, where one shops, what one supports locally and nationally, opinions on various organizations (but these discussions often breakdown into too much anger and labeling and mistrust; in fact I think they frequently solidify existing idealogical divisions).
    I submit that if McLaren had driven too far down the road of concrete suggestions (he may have already done so, e.g. “international minimum wage”) it would’ve distracted from the more important message of the book concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ and what it can mean for our lives and the world if we believe it enough to allow it to change our lives and challenge our assumptions (And when I say OUR I mean me too). Maybe that message is not needed for you because you’ve already heard it or already are living it such that it’s not really new or packaged in an appealing way.

  • Dianne P, #23 (rhymes!)
    I’m with you.

  • Let me second Dianne’s comment: The conversations on this site have been, as usual, thought-provoking, informative, and challenging. Thanks everybody!

  • Vic

    I think Brian has shown the deceptive weakness of “pax Americana” or any imperial peace other than the peace of the kingdom of God. Many react to Brian, it seems, because he refuses to anoint America as “God’s way of salvation” in the world. The “Way of Jesus” is not “the American Way.”
    I’d share Brian’s cynicism about any peace based on any human paradigm or any program implemented by a fallen humanity. And that would include the Pax Emergent that I think he’s trying to advocate.

  • Vic

    Over emphasis on this part alone to provide the framing story will distort just as deeply and with just as disasterous results as anything McLaren justly criticizes.
    I think this hits the nail on the head for me. Brian’s emphasis strikes me as driven by an agenda he brings to the text, rather than one that emerges (!!) from it naturally.

  • Friend of Pascal

    OK…wow…I was scrolling down just to state that I love the community of learning this blog is. And then, as I scrolled I saw so many similar comments. I have learned so much here, and there is never an intent on attacking other ministers or other followers of Christ. I have learned so much here. It is like an internet refuge. Thanks everyone, and thanks Scot for setting the tone.

  • Friend of Pascal

    Oops…sorry for saying I have learned so much here twice, although I have 🙂

  • Diane

    But isn’t it Brian’s point that the over-emphasis on other aspects of the atonement have distorted the gospel disastrously? Isn’t he trying to right the balance? Isn’t he trying to shine light on what has been left out of conventional atonement theories? Jesus died for our sins, but what are some of the chief sins he died for? Our violence, our will to power, our unloving treatment of our neighbors and our enemies … the cross symbolizes all these sins and we are to walk a different path. It’s not an option.

  • Vic

    #31:
    Even if I agreed with Brian’s diagnosis of exactly how the gospel has been distorted, I don’t think his treatment brings balance to the subject. I don’t think the main purpose of the cross was to hi-lite any one set of sins as particularly onerous, or stimulate political activism (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that). I think it was to atone for (all) human sin. I confess that I have a bit of a hard time reconciling Brian’s treatment with that of Paul, but, as I said, I’m continuing to let it percolate.

  • Ben Wheaton

    Diane,
    How has the focus on the other conceptions of the atonement distorted the gospel disastrously? Do you think that penal substitution has made us violent, or Christus Victor triumphalist?

  • “So, he calls us to both a faith in Jesus and the faith of Jesus.”
    I like that. This is what we ourselves need, and what the whole world needs from us. This is what the Spirit will be working in us as God’s people before the world.
    So we need to be done of anything else, and walk together in Jesus in this.
    And yes, this is radical. And the older I get along with all the hard knocks I’ve had, many self-imposed, the more I realize the radical nature of this walk together in Jesus. And hopefully the more we will, in grace with others, live and experience it.

  • Rob O

    Does McL’s reading of the cross not emerge naturally from the text? On one level it seems so basic and right on the very surface of the text. I think of the Gospel of John and Jesus’ encounter with Pilate. Who is really exposed, the one crucified in humiliation, or the imperial system, supposedly the best representative of peace and justice and prosperity on earth, that crucifies the savior as a despised traitor? John is clear: the coming of Jesus (climaxing in the cross) is light shining in the darkness, and exposes those living in darkness who fear the light for the simple reason that their deeds are evil.
    The first chapter or two of Colossians also presents the powers as subjected to Christ, captives in his victory train, precisely because they crucified him and gained their false victory over him. Somehow, the powers and rulers of the world that seek to defeat Jesus are themselves defeated in that very act. Of course, the NT takes this political narrative and raises it to a higher theological level, a cosmic drama. The cross is a cosmic defeat of all that oppresses human life – summed up in the words sin and death. But in doing so the NT does not deny the earthy and political historical origin of this drama. The message that the Romans had executed the world’s Savior remained politically scandalous even if it could not be reduced to a political message.
    The interesting question to me is why the simple surface reading of Jesus’ execution is so hard for us to see, why it does not jump off the page for us today. Some of the early Christians had no problem thinking of Rome as the whore of Babylon, drunk on the blood of the nations (Revelation). Why is that such a problem for us?

  • Brad Cooper

    Amen! And Amen to all the comments about how great the discussion has been surrounding this book. Thanks to all above and a few others who have not yet weighed in on this session. 🙂
    And thanks, Scot, for initiating the discussion. 🙂
    I think McLaren has done an important service in that he has provoked the meaningful type of discussion that we’ve had–even if I do have some important concerns about certain things.
    I hope that for the next round of discussions concerning a book that I will be able to purchase and read it for myself so that I can have a more solid understanding of what we’re discussing. (This will be difficult for me since I am such a cheapskate and usually wait until a book has been out long enough that I can by it used or find it at a garage sale/thrift store!)
    Grace and peace in our Lord Jesus.

  • Rob O

    Yes, great discussion.
    One question: Does McL’s reading of the cross not emerge naturally from the text? On one level it seems so basic, right on the very surface of the text. I think of the Gospel of John and Jesus’ encounter with Pilate. Who is really exposed, the one crucified in humiliation, or the imperial system, supposedly the best representative of peace and justice and prosperity on earth, that executes the savior as a despised traitor? John is clear: the coming of Jesus (climaxing in the cross) is light shining in the darkness, and exposes those living in darkness who fear the light for the simple reason that their deeds are evil.
    The first chapter or two of Colossians also presents the powers as subjected to Christ, captives in his victory train, precisely because they crucified him and gained their false victory over him. Somehow, the powers and rulers of the world that seek to defeat Jesus are themselves defeated in that very act. Of course, the NT takes this political narrative and raises it to a higher theological level, a cosmic drama. The cross becomes a cosmic defeat of all that oppresses human life – summed up in the words sin and death. But the NT does not deny the earthy and political historical origin of this drama. The message that the Romans had wrongly executed the world’s Savior remained politically scandalous even if it could not be reduced to a political message.
    The interesting question to me is why the simple surface reading of Jesus’ execution is so hard for us to see, why it does not jump off the page for us today.

  • Rob O

    sorry for the double post … delay and not logging in at first fooled me. thanks for allowing me to take up so much ink!

  • Diane

    Ben Wheaton,
    While I believe in penal substitution, I tend to look at as modeling leader sacrifice. Jesus is showing us that the leader is to lay down his life for his followers and not vice versa. I also realize it functions on a more cosmic level. However, the atonement has been distorted, as we’ve discussed many times on this blog, into a entire focus on individual salvation and the afterlife. It has been reduced to “I am saved and I will go to heaven because Jesus died for me and my sins.” You can get that reading from the gospel. That’s definitely a facet of the story and an important one. But I have seen it emphasized to the exclusion of all else –and that is, imho, a disaster. If that is the whole story, it’s easy to ignore the commands to feed the hungry, live humbly, heal the sick, and to recognize we’re called to live (and Paul gets this, he says it repeatedly) according to another power that is not based on violence, fear or supremacy but on love, trust and submission –even it means dying. If we look at the full meaning of the cross and don’t just tease out what is comfortable, we have to face that we worship one, Jesus Christ, who took away the occasion of all wars. But people are afraid of that level of sacrifice and vulnerability.

  • Ben Wheaton

    Diane,
    Christ will take away the occasion of all wars only when he returns in glory on the last day. The reason that the afterlife is emphasized is because its importance dwarfs the present life. What’s more important: the present age, or eternity?

  • Brad Cooper

    Diane & Ben #39 & 40,
    Gotta agree with Ben on this one. Jesus said that wars will increase not decrease until he returns (Matt. 24, etc.).
    And Jesus (and all the NT writers) repeatedly emphasize the eternal. Check out the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus makes repeated statements about seeking our reward in heaven and then in Mt. 6:19-21 expands on that issue: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,….But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
    I believe that it’s only with a focus on heaven that we will be able to live a consistently sacrificial life here. This certainly drove Paul. He looked at heaven as the finish line and he was able to deal with the extreme sacrifices that he made for the kingdom because he realized that they would pale compared to the glory that awaited him in heaven: “For our light and momentary troubles [only by comparison] are achieving fo us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
    Peace.

  • the focus on heaven is fine when it comes to realising OUR own perfection, but the call of christ (see, for example, the kingdom section of matthew, the sermon on the mount, luke’s concern for and emphasis on the poor and and and) is DEFINITEY on working for the kingdom now when it comes to relieving the suffering of others (“your kingdom come, your will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven…)
    focusing on heaven to this extent has numbed the entire evangelical tradition against the injustice all around us – thinking that concern for such things is a watering down of the good news (the ‘social’ gospel). it seems to me that christ has come
    luke 4:18-21
    “the spirit of the lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the lord’s favor.” and he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. then he began to say to them, “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

  • Korey Kwilinski

    Diane #39, thank you for that. Wonderfully put and the reason (I think) that I intend to read “A Community Called Atonement” soon.
    Ben #40,
    Christians don’t necessarily resist violence, offer compassion, seek justice, etc. because it inevitably will make a difference globally. I hope it will, it often seems realistically impossible, not to mention the biblical exegesis that it will not be so. It certainly may be true that all wars will only end when Christ returns in glory on the last day. Maybe there will be an apocalypse before a new heaven and new earth, maybe not. I believe there is room for different understandings of Scripture on that matter. Quoting John Howard Yoder’s essay Living the Disarmed Life: “Christians love their enemies not because they think their enemies are wonderful people, nor because they believe that love is sure to conquer these enemies. They do not love their enemies because they fail to respect their native land or its rulers; nor because they are unconcerned for the safety of their neighbors; nor because another political or economic system may be favored. The Christian loves his or her enemies because God does, and God commands his followers to do so; that is the only reason, and that is enough.”
    The whole gospel matters now and forever. Why set eternity against the present? Diane was not denying the importance of salvation or the afterlife. By ranking them I personally feel you diminish both.
    Brad #41
    I don’t think Diane’s comments emphasize concern for the present at the expense of or to a greater extent than eternity. It’s because of God that there is an eternity and this is the reason the present age matters. I don’t see how you are really disagreeing with Diane to be honest.

  • Brad Cooper

    Hey Shane #42,
    I totally agree with you that the evangelical church has missed the boat on helping the poor and living sacrificially. I disagree that it has been because of a focus on heaven vs. earth.
    The evangelicals that I know that are not focused on helping the poor are simply focused too much on their own personal cares in this life and on how they can enjoy its pleasures. In other words, as I see it, the problem is just the opposite of what you state: it is their focus on this life and not heaven that is the problem. And this is precisely Jesus’ point in the Sermon on the Mount: “Stop worrying about clothes and food and all the things that worldly people chase after and seek first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness….” and “Store up your treasures in heaven not earth.” And how do we store up treasures in heaven? By doing God’s will here on earth.
    If, in fact, the lack of concern for the poor and the needy is due to a focus on heaven, it is because the focus is wrong. Perhaps it is because of an overemphasis on grace to the exclusion of any talk of the judgement. Perhaps the problem is a truncated eschatalogy: you accept Christ, you die, you walk the golden streets and live in a mansion in the sky.
    Our eschatology must include a clear understanding of the judgement. This is something Jesus repeatedly emphasizes throughout his teaching (as do all the NT writers).
    Bottom line: If our focus on heaven includes a longing to hear the words “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” our focus on heaven will drive us to help the poor and others (not hinder us from it).

  • Brad Cooper

    Korey #43,
    I think you’re right. I think Diane does make it clear that she does not dismiss the importance of the afterlife.
    My real disagreement with her is about Jesus ending all wars in this present life.
    I think we might also have a slight disagreement about the results of an emphasis on heaven. Perhaps my comments in #44 clear that up.
    Peace.

  • Ben Wheaton

    Korey,
    A focus on eternity will affect our lives now. As #44 said above, we will seek to please God now in order that our treasures in heaven may increase in the new heaven and new earth.
    I do believe that a Christian has to believe that Christ will return to make the world new. There is room to believe how that will occur, but that it will occur is beyond doubt. The Day of the Lord language that the Magnificat echoes is throughout Scripture, enough to make the apocalypse core doctrine.

  • Diane

    Brad,
    I may have mispoken. You are right that we are told to expect wars. However, I do believe Jesus meant for his followers to sacrifice warfare. But since not everybody will follow Christ, wars will occur.
    Korey,
    Thanks for the Yoder quote!!

  • Vic

    #37
    But the NT does not deny the earthy and political historical origin of this drama. The message that the Romans had wrongly executed the world’s Savior remained politically scandalous even if it could not be reduced to a political message.
    I think that’s a fair assessment as far as it goes (though I think the Jewish leadership shares culpability along with the Romans), but I also think it’s a very incomplete view of the cross, and not its primary significance (what is political scandal compared to the redemption of individuals and the rest of creation?). I’d still argue that the rest of Paul’s writings would look a lot different if the politics of the cross were as important Brian seems to want to make it.
    I’d also agree that there is political commentary in Colossians (aimed in particular at Caesar), but is it not set in a larger context of refuting multiple vain philosophies and cults by exalting Jesus?
    It’s not that there aren’t political angles to Jesus’ life and work (because there clearly were, starting even prior to his birth), but I think that elevating them to a level of primary focus is a mistaken emphasis.
    Could not one argue that one of the main reasons Jesus was rejected by Jews as Messiah was their all-too-political (and impatient) expectations? He didn’t bring down the Roman empire in his lifetime, all he did was atone for the sins of the world.
    But since not everybody will follow Christ, wars will occur.
    As much as I’d like to believe that a world full of Christians would be a world without war, I’m not convinced it’s possible without a new heaven and new earth. But it’s a nice thought.

  • Korey Kwilinski

    Ben #46
    Though I may not be with you exactly in terms of eschatology (and I’m not trying to reduce that subject at all), I am with you if what you’ve expressed drives you to, in Diane’s words, stive to “feed the hungry, live humbly, heal the sick, and to recognize we’re called to live (and Paul gets this, he says it repeatedly) according to another power that is not based on violence, fear or supremacy but on love, trust and submission –even if it means dying”.
    Vic #48
    “As much as I’d like to believe that a world full of Christians would be a world without war, I’m not convinced it’s possible without a new heaven and new earth.”
    I suppose I’m agnostic on this. I agree that even if everyone was Christian war may very well persist. I suppose that sort of brings up sanctification. I’ll quote Yoder again from the same essay. “Jesus predicted that there would continue to be wars as long as this world lasts, just as he predicted that people’s faith would grow cold and their morals loose. But this cannot be a reason for Christians to follow this world’s ways, any more than the prevalence of theft or of waste is a model for Christians to follow.” And I would add that it’s reason to care about God’s good creation, the hopes, fears, joys, sorrows, and needs of all of God’s people. It’s reason to say that everything must change, regardless of outcomes, whatever they may be.

  • Vic

    But this cannot be a reason for Christians to follow this world’s ways, any more than the prevalence of theft or of waste is a model for Christians to follow.
    I think this goes without saying, although I think that one of the problems is that we might not reach a complete consensus among ourselves as Christians about which ways are God’s and which ways are exclusively the world’s.
    It’s reason to say that everything must change, regardless of outcomes, whatever they may be.
    I followed you right up to this point, and I’m not sure exactly what you mean here.
    Ultimately Jesus will make all things new, not any human program, Christian or otherwise. To me, the main benefit of Brian’s book, even if I think it’s over-the-top in some respects, is that it can provide insight and motivation for the salt to not lose its flavor.

  • Ben Wheaton

    Korey,
    Certainly an eternal perspective will drive a Christian to care for the poor and marginalized and combat injustice in the this world. However, I depart from your perspective in terms of violence. A Christian will not (normally) be personally violent, but from my perspective (and there is another valid one, Christian pacifism, which I respect, but disagree with) violence is necessary in this world to mitigate the evil that man does. As such, Christians are allowed to serve in militaries, police forces, etc. and are also allowed to support war when justified. It is important not to elevate issues that rest on prudential judgment over other issues in which the morals are more clear.

  • Korey Kwilinski

    Vic
    Agreed. I suppose there may not be consensus on God’s vs. the world’s ways.
    Ben
    On the morality of violence, I suppose that like you I am not either wholly pacifist nor fully supportive of violence as a response to human evil. Yet it may be that I lean quite close (maybe much closer than you?) to pacifism and nonviolence. I suppose one of the layers of meaning I see in Jesus is showing that God’s kingdom is nearly antithetical to violence and that Christians ought to be willing to try to follow Christ’s example of unconditional love and nonviolent obedience even unto death. I doubt my ability, my community’s ability, and my nation’s ability to ever use violence for anything but selfish ends (e.g. power, wealth, self-preservation), and yet I also doubt the ability to avoid risk and abstain from violence for anything but selfish ends. I have less uneasiness about police forces and about violent action occurring amongst individuals or smaller groups. It seems to me the smaller the conflict in terms of participants, the less tangled and morally ambiguous it is.
    The life of Jesus and the history of violence indicate to me that violence is often the problem, and far from mitigating evil, often contributes to its proliferation. I do acknowledge exceptions when violence was, I believe, necessary to mitigate human evil such as in US action in World War II. Yet I caution against extrapolating justification for the involvement of a Christian citizen of the US in that conflict to involvement in conflicts against nations I hear being called “Islamofascist”. I say this given the other genocides that have been ignored in terms of military intervention. The difficulty I see being part of the military is, you don’t get to pick your battles. No one would believe you were “abstaining” for anything but selfish or at best naive reasons and you’d be punished (And maybe they’d be right; our intentions aren’t always noble).
    Ultimately I am led to largely affirm nonviolence. However, in avoiding military service for myself, I have this personal need to insert myself into potentially “dangerous” situations (meaning a limited Westerner’s notion of danger), because I know one aspect of my lack of participation must be, though I’m loathe to admit it, fear of manner of death and concern for my wife and children and friends (Not wanting to leave them, but also simply wanting to be with them). I am not looking for a sort of self-flagellation, but in absence of personal military service and knowing that there are places and situations in need of Christian witness that pose probably more risk than others, I push myself to seek them out or at least not resist them out of fear or cowardice. Some of course are called to do this to far far greater risk than I in dangerous war torn regions.
    In any event, I say all this to explain why I am sympathetic to this aspect of McLaren’s book. And I want to emphasize what appears relevant to me in our current context given ongoing US foreign policy issues, the degree of nationalism exhibited in Christian churches, and the neoconservative projects to remake nations/regions corrupted by tyrannical regimes into liberal democracies by force as if it were clearly benevolent. I think this ought to make Christians experience some degree of cognitive dissonance. Uses of violence by Christians as a means to mitigate human evil must be approached with the gravest care and discernment and self reflection. I am not implying that you or anyone involved here does not do so, but I do encounter a large contingent of folks Christian and non that don’t appear to demonstrate such caution.

  • ben and korey, i like what you’re saying but it needs pushed further. you’re both kind of saying that it’s ok for christians to be part of the military, but what about the question of taking up arms to oppose the military or the government – i.e. freedom fighting/terrorism? i ask the same question here (http://fakerepublic.typepad.com/fake/2005/11/timbo_and_ive_b.html) and would be interested in your thoughts.