Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Kingdom of God is at hand - the end of the church?

The more I read theologians like Barth, Moltmann, Hauerwas and the
Reformers, the more I become aware of the difference between the
institutional church and the movement of the Kingdom of God.

Christianity, represented through the institutional church, expressed
as a religion, is continuously challenged by the world, and I
believe, God, to be a bit more Christ-like. My friend, Peter Grassow,
recently posted a list of questions to the Christian church in South
Africa on one of our chatgroups, and to him I am grateful for nudging
me in this direction.

Karl Barth goes to great lengths to differentiate between "religion"
and "Faith" and does so specifically in Church Dogmatics Volume 1,
part 2. The discussion revolves around the doctrine of revelation and
asks whether Christianity is a religion of revelation or whether it
is a revelation of religion. I am not going to go into too much
detail here - go read it for yourself - but it seems as if the
Christian Church borders on being a religion of revelation, and at
the same time, believes itself to be the continuation of the full
revelation of God through Jesus Christ.

Now, this may sound very orthodox, but it poses a very clear
Christological- and we might add, a soteriological problem! The
Christological problem is found in that such an expression of
Christianity places too much emphasis on metaphysics and takes into
account the divinity of Christ at the expense of Jesus humanity. For
a more detailed explanation of how this takes place, wait for my
doctoral thesis due soon. Even the divinity of Christ in the teaching
of the church is distorted and the teaching itself may be
compromised by the fact that the church indirectly claims ownership
of the revelation in a way which is exclusive and self-centered.

There is a bit of an antinomianist in me, perhaps a rebel or a cynic,
but where institutional Christianity tries to use its structures,
discipline and claimed authority to work change in society, I cannot
help but feel that it is "urinating in the wind" - The word I wanted
to use will be blocked by the server. I similarly cannot help but
feel that when the world watches the church arguing about social
matters (often directed inward as self-evaluation), that this is
precisely how the church is perceived. Who wants to be part of this?
Urinating in the wind might be liberating, it might even feel
fantastic while you are doing it, but it only lasts for a while,
disappears into the ground and the few drops that messed on your
shoes will turn to stench!

What is going to save the world? I fear that it won't be religion,
even more so the institutional church. I nevertheless believe that it
is the little bit of Kingdom-yeast, working through people who do the
basics of the gospel right in their daily living (love God, love
neighbour as self), not under the banner of a certain denomination or
belief-system, which will bring about justice and mercy.

More and more of me believes that the Kingdom of God and the
institutional church are mutually exclusive. Both Moltmann and Barth
express the opinion that the church will cease to exist at the
consummation of God's Kingdom. The Church, even the church, is an
instrument of witness to a Lord who is God's revelation to all. It is
not the Lord, and it is not God's sole instrument of expressing love
and grace to God's creation. The sooner the institutional church
operates from this premise and stops deciding who is loved by God and
who is not, who is part of God's community and who is not, what the
clerics may wear and what they may not, the sooner we might see the
signs of a growing Kingdom here in our midst.

Just blowing off steam.


Gus said...

hey wes,

I have an exam just now, so I'll read your post later.

I think it should read: "Just blowing off some snot." Hope you're feeling better.


"cqwzfdwe" - sneezing sound you make when you sneeze with cake in your mouth.

Anonymous said...

you know my feelings on this issue. we are becoming increasingly irrelevant to most people. And we console ourselves by thinking that at least God notices. Well perhaps God just got up and went for coffee at the mall too.

word verification "dmalnes"
I dispair at de malness of it all!

Gus said...

I like Crossan's picture of the Kingdom as 'a brokerless kingdom.' In that picture, no one holds the keys.

My exam went well - my prof said that he would love to supervise me if I do a PhD. So I'm quite chuffed.

"ivaizn" - what I am doing right now, ivaizin work