Saturday, 23 January 2010

when local government attacks the faith

Andy Hunter has an excellent article regarding the treatment of Bridget McConnell, the head of Culture & Sport in Glasgow and head of the department which helped fund the controversial MOMA exhibition that included an invitation for gay people, who felt excluded by Scripture, to record their names in the margins of an open bible. As you can imagine, some of the name recording turned into vitriolic comments against Christianity. Unfortunately, some Christians have responded by sending Bridget McConnell "hate mail" (you get the impression she is loving the publicity). Andy explains why this approach is stupid to say the least.

Would a healthy dose of two kingdom theology save Christians from such madness? I dare say it would.

14 comments:

Shed said...

Nicky, I wish you hadn't mentioned 2k theology. I am now obliged to ask you this question... if a similar story involved a member of your church as the chief exec of a Culture and Sport department that funded and supported such an exhibition... how would you wish the leaders of your church to respond? In support and congratulation of the member for promoting knowledge of the Bible in the artistic and public sphere? Or with gentle pastoral care suggesting that perhaps a Christian should not associate with an exhibition that demeans the faith, denies the gospel, and dishonours the Lord?

2k theology does not answer any of the practical questions Christians now face as the live as subjects in the 21stC UK. That's why I'm so glad that Andy Hunter's post just refers to New Testament principles and commands rather than theological constructs that have no substance.

Nick Mackison said...

"2k theology does not answer any of the practical questions Christians now face as the live as subjects in the 21stC UK."

Not that you're given to hyperbole or anything! ;) Here's how it shows me how to live:

Jesus is big enough to deal with insults in the public square. Isn't it just the job of the church to preach the gospel, and in so doing, command all men to repent?

I'm not at all suggesting that there's anything wrong in writing letters of complaint to the council in our capacity as citizens of this world. Fine. Just don't get overblown ideas as to what these letters will accomplish. Will they turn the community to the gospel? No. Will they advance the kingdom? No.

With a firm separation of church and state, surely this would go some way to providing Christians with a check and a balance before they go firing stupid insults at unbelievers for (unsurprisingly) insulting Christ?

I just think we need to get over the fact that Christendom is a thing of the past and that it wasn't a terribly biblical thing in the first place.

Shed said...

Nicky, you and your 2k theology have not answered my question(s). Does holding a 2k theology justify a Christian being a local authority executive responsible for an exhibition that blatantly and explicitly dishonours God in Christ?

Nick Mackison said...

In answer to your question, no way jose. It's like asking whether 2K theology justifies a member of a congregation being a pimp. If she's a member in good standing (which she isn't anymore) she should be disciplined, but that's a whole different story from sending hate mail and demanding that her secular employers give her the boot.

John Thomson said...

Shed

I normally find myself in agrrement with you. I do agree with you that theological constructs can be dangerous - they tend to a rigid absolutism. Yet in considering how christians should respond to culture, I think 2K's tends to get it more right than say Neo-kuyperians who wish to 'redeem culture'. In a sense 2K is simply saying there are two realms the church and the world. This seems to me to be correct. There is the K of God/light and the Kingdom of Satan/darkness. There is the realm of the flesh and the realm of the Spirit or old creation and new creation. Now I don't say this answers all questions but it is a distinction if not made can lead to mistaken ideas. For example, how do we grow in grace? 2K's would say that all the means of grace that are gospel promoting will do this. Many who make no distinctions between nature and grace will say that listening to a drum solo, or a good jazz musician, or who knows 'good sex' is a means of growing in grace. I would say these latter things are 'this world gifts' but have no intrinsic ability to enable new creation life, or to enable us to grow in grace. Christians are increasingly mistaking aesthetics for spirituality. Some version of 2K seems to me to prevent this and has as I say some biblical foundation. An OT example of this distinction in Israel may be that some things were common and others holy.

But don't let me get between you two debating.

Shed said...

My main concern in commenting on Nick's post was simply to state the obvious: Christians have to retain their integrity no matter what 2K kingdom they happen to find themselves within at any given moment or circumstance of life.

But that last sentence had to be written very carefully to avoid misunderstanding... because I actually struggle to know for certain the boundaries and borders of these supposed kingdoms. At no point does a Christian ever cease, even for a moment, to be a citizen of both kingdoms. Christian living has to be consistent... we have to live the same way all the time. Please explain what I am missing here... every time I engage with 2K thinkers I feel like there is a large animal in the room which I just cant see.

Church is very important in my thinking leading to one real danger... I always run the risk of equating the church and its growth with God's kingdom and its growth. And I think that in places the apostle Paul comes close to suggesting as much, e.g. Ephesians 1,2. And what about the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:17-20? In the sense of those passages I believe that there is only only lasting eternal kingdom... everything that remains untouched by this kingdom's influence will perish.

But if we need to recognise more than one conceptual sphere to make theological sense of our current existence, why stop at two such spheres? This might be a problem for Baptists more than Presbyterians... but there is a tradition of thinking about society as family, church and state. Where does family fit in current 2K thinking?

Anyone fancy a new theological trend? 3K Theology?

Nick Mackison said...

Shed, 3K is the niche you're meant to fill. I'm in.

John Thomson said...

Shed

Family is a good example I feel of a 2K perspective. Family as I see it belongs to this creation. A wife is a good gift from God but marriage belongs to the present and will not extend into the age to come. Thus Jesus, when told his family is outside,points to his followers and says they are his family. I find one of the problems in the church is that often blood relations trump the relations of the spiritual family; blood is thicker than the Spirit. Paul, thinking of the exigencies of living in the drama between the ages says, let him who is married live as if he were not....

I agree lines are not hard and fast. However, it is a case of distinguishing between what is for this life only and what is eternal.

Take food.

1Cor 8:8 (NET)
Now food will not bring us close to God. We are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do.'

The point is not that what we do in this world is not valuable, it obviously is and God rewards us for faithfulness in our creational obligations. However, there by God's grace and through the Spirit we are called to discern where we must forfeit what may be good for what is better.

If I don't hold some kind of 2K principle then the choice between golf and church is a choice between equals. I may as well say a sunset brings me as near God as the gospel. I am concerned when I see neo-kuyperians trying to argue that God's goal in the present age is not only to redeem people but culture. I cannot see this in the bible. The culture (the world) is under God's judgement. Christian influence on culture may restrain cultural corruption but it will never remove it. It will never redeem culture. It is some of these distinctions I am thinking about.

A question that is often asked is how the christian church should have acted in Nazi Germany. It may be an interesting one for a blog and to promote discussion. Answers will be greatly affected by how we understand the christian relationship to culture.

Take care.

Alexander Smith said...

Are good husbands not also a gift?

Why was Eve given to Adam and marriage instituted in Eden, pre-Fall, if marriage is a "this world" reality? Certainly if we have relations who are not regenerated then we will be separated from them in the next age. However, we are also taught that the children of believers are part of the covenant.

For someone who, quite rightly, warns against staying too bound by theological constucts, John, perhaps you would do well not to be so bound to yours. Everything you say has such a clear Baptistic bias it's hard to see if you would- or could- countenance a position which might stray from that...

John Thomson said...

Alexander

When I say this worldly, I include, Prefall. Of course, the prefall world was not the Kingdom of darkness. However, new creation is not just in contrast with fallen creation but with unfallen. Adam, reformed confessions agree, had not new creation life. In ultimate new creation there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage. Thus husbands, wives, children, sex etc are 'this creation' good gifts but have no intrinsic value for new creation. Marriage does not bring us closer to God. Nor does celibacy.

As for a 2K construct, you are right that if taken too far it moves away from Scripture. It is biblical only so far as it reflects a biblical perspective. It is not however a baptistic construct but a reformed one. Lutheran in the first instance but calvinistic too. It is championed by Westminster seminary Calafornia and they don't come more reformed than that.

My gripe is not with constructs per se but with constructs that find it difficult to produce texts that seem to back them up. 2K has a significant number that do this. However, I underline again that 2K is only one angle in the complex tapestry of how the bible teaches we should relate to the world.

On the issue of children Alexander, I take it you don't believe that all baptised babies will be finally saved. After all many grow up to reject their faith. Many in Israel were circumcised but only a remnant believed. I am not sure how this is reconciled with 'the promise is to your children'.

John Thomson said...

PS

Does anyone else find they need to type in two words before the comment is saved. I keep getting told my first typing is inaccurate and it clearly isn't.

(I don't want any wag to tell me I think the same about my theology and still get it wrong.)

Alexander Smith said...

I wasn't referring to 2k doctrine as your Baptistic bias, but your view of the family/children. Clearly 2k doctrine is Reformed. This is my problem: you adopt a doctrine developed by Covenant, baby-baptising theologians without recognising that such doctrines cannot, really, be separated from that wider context.

As to children: of course many baptised children do not come to faith. They have received a baptism of death. When (covenant) babies are baptised they have Christ sealed in them, and either receive grace or are judged. (Just as no one hears the Word and is unaffected: they either respond in faith by grace, or are judged and cast aside.) The point is this all happens within the covenant people.

The implication of a covenant understanding, it seems to me, is that God, in His redeeming work, is focused primarily on His covenant people. Throughout history He is separating the elect from the reprobate; the wheat from the chaff. The rest of humanity has been passed over. This, at least, is my understanding.

In such a "structure" a 2k understanding makes sense. In a "structure" which views people as isolated individuals- which seems, to me, the more Baptistic view- a 2k approach doesn't quite fit.

John Thomson said...

Alexander

Thanks for clarifying, I wasn't quite sure what you were criticising.

I guess my response is quite simple. I do see a NC people. I don't see God's people as individuals but as the church of the redeemed. However, I believe we enter this covenant only by personal faith - to as many as receive him he gives the right to be the children of God.

What do you mean by 'they have Christ sealed in them'?

When an individual hears the word he is responsible for how he responds to it and it will be a savour of life or death. A baby has no capacity to hear the word and respond in faith or unbelief?

This is part of my problem with paedobaptism.

My first, is the lack of any obvious evidence for it in the NT. My second is thelogical and concerns these very questions we are discussing.

However, Alexander, there is much I agree with you on and I enjoy discussing with you. My comments earlier about not provoking me etc are meant to be jocular. I hope they come across that way.

God bless.

Alexander Smith said...

Of course, of course. I'm not easily offended, don't worry.

Christ is given to the world, in one sense, and to God's covenant people in another sense. He is the promised redeemer for God's people. So when the infant of a believing couple has Christ sealed in them, He will work in their life either to bring them to salvation through faith if they are one of the elect, or case them out through judgement if they are not.

Of course one enters into salvation through personal faith, I certainly don't deny that and am most opposed to any notion that the church, as an institution, saves people (though there is no ordinary salvation outside the church). However, I also believe that God's people, being a distinct group, are found, primarily, within His covenant family. Ergo, infant baptism.