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The temptation of the church

The greatest structural temptation for the Church arises out of its relational character. On the one hand, the Church is entrusted with the tradition of the kingdom and the requirement to make the kingdom a reality; on the other hand it is not itself the kingdom. This combination of factors puts the Church in a situation of “concupiscence,” that is, of wanting to be, by identity, that which in fact it can only point to and serve, namely, the kingdom of God. In consequence, the possibility of conflict is always present; and when a particular situation clearly shows the difference and distance between Church and kingdom, the conflict breaks out—and cannot but break out—spontaneously. The discovery that the kingdom of God is the ultimate reality has brought an elemental truth to light: the Church, even in its entirety, is not absolute and therefore its structure is open to criticism.

~ Jon Sobrino, The True Church of the Poor, 202.

5 Comments

  1. Aric Clark wrote:

    I’d say there is an alternate temptation which is more prevalent in mainline protestant circles, which is for the Kingdom to be viewed as wholly outside the realm of our experience, entirely in the future (or some indeterminate afterlife) and the church therefore to be far too accommodated to the world. In my context as a presbyterian pastor I find I am constantly having to cajole people into making the kingdom a reality.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Brad A. wrote:

    In my experience, this was hugely prevalent in conservative evangelical/fundamentalist circles, too. Many mainline Protestants, I thought, went for more of the liberal immanentist conception of the kingdom through the world, church or not. Interesting.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    Obviously Sobrino is writing out of the context of Latin American Catholicism, which should probably be taken into consideration.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  4. Josh Rowley wrote:

    My experience (also as a Presbyterian pastor) has been similar to that of Aric. Many Presbyterians still hear “heaven” when they hear “kingdom of God.” They tend to be for social action in the world, but this action tends to be motivated by a civil religion rather than an eschatology. In this life, they serve the kingdom of America (simply because they are patriotic Americans); the kingdom of God is about the next life.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  5. Brad A. wrote:

    Of course. I was just responding to Aric’s point, which brought up some interesting thoughts.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

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