Monday, February 04, 2013

Revolutionary Christianity

In focusing more and more on what Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, there is some new imagination required for what that would look like in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Especially when being a pastor in a community results in potential political activity.

I am disillusioned with our political reality in the USA. And I'm disappointed in how popular Christianity as aligned itself with politics in order to protect their assets, their power, their position, and their rights.

There is within me an instinctive repulsion to pastors and politics. What's the alternative to posturing and press statements? How to think about being a pastor and involved in politics without ending up as a pawn or a prig?

In these days of searching and listening, I turn again to Jacques EllulI found the following paragraphs to be immensely helpful to me as I seek confirmation of God's leading in my life's work.My interests and skills and calling have lead me into social and political work. In my vocation as a pastor, there is some inner questioning whether this direction is appropriate.  In seeking some kind of justification or spiritual foundation for what I sense to be right, Ellul is most helpful.

"The Christian can never regard himself as being on the winning side, nor can he look on with pleasure while everyone else goes to perdition; should
he do so, he would be lacking in the Spirit of Christ, and by that very fact he would cease to be a Christian.

Bound up with the lives of other men (be economic and sociological laws, and also by the will of God), he cannot accept the view that they will always remain in their anguish and their disorder, victims of tyranny and overwork, buoyed up only by a hope which seems unfounded.

Thus he must plunge into social and political problems in order to have an influence on the world, not in the hope of making a paradise, but simply in order to make it tolerable - not in order to diminish the opposition between this world and the Kingdom of God, but simply in order to modify the opposition between the disorder of this world and the order of preservation that God wills for it  - not in order to 'bring in' the Kingdom of God, but in order that the gospel may be proclaimed, that all men may really hear the good news of salvation, through the death and resurrection of Christ.

Thus there are three directions in which the Christian ought to action the world:First - starting from the point at which God has revealed to him the truth about the human person, he must try to discover the social and political conditions in which this person can live and develop in accordance with God's order.

Second - this person will develop within a certain framework which God has ordained for him. This is the order of preservation, without which man lacks his true setting. Man is not absolutely free in this sphere, any more than he is free in the physical or biological domain. There are certain limits which he cannot overstep without danger to the society to which he belongs. Thus the Christian must work, in order that the will of God may be incarnated in actual institutions and organisms.

Third - this order of preservation will have meaning only if it is directed towards the proclamation of salvation. Therefore, social and political institutions need to be 'open': that is, they must not claim to be all, or absolutes. Thus they must be constituted in such a way that they do not prevent man from hearing the Word of God. The Christian must be ceaselessly on the watch - intelligent and alert - to see that this 'order' is preserved.

But, in doing so, he will find that he is confronted by two possible errors. The one error consists in believing that by constant progress in this order we shall attain the Kingdom of God. It is enough to remind ourselves of the Book of Revelation, or of Matthew 24, to condemn this attitude.

The other error arises out of the conviction that by achieving certain reforms we shall have reached this order which God wills. In reality all solutions - all economic, political, and other achievements - are temporary. At no moment can the Christian believe either in their perfection or in their permanence. They are always vitiated by the sin which infects them, by the setting in which they take place.

Thus the Christian is constantly obliged to reiterate the claims of God, to reestablish this God-willed order, in presence of an order that constantly tends towards disorder. In consequence of the claims which God is always making on the world the Christian finds himself, by that very fact, involved in a state of permanent revolution.

Even when the institutions, the laws, the reforms which he has advocated have been achieved, even if society is reorganized according to his suggestions, he still has to be in opposition, he still must require more, for the claim of God is as infinite as His forgiveness.

Thus the Christian is called to question unceasingly all that man calls progress, discovery, facts, established results, reality, etc. He can never be satisfied with all this human labor, transcended, or replaced by something else.

In his judgment he is guided by the Holy Spirit - he is making an essentially revolutionary act. If the Christian is not being revolutionary, then in some way or another he has been unfaithful to his calling in the world."

Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom, pgs 35-37

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