Peter G. cites this passage in a comment here as evidence that euangelion does not necessarily signify good news. The message of the angel to the pagan world, to the nations and peoples ruled by Rome, is that the hour of God’s judgment on the whole idolatrous, unjust, immoral system is approaching. They are called to worship instead the one true creator God, not the ineffectual works of human hands. A second angel announces the fall of “Babylon the great”—that is, Rome, the power that has corrupted the world (14:8). A third angel adds that those who worship the beast and its image, etc., will also “drink the wine of God’s wrath” (14:9-11).
There is an interesting critique of Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel on the Gospel Coalition site, by Luke Stamps, called “What God Has Joined Together: The Story and Salvation Gospel”. It’s worth reading, not least because it’s a good example of a friendly and constructive response from the more traditional evangelical-Reformed side of the argument.
The central issue is whether the category “gospel” includes the “plan of salvation”. Scot’s argument essentially is that the New Testament “gospel” is a proclamation about the lordship of Jesus at the culmination of Israel’s story. Personal salvation is what happens when people hear that proclamation and respond to it in faith, repenting of their sin and accepting the lordship of Jesus over their lives. Stamps argues that while the emphasis on the narrative framework is a ‘helpful corrective to some popular “de-storied” presentations of the gospel’, the dichotomy that Scott insists on between Israel’s story and the offer of personal salvation “doesn’t appear to do justice to the ways in which Israel’s expectations of the kingdom are transformed by Christ and his apostles”.
Now that St Paul’s has belatedly decided that it has enough common ground with the Occupy London protesters to work with them rather than against them, the conversation naturally turns to the question of what sort of economic policy, etc., the church might propose in the place of rampant acquisitive capitalism.
The announcement of a willingness to engage in constructive dialogue already contained details of a new initiative led by the former investment banker Ken Costa aimed at “reconnecting the financial with the ethical”.
That sounds safe and probably ineffectual enough (read Jonathan Bartley’s concerns), but once the excitement provoked by the turnaround has worn off, people will begin to remark on the fact that the church generally, from St Paul’s downwards, does not always set a very good example of material restraint. What does the church have to do to be seen to be putting its money where its mouth is? How socially radical does the church have to be if its prophetic stance is to carry weight and integrity?
It appears that the resignation of the Dean of St Paul’s yesterday has made room for a much more constructive response on the part of the cathedral authorities towards the Occupy London protesters. A statement was released today, reported on the Telegraph website, which admits that the Dean’s action has provided an “opportunity to reassess the situation”.
Naturally, churches must make ends meet, but St Paul’s does not appear to be on the breadline, with a charitable foundation and a City of London endowment trust showing millions of pounds in assets. Whereas visitors to other European cathedrals pay nothing, Britain’s leading churches have ordained the Disneyfication of God. Even if charging and slick marketing are unavoidable, the pusillanimous behaviour of senior clergy suggests that the God industry has taken precedence over the voiceless and the vulnerable.
The confrontation between the Occupy LSX encampment and the St Paul’s authorities in London over the last couple of weeks has reminded many commentators of Jesus’ shocking display of anti-establishment indignation in the temple. Take Stephen Tomkins, for example:
Major national Churches are often the focus of protest. A homeless man, known to the authorities for his radical activism, once slipped into one with his supporters and wrecked it, overturning tables and lashing out with a homemade whip.
His point was that what should have been a place of prayer for all people had become an institution fleecing the poor. Those were tougher times than now, and he was executed a week later.
It’s a long time since I’ve sung “Abba, Father, let me be yours and yours alone” in public, but it’s the song that is now rather dated, not the sentiment. Evangelical theology is quite insistent on the fact that as Christians, as sons and daughters of the Father, we have the unique right to address him in intimate terms as “Abba”, “Daddy”. We have been taught that this was Jesus’ typical form of address to God, and that because we have all received the Spirit of adoption, etc., we too may call out to God as “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).
In the spirit of friendly deconstruction (I’m not sure that “deconstruction” should be used in this sense, but everybody else does, so why not?) that I hope characterizes this blog, I want to suggest that this misses the point. It is a good example of theological inflation at the expense of contextualized argumentation.
In his book Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination and History, Dale Allison puts forward a number of arguments in support of his view that Jesus is presented in the New Testament as an eschatological figure, whose identity and vocation must be explained with reference to Jewish apocalyptic themes. One of these arguments is that much of what Jesus says about the coming turn of events draws on Old Testament texts that “foretell the defeat of Israel’s enemies, the influx of the Diaspora, the transformation of the land of promise into a paradise, and the realization of God’s perfect will throughout the world” (78). Allison then sets out a representative, not exhaustive, catalogue of passages to which Jesus alludes (79-82).
If ideological factors have encouraged some to doubt or deny that Jesus thought too highly of himself, such factors have also prodded others to do just the opposite, to attribute to him as high a Christology as possible.
“The most fateful issue for Christian self-description,” Frei wrote…, “is that of regaining its autonomous vocation as a religion, after its defeat in its secondary vocation of providing ideological coherence, foundation, and stability to Western culture.” We no longer live in what Kierkegaard called Christendom. But old habits die hard, and Christian theologians had fallen into the habit of trying to delineate the religious dimension of our general culture. Some seem not to notice that our culture, by and large, isn’t much interested. Some grow angry at the lack of interest.