Is the political enterprise a result of the Fall?

I know this may not sit well with some of my dear anabaptist friends. The line of thinking that they carry into discussions about the Christian's role in politics is usually that
  • If it weren’t for sin there would be no need for government.
  • It is sin that creates the need for law and order.
  • Government itself is part of the Fallen order - the kingdoms of this world are set against the kingdom of God

However, as I see it, the human race was created as relational beings, made in the image of the Trinitarian God, who exists in mutual, loving fellowship among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the imago Dei, the human race was made for mutual interdependence. Even without sin and the Fall, the developing human community would have needed cooperative efforts and leaders to organize our endeavors so that Shalom (universal flourishing) would always be the state of existence. Our first command was the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1, and in order to exercise dominion and stewardship, in order to create culture and civilization, we would have needed governmental organization.

In other words, I think that the role of government is not simply the negative task of restraining evil (which is true because of the Fall), but also the positive task of working for the common good (which would have been the case with or without the Fall).

Revelation says that kings will “bring their splendor” and “the glory and honor of the nations” into the New Jerusalem, which should inform us that the political enterprise has intrinsic merit apart from the effects of sin (see Revelation 21:24-26)


See Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers Journal

Bill Moyers Journal to air first television interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright since controversy.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright will be interviewed on PBS this week by Bill Moyers in his first broadcast interview with a journalist since he became embroiled in a controversy for his remarks and his relationship with Barack Obama. Wright, who retired in early 2008 as pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Senator Obama is a member, has been at the center of controversy for comments he made during sermons, which surfaced in the press in March.

The interview with Bill Moyers will air on Bill Moyers Journal on Friday, April 25, at 9:00 PM (EDT) on PBS.

Watch the interview online here: Reverend Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers Journal


Great coffeehouses, great conversations, and the college experience

My very good friend, Larry Bourgeois, along with Brandon Dawson, have written a helpful article on how coffee houses foster deep conversation of consequence in the college culture. It is published in COMMENT Magazine.

Here's an excerpt:

Great coffeehouses embody four elements. First is Creation, a relationship more about the earth, stewardship, and accountability than about "products." Great coffeehouses are places of Calling, where, as Frederick Buechner said, "your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." As individual callings meet, they develop Community, where divisive issues become shared concerns, and through which we find Communion, the celebration of the mystery and majesty of the cosmos in each other and the world. This is the cultural potential of the third place...

...Coffeehouses at various times have been incubators of some of the world's great ideas, and we betray a core contribution of the coffeehouse tradition when we don't foster creative conversations—conversations with the potential of transforming society.

College life presents two parallel tracks: the work your teacher is supposed to make you do, and the things you explore to honour your heart and soul in your own parallel quest. Countless times I've heard teachers and students say the most fulfilling parts of the college experience are the extended conversations, the relationships that develop and expand on the assignments. If you're just taking classes, you're wasting much of what is most valuable about the college experience. And a great coffeehouse might just be the environment not only to bring your deepest desires and longings to life, but to allow you to do so for others.

We live in a world where simple consumer choices can birth or destroy authentic community and self-fulfillment. When you vote with your dollars in an independent coffeehouse dedicated to free thought, then conversations of consequence, newer forms of what I call "Habitat for Community" are nurtured. You invest in creativity and transforming wisdom that produces true "commonwealth." Simple choices, like where to buy your coffee, become paths toward freedom and friendship. They develop social capital, and likely sustain someone's entrepreneurial dream and means of serving others.

Read the entire article here.

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"Heaven is important, but it's not the end of the world!"

I laughed out loud when I heard N.T. Wright say this in one of his audio lectures I was listening to a few months ago.

It's a perfect play on words. Not only is this a great figure of speech, but it is also the biblical teaching. Sure, heaven is nice. But it is not the telos, the culmination of our existence as Christians.

Modern evangelicalism has adopted a neo-gnostic paradigm about heaven and earth. Our gospel message has warped into this:
  • This world is an evil place. Your body is an evil thing.
  • What you need is to escape this depraved place and this body of sin.
  • Accept Jesus and when you die, you will be with God in heaven.
  • .... ummm ...
  • End of gospel presentation.
But our destiny is not heaven - some disembodied spiritual existence for all eternity. As Paul Marshall's excellent book states, "Heaven is Not My Home."

Many of us have redefined our destiny as "Heaven" (especially those of us with dispensationalist heritage), with little to be said of our destiny on earth in resurrected, physical bodies. But as Michael Wittmer's book states, a biblical eschatology proclaims that "Heaven Is a Place on Earth."

Now, N.T. Wright, one of the world's most renowned biblical scholars, has written a book that confirms all this with his incredible gift of blending deep scholarship with readable prose that will keep every reader turning the pages.

His new book, Surprised by Hope, helps us to do exactly what the subtitle says: "Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church."

The April 2008 issue of Christianity Today offers an excerpt from the book that I implore you to read. Here's a snippet:

"The traditional picture of people going to either heaven or hell as a one-stage, postmortem journey represents a serious distortion and diminution of the Christian hope. Bodily resurrection is not just one odd bit of that hope. It is the element that gives shape and meaning to the rest of the story of God's ultimate purposes. If we squeeze it to the margins, as many have done by implication, or indeed, if we leave it out altogether, as some have done quite explicitly, we don't just lose an extra feature, like buying a car that happens not to have electrically operated mirrors. We lose the central engine, which drives it and gives every other component its reason for working."

Read the article online here:
"Heaven Is Not Our Home: The bodily resurrection is the good news of the gospel—and thus our social and political mandate" by N.T. Wright

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Individualism - The Strength and Weakness of Evangelicalism

I deeply believe that each person needs to make a personal decision to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I am an evangelist at heart, and I want to see each person experience the transformation that begins at conversion.

But, too often, my evangelical zeal to see individuals come to faith is divorced from the biblical reality of community. God's gospel work is the creation of the New Humanity - beginning with a new community called "The Church."

When we forget that the goal of the gospel is not simply individuals coming into right relationship with God but also in right relationship with others and with God's Creation, we truncate the gospel and it loses its power to truly transform.

Tony Jones writes,

"Millions of Individuals 'inviting Jesus Christ into their hearts as their personal savior' at megachurches and Billy Graham crusades has done little to stem the moral dissolution in America. And ironically, it's the very individualism engendered by evangelicalism that has resulted in this predicament. The primary emphasis of evangelicalism is the conversion of the individual, but that emphasis has also handicapped evangelicals in their attempts to tackle systemic issues like racism and poverty and thus has left them open to manipulation by political forces." (The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, p. 13)

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Keys to the Kingdom

Scot McKnight just did a series on the relationship of the Kingdom of God to the Church.

He asked me to create a pdf file of the series. This way, we can have it in printed form for more in-depth study.

Here it is:

"Keys to the Kingdom" by Scot McKnight

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