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Kingdom-World-Church: Some Provisional Theses

by Nathan R. Kerr, Ry O. Siggelkow, and Halden Doerge

In a recent conversation on this blog regarding an important review, by Ry Siggelkow, I (Nate Kerr) suggested in the comments that to think rightly what it means to say that “mission makes the church,” that mission as lived proclamation of and witness to Christ’s Lordship is indeed constitutive of the church’s existence in the world, we will need to engage in a thoroughgoing reconsideration of the church’s relation to the world in light of the apocalyptic inbreaking of the Kingdom of God that happens in the historicity of Jesus Christ. In the course of those comments I offered to write a “guest post” in which I gave some indication of what I think those reconsiderations might entail. This is that post—which has come together with more than just a little help from my friends, Halden and Ry. Together we offer these reflections in hope that they may contribute to the task of theology in the service of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We should like to begin these brief reflections with an oft-quoted passage from the conclusion of John Howard Yoder’s Body Politics:

The believing body is the image that the new world—which in light of the ascension and Pentecost is on the way—casts ahead of itself. The believing body of Christ is the world on the way to its renewal; the church is the part of the world that confesses the renewal to which all the world is called. (Yoder, Body Politics, 78)

This passage and others like it from Yoder’s oeuvre have been the impetus for a number of contemporary modes of “ecclesiocentric” construals of the Kingdom of God in relation to the world. The church’s missionary thinking, so the argument goes, is ecclesiocentric just to the extent that the church ontologically precedes the world and, ultimately, supercedes the world with respect to the Kingdom’s eschatological fulfillment. As the late twentieth-century theologian and missiologist J.C. Hoekendijk has argued, however, such “church-centric missionary thinking” is itself a false start. For from within such ecclesiocentric thinking, Hoekendijk claims, the call to mission, or evangelism—that is, the call to proclaim and to embody “the gospel”—often turns out to be “little else than a call to restore ‘Christendom,’ the ‘Corpus Christianum,’ as a solid, well-integrated cultural complex, directed and dominated by the Church” (Hoekendijk, Church Inside Out, 15). That is to say, the church aligns itself with the Kingdom and against the world by way of the production of its own alternative, habitable culture. As John Flett has convincingly argued, mission thereby becomes tied inextricably to the extension of this “culture”; this culture, this particular way of life, just is the gospel that is proclaimed, and the church’s missionary relation to the world cannot but be a function of its own culture—gospel proclamation turns out to be a matter of the church’s propagation of its own way of life, and evangelism a mode of integrating the world into this particular habitable culture.[1] Thus, on such an ecclesiocentric reading of the church-world relationship, the church is most missionary precisely at that point at which the church is most intentionally “self-regarding” (Hauerwas). And herein lies the reason why we must insist upon resisting such an understanding of the church as ontologically “prior” to the world as such, in relation to the Kingdom: viz., it presents us with not only an ecclesiologically but missiologically idealist logic—such an intentionally self-regarding conception of mission requires the construction of another (“the world”) as productive and reflective of its own identity.

The problem with such an ecclesio-concentric understanding of the church’s relation to the Kingdom and the world, says Hoekendijk, is that it misconstrues the basic scriptural sense in which the kingdom of God is first and foremost the Kingdom for the world. The Kingdom is oriented from beginning to end towards the oikoumene—the whole world.

For this oikoumene the Kingdom is destined; world (kosmos/oikoumene) and Kingdom are correlated to each other; the world is conceived as a unity, the scene of God’s great acts: it is the world which has been reconciled (II Cor. 5:19), the world which God loves (John 3:16) and which he has overcome in his love (John (16:33); the world is the field in which the seeds of the Kingdom are sown (Matt. 13:38)—the world is consequently the scene for the proclamation of the Kingdom. (Hoekendijk, Church Inside Out, 41)

In short: “Kingdom and world belong together.” The order of God’s economy is thus “God-World-Church, not God-Church-World” (71). This is the order of God’s own missionary existence in Christ. And by participation in this missionary existence of God, we must give new expression to the church’s own missionary existence: the order of this existence must be that of Kingdom-World-Church, not Kingdom-Church-World.

What we should like to propose, then, is that the quote from Yoder with which we began these reflections should be read through the perspective of this alternative Kingdom-World-Church order. Precisely as such, we might better come to understand the implications of Yoder’s insight that mission has to do with coming to “see the church in relationship to the world rather than defining ecclesial existence ‘by definition’ or ‘as such’” (Yoder, Royal Priesthood, 78). The church only exists as “living from and toward the promise of the whole world’s salvation.” (Yoder, Priestly Kingdom, 12).

As such, the church thereby exists as one dimension of a thoroughgoing apocalyptic realism. That is to say, the church exists insofar as it is constituted by the manner in which, in the apocalypse of Jesus Christ, “the reality of God has entered into the reality of this world,” proving victorious over the fallen powers of this world for the sake of this world’s salvation (Bonhoeffer, Ethics, 54). What really matters, then, for the church, is its mode of participation “in the reality of God and the world in Jesus Christ today” (55).[2] And that reality is without reserve that of the apocalyptic rectification of all things to God in Christ. That event of apocalyptic rectification is constitutive of reality itself; and the event of the church takes place firmly within that reality of the reconciled world “that is real only through the reality of God” disclosed in Jesus Christ (54).[3] The church thus exists as an ergon Kyriou (a work of the Lord), which means to say that the church exists for the sake of the unique and special share that it is given in the cosmic meaning of the sovereignty of this world’s living Lord. But precisely as such the church does exist, and its existence is precisely that of a special function and task. As to the nature of that special existence, function, and task, we should like to conclude these reflections. We shall do so by putting forward some provisional theses on the existence, nature, and task of the church. There could be more, of course, and these could be articulated with more depth and precision. But these are, after all, mere theses—and provisional at that.

Thesis 1: The church is an event within the event of this world’s apocalyptic transfiguration. This is a midrash on Robert Jenson’s insight that “the church is neither a realization of the new age nor an item of the old age. She is precisely an event within the event of the new age’s advent” (Jenson, Systematic Theology, 2:171). The church is an apocalyptic event just to the extent that she lives from the Ascension and Pentecost, and so towards the second advent of Jesus Christ. Thus the church can never fail to see itself as inhabiting this apocalyptic space. Or rather, the church’s whole mode of being is “timed” by God’s own apocalyptic act of invading the world, transforming it, and redeeming it. As such the church, in every aspect of its life, abides at the intersection of the old age and the age to come. The church lives in saecula saeculorum precisely and only at this indissoluble interstice of God’s redemptive and life-giving invasion of the world of sin, suffering, and death.

Thesis 2: The church’s primary task is apostolic. The church exists as a function of Christ’s own singular apostolicity; that is, its existence is a matter of its participation in Christ as the “sent one” (Heb 3:1). “The church has no other existence than in actu Christi, that is, in actu Apostoli” (Hoekendijk). The church thereby exists to serve the ministerium Verbi incarnati (Barth)the church’s share in the apostolicity of Christ consists in its being sent out by the power of the Spirit to proclaim the euangelion of Jesus Christ to the world. In this sense, the church’s “priority” with regards to the world is that of a distinctively apostolic precedence.

Thesis 3: The euangelion of Jesus Christ, as Yoder puts it, is “not a religious or a personal term at all, but a secular one: ‘good news.’” As heralds and witnesses to this gospel the church’s visibility is thus “not a cultic or ritual separation, but rather a nonconformed quality of (“secular”) involvement in the life of the world” (Yoder, Politics of Jesus, 39). The apostolic mission of the church is secular because God’s apocalyptic act in Jesus Christ abolishes religion. The proper starting point for Christian reflection lies not with the nostalgic lament that “once there was no secular” (Milbank), but in the genuinely liberative good news that in Christ “there is no longer religion.” From the standpoint of God’s apocalyptic act in Christ religion is “unbelief” (Barth). Religion is “the attempted replacement of the divine work by a human manufacture.”[4] The apocalyptic inbreaking of God in Christ does not affirm the “world-in-itself,” but rather ruptures and suspends the religious distinction between the “sacred” and the “profane” (and between “church” and “world,” as such). The new antinomy created in the coming of Christ is not between the “secular” and the “religious” but between apocalypse and religion. It is God who apocalyptically comes to the world in the sending of his Son and his Spirit to liberate the church, and indeed, the world, from enslavement to religion. And so Paul can confidently proclaim: “It was to bring us into the realm of freedom that Christ set us free” (Gal 5:1).[5]

Thesis 4: Christian worship does not lie in a realm outside of religion. To seek a direct correspondence between leitourgia (“the work of the people”) and divine action is to forget that worship itself is a “perpetual factory of idols” (Calvin). Furthermore, such easy correspondence risks fetishizing and instrumentalizing worship. The problem is structural and runs deep; in truth, the very discipline of “ecclesiology” is prone to idolatrous self-aggrandizement. Thus the critique of religio strikes at the very heart of Christian worship.[6] The occasion for sin occurs preeminently as leitourgia—the “work of the people” to self-justify, to strive to stand aright before God. Indeed, worship is the site marking our deepest estrangement from God. But this is not the final word! In Jesus Christ, God decisively wills to be God-for-us and so our idolatrous “work” becomes the site of our reconciliation with God. Reconciliation occurs not as exchange or production, but as a gratuitous event of grace. In this event the Spirit “takes up” our “work” to stand aright before God and transforms and transfigures our prideful attempts to “make a name for ourselves.” Our worship only becomes true praise, then, as our “work” loses track of itself under the great pressure of God’s own doxa. Such doxa happens as the event of God’s grace evokes gratitude “like the voice an echo.” Indeed, “Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightening” (Barth, CD IV/1, 41).

Thesis 5: Dispersion, or diaspora, names “the truly ecumenical reality of the church in this world” (Stringfellow). The church’s first ecumenical reality is to exist as a priest among the nations. Here mission and ecumenics are shown to be inseparable. True Christian unity is inseparable from the realization of the koinonia of the whole world with God that Jesus Christ has actualized. It is for this reason that the church cannot itself be considered a “home” or as constitutive of an alternatively “habitable world” (Hauerwas), for the Christian vocation is to be in the world, without reserve—that is, in the one whole world whose true reality is to be reconciled to God in the one whole Christ. It is as such that the church realizes the truth of its “catholicity”—the fullness of koinonia in the apocalypsis Iesou Christou.

Thesis 6: It is as Lord of all humanity that Christ is rightly to be understood as Head of his body, the church. The true body of Christ (corpus verum) is thus in reality all of humanity crucified and resurrected with Christ, and so reconciled to God in him (Aquinas; Barth). The church in via is thus “but a part of the larger Body of Christ” (Nicholas Healy).[7] So the church “is” the body of Christ as precisely and paradoxically what it “is not,” in itself. And so to make use of the image of soma Christou for the church is not ontologically to prescribe what the church is, but rather to remind the church continually that precisely as such it is not an end in itself.

Thesis 7: Jesus Christ alone is constitutive of the church’s sacramental existence. And Christ is so constitutive as in his priestly office he himself is sacramentally given for the whole world’s transfiguration in the singular event of his cross and resurrection. The ultimate reality (res) of which the church is a sign and for which she is given, then, is nothing other than the mystery of the world reconciled to God in Christ. “Sacrament” is thereby the language by which the church is given to communicate that for which she exists, as also the praxis whereby the church is plunged into the heart of the world and given to live for that reality—the coming Kingdom of God—which she is not in-itself (McCabe). The sacraments are neither constitutive of an alternative social program—a polis, as such—nor are they constitutive of an alternative mode of production, or the expression of an alternative “technology of desire.” Rather, the sacraments are but ways by which Christ gives the church over to a dispossessed readiness for service (disponibilité) in the world. As such, the language and practice of the church are sacramental to the extent that they are utterly dependent upon the active presence, by the Spirit, of Christ’s ongoing reconciling and transfiguring presence in the world, which must continually be received afresh by the church from the world (as from without), as both judgment upon and justification of its existence. To affirm the church’s sacramental existence as such is thus to affirm that “the Church would be lost if it had no counterpart in the world” (Barth). Or, to put it another way, the language of sacrament is but the difficult work of learning “all that is involved in refusing to say that the dominion of God over his world is manifested here but not there” (MacKinnon).

Thesis 8: At the heart of the church’s existence is the claim that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). This world reconciled to God in Christ is the “new humanity” for which the church is sacramentally given. Our baptism is baptism into this new humanity precisely insofar as it is a baptism into the reality of this world’s transfiguration. It is this transfigured world, moreover, that provides the context for the practice of the Lord’s Supper. The eucharist, then, is not the ritual means of “inhabiting the church,” but rather the way by which the church inhabits the whole world (oikoumene) in grace, joy, and hospitality. It is the whole world reconciled to God in Christ to which we are opened in communion. And so it is the sacrament of baptism, as entrance into this world, that carries with it the imperative of open communion—without conditions! “With the gospel goes an open door” (Hoekendijk).[8]

Thesis 9: If the world reconciled to God in Christ is that for which the church exists, then the church is visible precisely at the point of such reconciliation—the church is visible as an event of this world’s apocalyptic transfiguration. This is a “very special visibility” indeed (Barth). For according to such visibility what one sees is a liberation of this world from the old age of sin and destruction and a liberation for participation in the new age inaugurated in Christ. The visibility of the church then occurs precisely in the reconciling and liberating event in which “we no longer regard one another from a human point of view” (2 Cor 5:16). The church is thus made to be a visible sign of reconciliation in the world precisely in the event of being conformed, given over by the Spirit, to God’s new creation brought about in Christ. But one only sees this transfiguration and liberation of the world by believing the church—that is, by way of faith in the gospel of the Kingdom which it proclaims for the whole world.

Thesis 10: As such, the church is visible not by way of its ritual or cultic separation from the world, but by way of is kenotic solidarity with the world. Such solidarity with the world happens as a matter of concrete kenotic, cruciform obedience to the way of its Lord in this world. To be in such solidarity with this world is to struggle with the oppressive and sinful powers of this world by being given over to a mode of living and suffering and dying with the victims of these powers that embodies and proclaims in its very living and suffering and dying a hope and a joy and a celebration that these powers can neither produce nor control. Sent out in the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ the church stands in concrete solidarity with the oppressed peoples of this world.

Thesis 11: Such kenotic, cruciform solidarity in obedience to the way of the cross leaves no room for the church to be anything other than the “church of the poor.” The church’s kenotic solidarity with the world thus occurs as solidarity with the poor. As Jon Sobrino reminds us, “The mystery of the poor is prior to the ecclesial mission, and that mission is logically prior to an established church” (Sobrino, No Salvation Outside the Poor, 21). Or as Moltmann puts it, “It is not the Church that ‘has’ a mission, but the reverse; Christ’s mission creates itself a Church. The mission should not be understood from the perspective of the Church, but the other way round.”(Moltmann, Church in the Power of the Spirit, 10). With the Catholic bishops at Medellin, the church must reaffirm and exercise the “preferential option for the poor.” This “preferential option” is not simply one of many tasks of the church—it lies at the center and heart of its mission. In fact, it is its mission, because this is Christ’s mission.

Thesis 12: The “church of the poor” is in fact the one genuine “church for others” (Bonhoeffer), which lives, simply, by giving its property away. Such is the “ecclesieccentric” existence that the “Christeccentric” (R. Coles) relation of God’s Kingdom to the World calls us to. It is precisely by way of such “ecclesi-eccentricity, moreover, that the church happens as not only sign but also a foretaste of that new creation, that Kingdom to come. If the way of God’s eternal life as revealed in Christ just is the way of an eternally outgoing, self-giving love, then it will have to be thus in the church. Only as the church throws its life away in love for the other, only as the church loses itself completely in the world for which God’s Kingdom has come, might the church be given to happen as an event within the event of that world’s transfiguration. Only as such, in precisely this kind of solidarity with the world, might the church be given—in the event of this world’s transfiguration—to see and to taste that love by which alone she mysteriously lives, that love that shall reign forever when God will be all in all.

Thesis 13: Existing as we do in the “crater” of God’s own singular action in Christ (Barth, Epistle to the Romans, 36), the church lives utterly by prayer. The incursion of God into the world of sin and death breaks open our failed history, liberating the world from its bondage to death. As such, the church, which lives as a sign of this event, awaiting its consummation in the Parousia, can only be ultimately understood as a communal event of lived prayer that is created by the Spirit who bears us in our weaknesses, “with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8: 26). God’s apocalyptic invasion of the world in the sending of Jesus and the Spirit does not create a stable, habitable place from which we as the church might grasp for ourselves a mode of intellectual or political coherence and control. Rather, this radical grace leaves us in the same place as the Son of Man who has no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58). And it is precisely in this being upended and unhanded that the church exists as prayer. “The true church is thus co-extensive with the community of true prayer” (Forsyth, Soul of Prayer, 54). As a people “timed” by the apocalypse of God in Jesus Christ, who live solely by the grace of the Spirit who conforms us to Christ, the church can embody its calling only by throwing itself in faith upon the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Thus we can finally only speak of the essence of the church in terms of lament, intercession, and doxology. To seek more than this is ultimately to seek another gospel altogether.

These theses are, quite clearly, only the rudiments of a beginning, the fragments of a hope that strains the bounds of theological articulation. The God with whom we have to do in Jesus is truly “exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we could ever ask or think” (Eph 3:20). These theses, such as they are, are here simply to be offered in the fullest sense of the word. Let anything in them that does not speak truly of the gospel of Christ perish and be forgotten forever. The three of us seek, in our discussion, prayer, and writing together to do nothing more than to become transparent to the liberating gospel of Christ, crucified and risen.

As such we hope that in the very doing of theology under the authority of the gospel that we may be given, by the Spirit to be conformed to Christ’s kenosis, his self-expending life given for us and for our salvation. We agree with the words of Donald MacKinnon: “To live as a Christian in the world today is necessarily to live an exposed life; it is to be stripped of the kind of security that tradition, whether ecclesiological or institutional, easily bestows.” It is precisely this exposed life, a life which, in prayer, desires nothing more than transparency to the way of Jesus Christ, that we seek. It is our desire to move forward in the task of theology in the service of the gospel precisely in this mode of kenosis, prayer, and weakness. With MacKinnon “we can only hope that because a false dream has yielded or begun to yield to a temper more deeply perceptive of the mystery of kenosis, we will be a little better prepared to recognize our frailty, and that it is in genuine weakness that our strength is made perfect: in genuine weakness, not the simulated powerlessness of the spiritual poseur” (MacKinnon, Stripping of the Altars, 34, 39).

And so we move on together, praying without ceasing that God will have his way with us in the task of theology in the service of the gospel. At the heart of our common work is the passionate conviction that, in Christ, God has truly brought about a new creation which exceeds and transcends all our attempts to control, regulate, and manage our lives through the various configurations of the power of death. We offer all of this, then, in the spirit of doxology. With Paul, we can only end in praise of the One who has set us free:

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:33–36)


[1] See John Flett, “Communion as Propaganda: Reinhard Hütter and the missionary witness of the ‘Church as Public,’” Scottish Journal of Theology 62 (2009) 457–76.

[2] On the apocalyptic nature of reality in Bohoeffer’s work, see Philip G. Ziegler, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer—An Ethics of God’s Apocalypse?” Modern Theology 23/4 (2007) 579–94; see also Ry Owen Siggelkow, “The Lamb that Was Slain is Worthy to Receive Power: Christology, Apocalyptic, and Secularity in the Ecclesiologies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and John Howard Yoder” (MA Thesis, St. Paul Seminary, University of St. Thomas, 2009).

[3] Ziegler, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” 585–87.

[4] Karl Barth, CD I/2 302.

[5] See especially J. Louis Martyn, Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul (Nashville: Abingdon, 1997), Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1997), and “The Apocalyptic Gospel in Galatians,” Interpretation 54/3 (2000) 246–66.

[6] See Matthew Myer Boulton, God Against Religion: Rethinking Christian Theology through Worship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008).

[7] See Nicholas Healy, “Practices and the New Ecclesiology: Misplaced Concreteness?,” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 5/3 (2003) 304.

[8] For more on the nature of the church’s life as being solely one of opened possibilities see Robert W. Jenson, Story and Promise: A Brief Theology of the Gospel about Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), 81–82.

Update:

This article has been posted at The Other Journal. It is available at:http://www.theotherjournal.com/pages/blog-detail.php?ID=951&category=4

To clarify a misunderstood point, we never meant for them to be published as an “academic article” and taken as such, and their connection with Ry’s review of Dan Bell’s book and for the purposes of directing people at TOJ who would be interested in conversations related to that review and some of the TOJ content, was the reason that they were published in the first place.  Because their publication at TOJ has led in some cases to their being taken and read as a fully edited and reviewed academic article (which was never meant in the first place), they have been moved to the blog section of TOJ.

252 Comments

  1. Hill wrote:

    Who the heck is Ry Siggelkow??? Just kidding. I’ll read it now.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    You just had to get the first comment, didn’t you?

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  3. Charlie Collier wrote:

    Who says/implies/argues, on Yoderian grounds, that the church “ontologically” precedes the world?

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  4. Hill wrote:

    I was excited! I think it’s great work.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink
  5. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Charlie:

    The important point there is that the church ontologically precedes the world “with respect to the kingdom’s ontological fulfillment.” At any rate, I take it to be an implication of Hauerwas’ claim that “Christian practices” are the “final causes shaping our history as God’s ongoing work of creation,” as well as that the church is an “ontological necessity” without which “the world would have no history.”

    Furthermore, no one is saying that this is being argued on Yoderian grounds. What is being said is that (and this is the case for Hauerwas at least), such Yoderian sentiments have been the impetus for giving this kind of ontological priority to the church in relation to the kingdom, whether directly or indirectly. I take this to be the case for Hauerwas, at least.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  6. dbarber wrote:

    Regarding thesis 5 … if the church is to be in the world without reserve, how can it also be the priest of the world? It seems one must choose. And if one chooses the latter, how is that different from the claim that there is an ontological priority to the church? It seems if one wants to think about diaspora, as I also do (i.e. I’m sympathetic), you’ve got to pick the former over the latter, no?

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    I’d also add that Robert Jenson, whose ecclesiology Hauerwas broadly and enthusiastically affirms in A Better Hope, pp. 117-28, argues precisely along these lines:

    What ought the church to do about the world? I will begin with negations, to clear the ground, for the ontological dependence of the world on the church immediately excludes some popular, or recently popular positions. . . . The true statement is that the church is the world’s agenda. What the world is there to do is provide the raw materials out of which God creates the church. [First emphasis mine, second original.]

    (Robert Jenson, “The Church’s Responsibility for the World,” in The Two Cities of God, p. 4.)

    For me it matters little if the argument is being advanced “on Yoderian grounds” or not, only that it is being advanced and should be challenged. A very pronounced example of how this sort of perspective is being picked up and extended can be fond in Simon Chan’s Liturgical Theology, chapter 1, “The Ontology of the Church” which presses this line of thought forward very explicitly drawing extensively on Hauerwas, Jenson, MacIntyre, and Hutter.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink
  8. roger flyer wrote:

    Roger’s son.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink
  9. roger flyer wrote:

    Hill. : )
    That’s why we are Flyers in cyberspace.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink
  10. adhunt wrote:

    While I am predisposed to be skeptical of these theses, Ry prepared me beforehand today over coffee, having sold me his heretical Radical Orthodoxy books for 30 pieces of silver, and though I have myself no interest in teasing out an extended disagreement between “new” ecclesiologists and (old?) apocalypticists, I was spurred on to much contemplation by this essay.

    Excellent reading, thank you.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  11. Halden wrote:

    He probably snuck something into your coffee.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink
  12. roger flyer wrote:

    OK dang. There’s so much deep wonderful stuff to think through here (and I will get to that in my spare time) but come on Nate, Ry, Halden, no more ‘it’s’ when it should be its, please.
    It’s is a contraction for its. Its is the word you want. Bugs me.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  13. roger flyer wrote:

    That is: It’s is a contraction for it is.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  14. Halden wrote:

    Looks like a search/replace gone wrong…fixed.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink
  15. Adam Kotsko wrote:

    Thank you, Roger Flyer. I read the uncorrected version in Google Reader and that was driving me nuts — but I didn’t want to be the asshole who pointed it out. You’ve taken a hit for the team in a truly Christ-like manner.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  16. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Yeah, the whole issue of how to approach pointing out another’s obvious grammatical mistakes is really awkward. Thanks for embracing the awkwardness, Roger.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink
  17. Ted Grimsrud wrote:

    I found this to be a stimulating and encouraging set of theses. There’s a lot to chew on here. I especially appreciate the clarity about our call as Christians to pursue solidarity with the oppressed peoples of the world as our fundamental mission. However, the piece overall seems to me to lack a proper Yoderian concreteness.

    I’ll focus my concern on one question. What do you all mean, in operational terms, by “the church” (I note the singular)? I read through the piece twice trying to figure this out. Are we talking about an institution? An “invisible” communion of saints? Who actually is it who “throws its life away in love for the other”? What might that look like in concrete reality? What in the world does it mean to write of the church as “an event”?

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  18. A very robust salvo in light of recent conversations, gentlemen. I appreciate it. I’ve begun a bit of a response over at Church and Postmodern Culture.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
  19. Theophilus wrote:

    This is a beautifully written piece, that I think takes account of its source materials very well. It’s other source materials that aren’t drawn upon that cause me to draw up and wonder how you folks address the reality of the antagonistic statements of Jesus. Even if it is clear that Jesus is very much for the world and desires that everyone be reconciled to him, he still used much invective against living, breathing people and spoke more about the damnation of the wicked than all other Biblical figures combined. I’m wondering how you might account for this pattern of deeply negative and condemnatory speech in Jesus.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink
  20. hey guys, just beginning to read this. very interesting. but I can’t really make sense of how world is being used here? created reality, social existence of humanity, culture? it feels that while you claim the one “church” can’t be known as such (which I agree with), it seems that the “world” is known as such. is that right? (i’m asking not rhetorically in a smug tone, but wondering if I’ve missed something.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  21. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Geoff:

    I think what we are saying that neither the church nor the world can be known as such. To say that there is neither church as such nor world as such is not to give up on talking of them, but it is to say that the apocalypse of Jesus Christ is both world-dissolving and world-constituting (and that is a paradox) in a way that is sesquiguously (to borrow a term from McCabe) disorienting. As McCabe puts it, to speak of something sesquiguously is to speak of something as “having neither two meaning nor one meaning, but one-and-a-half meanings.” Thus, “a sesquiguous utterance is one in which the speaker both commits himself to a position and is simultaneously aware of the inadequacy of what he is saying, and of his own position in saying it: it is…really a form of irony” (God Matter, 176). It is precisely the idea that the church can be known as such that either leads to a disambiguating of the idea of the world as that which can be known as such or a completely ambiguous rendering of the world, by which it becomes an empty category that can serve as a cipher for whatever ideals one wants to fill it with.

    What I think that we are trying to say is that it is only the kingdom of God that comes and is coming in the event of Jesus that is and is constitutive of reality, and that reality is the apoclayptic transfiguration of the world. Thus, when one says “world” in an apocalyptic tone one is thus not speaking either monolithically or ambiguously, but rather is speaking of the mystery of all that is entailed in creation-sin-and-apocalyptic rectification. And “church” is given and happens as a way of speaking of and witnessing to the radical complexity and ever-newness of the this sinful-but-created world’s transfiguration in Christ — and as a way of reminding us (via Word and sacrament) that such transfiguration means that “church” and “world” are anything but realities that can be known, as such (in other words, we are always speaking somewhat dialectically and ironically — in the Kierkegaardian sense — whenever we say “church” and “world” in a given context).

    There’s much more, of course, to it than that. But I wanted right away to disabuse the notion that either “church” or “world” are being conceived as realities that can be known as such, in-themselves.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink
  22. so i understand your use of world as “creation-sin-and-apocalyptic rectification” and with this definition i see the desire to equate it with the church. but is this really scripturally justified (yes, I’ve read Martin on Galatians, but what of a biblical theology)? and does this not must make “world” an uber-concept in such a way that it really doesn’t move the conversation forward regarding your vision and ecclesiocentric theologians? it seems that everyone could translate their concepts according to this “creation-sin-and-apocalyptic rectification”, but what have we learned?

    anyway, still working through the thesis and writing my thoughts.

    thanks for the quick response.

    (going to bed)

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  23. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Geoff:

    Real quickly. It is an oversimplication to see in what I just wrote a desire to equate “world” with “church.” I’m not sure how you drew that conclusion from what I was saying, but I do not mean at all to make such an equation. Church is what happens when the reality of the Kingdom is given to us in the stuff of this world in such a way as to render the confession of and proclamation of the truth that “Jesus is Lord.”

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink
  24. CCW wrote:

    An outstanding example of collaborative theological reasoning! Very stimulating with much to ponder! I was especially stirred by the initial comments of Jensen.

    My first initial, somewhat inchoate, reaction to these theses is, as one commentor has already mentioned, the need for them to be filled out by a Christological concreteness. It does seem to me that the coordinates for such a filling out are there, but the difference that that concreteness will make, and the actual shape of that concreteness, in the initial coordinates is still unclear.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that it seems to me that Israel and the Jewishness of Jesus do not appear to play a role of any significance in the articulation given thus far. What difference does it make that the apocalyptic inbreaking which has happened, and continues to happen through the Spirit, is in and through the Jewish flesh of the Nazarene? In what sense are the church and the people Israel inextricably linked in their relation to the kingdom (who is Jesus) and “the world”? Is their connection merely a secondary affair next to the relation of the church and “the world”?

    It seems to me that as much as we need to the think the reality of the church inside of the world, so also do we have to think the existence of the church as inside Israel (pace Carter, Jennings, Barth, etc.). The church’s relation to Israel is as constitutive as its relation to the world, though under different modalities–the one gives birth, the other brings death. Both relations, however, are subserviant to the humanity of Jesus, which is simultaneously the undoing and reconstituting of Israel-Church-World, because that particular humanity (that is, its concrete history) is the kingdom of God in our midst.

    It seems important to me that the humanity which undergoes judgment is a humanity inflected in a specifically and concretely Jewish way of being, a covenantal way of being. This way of being is diasporic, which provides a connection to the diasporic theme in your thesis 5–but what then the people Israel, the Jewish people, the people of the covenant, today? To be clear, I myself am not certain how to answer this question.

    As the theses are written, they allow for one to pursue such questions, but because Israel and the concrete Jewishness of Jesus do not seem to me to play a central role in the current articulation (if I have missed something please point it out to me), it is difficult to know how central they will be to what you are after.

    I’d be curious to know what each of your thoughts are on this.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  25. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Dan:

    This is a really helpful question. In many respects, the connection between diaspora and the priesthood of the church is just the beginning of an attempt to affirm the connection between the two that is made in 1 Peter, as well as the way in which the emphasis upon priesthood in Hebrews is bracketed and coordinated by an emphasis upon Jesus as the “sent one” (3:1) and the confession that “for here we have no lasting city” (Heb. 13:14) — that is, by “mission” and “diaspora.”

    What I think needs to be worked out here is the subversion and overturning of the traditional notion of priesthood that this understanding of the church as constituted by the apocalyptic mission of Jesus requires. You are right that the thesis does not do that, as such. But your question rightly points up the way in which it begs the need for such (or calls into question whether such can be accomplished).

    Briefly, what I would want to suggest is that priesthood in terms of the “mediatory” preservation of that which is holy as over-against that which is unholy what gets undone in the wholesale kenotic expenditure of Jesus’ life for the world, which is not strictly a “mediation” between a holy thing and an unholy thing, but rather a radical embracing of all that the world is, even (and in perhaps a particular special sense, especially) of this world precisely in its sin, for the sake of its wholesale reconciliation to God — and in this reconciliation holiness happens. As the church lives from and within the reality of this event, the church lives without the need to preserve that which is holy for the sake of its mediation to that which is unholy. For the church does not possess holiness. As the church lives within the event of this world’s reconciliation to God, the church lives as that people free to give their lives, without reserve, to and for the world, for the sake of anyone or anything at all, and especially for those whom the religious and so-called righteous of our world would condemn as “sinful” and “unholy” and “unworthy,” because that is precisely there where God in Christ is to be found and that is precisely where God’s glory happens in the world. (And this is not the “conformation to the world” which Paul warns against, but the inhabiting of the world’s transfiguration by which conformation to Christ happens.) This kenotic divestiture is the priestly work of the church — its “living sacrifice.” So, to be priestly is precisely not to possess or to mediate holiness, but rather to live among the nations in such a way as precisely to be given over to Christ’s disruption of every religious and political pretension to such possession (which is the disruption even of its own pretension to such possession, as a principality).

    All of that to say, if we are going to go on thinking of the priesthood of the church, diaspora is a prior condition for thinking such priesthood in a way that does not reinstantiate the “ontological priority” of the church, as such. Whether or not such can be done is still an important question to ask — but as you point out, the thesis begs it.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Permalink
  26. Jason Knott wrote:

    Very promising work here. The idea of a “church home” is seemingly ubiquitous in the current church struggles and, IMHO, a distorting one. I would like to echo CCW’s desire for more christological concreteness, however. Particularly in the sense of focussing on Christ’s particular WAY of being “for” the world, the poor, the oppressed, and what Nate calls above “those whom the religious and so-called righteous of our world would condemn as ‘sinful’ and ‘unholy’ and ‘unworthy.’” Saying you are in favor of being “for” these begs huge questions, as we all know. But don’t take that too hard; I’m never satisfied on that score.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 3:22 am | Permalink
  27. aew wrote:

    I think that the misappropriation of Yoder for claims that the church precedes the world ontologically comes about from a misreading of Yoder in Priestly Kingdom, where he does claim that the church precedes the world epistemologically and axiologically. Neither of those affirmations, of course, is the same as claiming that the church precedes the world ontologically.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 4:40 am | Permalink
  28. Thanks for providing this for public discussion.
    I am wrestling through Theses 10-12 and the extent to and which and how such sentiments can be spoken in our context. There is the phrase church of the poor and also the notion of the church’s preferential option for the poor and then also solidarity with the poor. I find these phrases muddle what you seem to be trying to do in this section.
    I find, especially in the wealthier western nations, this sort of articulation continues to bind the so-called ‘poor’ as they remain the helpless in need of our charity. Other than the phrase mystery of the poor I don’t find articulated the blessing and abundance that the Gospel locates within poverty. I think choice of how you syntactically relate the poor in this articulation is crucial. Otherwise does this not risk continuing in the sin of the church of Laodicea who claims to have wealth and need nothing but does not realize their poverty and nakedness. Could that not be a more helpful task especially for the western church that we learn to name our poverties, that we might become poor, that we might seek the wealth of ‘the (holy) poor’, that we might become rich in the Gospel? I really do think it is important that we are rigorously vigilant against a positioning of the poor in this sort of articulation.
    In any evident I would be happy to hear some further comments around those theses.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 6:01 am | Permalink
  29. so is the church that part of the world that has responded to the Lordship of Christ, and therefore joined in the rectification of all things? If so then I think I agree with that.

    but then what does it mean that the church is given in/to the world without reserve? I think that phrase is what promoted the equation for me.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 6:32 am | Permalink
  30. CCW,

    I think these are very interesting lines to pursue. but not to answer on behalf of the authors, but depending on how far their reliance on Lou Martyn goes, understanding Israel in this would be pretty hard. For Martyn, Jesus’ apocalyptic singularity is fairly disconnected from the history of Israel, which as far as I could tell from Kerr’s book, seems to remain. (That is not necessarily a dig, Nate, b/c I know you were working on a different problem in that book, and it seems that you are working on that in a forthcoming book…is that right?)

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 6:40 am | Permalink
  31. myles wrote:

    Nate, this is one of the aspects of this I see as most problematic: sure, we can never say what ‘world’ is as-such; to do so would be to construct idolatry in reverse. But then, if church-world exist in such a tension, how are we to say what church is, i.e. where Christ is spoken of? Are the poor Christ? Is secularity Christ? Is some ecclesial existence-but-not-other Christ? By constructing the world-church along this common axis which requires knowledge of the two together, in their inseparability, but also in their unknowability, I fear this displaces and diminishes the apocalyptic force of the earlier theses, in that–sure–I want to say Christ comes as the one who is unconditioned, but how can we recognize Christ apart from parameters of vision?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 7:04 am | Permalink
  32. Halden wrote:

    CCW, thank you both for the content and spirit of your comment which I find very helpful and refreshing. I agree that the issue of Israel needs further attention than given in this set of brief provisional theses, and I agree that the framework of these theses provide a point of entry from which such discussion can and will take place. For now, let me just make a couple comments. First, I think Nate’s book does at least begin to address this question, especially on pages 175-88 concerning the matter of diaspora. Likewise for us, any reference to Jesus is always and exclusively to the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth.

    As for the more general issue of how the continuation of Israel “fits” within such an apocalyptic framework, I would want to flip the matter on its head to some degree and argue that an apocalyptic reading, such as we suggest here, is actually far more concerned with properly explicating the importance of Israel and Judaism in our theological understanding of the church and the world.

    To wit, I believe, as Doug Harink shows very handily in his Paul Among the Postliberals, treatments like those of N.T. Wright which are often fixated on giving Jesus’s Jewishness a sort of hermeneutical independence actually yield a deeply supercessionist construal of Israel and the Jews. In other words, “Israel” and “Jewishness” become categories that render Jesus and the church intelligible and precisely as such end up being transferred to the church which is understood the new Israel, or “eschatological Israel” (Lohfink). In other words, many treatments that seek to situate their articulation of Jesus and the church in terms of Israel and Judaism tend towards a covert sort of supercessionism that either has the church replacing Israel (Wright, Lohfink) or existing paralell to Israel as two separate paths to salvation which have no real need of each other (the early work of Kendall Soulen, for example). Peter Ochs had rightly critiqued both of these sorts of approaches to a Christian theology of Israel.

    Further to this, I would highly recommend Douglas Harink’s more recent article in Pro Ecclesia: “Paul and Israel: An Apocalyptic Reading”, which I think fundamentally gets at the important issues here. To keep this as brief as I can, here’s just one excerpt that I think goes to our fundamental view of the matter:

    Paul’s question about his kindred according to the flesh is not whether they should keep Torah according to the Mosaic covenant. He assumes that they will and must. Rather, it is the question of what they hope to receive by hearing and keeping it. Will Israel receive from the law a final vision of the glory of her Creator and Deliverer? Not from the law, for the once glorious face of Moses is fading (2 Cor 3:7-18). The vision of the unfading glory and light of Israel’s Creator is given elsewhere: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6). In the time of “hardening” (3:14; cf. 4:4) Paul does not seem to expect Israel as a whole at any time soon to put her hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But neither does he consider the time of Israel’s hardening a self-enclosed entity, shut off from God and the power of the gospel; it is already also the time in which the liberating word of the gospel. If God’s apocalypse brings about a time of krisis for Israel, it does so in no less measure for the church—as Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Corinthians show—the church which, with Israel, stands only by the mercy of God. (p. 378-79)

    Finally, I would also like to add that, while this may seem a bit counterintuitive, it is precisely because we acknowledge the uniqueness of Israel and the Jewishness of Jesus in relation to the Kingdom and the church that we didn’t address it here. To just toss in Israel in a discussion of the church-world relationship would seem to me to actually de-emphasize its importance, treating Israel as if it were merely part of the more general issue of how to understand the relationship of the church and the world. Obviously, as you say, there is much to fill out in regard to all these questions, and indeed, a set of theses such as this can only begin the conversation, but I hope that some of this will at least help to gesture in the direction we hope to take it: namely that we wish to break discussions of “church and Israel” out of supercessionist binary in which it has been caught due to non-apocalyptic readings of the gospel. As I’ve mentioned, I think Douglas Harink has already helpfully taken up this task and I would also recommend Alain Epp Weaver’s States of Exile which has been deeply helpful for all of us as well in regard to these questions.

    I hope that helps some, at least to gesture towards the direction all of this is taking for us. Thanks again for your comment, I appreciate it very much.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink
  33. Charlie Collier wrote:

    Nate,

    I’m trying to make sense of this sentence: “The church’s missionary thinking, so the argument goes, is ecclesiocentric just to the extent that the church ontologically precedes the world and, ultimately, supercedes the world with respect to the Kingdom’s eschatological fulfillment.” I’m trying to make sense of it, because it’s your explication of “the problem” that you seek in the rest of the piece to overcome. I’m not yet convinced that the problem exists, and so I’m not yet ready to take the medicine.

    The language of “preceding the world ontologically” is *almost* the language of Yoder, but, like Alain has already pointed out, actually quite different than “precedes the world epistemologically and axiologically.” I’m not sure I know what it means to claim that the church precedes the world “ontologically,” although your emphasis on “in relation to the Kingdom,” helps me a bit. If reconciliation is not something that smothers us all like a blanket, whether we want it to or not, but is rather an event (apocalyptic!) in which we are graciously allowed and enabled to freely participate, then I suppose that the confessing church, as the new world on the way, might legitimately be construed, in a very particular sense related to precisely to the universal reconciling work of the Kingdom, as being “ontologically prior” to the world—i.e., to the world that is not yet on the way, the world marked by unbelief.

    Perhaps I can change directions here and ask for two clarifications. Why is it that epistemogical and axiological ecclesial precedence to the world doesn’t bother you? And, it seems to me that you’ve said a great deal about the church being in the world. Can you say more about the church not being of the world?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  34. Funny–I had just been thinking that I’d like to hear Doug chime in on this discussion, as it seems to me that he’s much friendlier to the “ecclesiocentric” crowd than some other apocalyptic folks. Or at least I have the impression that these are not mutually exclusive in his thinking.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink
  35. Thanks Halden, for clarifying this point. but, yeah, I guess I agree with Jamie, that Harink doesn’t seems to see the antithesis you all are proposing.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  36. Halden wrote:

    To be clear, I’m not trying to say that our position here is Doug’s, only that his work is very helpful for us.

    Also, while I think this needs much more bearing out, I kind of want to re-frame the conversation, not as being between “ecclesiocentric” and “apocalyptic” modes of thought as different ways of construing the centrality of the church, namely between, as we suggest in the post “ecclesio-concentric” and “ecclesi-eccentric” understandings.

    In other words, I no less than anyone want to avoid the notion that an apocalyptic understanding of Jesus’s Lordship is somehow “mutually exclusive” from being properly “centered” on the life of the church. It’s really a question of what the specific Lordship of Jesus means for the how we understand nature of the church, and only after answering that question can we talk about what it might mean to be “centered” on the life of the church in our theology and practice.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  37. Billy Daniel wrote:

    In response to Nate set of theses, I have posted a set of alternative theses at TOJ, http://www.theotherjournal.com/pages/blog-detail.php?category=239&ID=971 , which I hope can provide a fruitful contrast for conversation.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink
  38. Halden wrote:

    Further to the broader matter of the role of Israel in relation to the sort of diasporic/apocalyptic orientation expressed here, I have reflected on some of the issues here, and here, for whatever help that might be.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  39. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    This is a good question to raise, Charlie. Although it was Hauerwas and some of his students that we had in mind here, we should be clear that the critiques made in these theses are not exclusively or even primarily directed at Hauerwas or his students. It may well be true that, when Hauerwas seems to suggest that the church ontologically precedes the world, he is drawing more from Jenson than Yoder (as Halden’s comment could indicate). In any case, the point here was not to stress the importance of this particular passage from Yoder as an impetus or even to specifically target Hauerwas’ appropriation of Yoder. That said, I understand how it could be read in this way.

    What I think needs to be clarified here is that the view that the church “ontologically precedes the world” is advanced by a number of theologians from different ecclesial locations who are vastly more influential than Yoder. I am thinking of Joseph Ratzinger’s widely publicized debate with Walter Kasper. (Cf. see Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood As Communion” ; Walter Kasper, “On the Church,” The Tablet (23 June 2001): 927-30 or a different (and perhaps weaker) translation that appeared in America (23 April 2001): 8-14; Joseph Ratzinger, “The Local Church and the Universal Church: Response to Walter Kasper,” America (19 November 2001): 7-11; Walter Kasper, Letter of reply, America (26 November 2001) 28. ). This debate is primarily about the relationship between the universal church and the local church, but it is here where Ratzinger argues that the universal church ontologically and temporally precedes not only the local church but also the creation of the world itself. He does this on the basis of the Shepherd of Hermas and 2 Clement. In a vision in the Shepherd of Hermas the author associates the image of an elderly woman with the church. The author explains that the woman is elderly because the church was “created before all things. . . and for her sake the world was formed” (8:1). The author of 2 Clement speaks of a “first Church, the spiritual one, which was created before the sun and moon” (14:1). Ratzinger points out that the author of 2 Clement actually understands the prior “spiritual church” as analogous to that of Word’s priority to the incarnate Son. Ratzinger also grounds the ontological pre-existence of the church in the New Testament (cf. Heb 12:22; Eph 1:3-14, Eph 3:3-12 and Col. 1-26).

    Out of all the interpreters of the ecclesiology of Vatican II it seems to me that Ratzinger’s centralist construal of “communion ecclesiology” has been the most influential. So, this is one (prominent) vision of ecclesiology that we are targeting in our theses–one that we’re quite clearly seeing unfold in the Roman Catholic church today. All of this is to say that our theses should not be read as an attack on Hauerwas per se (much less on particular appropriations of Yoder), but as a critique of a much wider and more severe problem in contemporary ecclesiology. More importantly, the theses are meant to indicate the pressing need for a thoroughgoing self-examination of the way in which we think about the church vis-a-vis the world and the kingdom of God.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink
  40. Hill wrote:

    I want to reiterate Myles point (and this is also in response to your response at Church and Pomo). Your handling of the question of what “world” and “church” mean is really disappointing, and I say that as someone who is more sympathetic than ever to what you are writing. Put succinctly, they simply must have more determinate meanings than you are willing to admit or you would not have been able to even think, let alone write, what you have. I will be very upset if you make some reference to “speaking doxologically” which, for all it’s poetry, is a waste of text in these venues. I don’t mean any of this harshly. I really just think you are sand-bagging, and semi-passive-agressively blaming the reader for something you have explicitly refused to clarify.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  41. Charlie Collier wrote:

    Thanks, R.O., this is helpful. I actually sort of liked the cheekiness of the claim that those inspired by Yoder were reproducing Christendom ecclesiologies. A new neo-Constantinianism, perhaps. And that may in fact be true. Stranger things have happened, like Craig Carter.

    However, I was/am unclear about both who’s being critiqued, whether they make any such claim about “ontological precedence,” and certainly whether they think they were inspired to make such a claim by Yoder’s work.

    I’m fairly sure Jeson did not receive Yoder’s work as an impetus to do anything positive. And I know Ratzinger didn’t. So this reframing of the target of the theses helps.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink
  42. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I am not sure what you’re getting at here with regard to Martyn, Geoff. One of Martyn’s central arguments in his commentary on Galatians is precisely to draw out the connection between God’s promise to Israel (in Abraham) and God’s promise to the church (in Christ). It seems to me that his whole discussion of “the teachers” is meant to demonstrate that Paul is not against Judaism or the synagogue, but against religion. This is why he emphasizes the point that Paul is concerned to address those Gentile Christians who have been persuaded to think that they must first convert to Judaism in order to become Christian. As Martyn points out, Paul’s apocalyptic gospel does not intended to disconnect the church from Judaism, but to announce that apocalypse means freedom from religion. The freedom that Christ brings is to show the inseparability of the “new creation” to God’s promise with Israel in Abraham. In Martyn’s interpretation God’s promise to Abraham is prior to the invention of religion–and therefore the distinction between the sacred and the profane.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  43. Halden,
    All humility aside, it certainly doesn’t sound like you all are just offering a “re-framing” of the issues. The whole thing reads like a manifesto. Are you now saying that all we really need is more nuanced language? Then why a “thoroughgoing reconsideration” which begins the post?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink
  44. Halden wrote:

    Sorry, I didn’t mean simply a nuancing of language. Only saying that I think the contrast isn’t accurately stated simply as a conflict between being having a pronounced concern for the life of the church or being unconcerned therewith. Everything we wrote is driven by a passionate commitment to the faithfulness the church in the world. Thus I see this as a common conversation about the proper shape and articulation of ecclesial faithfulness in light of the lordship of Christ.

    Or, put another way, me, Nate, and Ry are all members of the Ekklesia Project, too. Being “centered” on the life of the church is not the issue. The issue is how that should be articulated and lived in light of the lordship of Jesus.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink
  45. I finished reading through these theses, and to be honest (which is all I can offer b/c truth and love is practically precluded on the web), I am hardly persuaded. In fact, I think this entire articulation is poorly thought out and executed. If it wasn’t for your self-conscious promotion of a “contribution to the task of theology” and given an anchor at TOJ for “citation purposes” I would have consigned this post to the worst of blogging rants needing little response.

    Who is this guy Hoekendijk, writing from 1967? Hasn’t the field of missiology (and its sociological/theological based) great advanced since then? What of Bosch, Newbigin, Guder, Hirsch? If we want to engage missional theology and missiologist we have to move forward. It is safe to say the contemporary field is split between ecclesiocentric and those not, reflecting philosophical differences.

    And the sections on the sacraments seem like you had to talk about them but didn’t want to, so you just rammed them into your theological construct. No tradition that I have read comes close to understanding the sacraments like this. It’s a hatchet job.

    And the ‘world’ is used equivocally with only passing reference to the biblical conceptions. And Nate, it feels like a clear dodge to put on Jamie (and/or myself b/c I agree that clarity is needed) a perverse desire for clarity regarding “world” especially when you then make reference to an “apocalyptic realism.” to which world does such realism refer? the phenomenological world? psycho-symbolic? sinful? spiritual? redeemed? socio-political? created?

    Also, I don’t understand how the apocalyptic singularity of the in-breaking Kingdom should “disorient us with regards to how we think ‘church’ and ‘world.’” (nate says this in the comments at churchandpomo.org) Indeed, this seems to be exactly the opposite of the case. Before Jesus there was Jew and Gentile as the fundamental distinction, after Jesus, only after his apocalyptic in-breaking, can we know/see/(is disclosed for us) the distinction between the church and the world. This person/work (if I might be allowed such terms) creates the distinction, he doesn’t ambiguate it.

    These theses seem overburdened by boogie-men and ghost (strawmen) of those who want to ‘control’ the church as if it were our ‘home.’

    But, as is probable on blogs, I could be all wrong about this. And if your apocalyptic theology can walk alongside of the vision offered by Billy Daniel above (I love you man), then let’s kiss and make up. But until then, I need a lot more to go on before this we can engage in fruitful dialogue. I’m all for shooting from the hip, but this seems down right academically irresponsible.

    (my specific questions for the text are at http://churchandpomo.typepad.com/conversation/2010/06/i-want-to-continue-the-conversation-really-just-questioning-begun-by-james-ka-smith-between-an-ec.html)

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  46. I’m all for having a common conversation. but where is the conversation happening in the theses? It is a total sea-change in language (which I’m alright with, I’ve read enough phil. to adjust to new vocabularies). It doesn’t sound like a conversation when the sacramental traditions are ignored (see comment below), and if I can’t get a handle on what “world” means in your theses, and then Nate blames Jamie and I for it (comments at churchandpomo.org), how is this a common conversation?

    I’m all for building understanding, but I having seen it yet.

    but thankfully we all are focused on ecclesial faithfulness, it certainly feels like this faithfulness to the lordship of Christ reduced all “shape” into “event” with a strongly anti-institutional flavor.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  47. adamsteward wrote:

    This strikes me as resonant with the point being made in Hebrews regarding Jesus’ priesthood being in the order of Melchizedek. There Jesus’ priesthood is grounded “not on the basis of a regulation [εντολης - commandment, religion, what have you] as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life” (7.16). Quite the opposite of nullifying the election of Israel, it is its ground, for he “blessed him who had the promises” (7.6). So it was not the promise of election that was set aside, but “the former regulation [εντολης] was set aside because it was weak and useless” (7.18).

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  48. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Exactly. Thanks for this, Adam.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  49. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I am not sure why you seem to think the theses are ignoring “the sacramental traditions.” You will notice that we draw from thinkers from a variety of traditions (including “sacramental” ones!). But you are indeed quite right if you suspect that these theses aren’t intentionally “ecumenical” in the sense of accommodating the gospel to the sea of denominational plurality. Our hope is that the gospel of Jesus Christ exposes the truth or falsity of any “institution” and any “sacramental tradition,” for neither are free from critique. In other words, we aren’t committed (and I think I speak for all us) in maintaining the “institution” of the church in any “shape” or form at all if this means to betray the gospel–in fact, this kind of “ecumenical” thinking is precisely the problem we’re trying to diagnose.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  50. Billy Daniel wrote:

    I love you too, Geoff.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  51. adamsteward wrote:

    You of course have every right to be patronizing, denigrating and call things “hatchett-jobs”, but it strikes me as disingenuous to throw down a smug dismissal such as this and then claim that they are the ones holding us back from fruitful dialog.

    And say what you want about Hoekendijk (who is a royal bad-ass, and since when is contemporaneity the standard for relevance?) did you really just class Alan “Re-Jesus” Hirsch with Bosch and Newbiggin?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  52. dbarber wrote:

    A couple of “meta-comments” on these theses and the response…

    (1) It seems to me that the concept of the “world” here is, indeed, pretty vague. This is no doubt owing to a central paradox of Christianity, which claims both to judge and to love the world. (How can this be something that is clear?) Perhaps you could say how the world looks different from the vantage of your theses versus the vantage of what you’re opposing?

    (2) I wonder if it would be better just to jettison the idea that you are being faithful to an essence of Christianity that’s common to all interested parties here. Why not be more partial about it (this part of the tradition’s good, this part of the tradition’s bad, etc)? There are, after all, many Christianities. It seems to me — but this might just be my personal approach to such matters — that it’s more important to develop your ideas autonomously, as it were, rather than to try to make them compelling (which is to say, really, recognizable) to all those who self-identify as Christian.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  53. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Myles and Hill:

    There is a lot here, and I really don’t mean to be trying to evade the issue as Hill suggests. So, for lack of time and space to explicate more fully, let me start over and just make a few statements as regards my thinking here:

    (1.) The apocalyptic event par excellence is the two-fold event of the world’s condemnation and justification in Christ. The world that is condemned is the world that is falsely taken to be a world “in-itself” with a reality independent of its rectification to God in Christ. This is the “illusory” world of the fallen powers. Precisely because such a world is an illusion, we can and must say also that it is this world that is condemned and passing away as an illusory in-itself that is being rectified to God in Christ and is being promised a new creation. So the “world” that is apocalypsed in Jesus Christ is the world that is at once judged accepted and constituted in all of its reality in Christ.

    (2.) Of course, there is a sense in which the New Testament uses the term “world” negatively as precisely that which is seeking to establish itself as an “autonomous sector” over-against God (Bonhoeffer). That, we might say, is what is condemned as illusory in the apocalypse of Christ. The “world” as such is not truly world, for “world” as such is a denial of its true reality, as the one world that holds together and is rectified to God in Christ.

    (3.) Church is that people in the world who live in active and faithful obedience to the command to “be reconciled” as God has reconciled the world to Godself in Christ, and so who live in active obedience to the ministry of reconiliation in and for the world (II Cor. 5). The church is thus that people who live in active service to the world’s reconciliation without reserve. By “without reserve” I mean to say that there is no prior “space” to the church that is conceived or lived apart from this self-giving life of reconciliation in and for the world to God. “Church” happens as the sign of the world’s being freed from the compulsion to be something “in-itself” as over-against God, and so insofar as there is no in-itself for the church, church is the world given to and for its reconciliation without reserve.

    (4.) To set up “church” as a distinctive realm over against the “world” is to repeat the logic of the sin of the “world” as something that can be set up as a realm in-itself over against God. This is illusory, and it is what we might rightly call “religion” or the “ritual and cultic separation” that Yoder speaks of. Certainly, there is a way in which the church is not to be “of” the world in the sense of the “world” conceived as an illusory autonomous space over-against God, but the illusory nature of that world of which the church is not to be means that the church is not of this world precisely in the way that it is for the world’s true reality as reconciled to God in Christ. That is, the church is dialectically and ironically not “of” the world precisely by the way in which it refuses to set itself up against the world as a separate and autonomous realm.

    (5.) This leads then, to the affirmation that the new antinomy that is created by the apocalypse of Jesus Christ is not between “church” and “world” as such (as between “religious” and “secular,” etc.), but between apocalypse and religion, as stated in Thesis 3. Any distinctions we might make between church and world for the sake of relating them rightly from within the one reality that is God’s reconciliation of the world to Godself in Christ but be determined and governed by that fundamental antinomy.

    At any rate, I hope that helps clarify a little bit more than my previous comments, which admittedly came at the questions obliquely, though intentionally so. Because I am convinced that to seek to theorize and to coherently to “place” what the world is in-itself over against God is in fact a species of the denial of its true reality as the one world reconciled to the one God in Christ.

    I’ll stop there for now. I hope that

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  54. d. stephen long wrote:

    I’m confused by your first paragraph here Geoff. Is it to Billy or Nate? I found Billy’s theses at TOJ much more compelling than the ones here at ID. Billy does not seek to be near as revisionary, but to speak from the heart of the church. Nor does he require the sharp either or — either apocalyptic centered or ecclesioloigcally centered.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  55. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Steve:

    I’m pretty sure that Geoff’s first paragraph is directed at the theses here (which are not authored by me alone — but by myself, Halden, and Ry in genuine collaboration).

    So no worries. Geoff’s fully on board with Billy’s alternative set of theses, I believe.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  56. Sven wrote:

    Something more specific related to Barth:

    In Thesis 3, there is the following: ” From the standpoint of God’s apocalyptic act in Christ religion is “unbelief” (Barth). Religion is “the attempted replacement of the divine work by a human manufacture.”[4] The apocalyptic inbreaking of God in Christ does not affirm the “world-in-itself,” but rather ruptures and suspends the religious distinction between the “sacred” and the “profane” (and between “church” and “world,” as such). The new antinomy created in the coming of Christ is not between the “secular” and the “religious” but between apocalypse and religion. It is God who apocalyptically comes to the world in the sending of his Son and his Spirit to liberate the church, and indeed, the world, from enslavement to religion.”

    I am not so sure about this. While it is undoubtedly true that according to Barth, religion is unbelief, and, as human construct, it is even the very antidote to revelation, ““the contradiction of revelation, the concentrated expression of human unbelief.” (CD I/2, 302), there is also something positive to this process: “Religion can…be exalted in revelation, even though the judgment [of religion being unbelief] still stands. It [religion] can be upheld by it [revelation] and concealed in it [revelation]. It [religion] can be justified by it [revelation], and – we must at once add – sanctified. Revelation can adopt religion and mark it off as true religion.” (CD I/2, 326) This is Barth’s whole point of section 4 of this paragraph 17! And, this does not sound like some kind of apocalyptic abolishing of religion to me, I am afraid.

    A further argument can be seen in the move within the doctrine of election. Without equating religion and the church – Barth has a lot to say about the election of the “community” – yes, religion is still unbelief, but should it not also entail some kind of acknowledgment that the revelation of Jesus Christ has “sanctified” the Christian community, and, through grace, the community has been elected to be a “light” that proclaims God’s grace? “the important point is not whether we draw the circle of what we call Christian preaching more broadly or more narrowly. What counts is (a) that it really is a circle with a center, and (b) that we take seriously what takes place within this circle.” (Unterricht I, 43).

    A final comment regarding “liberation” – while this seems attractive, Barth would take a slightly different angle: Revelation does not, “link up with a human religion which is already present and practised. It contradicts it, just as religion previously contradicted revelation.” (CD I/2, 303). If there is some apocalyptic imaginary here, then it is a glimpse of Revelation 21:5 “I am making everything new.”

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  57. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Dan:

    Thank you for this. Your first thesis says more clearly what I said with what I was trying to say with way too much obfuscation, I think, when I said we must speak of the world “sesquiquously.”

    The first two sentences of your second point are music to my Barthian ears. I’m not sure how to take the idea of “developing your ideas autonomously,” but I do think that trying to make one’s ideas palatable to all who “self-identify as Christian” is indeed a false start.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  58. dbarber wrote:

    Ha! Who knew that I had a Barthian tendency in me, it must have been my unconscious speaking!

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  59. Andy Rowell wrote:

    1. I affirm the motions to clarify the word “world” and “worldly.” It is difficult because the New Testament uses these set of words in both positive and negative ways (consider e.g. Titus 2:12 (κοσμικὰς) and 2 Cor 7:10 (τοῦ κόσμου)), as do Barth and Bonhoeffer. (See one of my term papers for an survey of Bonhoeffer’s use of worldly and its relationship to Barth: pages 15-20 of http://www.andyrowell.net/andy_rowell/2009/06/bonhoeffers-nonreligious-concrete-worldly-ecclesiology-making-sense-of-letters-and-papers-from-priso.html )
    But rather than Barth and Bonhoeffer, to have a coherent theological discussion, I think we need to hold to the nuances of the NT usage, or we will confuse one another.

    2. I appreciate the addition of “kingdom” to the church-world discussion and would add that the “gospel” is a fourth term that is neither equal to kingdom nor church and thus sometimes is useful in clarifying what we are talking about. See http://www.andyrowell.net/andy_rowell/2010/03/julian-hartts-foursided-theological-analysis.html

    3. Since Geoff has asked about Hoekendijk, it might be useful to read an early response by Newbigin about him in 1953. “Having said so much regarding the fundamentally missionary nature of the Church, it is, I think, necessary to go on to say a word regarding the danger of over-stressing this truth to the point of defining the Church solely in terms of its missionary function. I have in mind here the work of Dr. J. C. Hoekendijk, who has in recent years most powerfully drawn attention to the danger of an excessively Church-centric conception of the missionary task.” For the rest see Household of God, p. 147f. available online at http://newbigin.net/searches/detail.cfm?ID=1675

    4. I would caution us about the dispersion / diaspora / exile language of thesis 5 (fueled by Barber and Kerr’s work building on Yoder’s The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited) that has been deemed misleading or at least overly simplistic by Daniel Boyarin, Micahel Cartwright, and Peter Ochs–all of who like Yoder. Nate Kerr is aware of this issue as he notes on page 192 of Christ, History and Apocalyptic and tries to nuance it but I am not sure it is worth keeping going forward. Might it not be simpler to just say that the effects of the fall remain and then reflect on what that might mean for institutions rather than conflating a questionable theological description (exile) and a political description?

    None of this is meant to be angry or unappreciative whatsoever–just trying to add to the discussion.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  60. mshedden wrote:

    Nate (or others),
    Given Dan’s first point I was wondering what someone might be missing by an improper ordering of the church/world as formed by Hauerwas compared to the vantage you are offering? As little (or as much) as I understand what you are saying I still don’t get what you are hoping people will see if their focus shifts to this kind of theological schema. Will I find a radical new relation to something I am missing? Will find myself drawn out of my church ghetto? I think a concrete example of something you wouldn’t have been able to see in the ecclesiocentric model would help me understand what you are saying better.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  61. CCW wrote:

    Halden,
    Thank you very much for this response! This is quite helpful for me in terms of seeing the direction that the concreteness would go or will go as you work towards filling it out; and for whatever its worth, I find myself less concerned about the problems of supercessionism than I might have been before. I have yet to read Harink’s article or Weaver’s work so I will check those out, and will revisit Nate’s work as well.

    To give some background to my initial comment let me make a couple of comments. First, my affinities and instincts run far more in the direction of apocalyptic than not (the Blumhardt’s have worked too far down for it to be otherwise). So what I was laying out was within much broader and deeper agreement (though I think you already knew that—I know Ry would as well).

    Second, I am coming to see that part of the theological problem of race that Carter and Jennings have highlighted in their work is not simply a problem of Christology or of theological anthropology, but of late medieval apocalyptic of a certain type. This element has yet to be theorized in the conversation launched by Carter and Jennings thus far (though supercessionism itself is of eschatological provenance). The form of apocalyptic which I am referring to is the broad multivalent Joachimite tradition that emerged in the 12th century and came to frame not only the theologies of crusade and conquest (see Bret Whalen on this), but also modernity itself which is a kind of eschatology (ala Taubes). Key in this was the disjunction of eschatology/apocalyptic from ecclesiology in the late medieval period, and the earlier disjunction from Jesus and Israel.

    If this is actually true, which of course is a big if [though theorizing this “if” is my research agenda for the foreseeable future] I still don’t believe the answer is to flee from apocalyptic. Rather, I view it as a pharmakon, both poison and cure. In other words, the kind of apocalyptic that you are imagining (one that reconnects kingdom—Christology—church—Israel) is a part of the solution to the problems outlined by Carter, et al.

    With that on the table, the one place where I would want to push back is your final point, which is really where my unease originated in the first place. To clarify from my side—I was not intending to argue that Israel or the Jewishness of Jesus need to be included as a kind of add on, which I agree, leads to a kind of supercessionism in disguise. Throwing Israel in or allowing the “Jewishness of Jesus” to function as a kind of additional accoutrement, alongside Chalcedon or whatever other Christological categories, is definitely problematic. What is needed, rather, is a fundamental rethinking of the categories of Christology, from the direction of Jesus’ relation to his people, such that the “Jewishness of Jesus” and Israel do not receive hermeneutical independence, but hermeneutical priority. The structures and categories themselves need to be rethought (I think Barth’s actualizing of Chalcedon gives us a good starting point for such rethinking) so that, by extension, the church as the ‘body of Christ’ is theorized from within Israel.

    I guess I would want to flip your final point by arguing that to not mention Israel because she is presupposed also contains the danger of a kind of supercessionist logic, since it begs the question of when we will ever get to speak about the church’s relation to her. In other words, have the deeper structures of the Christology and apocalyptic imagined here been sufficiently reconnected to Israel’s past and ongoing existence such that one sees oneself as a Gentile living from a root that is not one’s own possession? This might be a better way of asking it: to what extent does “Israel”, and all that that means, control the narrative? Having said this, given your response to my initial comment I am led to believe that in fact you are moving in this direction—in other words, I don’t want this to come across as though I am asking an unfair question, especially in light of what you articulated in your response—but it would seem that it should make a difference on a more substantive level.
    Thanks again for this work! The three of you are definitely breaking ground here, and thanks for taking my comments seriously.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  62. dbarber wrote:

    CCW, it’s a good point, and one that Boyarin’s account of Paul deals with best — he claims that allegory is central to Pauline thought, such that while Paul is not anti-Jewish (for all the obvious reasons), the allegorical character of his thought makes the flesh of Jesus, and materiality in general, subordinate to the spiritual reality of God’s kingdom. Thus material Israel is affirmed, but only in order to participate in the eminent reality of spiritual Israel (what will be called the “Christian” people of God). This is what happens in the apocalypse. This is not technically supersessionist, but it’s certainly not pro-Jewish, insofar as Jewish existence, as it comes to be defined in “Judaism,” requires the particularity of the material. There is no place for this left in Christianity. Perhaps some do not see a problem with this, though I do.

    If one wants to use the thematic of apocalyptic, then, from my interests, it needs to be something that is delinked from, rather than constitutive of, this allegorical tendency in Christianity.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  63. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Dan, thanks for these helpful comments. I think it is this paradox–that Christ is the one who both judges and loves the world–that is best left unresolved, as it were. In part what we are trying to recover is a sort of “realism,” apocalyptically construed. That is, we cannot view “the world” rightly outside of the event of Christ. Much of this is driven from Philip Ziegler’s persuasive account of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics. With Bonhoeffer we want to speak of the indistinction of the “realms” or “boundaries” of “church” and “world.” Any talk of the world and church as distinct ontological bodies defined over against each other is an instantiation of what we’re calling “religion.” So, as Bonhoeffer puts it, “Whoever confesses the reality of Jesus Christ as the revelation of God confesses in the same breath the reality of God and the reality of the world, for they find God and the world reconciled in Christ.” (Ethics, 62).

    With regard to your second point, I am also in basic agreement. I tried to hint at this in my comment to Geoff. This is not meant as an “ecumenically sensitive” set of theses. We do think that parts of the tradition are indeed “bad,” as you put it. This is also what I was trying to get at in my review of Bell’s book at TOJ. Sometimes it is necessary because of our boundedness to Christ and for the sake of faithfulness to gospel that we jettison problematic aspects of the tradition. Call us “revisionists,” I don’t care.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  64. Charlie Collier wrote:

    Isn’t it clear that judgment, theologically considered, is a form of love?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
  65. dbarber wrote:

    Yes, this is no doubt grammatically correct in a theological sense, but surely it remains paradoxical — or not?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink
  66. Charlie Collier wrote:

    A couple of quick thoughts, Nate, in response to this helpful follow-up. First, I wonder if you think the church “ontologically precedes” the world glossed in (1.) and (2.) above. If so, then you’re criticizing a position for failing to follow a technical distinction that you provide between multiple scriptural resonances. Second, I would think, against (4.) that the ecclesiocentrists do not think of what they’re doig as “setting up church against world” as much as recognizing the difference between belief and unbelief. Third, I’m not sure you really want to go where you go in (5.). Church/world has the benefit of having deeper roots in the New Testament than apocalypse/religio, and insofar as you see these theses as more authentic extensions of Yoder’s apocalyptic/diasporic/missionary vision, it’s not clear why you need to trade one antinomy for the other.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  67. Charlie Collier wrote:

    I’m not sure I see why it must remain paradoxical. I have one son who’s 4 and one who’s 1, and it’s rather easy for me to see judgment as a form of love in the mundane world of parenting. I don’t want my boys to stick paper clips in my electrical outlets, I get angry when they don’t stop running towards the parking lot when I yell “Stop!” and so forth. That’s not because I want them to burn in the lake of fire, but because I want to continue to experience the joy of their existence. I love them. So love and judgment can only be paradoxically related, it seems to me, if some mistake is being made about the nature of love in a sinful world. Or have I missed something?

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink
  68. Dave wrote:

    Nate, this is really great stuff–very helpful. I am wondering if you have anything to say about a concept of “conversion” within apocalyptic? What–if anything–would be the content of “conversion” into, or maybe alongside, the work of the church? Does apocalyptic necessarily make confessional particularity a sort of non-issue or completely secondary to the priority of actively LIVING into the logic of Jesus’ apocalypse? In other words, does the idea of conversion-as-confessional-assent have any place within these theses? Can one who does not confess Jesus as Lord but embodies the sort of “ministry of reconciliation” actually be identified as church–that is, within the mission of the church– as opposed to simply part of that “without conditions”? Is there any distinction at all here?

    Again, very helpful stuff guys. Thanks.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  69. dbarber wrote:

    I wouldn’t want to claim that it’s impossible, in principle, for judgment and love to coexist. It’s certainly possible, in other words, to point to successful performances of their co-existence. And I’d take your own example as such a successful performance.

    My point is that there is a tension between these that emerges in more difficult circumstances. Obviously, no one would deny that dangerous encounters with electrical outlets should be judged, but this judgment takes place in a rather uncontroversial context. What happens when this context — and some context must be presupposed for a judgment to be meaningful, i.e. interpreted as a function of love — is more controversial?

    Some would say, for instance, that judgment of homosexuality is love, others would not. The same sort of nexus is at work in disputes over just war, or over the wearing of the burqa, and so on. To take the familial context involved in your example — and let me make clear I’m not challenging you personally! — it is quite possible to have widely divergent views about what sort of paternal judgment counts as love and what sort does not. Or, furthermore, what does one do in a context of what is symptomatized as a form of mental illness?

    I recognize that these can seem hackneyed examples, but I think they at least bring out the difficulty of the co-existence of love and judgment. Of course, one might say that what matters is not an intrinsic logical tension between two concepts, but rather getting right the true content of love in a sinful world. Perhaps. And I wouldn’t hang my hat on the claim that they _must_ remain paradoxical — that would be flippant, which I hope is not the way my comments have come across. But I also think that it could be evasive (maybe this is too strong a word?) to say that if one just understands the nature of love, then there is no tension. In other words, I think the logical tension should be allowed to exert some pressure on any articulation of the nature/content of love.

    (An analogy might be found in the so-called problem of evil: While it may be the case that a proper understanding of the divine dissolves this problem, the logical difficulty displayed by Hume must be allowed to exert pressure on any articulation of this dissolution.)

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  70. melissa f-b wrote:

    I am wondering this, too.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  71. Frank Valdez wrote:

    In the present controversy in the Anglican Communion, Rowan Williams is subordinating the question of who’s right about the presenting issue of homosexuality to the need to try to reach a common mind in the church. Since he’s so often cited here as if he were a supporter of Apocalyptic Theology I just thought that there is some value that on a very painful issue that he is dealing with he shows exactly the sort of regard for the preservation of the mutual regard , recognition, and accomodation of the whole church that seems to be getting sniffed at here.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  72. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Charlie:

    I hope you don’t mind if I answer quickly (or at least try to). First of all, I’m not sure I understand your question about my (1.) and (2.) and the “ontological priority of the church.” First of all, let me say that my refusal of a kind of “ontological priority” of the church with regards to the world in relation to the kingdom happens on two levels. On one level, I make the refusal on the basis of the terms of “ontology” itself and the logic according to which it functions. This requires complex argument that is dependent upon the complex arguments of others as well as my own, and is probably a discussion that cannot happen in these comment boxes, but requires a more strictly academic venue — both in terms of publication and conversation. On a second level, though, when I reject ascribing any kind of “ontological priority” of the church with regards to the world in relation to the Kingdom, I am rejecting the idea that the church “in itself,” that is, in its being, possesses something necessary to the teleological reality of the Kingdom that is not given to the world in the world’s reconciliation to God in Christ. In other words, I am rejecting the kind of thinking that gives teleological priority of the church to the kingdom vis-a-vis the world so that the coming of the kingdom can be conceived as nothing more than the extension and fulfillment of what the church already is, in itself. That is, I’m rejecting any kind of orienting of the question such that it would lead (explicitly or implicitly) to the conclusion that the fullness of the Kingdom would entail or equate to something like an “eternal church.” To address your question above, I would consider this different from the “epistemological” priority of the church precisely because the epistemological priority of the church has to do with this question of faith, by which it participates in the mission of the world reconciled in Christ that is the way of God’s own self. Faith in the church just is missionary service to and participation in the the world’s reconciliation to God in Christ. If there is any “ontological priority” here, it is the ontological priority of the objective reality of the world reconciled to God in Christ.

    As to (4.), I get what you’re saying when you say that the ecclesicentrists understand the church/world distinctioin as a distinction between belief/unbelief. My point is that the way they construe the nature of faith, and what belief and unbelief entails, leads them necessarily to establish the church over-against the world, and this largely because they cannot think “world” as otherwise than an “institution of unbelief.”

    (5.) I’m not sure that I agree that the church/world distinction has deeper roots in the New Testament than the apocalypse/religio distinction, at least not in terms of the New Testament as living witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is to say, I think it is the apocalyptic gospel that is constitutive of the fundamental apocalypse/religio antinomy, and I think this is borne out in Jesus own life, death, and resurrection. The church/world distinction as it plays itself out in the various New Testament texts needs to be understood in light of this fundamental antinomy. In this regard, I am not uncritical of Yoder, as you know. I think he recognizes the fundamental antinomy early on, but the way he reinstitues “church” as a sociological form of “cult” over against the sociological forms of “form” — so that he cannot but speak of “church” and “world,” with the church’s sociological form itself serving as the “bridge” between the two — in his understanding of worship in Body Politics, risks foreground the church/world antinomy in a way that obscures and perhaps betrays his understanding of the apocalypse/religio antinomy.

    Well, that’s something of a response. I’m not sure that will be satisfactory (and that’s largely because I’m pretty sure I’m not satisfied with it), but its the best I can do right now in comment boxes, and with all that is pressing on me in terms of work that needs to get done, etc. I hope what I said in (2.) and (3.) above will help to point the way to how I understand the church not being “of the world,” understood appropriately (which was your second question from above).

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Permalink
  73. Billy Daniel wrote:

    I guess what’s disconcerting about the your rejection of the Church having an ontological priority is that this rejection of “any kind of orienting of the question such that it would lead (explicitly or implicitly) to the conclusion that the fullness of the Kingdom would entail or equate to something like an “eternal church.” I’m just not sure what is meant here by “Kingdom.” It sounds so much like a place or a thing, which is not the Kingdom we find in the New Testament. (Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth is especially good on the matter). The Kingdom, however, is a Person—Christ. Certainly the “Church” has no teleological priority over the Second Person of the Trinity, who is Himself His own telos, but the Kingdom is most certainly the eternal reality of the Church as the Body of Christ, which is its end.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
  74. Frank Valdez wrote:

    Your positing of an apocalypse/religio antinomy gives us a chance to dispose of a notion that sometimes pops up in this conversation: viz. that Bonhoeffer was thinking along Barthian lines when he talked about ‘religionless Christianity’. Here is what Eberhard Bethge, a relative-by-marriage of Bonhoeffer, a student of Bonhoeffer, a friend, and the correspondent of Bonhoeffer in “Letters and Papers From Prison” had to say:”Bonhoeffer’s treatment of the word ‘religion’ differs, however, from that of Barth. Barth regarded religion as an unavoidable characteristic of the believer-just as Bonhoeffer had done in his early period, for example in “Act and Being”. But now the phenomenon of religion does not seem for Bonhoeffer, to be an eternal concomitant characteristic of man, but a transitory historical one, and therefore perhaps a unique ‘ Western’ phenomenon that would not return. In this Bobhoeffer certainly went beyond Barth.”
    This is from “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Man of Vision, Man of Courage”. It’s a view that actually bears a great deal of resemblance to that presented by William Cavanaugh ( a student of Hauerwas) in “The Theopolitical Imagination” and is an alternative to the Barthian/apocalyptic view that you present.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 1:29 am | Permalink
  75. dan wrote:

    Okay, okay, I’ll keep raising an awkward topic that nobody seems to appreciate much…

    For me, the crux of the matter comes down to theses 10 and 11, summarized in the opening sentence of 11: “Such kenotic, cruciform solidarity in obedience to the way of the cross leaves no room for the church to be anything other than the “church of the poor.”

    I very much believe that this statement is true. But my suspicion is that few, if any, of those who are commenting here, or who have written this post, actually believe that it is true. I know that saying this makes me sound like an asshole but I honestly cannot understand how people can affirm or write this sort of thing… but then not really live it out. So, to use the words of the kids with whom I work: I call bullshit. You don’t really believe this, do you? If you did, wouldn’t you be living differently?

    Seriously, Halden, Nate, and Ry, if you believe this then how is that belief reflected in your lives? This really trips me up and I feel like I’m missing something big. That’s why I raise the subject, even though I know it makes me sound like a douche.

    My own belief in this has led me to share my table with sex workers, let wanted folks hide out at my place, allow homeless young adults drink my yummy beers (takes off the edge of a crack craving, ya know?), and get my ass thrown in jail for trying to fuck with the Powers (the Olympic industry in that particular instance). Shit, I’ve given the clothes off my back to a sex worker who was stripped by her pimp and sent to walk the street naked and the shoes off my feet to another girl who didn’t have any. Now, let me try to be really clear, I don’t mention these things as a form of boasting. Far from it, in all my efforts I am well aware of the gap that exists between me and the kenotic cruciform solidarity exhibited by people like Jesus and Paul… just as I’m aware that all my efforts tend to be total failures, completely irrelevant, and don’t end up being avenues for the apocalypse of the Spirit of Life. But, dammit, I’m making these efforts — living where I do, working where I do, hanging out with the folks I do, etc. — because I accept the theses mentioned above. So, please, what the heck am I missing? Why do so many others affirm theses like 10 and 11 but not really engage in any concrete cruciform solidarity with the world and the church of the poor???

    (Aside, I asked Michael Gorman about this recently — given his rootedness in the Academy paired with his writings on cruciformity — and he talked about taking a significant pay cut, driving an old car, riding a bike, and paying out of his own pocket to go and teach in Africa for awhile. Is that the sort of cruciformity y’all are advocating?)

    Anyways, a thousand apologies for trying to communicate about these things in the blogging realm. It’s hard enough to talk about such things face-to-face with people we love and respect. It’s generally a disaster to try talking about them with strangers online. But I can’t seem to let this go…

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 1:33 am | Permalink
  76. Jeremy wrote:

    Dan, I really appreciate these comments, and I understand your fear of coming across like a prick. I also felt myself most drawn to those two theses in particular. There has been an awkward silence on these theses from the respondents to this post over at churchandpomo and elsewhere. Now, perhaps this silence is accounted for by the absolute agreement of those respondents, but I remain suspect.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 3:48 am | Permalink
  77. Andy Rowell wrote:

    Someone has asked me more about diasporism. I’m off to the airport this morning so this is off the top of my head. Diasporism is a legitimate theological description–I probably over-spoke there–but it (exile) must always be mentioned in the same breath as return. Exile and return are two aspects of the Hebrew Bible (Ochs) and Jewish history (Boyarin) and Christian theology (Cartwright). Boyarin in his review in Cross Currents of Yoder’s The Jewish-Christian Schism–which is what people are referring to when they mention Boyarin’s quote about “essence” as that is there–argues that though he personally prefers diasporism or antizionism, he denies that this an adequate way to describe the history of Judaism absent Zionism.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 4:15 am | Permalink
  78. aew wrote:

    Andy: Yes, exile and return must be thought together. Where Ochs and Cartwright go wrong is in essentially collapsing return with Zionism by failing to grapple with the real, lived history of Zionism as an ideology and practice, how it has been and is intertwined with the dispossession of Palestinians. Boyarin, in contrast, faces these issues head-on, and, instead of glorifying in an abstract “diasporism,” attempts to think exile and return together (see his concept of “diasporized states”–see also Israeli political theorist Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin’s “exilic politics within the land”). Both Boyarin and Yoder articulate faithful ways of living in the land, drawing on the language of exile to do so; tellingly, both are keenly aware of how it was Zionism that set up a binary opposition between exile and return, with its discourse of “negating the diaspora.”

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 5:18 am | Permalink
  79. roger flyer wrote:

    @ geoffrey. sheesh. Who put the poison in your homebrew? This is the most patronizing and self-righteous comment I’ve ever read on this blog. Reading your previous comments and then seeing this one sort of flips me out.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 6:15 am | Permalink
  80. Steve Harris wrote:

    Thanks for these theses. As someone who’s particularly drawn to Hauerwas, I found them challenging and engaging. I very much resonate with their emphases. I think there are important lacunae in Hauerwas that need filling out, and I for one don’t read these theses as impossible to coordinate with his project.

    To my point: I read the most important gap in Hauerwas as his lack of engagement with spirituality. I’m interested by Jamie Smith’s comment about an “apocalyptic pneumatology.” I wonder whether the stronger cause of ambiguity between church and world is not due to Jesus’ apocalypticity but to the spiritual war between the two kingdoms, one which takes place in institutions as much as hearts, including the church.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 6:27 am | Permalink
  81. Jeremy wrote:

    This type of response doesn’t exactely open up the possibility for future fruitful conversations.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 6:38 am | Permalink
  82. Billy Daniel wrote:

    Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God (Psalm 92:13). The ontological disconnect of the Church and Kingdom presented by this apocalyptic imaginary reduces the liturgical activity of the church to a “religious” exercise and, I suppose, the up and down in the pews often resembles something like liturgical calisthenics, but nevertheless. In Aristotelian fashion, however, the Church has always understood human action as moral action, in the sense that human action is either a participation in or negation of our nature in Christ, even though we cannot undo the will and purpose of God for us. To perform acts of solidarity with the poor, as you rightly note, is inseparable from any account of the Gospel. What apocalyptic theology, however, cannot account for is that the Church is solidarity with the poor. And yes, this is made intelligible and available in the Church because the Church is liturgy. Liturgy is the procession and return of God from Himself to Himself for the life of the world. The analogical liturgy of the Church is a procession from the Church to the Church for the life of the world, whereby it gathers creation into the perichorectic exchange it enjoys with God in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. The Church lives in solidarity with the poor by gathering the poor into the reciprocal life of God in Christ, and it is only by the liturgical participation of the human that solidarity with the poor in intelligible, for the Christ’s beatitudinal autobiography (again, see Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth”) names the identity of the baptized. If we simply go out to the poor it is little more than a unilateral exercise, leaving the poor in their poverty and the wealthy in their wealth. This is precisely in terms of Eucharistic celebration as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11. Our way of eating is what we believe about how God relates to His creation. Our actions are the meanings of our words. Without a robust understanding of the Kingdom’s existence in potency in the material Church, and the ontological union thereof, there can only be momentary acts of solidarity but no actualized solidarity for which this theology seems to grope for. What theses 10 and 11 above call for is a solidarity it cannot imagine. It is to have the procession of God without the return to God, which, as Paul taught us, nullifies faith. The desperate attempt to make the Church an aftershock of everything else leaves no room for Kingdom solidarity. This, in turn, is a kind of radical subjectivity that says “I have a body…” or the Church has a mission or the mission has a church. Rather, the Church is mission—not missional or anything else emergently trendy, and the mission is the Church. The two are separable for the sake of intellectual dialogue but in reality they are bound up together as one, neither preceding the other, both contingent upon the other in their mutual permeation in Christ.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 6:55 am | Permalink
  83. Adam,
    re: hirsch, just making sure people we’re listening. (i offered an apology/clarification of my comment below R.O.)
    yes, Hirsch is a hack, but as a pastor, he can be useful to me at times.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:04 am | Permalink
  84. hey guys, sorry for the broadside. I probably missed the prayerful humility in which you offered this, and this medium doesn’t express tone, and etc, etc.

    to be honest the thing that really set me off this this at the end of you post, after the prayerful humility (so it was my last impression):

    “This article has been published in The Other Journal. Thus, for citation purposes, the bibliographic information for this article is (emphasis added):

    Nathan R. Kerr, Ry O. Siggelkow, and Halden Doerge, “Kingdom-World-Church: Some Provisional Theses,” The Other Journal 17 (2010) No pages. Online: http://www.theotherjournal.com/article.php?id=970&header=examination

    Having just spend almost two years getting an article something published, to have you throw this up on TOJ “for citation purposes.” If you hadn’t said that I would have, as my comment indicates, just left it alone.

    So I can understand if my comment seems self-righteous and patronizing, but if this is ‘published for citation purposes’ surely you can understand my reaction. If this was just a typical blog post given freely for the exchange of ideas, then certainly, I was way off base for misunderstanding you intentions.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:05 am | Permalink
  85. (this is coming from the resident prick of this thread),
    but dan, while i agree, and feeling the sting of you charge, are you really so quick to judge the lives of these men? I blasted them for the content that they put forth here, but do you know that Nate, Haldren, and Ry don’t share their table with the poor? or advocate for the naked?

    I understand you are trying to keep it real, but how do you know if they should be living differently? I’m certainly open to living more like them and less like myself.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:46 am | Permalink
  86. Andy AB wrote:

    Hoekendijk (pronounced Hoh-ken-deyek) was a pretty influential Geoff. In Yoder’s course on missions (published forthcoming) he spends quite a bit of time tearing down Hoekendijk’s main points.

    You post is quite harsh on these guys I think. Maybe it is partly the medium of the internet though. Yet I am not sure why they need to sharply distinguish themselves and “apocalypticism” from “ecclesiocentric” work.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink
  87. Andy AB wrote:

    How do you know how Ry, Halden or Nate Kerr live their lives? I am very skeptical of this “I am more radical than you” type things and listing all the “radical” things we have done with ourselves on the internet. I am sure you and I or anybody else could get into a macho pissing contest to see who has been to jail the most, who is poorer, who has more “radical” friends, but that is really ultimately kind of self-righteous bragging and judgmental to people I know and I suspect that you know little about in the real world.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink
  88. roger flyer wrote:

    for the record, I do not think you are a prick. (at least not in the sense I grew up with.) if we mean a pricker of conscience…maybe.
    -roger

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink
  89. roger flyer wrote:

    @ dan and geoffrey-
    I know Dan takes this VERY literally and indeed, has given his life for his ideal.
    But are there not other ‘poor’ among us who need the good news of the Kingdom, too?

    I, for one, feel impoverished, and I need a lot of help from my friends.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink
  90. Chris Donato wrote:

    I, for one, get high with a little help from my friends.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink
  91. adamsteward wrote:

    Fair enough.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink
  92. Halden wrote:

    Geoff, thank you for this comment, I appreciate it very much. Let me just say briefly that the reason for the citation information was simply to acknowledge the fact that the material had been posted on TOJ. It was not designed as a sort of credential build up to give the article more prestige or something. Really our thoughts had only to do with finding a way to support the Other Journal by contributing content, such as it is, and links.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  93. eric wrote:

    perhaps dan is a self-righteous bragger, i don’t know, though i doubt it, but still his point remains–for all the radical explications of theology on blogs like this one, it seems (very strongly it seems) that there are far fewer radical exemplifications of lives guided by such thoughts. it is worth taking some time to question what would lives truly guided by such understandings look like.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  94. Dan: Yes, you do come off like an ass. But while you may come off as judgmental, I deeply affirm the question you’re raising. So, even douches come in handy. :)

    To me this issue you’ve raised has been a central struggle for me. And the fact that folks in general (and I’m not picking on the authors of these theses in particular) can espouse these sorts of things without everyone involved feeling deeply conflicted is amazing to me. I may be naive, but when I first started what I think of as my own “radical” journey, I was shocked and dismayed when I learned that my favorite authors didn’t actually live very deeply into the stuff they espoused (Hauerwas is an easy and over-used example of this).

    I don’t say this to judge. Rather, I lament. And I recognize my own failure. I’m a fat American technophile who is failing to embrace the cruciformity that I believe is central to my faith. I know, deep down, that I have only taken baby steps into loving my neighbor. It is usually frustrating, rather than encouraging, when most Christians point to my community or my own life as something praise-worthy. We are only beginning what I hope to be a long journey to cruciformity.

    So, while I find these theses fascinating (not sure yet how much I affirm them…or how much I disagree), I’m left feeling discouraged that I can name hundreds of people who I know who would resonate with these ideas but feel at a loss when I look at the lack of deep embodiment of such ideas in communities in North America. Yes, it is present, here and there. But the disparity between ideals and praxis in general is painful.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink
  95. Halden wrote:

    I will only respond briefly here by simply confessing the truth of what you say, Dan. Indeed, when I fail to share my table with the poor, to care for the sick, and the needy, to give away my property, and release my possessions, in that moment I do not believe these things. In that failure I do not believe in God and God does not abide in me (cf. 1 John 3:17).

    I am a denier, a betrayer, and a murderer. And that is precisely why I cannot back off from writing what we have written in this post. Not because it somehow flows out of something we have accomplished, but because it calls us out from the failure that our own lives of sin and slavery are.

    So you are right. These words condemn vast swaths of my life. But I would rather proclaim the truth about the calling of the gospel and stand condemned by my own words than to articulate a theology that I could claim to have mastered and perfected.

    And really that’s all I’ve got. I honestly couldn’t care less if what you’re saying here is self-righteous. Thanks for calling us on. We need it. I pray that I will be led into the fullness of embracing this call to concrete kenotic cruciform solidarity with the poor and destitute. I truly do pray that and seek constantly to find out how I can do that. And yes, most of my life deserves to be called bullshit. Thank you.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  96. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Andy:

    You forgot to mention Alain Epp Weaver’s important book on this, States of Exile: Visions of Diaspora, Witness, and Return. Seriously good.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  97. Halden et al,
    To try and redirect attention about a mile up the comment thread do my comments on your actual articulation of ‘the poor’ bear any merit? Is there some confusion there? Is that intentional? Are the poor left being positioned here?

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink
  98. Nate Kerr wrote:

    David:

    I’m sorry to have left your questions unaddressed above, along with yours and the other Dave’s about “conversion,” these are the questions I’ve been thinking need to be responded to. I just don’t have the time to do it right now. I promised myself I’d spend the day reading and writing (I need to shut my computer off!), but I’ll try to say something to these issues later tonight, if I can.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  99. roger flyer wrote:

    Mmmmmmm…Halden. Me thinks you might need a little retreat with some Henri Nouwen.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink
  100. roger flyer wrote:

    We look forward to more from your heart, Nate.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  101. S C Kimbriel wrote:

    Gosh…This is rather a lot to wade through, and I think that (as various comments have suggested) there is some need for some clarifying work if we are to understand the genuine divergences that are underlying these debates. This may be better done in a more formal context (as Nate suggests above) but let me offer an initial attempt. (I should note at the outset that I sit rather comfortably on the ‘ecclesiocentric’ side of things.)

    It seems to me that a certain misunderstanding of the ecclesiocentric position underlies many of these thoughts. As I read particularly thesis 4, the ‘apocalyptic’ move is being used to interrupt certainties with regard to particular ecclesial practices. That is, we ought not be confident that specific practices should be identified with the ‘kingdom’ because they can be idols. This leads to a certain inscrutability of liturgical practice because, so it seems, each time a particular structure is set up within the church it risks becoming (or perhaps, you want to say even more strongly, is) an idol. Do correct me if I am wrong about these points.

    Now I am not sure that the ecclesiocentrist would need to deny the point about the susceptibility of ecclesial life toward idolatry, even idolatry of a quite severe kind. The divergence, however, comes when we begin to debate what the remedy for such a situation might be. The initial post seems to be feeling around for some sort of remedy for this issue. I am not fully convinced that that remedy is yet fully developed, and I imagine that its nascence is part of the reason why this conversation has felt a bit like ships passing in the night. Perhaps the most helpful thing that I can do therefore is to simply clarify something of the ecclesiocentrist’s response to this ‘mysterium iniquitatis.’

    In order to do so, let me draw a parallel. In his Confessiones Augustine famously struggles with the inscrutability of his own soul. He is certain that a certain evil lurks within, and, so he supposes, a certain goodness as well, but he is unable to grasp the true contours of his being. After much tumult he ultimately rests in the fact that even though he does not know himself, he is known by God. One might suspect that this situation would lead to a withdrawal from distinct actions or beliefs under the force of a necessary agnosticism about the rightness or wrongness of such beliefs/actions. On such a scenario, Augustine would favor a generic ‘reliance upon God,’ and a certain waiting (perhaps for some eschatological fulfillment) in which true grace is enacted. Yet, this is not the path that Augustine chooses. Rather, it leads him (as we can see from the late books of this work as well as his more mature writings) to a perpetual path of transformation that occurs amidst these potentially sullied fixtures of his own soul. He does not reject particular actions and beliefs because he cannot guarantee their absolute purity. Rather, it is precisely the mundane and potentially polluted rhythms of personal and communal religious action (recall that he formed one of the first monastic institutions attached to an episcopal residence) that form the basis of the transformatory path in which grace is operative. These mundane sullied objects of his soul and of his community are gradually caught up into participation in God as they become what they rightly are.

    I bring up this example because I think that there is a structural parallel that is instructive here. The ecclesiocentrist need not hold that ‘worship lies in a realm outside of religion (used negatively)’ (thesis 4) in order to maintain a cosy relationship between its communitarian sensibilities and its soteriology. Liturgical life need not be spotless in order to be a true environ for the operation of grace. Indeed those that are most intimately involved in a liturgical rhythm are the least likely to consider it to be uncontaminated in this sense. The ecclesiocentrist’s confidence lies not in the purity of the liturgical rhythms but rather in a certain trust in the operation of grace both in the formation of those rhythms and in their ongoing enaction.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  102. roger flyer wrote:

    “…I wonder whether the stronger cause of ambiguity between church and world is not due to Jesus’ apocalypticity but to the spiritual war between the two kingdoms, one which takes place in institutions as much as hearts, including the church…”

    This makes a lot of sense, don’t you think apocalypsos?

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  103. Nathan Smith wrote:

    This might be the best Inhabitatio Dei post ever. Congrats on cresting the 100 comment mark without Driscoll or Piper. :-)

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  104. roger flyer wrote:

    Having said that, your salute to Dan and his sacramental life is lovely, as disturbing as your ‘I am a worm’ theology that has emerged here. (Thanks John Piper.)

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink
  105. S C Kimbriel,
    Thank you for this. I heartily agree. A truly liturgical life is on of confession, Kyrie Eleison.

    This is the point that I think Rom Coles misses in his dialogue with Hauerwas. To be habituated in the church is precised to be habituated in the practices of de-habituation, the practices of the cross, cruciformity.

    This is why missional theology at its best affirms both the church gathered and scattered, but what I can tell from the Theses, it is only the church scattered that is affirmed.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  106. Halden wrote:

    Now, now Roger. I never said I was a worm. Rather I tried to say something along the lines of “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  107. roger flyer wrote:

    “…And yes, most of my life deserves to be called bullshit…”

    That is what you said.

    and I say: You are a beloved son of the most high God.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink
  108. Halden wrote:

    I guess I just don’t see the two as being contradictory, but mutually entailing: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
  109. roger flyer wrote:

    OK, son.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  110. Halden wrote:

    Seriously, I totally don’t hate myself. At all. Just the opposite in fact. I was just really trying to let the judgment of Dan’s post “stand” so to speak.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  111. roger flyer wrote:

    I understand. But I do think the very real problem of ‘loving yourself’ will be a challenge, and part of the conversation (love the Lord your your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind) of apocalyptic.

    I, too, greatly admire Dan’s sacrificial life and want to honor him and let it stand…

    but only in the context of…

    You, he and I are all beloved sons of God because of the apocalyptic event of the appearance of the son of God-Yeshua.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  112. Halden wrote:

    You rule, Roger.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
  113. roger flyer wrote:

    Kyrie Elesion, Geoff.
    -bless you.
    roger

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink
  114. dan wrote:

    Let me try to clarify a few things:

    (1) I’m not meaning to judge Halden et al. I was trying to express a disconnect that I suspect exists, but I was open to being wrong about that disconnect. I don’t think Halden, Nate, Ry and others are bad people, hell, I’m operating with the assumption that they’re really rad dudes (I’ve exchanged conversation with Halden in the bloggosphere for years and respect him a ton and Nate recently sent me a free copy of his book and, from what I’ve heard about him, also sound super-awesome). So, that’s why I feel like I’m missing something and ask for an explanation. I understand that this takes us into a the personal domain of our lived lives and that it’s taboo to do that in academia but, dangnabbit, all this talk is really about our lived lives, isn’t it?

    (2) I don’t use myself as an example because I think I’m awesome or worthy of any sort of praise or respect. Far from it, I mostly feel like a poser, like a person who regularly misses the point and falls short of that to which I am called in Christ. To quote John Darnielle with words that I am daily applying to myself, “No one is innocent here, [but] I’ve got more blood on my hands than you do.” I don’t think I’m any more “radical” than anybody else (God, I hate that word). Far from it, I think I am worse than all the others. Thus, I’m deeply troubled by the disconnect that exists in my own life. This then makes me wonder how others negotiate that disconnect because, dangnabbit, my own disconnect drives me crazy. I don’t know how to be content or happy — so compromised am I in the death-dealing self-absorbed ways of our world — but I see others like Halden et al. who seem to have found a way to negotiate things and I want to know what I’m missing.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  115. Halden wrote:

    Dan, for my part I think that any semblance that I (or others) have “found a way to negotiate things” is only indicative of the degree to which we fall short of the call of cruciformity. I, like you, do not feel that I’ve found a way to integrate things or find some happy equilibrium. So, whether I’m communicating it well or not in my posts, I find myself in much the same place as you, wondering what the hell’s going on and asking why all the time. For what its worth.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink
  116. dan wrote:

    Thanks, Halden, I appreciate your responses.

    I should also apologize for my more abrupt or coarse way of speaking in this thread. I’m feeling kinda emotionally raw these days as I’m currently watching three breath-takingly lovely people as they are overcome by death. There’s not much I can do as these people die and God doesn’t seem to be doing all that much either. So, while I’m absolutely in love with the apocalypse of the Lordship of Jesus, more often than not, I’m confronted by the apocalypse of the triumph of Death.

    I often wonder why that is. Sometimes I think it’s because more Christians aren’t in this hell, walking this road (preferring, as many do, to just employ the rhetoric of kenosis or whatever). But, shoot, I’ve tried (at least a little) to follow Jesus’ descent into hell and all that has done burn me alive. So, hey, maybe it’s good that others don’t try to overcome the disconnect in the way that I’ve tried to overcome it. I don’t know, man.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink
  117. Nate Kerr wrote:

    “The first place to look for Christ is in hell.” –William Stringfellow

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Permalink
  118. Heck, couldn’t Dan’s trenchant comment above preamble every post and comment of every theo-blog out there?! (as well as every prayer, God-book, Xian conference, or liturgy?). I just assumed most of us knew we were hypocritical douchebags and ‘luke warm’ Jesus-spittled poseurs. To even be blogging here already suggests we are priveledged, relatively affluent, educated, probably anglo, with lots of spare time. Even as I am writing this I could be saying the rosary or cleaning oil sludged pelicans, or selling all I own on e-bay, instead I’m on my 2000$ laptop talking to y’all! (and you poor, struggling ‘post-grads’ don’t even think of counting yourself among ‘the wretched of the earth’). I always figured it likely that the ‘rich young ruler who went away sad,’ nevertheless later asked ‘Jesus into his heart as his personal savior’ went off to university and became a notable theologian writing bestsellers on radical theology and purpose-driven cruciformity; then assuaged his/her compromises with spiritualish carbon-like-offsets such as driving a prius and buying free-trade Late’s. Schucks, even using a word like ‘cruciformity’ probably means one is among a small minority of elites and you/we are already betraying any thing that could pass as a cross-formed life (if that’s what cruciformity means?). Still, I just finished reading Hauerwas’s book on L’Arch and I found it helpful. My wife and I have 2 mentally challenged women living us for a time and Stanley offers some insights and inspiration for our endeauvor. And his book on God and Medicine has been a spiritual palliative during my wife’s serious illness. So, maybe SH just cameo’d at L’Arche for the books sake, but I see this sort of thing kinda like he is some lame, fat, cigar smoking football coach who can’t wheeze himself from the locker room to the side line, but can coach others beyond the measure of his own abiities. Pray for God’s mercy, that’s my only hope, obliged

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink
  119. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Dave:

    Thanks for this helpful question. I am going to be brief here, and way too vague. I hope you will forgive me.

    I think “conversion” does have an important role to play here. The way I think I may have put it elsewhere, to someone else, is like this: the church is that part of the world which is converted to live in active solidarity with the world for the sake of that world’s salvation as God does in Christ. So when we speak of conversion in relation to the church, I think we need to speak in a twofold way: (1.) the conversion of the church, and not simply into the church; and (2.) the conversion of the church as concomitant with the conversion of the world to the kingdom of God in the person of Christ. That is, when the event of the proclamation of the Word of God happens in the world such that one is transformed into active participation in that world’s reconciliation to God in Christ, the church happens as in her continual conversion she is given over to live in solidarity with the world for the sake of such conversion, takes concrete form in relation to that event of the world’s conversion, and there confesses with the world that “Jesus is Lord.” One way to address this with regards to your question is to say confessional assent to the locution “Jesus is Lord” is not a condition of conversion, but is given with this conversion (as repentance is given with justificaiton, e.g.). So conversion takes place in response to the proclamation of the Word of God, and one belongs to the Christian community not as she is converted “into” the “church” as such, but as the church in its own conversion comes alongside her and joins with her in her conformity to the way of the gospel — Jesus Christ. Hence, the thesis on baptism, which I take to be the sacrament of conversion: one is not baptized into the church, as such, but rather baptism is baptism into a continual conversion to the ever-new ways in which the world itself is converted to Christ’s lordship. And church is what happens as that ongoing dynamic of two-fold conversion. The church lives by a movement of missionary conversion to solidarity with the world that is in active correspondence with that world’s conversion to Christ’s lordship.

    So it is not so much that there is no conversion outside of or apart from the confessional assent that “Jesus is Lord,” but that there is no true confessional assent as such outside of conversion.

    But — and here is where I want to address your final question — the distinction really does in a sense turn on that confession. The church lives by proclamation of the fact that Jesus is Lord, and that confession dictates her continual conversion to solidarity with the world insofar as it is the Lord confessed in that proclamation that is the content basis of the world’s conversion to fellowship with the God to whom she is reconciled in Christ.

    So, in short, conversion is indeed constitutive of the distinction between church and world understood from within Jesus Christ’s apocalyptic reconciliation of the world to God. The conversion of the world to participation in Christ’s lordship constitutes the church in her perpetual movement of missionary conversion into and with the world.

    I am not at all happy with this response to you, Dave. But it is really late, and so instead of erasing it and starting over tomorrow, I’m just gonna led it stand as it is, even if it only raises more questions rather than answering any questions that you actually had. If you’d like to correspond about this with me by email, feel free to send me a note: nathan.r.kerr@gmail.com

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 2:26 am | Permalink
  120. MFB wrote:

    With Daniel’s lead, I’ll bring my comment out of the shadow: what are the implications of this for the practice of church and ministry?

    Like Daniel, I don’t care about the level of the authors’ douche-bagerry. There’s lots of that in theology. But I am still curious as to what this means for pastors, L’Arche, MCC, church-plants, evangelism, inter-religious dialogue. I can get a hint in some of the comments but there is still a lot to be said.

    Maybe the writers/commenters aren’t interested in this question. Maybe it’s another post in itself. Maybe you think this is the work of pastors and seminaries. Maybe it’s a stupid question. All fair (although I would consider three of these responses a heightening of the previously mentioned douche-baggage). But let me know which one it is.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 5:20 am | Permalink
  121. roger flyer wrote:

    Daniel-
    In my view, L’Arche is a beautiful (terrible) place (like Daniel’s life) where the Kingdom continues to break through as a prophetic sign, as well as your house when the two mentally challenged women lived with you, as well as in your house while you continue to love and serve your beloved wife during her illness, when you clean sludged pelicans, when you sing for children on your mission trip to Haiti, spend the day painting your latest masterpiece, or even (gasp)…
    while you pray your rosary!

    You (we) must play your little part in the Kingdom.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink
  122. roger flyer wrote:

    Even the lame, fat cigar smoking football coach (Who is closer to a caricature of me than the young Prius driving effete academics ;) ) has a part to play (and SH, too) and I will not judge. (Well I might, but it is unwise to do so.)

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink
  123. Halden wrote:

    Melissa, it’s actually none of the above. Its rather that the 120+ comments have reached something of a critical mass as far as our ability to respond thoroughly to everything that has been raised. I will try to respond to this more thoroughly as soon as I can, I really will.

    I totally agree that there’s a lot more to be said. I suppose the best I can do right now is apologize for my inability to say it all right now in a way that answers these very broad and all-encompassing questions in a way that is immediately satisfactory.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink
  124. Yes, I’ve seriously begun to wonder about the curse of popularity in the blogosphere. Fortunately I have suffered no such fate!

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  125. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Melissa:

    I am going to speak in ways that I don’t like to, but in the only ways I know how. Because I do not know how to “theorize” the questions you are asking so as to build a theoretical bridge from intellection to practice. As Bonhoeffer says, “We will only know what we do.”

    So:

    It looks like giving everything you’ve got in terms of monetary and physical resources to the purchasing and tearing down and rebuilding of a condemned apartment building on a 5 acre property that will house illegal immigrants that are homeless because NAFTA has forced them from Chiapas and into your city to work for less than a dollar a day, in many cases. It looks like giving them that five acres of land for the kind of farming and labor they’ve only ever known and in which labor alone they have true freedom and joy. It looks like creating the kind of economic space in which they can live from the fruits of that labor in such a way that a whole community might be changed by it.

    It looks like not only preaching in the jails but visiting those inmates and spending hours going through their pages-long “records” to find those numerous “hidden” charges that will continue send them back to jail for months (and sometimes even years) immediately upon the serving of their current sentence, and helping them to find ways to address those charges and serve the sentence concurrently, because their state’s appointed attorney will not do that work.

    It looks like waiting on a phone call at 4:00 in the morning from a student of yours who is in the Marines and on deployment in Afghanistan, and who cannot kill this enemy that he is told he is suppused to hate, who cannot obey his superior officer’s orders, and who is facing either defection or dishonorable discharge. It looks like doing the hard work of finding ways for him to do the hard work of appealing for conscientious objector status when he is not part of a religious tradition that would be recognized as necessary for such status. It looks like doing everything you can to keep him out of military prison.

    It looks like trying to find ways of keeping federal aid funds out of the hands of those who want to condemn certain poor and destitute areas of the city in the wake of the Nashville flood for the sake of using those funds to “beautify” their city. It looks like refusing to let such funds be used to further displace an already displaced people.

    It looks like telling your six-year-old daughter who is excited about “getting baptized” that baptism means her life is not and never has been her own, that baptism means that her life is literally not hers or mine or her mother’s, but a life to be thrown away in love for precisely these people, that here life is to be found in the poverty they embody, and that she will not be saved without them.

    And then its the realization that such works and deeds are no more good in themselves than the words printed on the pages in a book or written in a blog post or comment boxes. Its the realization that such works themselves are themselves just as “religious” as the writing of theological books, the prayers of the litrugy, etc., and that such works are meant to lose themselves in the witness of the lives of these people to the kingdom that happens by the transforming miracle of grace alone. It looks like living and dying anonymously with these people. It looks like having one’s life hidden with Christ in them. It looks like becoming incognito among them.

    And then, it is a realization that when one is dancing, and stops just long enough to step up to the microphone and say, “Look at me, I’m dancing!,” then one is no longer dancing. Which is probably what has just happened here with this comment.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  126. Nathan Smith wrote:

    I had the privilege to have a small-group discussion at my church the other evening which touched on the mission of the church. The coincidence of this thread and that discussion was interesting, because all of the people in my group espoused an understanding of the mission of its church in a way which is fundamentally in agreement with this post.

    It was agreed upon that the church is doing its best when it is at work in the world. It was agreed upon that churches should not become ingrown. These were the reflections of people who help rebuild low-income homes in the area, go to Haiti with relief supplies, bring communion to shut ins, knit scarves and caps for a variety of needy folk, etc. I was the least of them. It was also noted that our congregation responds well to outside needs (where as pledging support for our own operations can be a struggle).

    So there you have it. It seems (at least in my case) that non-academic Christians are living the same theological ideas which are being presented here. I suspect mine is not the only church where this is going on.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  127. mshedden wrote:

    Nate,
    Thanks for that. It helps answer some of what I was thinking as well. I know you are busy so don’t feel like you have to answer this question. But I don’t see how Hauerwas (or some other theologians) would not yes to everything you just wrote is what they hope from their project. So, I guess I am asking how is apocalyptic theology going to reorient me so that I am more likely see things, describe them rightly, be apart of these things, preach (to people without Ph d’s) and maybe even do these things? Or is this project more a theological correction that banks on being slightly more “right” than the ecclesiocentric folks? Which surely is worth something but it would free up some of my time from trying to figure out what this all means. What you are hoping people will see if their focus shifts to these kind of thesis? I loved your article in The Other Journal after Haiti but couldn’t find where it might have diverged from an ecclesiocentric (or maybe James Smith, or Stephen Long) person like myself. Anyways, if get the chance and the time to respond I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  128. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Matt:

    Indeed, I think you are right about the fact that these are all things that all kinds of Christians and non-Christians would be involved in doing and part of what we’re saying is there are all kinds of things that keep us from doing this work together.

    As for your question as to the differences, I can only speak from my perspective. The point at issue here is not what one does, but how one does it, to borrow a key Kierkegaardian distinction for me. This how makes all the difference between the miracle of faithfulness and the reduction to ethics. And faithfulness is never anything that one can claim, nor can it be articulated directly. It is seen in the testimony of an other, and even then it is seen indirectly.

    My inclination is to think that the “ecclesiocentrist” view (to way overgeneralize) would be that such work is only churchly as long as it is done in such a way as that the church is directly visible as the church there in the work. I do not hold that position. I think also that the ecclesiocetrist view would hold that such work is churchly work to the extent that there is some locatable and stable “place” — or “center” — at which point its members have been habituated into the virtues that would involve them in such work, and from which they move out to do this work. That is, the tendency would be to see this work as a kind of “task” of the church, a movement that happens alongside its proper “being” — which is always there and back to which it is always seeking to drag the world. I don’t hold that position either.

    The church only is for me in the movement by which she is given to such work. That means the church is always undergoing a real risk of death in the face of such work, and if she is seen and if she is brought to new life (which is not survival), it is a visibility that is not sociologically locatable and cannot be pointed to, but is a miracle of the Spirit, a mysterioius but no less real visibility, like the visibility of the reason Lord, which evokes the confession, “My Lord, and my God.” The church is indirectly visible as one sees Jesus in the transfiguration of the world that is happening there; and that is the only ever true visibility of the church.

    So, the issue is not simply over what we are to do. The differences are dogmatic (and by that I certainly don’t mean “not practical”).

    Bonhoeffer once made a statement to the Pastor’s Emergency League that I am fond of quoting (and probably have done so in comments here before). He said, “One man asks: What is to come? The other: What is right? And that is the difference between the free man and the slave.” I am afraid that too often the question underlying “so what does this look like?” is the question, “so what is right?” I find this to be as true of myself as anyone. But I am becoming more and more convinced that underlying the ecclesiocentrist view is often a basic methodology that is driven fundamentally by the question, “what is right?”

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  129. Thanks so much Roger for your insights and prayers. Now, as much as I chafe at the “invasion” metaphor some like to use, there’s a scene in Aliens 2 where an outraged Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) blows up at the company point-man Burke who has betrayed her and her crew in the interest of company profits. As she wads up bunches of business documents and shoves them into the corporate douchebags face she rages at him ‘…if just one Alien gets in here with us, then all this shit (contracts, charts, plans and proposals etc.) that you think is so important now, it’s not going to mean a Goddamned thing!!” Reckon it could be kinda like that with the Holy Spirit trying to break into my house/soul, and Sigourney (maybe still in her underwear) is pointing at my books, Icons, songbooks etc. and is warning me that if that Paraclete busts in here then all this shit that I think is so important…. Anyway, is this at all like what Nate and Halden are talking about in ‘thesis 1 as “apocalyptic transfiguration.” Or (pace thesis 3+8) maybe it’s more like the ‘church’ is the orbiting mother ship, Jesus is Ripley, the corporate douchebags are the priests and clergy, and the ‘Alien’ is a prophetic theologian (say Schillebeeckx )? Although…it could be (pace thesis 4+6) that the ‘Yutani Corporation’ is the ‘Church padecent,’ the planetary colony is the ‘church militant,’ the face sucking nematodes are the corporate douchebags, the ‘Alien’ is the devil, and Ripley would be…Halden? Damn, I’m confused, I better just re-read Nate’s and Halden’s excellent thesis’ obliged.

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink
  130. saint egregious wrote:

    Nate, pure Stringfellow! This, along with your quote from him on hell is music to my ears! When are you going to write an article on his work? [hint hint]

    Friday, June 11, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Permalink
  131. Brad A. wrote:

    Well, I feel like I’ve arrived at the party just when the food has been cleared and the chairs are being put away. I’ve actually been here a while, though, thinking through the initial post and the many responses. Let me start by thanking Nate, Ry, and Halden for this thought provoking piece. Along with what of Nate’s book I’ve read, along with earlier posts, your “apocalyptic” approach has become for me, while not yet (if ever) a theology, at the very least a sensitivity to chasten any tendencies I have in an actually problematic, “ecclesiocentric” direction (you’ll see why I qualify that in a moment). So thank you; you’ve made me a better theological thinker than I would have been otherwise.

    I’m not on board yet, though, and there are a few reasons for this:

    1. The precise definition of “world,” as so many have stated, is crucial for your argument and is missing in these theses. I have never read Hauerwas or his students as positing church-against-the-world; rather, I have read them to advocate a mode of church-for-the-world-against-the-powers. While semantics sometimes gets in the way of this – as in Scripture, “world” is used in different ways – I have great trouble with your initial critique of them in this regard. I see your point about habitable culture, and while one may grant Hauerwas goes a bit too far in that direction, I’m not convinced that this excess is definitive of his (much less his students’) work. I very much appreciate your emphasis on solidarity with the world, but I’m not at all convinced that a robust church qua church gets in the way of that.

    2. I feel like you’ve already stacked the deck by using the label “ecclesiocentric” in the first place, over against the claimed Christocentrism of your apocalyptic understanding. I don’t think your interlocutors/foils would have any trouble whatsoever in tracing out precisely how their emphasis on church, liturgy, etc., is what it is because of Christ. Their sacramentology, for instance, is profoundly Christocentric in their view, and the ecclesial outworking is nothing other than an embodiment that Christocentrism. And that doesn’t make “church” an end unto itself or beyond reproach or reformation, as you clearly portray their ecclesiology to be.

    3. Related to #2, I wondered something upon reading through the theses the first time that was later substantiated for me when reading the dialogue between David Congdon and Jamie Smith on David’s blog. You seem to be arguing here for a radical reformation understanding of liturgy that, while making your theology internally coherent and compelling to those who share your liturgical views, is not that persuasive to other traditions; you are still ships passing in the night. For example, Thesis 4 calls liturgy “the occasion for sin” and describes it as follows: Indeed, worship is the site marking our deepest estrangement from God. But this is not the final word! In Jesus Christ, God decisively wills to be God-for-us and so our idolatrous ‘work’ becomes the site of our reconciliation with God. Reconciliation occurs not as exchange or production, but as a gratuitous event of grace. It’s entirely possible that someone could agree that precisely this has occurred in Christ, but has occurred once and for all historically, and NOT as a continually recurring phenomenon. Thus, for them, either through objective sacrament or not, the Holy Spirit preserves this act of reconciliation such that worship since Christ need not at all be considered “idolatrous” or “sin” or self-centered, but precisely Christ-centered, Christ-glorifying, and self-abandoning. The Anabaptist notion that this estrangement-reconciliation event has to recur in every new moment need not be shared by them, and you have made no effort to convince them of it. You are positing here a particular Protestant understanding without making it clear why others should adopt it. Additionally, I am troubled by your consistent description of human worship as utterly, for lack of a better word, depraved; I think you’d have to demonstrate conclusively that the Holy Spirit is entirely absent in human elements of Christian worship for that to be the case, and you’ve not done that here (nor would I think such an argument to be very tenable beyond certain confessional boundaries). Please keep in mind that I write this as a sort of evangelical who is far more comfortable with “low” sacramentology than with “high.”

    4. I think concerns stated in prior threads of gnosticism, while overstated, are understandable when the church is portrayed throughout these theses as merely an “event” or in the book as an “occurrence” (p. 2). Indeed, I have trouble how you can portray the church as such a phenomenon and then use descriptors like “she” or “living.” Nate, you mention in your response on conversion to Dave that the church “takes concrete form in relation to that event of the world’s conversion”; yet, it clearly cannot take a concrete form distinct from the world, or your initial charge against Hauerwas, etc., is nullified. If it is not distinct, than why call it “church” at all, and not simply “world”? Or, how, in Thesis 13, does the church live by prayer a a “communal” event if the church is only an “event” to begin with? An “evented event,” perhaps? What the heck would that mean? There’s a disconnect for me there.

    In fact, Scripture portrays the church as a people, a nation, and a priesthood. It is not merely an ongoing act of being “priest,” or of being the world, but an actual people distinct from other peoples (or else, how would “diaspora” make any logical sense?). One could argue that there is no ontological distinction, that the different “peoples” is merely a designation produced by the powers contra the work of Christ, but then one merely needs to make that adjustment to Hauerwas & Co., and the rest of their work stands.

    5. Of course, and you knew I’d touch on this, this is all related to Israel and its relationship to the church. I’ve read Halden’s response to CCW, and I’ve not yet read Nate’s pp. 175-88, so forgive me if I’ve missed the boat on your particular take. But as I’ve said previously, diaspora is not the only model at work in Scripture, and the exclusive use of it here is reductionistic, in my view. Exile was a judgment, and it was temporary. Not only does this suggest it is not definitive by itself, but it also means that a proper understanding of exile requires it to be taken as a function of something more fundamental, namely election and covenant. Yet these elements are obscured or absent in these discussions altogether. Doug Harink, whom I have yet to read, can challenge me on this – and he may persuade me otherwise – but as it stands now, my understanding of 1 Peter suggests that its address to the “exiles of the dispersion” is an acknowledgment of their current state, with a clear tying of their mode of existence to Israel’s; yet the arguable center of the discourse in 2:9-10 points to their more fundamental state/identity, namely that of being engrafted onto Israel as a people, nation, and royal priesthood – again, functions of election and covenant. Again, this seems to be entirely absent from the “apocalyptic” discussion. And no, I don’t think it would de-emphasize Israel’s importance to be included here – it’s not just “tossed in” to this discussion; it’s fundamental to it. As is the possibility that what happened with Israel in the OT was more “apocalyptic” than these this work acknowledges. (Halden, I saw the link to your previous post on the category mistakes with Israel, but having read that, I think you made a major category mistake there yourself. I haven’t pursued the discussion, though, because I didn’t think it was appropriate to gravedig your blog just to argue.)

    6. Finally, and I’ll stop with this, I’m a bit concerned with Nate’s response to Dave on confession. Nate, you write “when the event of the proclamation of the Word of God happens in the world such that one is transformed into active participation in that world’s reconciliation to God in Christ…” I’m troubled with this because I’m wondering how it is that proclamation alone effects transformation. You say shortly following that “confessional assent to the locution ‘Jesus is Lord’ is not a condition of conversion, but is given with this conversion…” But is this what Romans 10:9-10 says? The “if” there seems pretty important. Perhaps you’re distinguishing between conversion and salvation, but if so, some considerable elaboration is in order.

    I’ll stop there for now. Again, please forgive both my tardiness and the length of this post, as well as any misreadings of your arguments which would have been entirely unintentional. While I’d love to read some response, I realize at this late juncture you may be otherwise occupied. In any event, grace and peace to you.

    Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  132. Doug Harink wrote:

    Brad A., I think you have voiced just about all of the questions that I would pose to theses. Thank you. I also think you are on target about 1 Peter, though Peter makes eklektos the first word in his three work description of his addressees: eklektois parepidemois diasporas. I think election (rather than punishment–certainly in 1 Peter) is what creates the condition of exile and diaspora, which for Peter are not two different things but 2 sides of the same thing.

    As I mentioned on David Congdon’s blog, I would argue that in the NT the apokalypsis Theou COMES UPON things enslaved and dead, liberating them and giving them life, in that sense creating them anew. But while apokalypsis and ktisis are alike the act of God, apokalypsis is not creation ex nihilo. It is the liberation of the “world” as ktisis into its glorious destiny as kaine ktisis. I think the conflation of apokalypsis and creation ex nihilo, though not explicit, is what troubles me most in the theses.

    Thanks again Brad for your fine analysis of the discussion so far.

    Even more important, thanks to Nate, Ry, and Halden for posting the kind of blog entry that leads to genuinely fruitful and, we hope, “edifying” discussion. Bless you all.

    Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  133. Tim McGee wrote:

    I think that the notion of kenosis should be clarified here (theses 10-12). Kenosis, understood as self-emptying or solidarity with the world, can actually work to reaffirm a hierarchical relationship of the church to the world. The practice of colonial missions was itself built within a mode of kenotic self-offering (leaving the wealth of civilized white universal and proper human existence to benevolently enter into the particular, uncivilized life of the savages). Further, the practices of kenosis are established within the structures of white cultural forms as properly universal (it is because we embody the universal that we can enter into and find ourselves in various declensions of the universal, meaning, other particular cultures/races). Finally, kenotic practices function perfectly within the realm of the ethical (as in, my life is properly formed, and I know it, because my life bears the kenotic marks of dispossession and solidarity with the poor).

    In Philippians 2, Christ’s display of the divine kenotic life is not one that lovingly condescends to enter into what is inferior but the display of a life that need not preserve the distinctions between superior / inferior. God does not need to preserve God’s identity as God but can be God in the form of not-God, in the form of a creature, a slave in fact, even a crucified one. God does not need to assert and maintain a clear, proper boundary between the divine superiority and human inferiority. Christ’s kenosis is the display of God’s comfortability existing (as Bonh. says) in/as the incognito. God does not need to display the divine life as superior to the world but can live out the divine life, fully, as simply another object–a creature–in the world. This emphasis on the divine incognito would hopefully push Nate even further into Kierkegaard, where the movements of faith are not just a lack of attachment to heroic deeds (which, as Luther well knew, could be but a subtle form of pride…), but a comfortability and joy in a non-heroic, unremarkable life (the knight of faith being indistinguishable from the others around him or her, and thus perhaps not the person who purchases a condemned building to open up a hospitality house but the person who works as a banker and occasionally waters the neighbor’s lawn). That is the humility that Paul calls us to (not a prideful lowering of oneself but a freedom to live without trying to secure the boundaries that preserve our ability to make distinctions, to judge, between good and evil, superior and inferior, beauty and ugliness). It is a humility that is not concerned with securing our distinctiveness and propriety over against another. As Jesus tells Peter at the end of John–it is not your concern what I chose to do with another; you, follow me.

    Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  134. MFB wrote:

    I am unsure how we/anyone/us could move forward with any of this sort of things without some kind of habituation in virtue. For instance, issues of power and corporeality in the care of the intellectually disabled are massively complex. I’m trying to get a sense of how you’re giving space for the daily interrogate our sexism/colonialism/heterosexism/abelism that is the hard work of attempting to find God at work in the beautiful-terrible places. I don’t know that we can simply say, “I’ll know good when I see it, and that will be the church.”

    Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
  135. Billy Daniel wrote:

    It is this form of unilateral kenosis, which is not kenosis, that, as aforesaid (either dismissed or unread) that this apocalyptic cannot help but fall prey to. I do wonder, Nate, Ry, or Halden, what this apocalyptic has to say about human nature. Is it universal? Is there only particular human natures? Or is it the both-and of John of Damascus, whereby Christ assumes both the individual human nature in Jesus and the universal human nature for the salvation of all? What this apocalyptic seems to say is that God assumes only the particular, and that upon his return he will receive all other particulars, but that there is no universal human nature. I wonder if one of you would address this, as it would alter much of the theses presented above or it put these theses in their proper heterdox light.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 4:17 am | Permalink
  136. Halden wrote:

    Melissa, I’m not sure I understand everything you’ve said in this comment (like on a grammatical level, I’m just not sure). But I would say that the epistemological problem you pose (“How do we know ‘good’/the kingdom/Jesus’s call to discipleship?”) cannot be answered with some sort of appeal to “habituation in virtue.” I mean, how would we know what “habituation in virtue” means? What “virtue” is? There is no escape from that problem, or at the very least, no matter what we say about it we have to rely on a certain sort of living by faith, faith in God’s own revelation, a revelation that creates its own intelligibility regardless of our habits.

    At any rate I don’t see how “habituation in virtue” can possibly answer the questions you seem to be hinting that we fail to answer. But maybe I’m misunderstanding you here.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 5:35 am | Permalink
  137. mshedden wrote:

    I don’t know if this is Melissa is on about but I think the question might be how do we become the kind of people capable of doing this mission and seeing it in the world. Does it magically happen to us? Is it a slow formation? Is it a gift of language and community with the holy spirit? Does it come from habitation in specific place? I think Hauerwas would say (one level) “Nate and Halden, that’s all great but how do we go there as people formed like Christ. Where do we learn the ‘form-of life’ that teaches us to both recognize and see the world apocalyptically? Surely it is the gift of the Spirit but what does Pentecost mean as gift to a community?”
    Or I could be on the wrong page.
    Nate thanks for taking the time to answer my question above. And thanks for taking the time Hadlen as well.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  138. melissa f-b wrote:

    Thanks for that, Matt. And sorry for the poor sentence construction. Yikes.

    I think that’s what I’m getting at. If it’s not habituating ourselves in virtue, then what is it? I’m thinking of our children’s Sunday school program and how we often have to explain to our kids “the better thing.” How does it make any sense that Mary and not Martha was the woman to emulate without an interpretive community? Yes, your teacher is the Holy Spirit, but isn’t she recognized in our experience of community, even when that community grossly misses the mark of your “church”?

    Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  139. Andy AB wrote:

    Hey Brad,

    You’ve written a good response here. Regarding your point #5, exile as punishment: I am not so sure retributive language is appropriate to describe exile and diaspora. Given that a large portion of Jews chose to stay in Babylon even after they could do so, and given that a major portion of Jewish writings come from Babylon, it is hard to see how this “punishment” could not become a long-term blessing and new form of existence and in fact was not intended to be that kind of long-term blessing of a new existence that no longer relied on Israel having kings like the other nations and all that…

    But then again “Seek the peace of the city” is so over used it makes me cringe. What if our duty today is not to seek the peace of the city but precisely the opposite: to seek it’s downfall because it is by nature oppressive and violent, from the very start with Cain it’s builder? What if our duty is not to maintain the status quo and urbanization and the technological society but precisely to come out from among it, learn new ways and like Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day’s original vision, try and get people out of it and onto the farms and into forms of existence that are at least not inherently dehumanizing and violent like our cities our (I am a New Yorker).

    Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  140. Brad A. wrote:

    Hey Andy – Good to chat with you, even if only online. As to #5, certainly, Yahweh can and does redeem the situation and bring fruit out of it – significant fruit. My point was simply that exile tends to get used in some literature as God’s original intent for Israel, not as a result of their divergence from that original intent. Exile, in my view, is relativized by election and covenant, even while helping to nuance post-exilic covenant life. The emphasis of my comment was not on the punitive aspect of exile (which is there) so much as its secondary nature.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 5:55 am | Permalink
  141. Halden wrote:

    First, Brad, thank you for your initial comment, which I find genuinely helpful. The questions you ask are the ones that I’m currently working over as I continue to process the massive amount of input this post has generated.

    Second, just one brief question. If diaspora is “secondary” in nature within the scope of Israel’s life, what is “primary”? The monarchy? “Landedness” (Brueggemann) more generally?

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink
  142. Brad A. wrote:

    In my understanding, what is primary according to the narrative is the covenant community established prior to the monarchy, whose “stateless” form Lohfink is right to suggest should be taken seriously from a theological standpoint. I argue this in my own work, presenting the monarchy/realpolitik as a divergence from this covenant community, a divergence later indicted by the prophets. Exile/diaspora, then, is a subsequent correction of this divergence, removing the state apparatus once and for all (among other things). Doug’s comment below suggests I’m a bit off on that (seeing election and exile as full companions), so I’m even more interested in reading his work – I may need to rethink that aspect.

    In short, Israel was established in its election and covenant as a definitively (thought not utterly) “other” type of human community, as an embodied sign of God’s reign/salvation to the world. That’s why I don’t agree so much with your conception of it in your older post on category mistakes, and why I think some sort of “apocalyptic”-type argument could be made on its behalf (though Christ’s apocalyptic activity would still be the more definitive). That’s work I haven’t begun to undertake, but might as I revise my OT chapter.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  143. Brad A. wrote:

    And btw, thanks for reading my long post so late in the game.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  144. Halden wrote:

    Part of the reason I ask is because I’m currently thinking through the way we have maybe tended, in theological discussions of these themes, to conflate diaspora and exile. In other words, I’m wondering if diaspora needs to be taken as a more basic category than Israel’s historical experience of exile. It seems to me that diaspora names a more fundamental missional calling (“A wandering Aramean was my father . . . .” [Deut 26:5ff]).

    In other words, God brings Abraham out of Ur and Israel out of Egypt into a direct situation of sojourn/diaspora that is not determined by any sort of exilic chastening, however we ultimately construe its judgmental nature. In other words, diaspora flows immediately from election and liberation, it does not just enter the picture with the exile. Rather we must interpret exile in light of the more basic connection between election, liberation, and diaspora to which exile is something of a re-calling perhaps. So maybe this all connects with sort of basic “statelessness” (or as J. Kameron Carter has put it, Israel as the “non-nationalistic nation”) we need to understand as basic to God’s gathering of a peoplehood.

    Thus, and again this is just what I’m thinking/processing in light of a great deal, we need to understand diaspora as more basic and constitutive to ecclesiality than “exile” as such, or the Old Testament tension between exile and return to the land.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink
  145. Brad A. wrote:

    I can appreciate that helpful distinction, Halden. I’ll be thinking about that, and I wonder if it already plays a part in my understanding without my having explicitly identified it up to now. Thanks.

    But I think you’re missing a step in the “election, liberation, and diaspora” sequence. As I see it, you’d also have to account for the fact that God calls Abraham and Israel to a particular place where they are to be established, and from which Israel is later disestablished, as a direct (if only partial and historically contingent) result of forsaking the covenant of which that specific place was an integral part, albeit in a secondary role.

    That’s just part of getting the biblical account right, in my opinion. The bigger problem for me is what seems to be a tendency on the part of the apocalyptic account to interpret diaspora as a dissolution of peoplehood well beyond the geographical. As I’ve read it, “God’s gathering of a people” has been precluded altogether.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  146. Halden wrote:

    Some of that is what I think I need to address in more depth over the next while on the blog, namely the notion of peoplehood that is envisioned in these theses and in the discussion more generally. So look for more on that.

    Briefly, I would want to say that the important point for me is to see the “scattering” and the “gathering” of the people of God as coterminous and coextensive. We are gathered Pentecostally, by the Spirit, and in the same exact event are being sent out to all the world.

    I think this could also illuminate the issue of “the land” that you mention. What we could see then, in Jesus’s apocalyptic coming and the irruption of the Spirit is not, in any simple sense, the precluding or abandoning of “a particular place” but rather opening up, so to speak of that promise such that diaspora, being sent into all nations, becomes the fulfillment of that very promise. “The Land” has become, in Christ’s breaking open of history to the promise of God’s kingdom, “the World” (thinking geographically here), and precisely as such is fundamentally catholic in nature.

    So then diaspora would be seen to name, not the abandonment of “place” as such (though I think that language still needs to be seriously worked through), but rather the opening up of all places towards a being transfigured into a space in which we witness to and taste of the coming kingdom of God, and of which the church is a sign and sacrament.

    Not sure if that all works perfectly, but what I want to explore more is understanding diaspora as a sort of excess (or intensification) of particularity, election, calling, and yes, gathering, rather than its suspension, let alone preclusion.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  147. dbarber wrote:

    Agreed — it’s important to think diaspora “positively,” as it were, rather than as a privation of being-at-home, a fall from origins or, as Brad A has it in the comment below, and movement towards a telos.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  148. Brad A. wrote:

    This is, in certain ways, how I’ve been thinking, too. However, I think what Yahweh does in Israel is the beginning of this irruption of the Spirit, which is then perfected and fulfilled in Christ, who I believe incarnated Israel, first and foremost (general humanity secondarily, though both fully). Indeed, Israel was to invite the world to join it in submission to God’s reign (all of these terms being nuanced properly, of course), a mission undermined by its realpolitik. In the process of attempting to become like the surrounding kingdoms, it closed itself off to them wrt its “missional identity.”

    And yes, with Christ, land becomes the world, in a geographical sense. But place cannot be left out of the biblical account of Israel, particularly as it serves there in great part to concretize “people.” That was my specific point there. I, too, think diaspora could be partially understood not as the abandonment of place but perhaps as the abandonment of restriction to place. (Then the questions arise as to the extent such OT restrictions were genuinely of Yahweh or not.)

    As to the Spirit’s gathering and scattering (“sending out” I think is better), yes, there is a sense in which this happens, present tense. But there is also a sense in which it happened historically, too, getting back to my initial points on liturgy. Christ regathered Israel in the form of the apostles, whom he sent out subsequently and by the power of the Spirit. This happens with greater scope at Pentecost. We today can be seen as the continuation of this; the question I think many have of the apocalyptic argument is the source and/or means of this continuity.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  149. roger flyer wrote:

    Persoanlly, I think using the word heterodox in this conversation is presumptous, condescending, and loaded for bear.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  150. roger flyer wrote:

    I like Brad’s take and Doug’s graciousness.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink
  151. Billy Daniel wrote:

    I have said plainly that it “appears” to be so. Still waiting for someone to answer the question without dismissing on grounds of condescension or the like. I really do want to be wrong about this, especially since Nate Kerr teaches at my alma mater. Any takers?

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  152. roger flyer wrote:

    @Billy…Who asked you to be the inquisitor? I mean really…are you the keeper of orthodoxy?
    Please dial down your rhetoric…these are ‘theses’ butthey are not nailed on the Wittenburg Door!
    -roger

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  153. Billy Daniel wrote:

    Didn’t realize this was not an avenue for asking questions. Forgive me for being presumptuous. But since I cannot, and would not, I might add, burn anyone at the stake for heresy or heterodoxy, for that matter, could you tell me what apocalyptic has to say about human nature? I’m sincerely interested to know as I do not know (only what is apparent as explicated twice above, both unanswered) and yes, it is essential to the task of theology to account for this. I’ll gladly retract my heterodox reference, but it is precisely because I am not the gate keeper that it is important for this to be addressed. If I were the keeper of orthodoxy I could easily dismiss apocalyptic altogether. Fortunately for me, far more than for others, I have no claim to such authority.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
  154. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Billy:

    This question of heterodoxy is vacuous to me, as is the charge of heterodoxy made by Steve Long in his post which has been removed from Church and Pomo. It seems the referent here for orthodoxy is not just simply teaching and confessions which witnesses truly to the living Word of God as witnessed to in Scripture, and as affirmed in the creedal confession concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, creation, the virgin birth, the two natures Christology, the bodily resurrection, the Holy Spirit, the second coming, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Rather, the referent for orthodoxy seems to be an interpretation of these teachings as straight-jacketed by a particular philosophical metaphysics (analogical ontology), whereas the referent for heterodoxy is an interpretation of these teachings as straight-jacketed by a particular metaphysics (nominalism) that the so-called purveyors of orthodoxy find distasteful. I’m less concerned with vacuous charges of heresy (sorry, heterodoxy) than I am with definitions of orthodoxy that would insist upon bounding the gospel and the nature of its lived proclamation to a single pagan ontology.

    To answer your question, as far as I am concerned the idea of a “universal human nature” is an abstraction from the concreteness of the human nature that is assumed and transfigured in the risen Lord and in which we are each given a share through the reconciliation of all things through the blood of this risen one’s cross. It is the truth of that confession, without abstraction and without equivocation, to which I seek to unhand my words and works as I stammer and stumble in hopes of being rendered of service to this crucified and risen God and the broken and hurting world that God lives for and works to redeem.

    Monday, June 14, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
  155. pagan ontology? that is rich. surely we can do better than rehearse that tired narrative which modern theology tells itself…some might even be wondering if the early church actually ate the body and blood of Christ. those cannibalists!

    But the conversation above between halden and brad re: the difference/relation of diaspora and exile, and the issues of land and peoplehood, I for one, think are very helpful. so that you for that.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 5:45 am | Permalink
  156. roger flyer wrote:

    Thank you, Nate.
    St. Stumbler

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink
  157. Tim McGee wrote:

    On heterodoxy–I keep thinking of Alvin Plantiga’s definition of “fundamentalist”: ’stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’. ‘Heterodox’ shifts the focus from intelligence to piety (though in “orthodox” terms the lack of the latter is increasingly taken to indicate the absence of the former); however, it still functions as an indexical term (theological opinions to the left of mine) and is meant pejoratively (less “sumbitch” and more proper, like “boor”). Like ‘fundamentalist,’ to label a belief or person ‘heterodox’ ends the argument, since the person so labelled is placed outside of the realm of proper discussion (and the one who uses the term places themselves solidly within the community that defines the proper boundaries of the discussion and hence beyond reproach). Something like this is needed to explain the expansive sense of the term.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 5:54 am | Permalink
  158. Brad A. wrote:

    Forgive me for speaking out of turn here, but, not having talked to Steve about that Church and Pomo post (which I didn’t get the chance to read, either), could the fact that he asked it to be removed indicate he had second thoughts about his comment? If so, I’m not sure trotting it out here and beating him up about it is the most charitable thing to do.

    It also seems to me, if I may be so bold, that as I mentioned above, the apocalyptic understanding has its own straight-jackets to deal with. Perhaps we should just be a little more up front and out-on-the-table about our a priori confessional commitments rather than continue to lambaste the other for not worshiping (and thus thinking theologically) like we do. Seems like that would be the least pagan course to take.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 6:15 am | Permalink
  159. Billy Daniel wrote:

    Yes, stammering… But now we’re getting somewhere, perhaps. This is precisely John of Damascus’ point on the matter of concreteness. That the Son “was made man” bespeaks the hypostatic union with Jesus in all of his particularities, even down, as Cornell West is prone say, to Jesus’ ‘being born between urine and feces,’ but even so, this hypostatic union is coupled with another hypostatic union, whereby we know Christ to be the new Adam—“first fruits of our nature,” as the Damascene puts it. That is, contra Nestorius, because Christ is born of no human seed but by the sheer grace and will of the Father, his hypostatic union is such that human nature is recreated in him—human nature is deified for deification. This hypostatic union with the divine hypostasis of the Son is a particular union that opens all human hypostases to this same union with the Word.

    Now, you say that a “universal human nature” is an abstraction, but it is actually the singularity of apocalyptic theology that severely abstracts the human. Following Athanasius, it is because of the Son’s becoming what we are that we might become what he is, but is this only by way of example? Has anything really changed in Christ? What is it for apocalyptic that sets Christ apart from Buddha? If the flesh is not deified in Christ for the deification of all flesh, deification existing in the human in potency now, having already been deified in Christ, then our hope is in vain. Do the actions of God in Christ precede my actions in Christ, or do my actions initiate contact, which only exist in the singularity of my specific action “right now”?

    As for the analogia entis, it is an analogical ontology that takes seriously the Genesis account of creation when God looks upon what he has created and says, “It is good.” That which is created is not inherently depraved or sinful, as apocalyptic seems to present; rather, the Fall is a fall from this participation in the goodness of God which is re-stored in Christ and is becoming in creation now. So, when you say that there is only the particular human nature of Christ, how then do you posit there to be a participation in the reconciliation through the blood of the risen one? If Christ’s particular incarnation does not gather all of creation into hypostatic reciprocity with the Logos, then there can be no participation, only imitation; Christianity is hereby reduced to simulation.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 6:26 am | Permalink
  160. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    You know what narrative we’re tired of, Geoff? The dominant narrative that the analogia entis will save us all.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:02 am | Permalink
  161. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Nah, I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with this, Billy.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:03 am | Permalink
  162. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Based on follow-up conversations Steve does not, in fact, take back the content of the removed post. What do you think our a priori confessional commitments are, Brad?

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:07 am | Permalink
  163. Brad A. wrote:

    I think #3 in my response above addresses that. Again, I’m not unsympathetic, but I don’t quite go as far as the theses do, nor do I expect them to be persuasive to persons of other traditions.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:18 am | Permalink
  164. Halden wrote:

    Brad, just be be clear, we didn’t write them as a persuasive argument. Theses, by definition don’t do that. It sounds like you’re expecting too much here, at least in regard to this particular facet.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:25 am | Permalink
  165. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    As we continue to work on explicating the theses (and that’s our plan!), I hope that we will get a better sense as to the “ecumenical” character of our work. Honestly, at this point, I think we might actually give up too much to other traditions in the theses, particularly the so-called “sacramental” traditions.

    I mean we’re not Catholic or Orthodox or even mainline Protestants for that matter. So I don’t expect our work to always be persuasive to other traditions.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink
  166. Hill wrote:

    I’m sorry, Ry, but you really do have a persecution complex if you think that’s a dominant narrative.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink
  167. Hill wrote:

    So you don’t think they are persuasive? This seems like an odd thing to say.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink
  168. Brad A. wrote:

    These theses are elements of argument put forward for debate. Argument is intended to persuade; these are not merely propositions to be argued about, but are themselves an argument. This is underscored by the fact that the theses are articulated over against previous theses emanating in part from different confessional traditions. This is therefore an attempt at interconfessional argument, i.e., persuasion regarding a certain understanding of liturgy between people of varying liturgical backgrounds. So no, I don’t think I’m expecting too much, nor do I think the implied “a priori confessional commitments” are irrelevant.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:02 am | Permalink
  169. Brad A. wrote:

    That’s fine, Ry, but then you can’t expect other work emanating from other traditions to be persuasive to you, such that when they aren’t, they are subject to critique as merely “ecclesicentric” aberrations of proper theology.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:05 am | Permalink
  170. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    We haven’t substantiated the theses yet, Hill, so if you’re persuaded I’d be surprised.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink
  171. Brad A. wrote:

    On the first point, that’s fine, and by all means argue the point with him if you think it’s unfair. But don’t bring it out publicly when the text isn’t there for all to see.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:08 am | Permalink
  172. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    By definition a thesis lays out an argument that hasn’t been made yet. Think of a thesis as a kind of proposal for further research.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  173. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I am not sure what you’re saying here. Most of the criticisms we’ve received on this blog have been from non-mainline Protestants.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink
  174. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    This is not about some persecution complex, Hill. I just think it is asinine to suggest that calling the analogia entis a pagan ontology is a popular thing to do.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink
  175. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    In fact, if there is anything that has defined the dominant shape of theology in the past thirty or so years it is the reemergence of the analogia entis. I mean this is what Radical Orthodoxy is built on–and in many ways, this is what the Duke school has been all about.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:24 am | Permalink
  176. Halden wrote:

    Geoff, just to interject here, I think you’re reading too much into “pagan ontology.” Nate is not advocating that simply because an ontology or philosophical position has its origin and shape from sources and histories outside the Christian story that it is thereby simply to be rejected. The point is rather that such ontologies and philosophies should probably not become — especially covertly and without acknowledgment — assumed to be essential to any account of orthodoxy. That’s all that’s really being said here. That to conflate “orthodoxy” with a particular declension narrative involving medieval nominalism and the analogia entis is simply to speak wrongly about the very meaning of orthodoxy as such.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink
  177. Halden wrote:

    Brad, the text isn’t there by Steve’s choice, not ours. But it was certainly up long enough for many to see it and people know its out there. Frankly I think the charge of heterodoxy is a serious thing and for it to be posted publicly, and then removed, for whatever reason, without explanation is something of a major problem. You can’t just throw down the gauntlet and then snatch it back up and sneak away, especially when you initial action has given the occasion for others questioning the orthodoxy of your interlocutors.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink
  178. Halden wrote:

    Exactly. A thesis statement shows what needs to be substantiated through argument, it does not make the argument itself. You are, in fact, at least in this statement, expecting them to be more than theses, Brad.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink
  179. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I love it when a Roman Catholic tells an Anabaptist that he has a “persecution complex.”

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  180. Hill wrote:

    I agree. I’m just saying that it is basically the same thing to suggest it’s a dominant movement in theology. Neither claim can really be evaluated.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:40 am | Permalink
  181. R.O.,
    to clarify, I wasn’t the one who said the asinine thing about pagan ontology and the anologia entis. nate did.

    And really, Hill is right, outside of some Ekklesia Project people and Catholic Theologians, the theological landscape is dominated by the refusal of the analogia entis. So on the whole, outside of some very narrow circles, to reject the analogy of being is the norm, so I’m not surprised at all if you don’t like it. So really who are you yelling at? People at Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Chicago, BC, etc. all reject it. Duke and ND hardly a dominant narrative make.

    believe it or not, but the general tenor of academic theology is tinged neither by ecclesiocentrism nor the analogia entis. and even if it were, it is only recently after a long absence.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:40 am | Permalink
  182. Halden wrote:

    Tim, I think this is exactly right. The charge, both as levied by Bully Abraham and Steve Long seems to me to be designed to shut this down as a debate within a broader conversation about ecclesial faithfulness. For whatever reason there seems to be a pretty strong desire to make sure this argument is cast as being between “orthodox Christianity” and “revisionist heterodoxy”. It cannot be a debate between brothers and sisters but must be between the orthodox “we” and the heretical “they.”

    I regret that the discussion is being so cast and hope that it changes as Nate, Ry, and I continue to work and pray through this project together (and we most certainly are going to continue on in that).

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink
  183. Hill wrote:

    Ry I’m serious, you are getting hysterical. I didn’t mean that by it, but comments made by both you and Halden on Facebook regarding the “resistance” you are getting and the content of that resistance really are fantastical projections. I could be rightly accused of much worse than having a persecution complex, (and have one myself, at times) but i think it’s a pretty fair characterization here. That you would try to connect this to RC/Anabaptist strife and my being a (bad) Roman Catholic essentially makes my point for me. I promise not to send the Inquisition after you.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  184. Brad A. wrote:

    I appreciate that, Halden. I was just uncomfortable with it being used when it is no longer available for those of us who didn’t read it to try to understand. That’s all I’m saying.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink
  185. R.O.,

    I hardly think this is true. RO and Duke haven’t taken over the world. If you thumb through theological journals (Modern Theology, IJST, Political Theology, HTR, Scottish Journal of Theology), for the most part you find positions outside of RO/Duke.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink
  186. Brad A. wrote:

    I’m talking about the content of your theses above.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink
  187. Halden wrote:

    Hill I think Ry was just making a little jokey-joke here.

    But seriously, is all just a fantastical projection when at least one leading theologian is calling us heretics/heterdox, a move that seems clearly designed to sideline and shut down the conversation? I don’t want to overestimate the significance of any of this discussion. But I’m just saying that, in 4+ years of blogging I’ve never seen a discussion unfold like this.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink
  188. Brad A. wrote:

    Fine, gents – let’s not belabor the point. Ry, I wish you had engaged my initial post the way you’re engaging me today. There, I addressed these directly as proposed research.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink
  189. Halden wrote:

    Sure. I think the only reason it was even brought up again is because it seemed very clearly to be at least part of the impetus behind Billy’s similar accusation.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  190. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    We haven’t received death threats or anything, but our theses haven’t exactly been welcomed with open arms.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink
  191. Studiosus Sorenus wrote:

    Somebody say something about a persecution complex a minute ago?

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  192. adhunt wrote:

    The heightened conversation is making it difficult for me to make Barth jokes without hitting raw nerves. Let’s settle down so I can get back to that.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  193. Halden wrote:

    Some version of that might just make it into my blog epigraph . . .

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink
  194. Hill wrote:

    Great point.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  195. Billy Daniel wrote:

    Allow me to take a stab at lightening the subject while at the same time getting to the point, since Ry says I’m getting no where, by interjecting a little Chesterton:

    “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

    So, if you can tell me why we should tear down the hypostatic fence, and do so with good reason, I may be able to help you tear it down. Until then, the fence needs to stay up, not to keep us apart, but to keep us together.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink
  196. Hill wrote:

    I thought they spoke for themselves. I think I stopped thinking about this in terms of persuasiveness (for personal reasons… it just doesn’t get me very far). I did find them to be as clearly explicated as anything I’ve read on this “subject” so far, and I thought they provided many jumping off points for constructive discussion.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink
  197. If you want to read it you can still get it on google reader. Just add Church and Pomo blog to your reader and it will show up. I was disappointed, as I always liked Steve and thought he was a measured guy, but he takes some pot shots at vagina art (with the implication that we should be shocked by vagina art). Now, I don’t know what it is you guys are all upset about (something to do with the world and church, two hallucinations as far as I’m concerned), but I am passionate about my vagina art.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  198. Really? I’ve seen quite a few conversations unfold like this. At some point I ended up just giving up on being even nominally a Christian because of it. Essentially the witness of theologians convinced me there was nothing good in it, or nothing I couldn’t get by just embracing the heterodoxy approach.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  199. Hill wrote:

    To clarify my meaning and apologize to Ry, this comment stems from thoughts I’ve had in engaging a thread over at AUFS (http://itself.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/two-problems-with-christian-identity/), namely the relationship between Christianity and the persecution complex. I currently understand “the persecution complex” to be an ever-present temptation to Christians, and yet antithetical to the true faith. If I had a substantive criticism of these theses, it would be the occasions where they depend on positioning themselves against a “dominant mode” of some theology, and that same movement is taking place in Ry’s comment here (and to be fair, the analogia entis crowd does this as much as anyone and Billy is guilty in his comment about the popularity of calling Platonism pagan). So this isn’t a criticism of “apocalyptic” theology, but a growing realization on my part of the centrality of a persecution complex mentality in driving theological argumentation. It appeared as though we were going to devolve in to this. So though I still think Ry has a persecution complex, he has one only in the since that I do, as well, and likely many, if not most of the people in this thread. It would be hard to be a Christian without feeling the temptation to ratify one’s ideas by the amount of resistance they meet, but I really think this has to be avoided. Just so it’s not lost, I am sorry for the personal tone my comments towards Ry took. I intended them in solidarity, and I will no longer kill his peeps.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  200. Hill wrote:

    People have been calling you heterodox for a long time, including myself (although I retract those accusations). I think the difference now is that non-mainline Protestants are calling you heterodox. Must be exciting!

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  201. Halden wrote:

    And congratulations to Hill for posting the 200th comment. This is now, beyond any question, the most commentful thread this blog has ever seen.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  202. Hill wrote:

    I so deserved this. I’m glowing. I’m glad that others have taken over the mantle of the nominally Roman Catholic foil and now I can just enjoy these threads.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  203. Billy Daniel wrote:

    Where did I say Platonism was pagan? Now I’m very confused.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  204. Hill wrote:

    Sorry Billy, that was a misattribution. I meant Geoffrey.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  205. roger flyer wrote:

    Brothers…how about we head to Portland for some of Halden’s bacon and brew? I bet these conversations would be a lot more fun if everyone wasn’t so damn ‘invested’…

    Billy, Geoff, Nate, Halden, Ry, Hill, Brad, Stephen, Jamie, Milbank, Stanley, David H. David C, AD Hunt, APS, Daniel I., Daniel, Melisa, dbarber, Charlie…

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink
  206. roger flyer wrote:

    John Piper is upset that he is no longer the regnant object.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink
  207. roger flyer wrote:

    Oh…You’ve come out of the closet as a heterodox!?

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink
  208. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I apologize, Brad. I really do appreciate the feedback you’ve given and the spirit in which you’ve engaged the theses. I will do my best to re-read your earlier comments and give them the attention they deserve.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink
  209. Halden wrote:

    Anybody who can make it to Eugene, Oregon this weekend is welcome to enjoy my annual presentation of Steak & Stein. Which is exactly what it sounds like.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  210. Hill wrote:

    Halden, next time you are in the Bay Area, I have a bar you have to go to. I’ll go with you if I’m still here. It’s top 25 world wide.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  211. Halden wrote:

    Awesome. We’re due again, man.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  212. roger flyer wrote:

    Steak and Stein! Wow!

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  213. adhunt wrote:

    So if you’re nominally RC does that mean you’re Anglican again? I’m confused.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink
  214. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    What the hell is a hypostatic fence?

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  215. As someone who has had similar conversations with some of the people you mention here, and was accused of heresy then, I can tell you they aren’t more fun. Same amount of fun, except you sort of want to cry or maybe get in a fight.

    Also, I’m a vegetarian.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  216. Charlie Collier wrote:

    Since I live in Eugene, I’ll be here to put paid to your heterodoxy—i.e., the absurd notion that Portland beer can hold a candle to Ninkasi.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink
  217. Not sure if you’re talking to me or Halden, but in case you’re asking me…

    I haven’t claimed to be orthodox. I stopped attending church some three years ago and have been in, what Anthony Dale Hunt calls, rebellion since. My closest is just for jackets and shirts and the like, not positions. It’s 2010 after all.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink
  218. Billy Daniel wrote:

    Maybe Harden could just instate a two drink minimum for all future posts…

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink
  219. Billy Daniel wrote:

    Halden, sorry typo

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  220. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    You probably weren’t drinking enough.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink
  221. I can assure you that was not the problem.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  222. Halden wrote:

    Now THAT’S a charge of heterodoxy that I will fight with an unquenchable Athanasian fury!

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  223. roger flyer wrote:

    Then I propose that you eat some meat.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  224. roger flyer wrote:

    That was a good one Billy. Cheers!

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  225. Hill wrote:

    Not fighting enough was the problem.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  226. Naw, I’m good.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  227. roger flyer wrote:

    As our virtual stomachs settle with our virtual steak and stein, the intensity of the rhetoric might be wearing down…?

    And we can call this string…Apocafiasco!

    and I, for one, look forward to the theses’ further development..

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  228. Halden wrote:

    I certainly don’t think this is a fiasco. A little crazy perhaps, but that’s cool.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  229. Halden wrote:

    And I thought everyone already knew that the 2 drink minimum was implied!

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  230. roger flyer wrote:

    @ Halden. Good. I hope Nate and Ry are OK, too. It’s good to get some heat going…unless the academy burns down!

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  231. Kinda like Glen Beck calling Obama a racist? Brother Hill speaks only for himself (but on behalf of Rome I apologize for the persecutions of the anabaptists, oh, and also for that curator in the Louvre the albino Jesuit assassin whacked, that was uncalled for).

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  232. Kinda like Glen Beck calling Obama a racist? Brother Hill speaks only for himself (but on behalf of Rome I apologize for the persecutions of the anabaptists, oh, and also for that curator in the Louvre the albino Jesuit assassin whacked, that was uncalled for).

    (posted in the wrong spot before, sorry)

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  233. If you make it later in the summer i would love to visit with y’all. i have a new recipe for pork loin roast marinated 2 days in Jack Daniels whiskey, Serrano chilis, maple syrup, cumin and other great things, I can’t eat it myself but others rave about it. and I got a few new songs too.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  234. roger flyer wrote:

    I would love to meet you in person, Daniel, and ingest your JD pork loin.
    How is your wife doing and how are you?

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  235. roger flyer wrote:

    Son…dad is online.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  236. roger flyer wrote:

    Me love Dan Brown heterodoxy.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  237. Lynda is doing well, surgery next wednesday, home 4 or 5 days after that, God willing. Thanks so much for thoughts and prayers. Maybe Halden et al will sponsor some sort of conference in Portland or Eugene and we all could meet up. Give it a fancy title and charge folks even!? I look fwd to it. (hope i haven’t strayed too far from protocol with these posts) blessings.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
  238. Halden wrote:

    I’ll think about it. Might be kind of fun to see who would show up at something like that.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink
  239. roger flyer wrote:

    I would show.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink
  240. roger flyer wrote:

    Protocol?…
    hmmm…
    ha ha

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink
  241. roger flyer wrote:

    @ Daniel-
    the Kingdom of God is within you, and it shines on us in cyberspace.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  242. By ‘protocol’ I’m thinking of this veering from deep thinking, theoretical/speculative theology to address someone’s personal challenges. Hopefully Halden will schedule some time at his upcoming NW Conference on “Kingdom-World-Church: Apocalypse as Mission for the 21st Century,” for swapping recipes, mixology, and music (I just got a new lap-steel guitar I am hoping to break in).

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Permalink
  243. d. stephen long wrote:

    I always come too late to these discussions. How do y’all have time to keep up? It took me a while to read quickly back through the posts. I’m always up for a visit to Portland; I hope Roger’s invitation includes airfare! The beer is mighty good, but then I drink Schaefer beer so what do I know. I didn’t like my post at church and pomo so I retracted it. I didn’t want it to be my only public statement on these theses. Sorry if that caused folk trouble, and I really apologize if I made Anthony feel like I called into question his collection of vagina art. (I personally find it dull, unimaginative and trite — like that great scene from the film “Fried Green Tomatoes.”) I would stick by the charge of “heterodox” to some aspects of these theses. I did not make the accusation of “heresy.” The former is a deviation from an assumed traditional teaching that does not have dogmatic status. I still think the crucial issue among us is the “Totus Christus.” Do our bodies — those of the baptized who seek to live in peace and reconciliation and receive Christ through Word and Sacrament — ontologically make up the body of Christ via participation and/or deification? I would say yes. We are, and are to be, the living stones of the Temple. We are this because God acts in specific places like baptism, Eucharist and the hearing of the Word. From what I understand, I don’t think those who would ascribe to these theses can affirm that. As you develop them further, please address the “Totus Christus” and the threefold body of Christ. I would also worry about a kind of ‘Nestorianism,’ and I think this gets at Billy’s important post. The hypostatic union, so central to Barth, states that unlike God’s presence in the Temple; God gives himself completely to Jesus such that he is “hypostatically (substantially) united” — a single acting subject who is fully divine and human. This is eternal; it cannot now be other. So God hands himself over to us — Mary gives birth to God, his body is carried to the tomb, and at the Eucharist we lift the body of God up and invite people to see the Word. Nonetheless God gives himself over to us without divinity ceasing to be divinity and humanity to be humanity. I don’t know if this is an Anabaptist position, but I think it should be just as I think Catholics should embrace giving and receiving counsel and putting away the sword. As you develop these theses I do hope you will explain how they are not ‘Nestorian’ — how they can account for the hypostatic union, which alone makes participation/deification possible. Finally, I think the reference to the ‘analogia entis’ is too simple. I said in private correspondence to Nate, Ry and Halden that the crucial question is which version? Lateran IV? Neoscholastic? Przywara’s? I have actually critiqued it and sided with Barth in Speaking of God; something Jamie Smith affirmed. I don’t think anybody but Jamie read that book. Some of the discussion simply gets the facts wrong. But there are also versions of the analogia entis that I think are undeniably Christian and impossible to avoid. Hope this helps as I reflect on these theses from a less reactive place. Remember that some of us did not have computers until graduate school or after so we don’t do this blog thing well. I have my reservations about it, but I know it is here to stay and can be useful.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 5:45 am | Permalink
  244. roger flyer wrote:

    @ Stephen-I think this is wise, thoughtful, gracious. I still think the word ‘heterodox’ is very unhelpful in this conversation. And I hope the trio responds succinctly to your questions…

    As to our meeting at Halden’s, I cannot buy your plane ticket, but I will buy the first beer.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 7:02 am | Permalink
  245. I just find the whole “stand against vagina art” silly. Sort of like this debate.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  246. Brad A. wrote:

    I think Steve’s point was the irony of the strident defense of the art even while the ostensibly Christian seminary in question prohibited crosses in its classrooms.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  247. I read it too. So make that two.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  248. roger flyer wrote:

    Oh. Can someone ‘outside’ ask what that means in real time?

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink
  249. dbarber wrote:

    http://itself.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/on-the-critique-of-religion/

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink
  250. adhunt wrote:

    I gave a response a shot…be nice!

    http://theophiliacs.com/2010/06/17/some-thoughts-on-the-apocalyptic-theses/

    Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  251. jnugent wrote:

    I first want to applaud the movement of these theses. The EP movement, of which I am happily a part, once seemed poised between high church Hauerwas and low church Yoder. The ecumenical-dialectical tension was delightful and fruitful. Lately, however, it seems like the low church pole is dwindling, which has some people feeling out of place. I hope these conversations will help ameliorate the imbalance, though I fear they may only push us further apart. Thank you for unsettling things.

    Three initial questions of clarification. (1) What do the dashes signify in “God-world-church”? The answer to this may head off my next question. (2) You say that the above order is that of God’s missionary existence in Christ. I took that to mean that God sent Christ to the world and the church followed from that. But that is not quite the canonical order. God sent Christ to gather only the Jews (to the Syro-Phoenician woman’s chagrin); then Christ sent these gathered Jews into the world. In fact, it may be that the primary reason for the partial post-exilic return to “the land” (Ezr-Neh) was so the Gospel could go forth in diasporic fashion “beginning from Jerusalem” in fulfillment of the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-47), thereby honoring God’s appointed role for his people Israel. Christ’s refusal to embark on the Gentile mission independent of this gathered people was necessitated by his claim to be the one Israel awaited and to fulfill Torah–presumably including its founding promise that all nations will be blessed through Abraham’s descendents. Do I misunderstand you here? The Scriptures? (3) As someone whose dissertation focused on a Yoderian reading of the OT and its implications for ecclesiology, it is not clear to me how an event-constituted church stands in fundamental continuity with the Old Testament narrative, which appears to identify the formation of a people (Gen 12-Malachi) as God’s answer to the problem of global degradation resulting from sin (Gen 6)—an answer that honors his postdiluvian covenant not to destroy creation again (Gen 8-9). I agree (and argue elsewhere) that a diaspora-constituted church stands in fundamental continuity with the OT (and affirm defining diaspora as the intensification of landedness rather than the renunciation thereof), but can church-as-event uphold the same level of canonical continuity?

    Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 2:03 am | Permalink
  252. DCL Driedger wrote:

    Yup, still giving grist for the mill.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 6:29 am | Permalink

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