27 September 2010

Advancing the Kingdom- (Part 6) Winning by Losing

Part six of my four part series.....

We have a joke around our house. When I call home during the day and ask if we received any phone calls or mail, if the answer is no, I always respond, "Good, we don't need any excitement." And there's a sense I truly mean that. There's a peace and solace in just living a plain ordinary life, coming home to a wife happy to see me, kids that aren't out of control. We live in a pretty quiet place with not much to do as many would reckon it. Nevertheless we are pleased with our woods, hills, and river, and the wonder of the four seasons. We are attempting to raise a godly family and honour God by doing so. I am reminded of a paragraph from Schaff concerning the youth of Christ. I think of this not from the perspective of Christ, but from the viewpoint of Joseph and Mary, a couple of regular people trying to serve the Lord, and with a most extraordinary task before them. Certainly they were honouring God, and I think of the life they provided for our Lord when he was young. Speaking of this, Schaff comments:

"The external condition and surroundings of his youth are in sharp contrast with the amazing result of his public life. He grew up quietly and unnoticed in a retired Galilean mountain village of proverbial insignificance, and in a lowly carpenter-shop, far away from the city of Jerusalem, from schools and libraries, with no means of instruction save those which were open to the humblest Jew—the care of godly parents, the beauties of nature, the services of the synagogue, the secret communion of the soul with God, and the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which recorded in type and prophecy his own character and mission. All attempts to derive his doctrine from any of the existing schools and sects have utterly failed. He never referred to the traditions of the elders except to oppose them. From the Pharisees and Sadducees he differed alike, and provoked their deadly hostility. With the Essenes he never came in contact. He was independent of human learning and literature, of schools and parties. He taught the world as one who owed nothing to the world. He came down from heaven and spoke, out of the fullness of his personal intercourse with the great Jehovah. He was no scholar, no artist, no orator; yet was he wiser than all sages, he spake as never man spake, and made an impression on his age and all ages after him such as no man ever made or can make. Hence the natural surprise of his countrymen as expressed in the question: "From whence hath this men these things?" "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?"---History of The Christian Church vol.1 ch2.15

My wife and I are not raising up the Messiah, but we are trying to be same kind of parents Joseph and Mary were. I wonder how the Transformationalists would view their life. Would they not accuse them of failing to be effective for the Kingdom? Retreatist perhaps?

As 21st century Americans how are we conditioned to view such a life?

Boring right? Yet, the Christian life can also be very exciting. If we leave behind the paradigms and attitudes of our culture and live as pilgrims, we can let life or more properly Providence take us many exciting places. They may not seem exciting as the world reckons it, again we have to learn to think differently. No, we're not going off to the jungles of South America, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, or the hinterland of China. As exciting as those things would be, and for some are, a pilgrim serving a spiritual Kingdom can find a conversation at a grocery store to be just as exhilarating. At least it ought to be if we're reckoning things right. Some are called to live those types of lives, others are not. Sometimes it's a hard pill to swallow, but through our frustrations and tears we have to learn to live with contentment. The Puritans called it a rare jewel, and on that point they were certainly correct.

There are some who have suggested that Christians all ought to be living in cities, in neighbourhoods, to maximize impact. That's fine if they're so inclined, but there are many difficulties with living in urban areas. I'm not talking about crime. I'm talking about the economics of a one income family which not only makes housing difficult, but can also include a host of smaller regulations and fees that make life quite difficult for those already on a very tight budget. In addition I find the tempo of modern city life to be quite unacceptable, hostile in fact, to living the kind of life I'm convinced is right. I'm not saying you can't live in a city, there are right and wrong ways in which can be done. And there are plenty of people living in rural areas who electively live at an urban tempo. Many people have no choice and must stay where they are at. Even rural locales can sometimes be undesirable. I'm arguing we need to think about our lives, and live the best we can where we are at. Some situations are better than others, but if we are conscious and aware, our situation won't dominate us. It can be difficult. I do not envy those who live with roommates or in dormitory situations. I have had to do it and don't miss it all. Thankfully those situations are usually temporary.

No doubt living in the city brings you into more contact with people, and we do lament the lack of cultural diversity in the rural parts of the United States. Contrary to the attitudes of most of our neighbours, we actually enjoy interacting with people from all over the world. Contrary to American Conservatism, we actually enjoy multi-cultural influences and we wish there were more non-English speakers about. It provides wonderful opportunities. Since I love history and geography, I can make almost instant friends with any foreigner, just by virtue of the fact that I know something of where they come from and am willing to talk to them about it. It speaks volumes to them, I am enriched, and it allows for tremendous opportunities.

We have found that in terms of the impact and relationships the urban apologists insist upon, you can actually be far more effective in a rural area. There's a certain anonymity in the city that is impossible in a small town setting. It can be a little annoying at times, but in a small town or village, whether you like it or not, you're known. In fact you're often under a microscope. In the city, you may see some of the same people every day, but often the pace of life or the sheer mass of people prevents any real interaction from taking place. Where I live, I am known and greeted by name when I walk into the post office, bank, grocery store, hardware store, and the local gas/petrol station. People know me and they know my family. It's sobering, when you realize we are ambassadors for Christ. There are other problems with living in the country, but overall I think at present it is in some significant ways more conducive to living a simple Pilgrim life. I only bring this up because the Transformationalists push and often push quite hard on the need to get involved in the community, live in the city etc… and I've just never found their arguments to be convincing.

On the contrary as I've talked about in other articles, there are also among them zealous almost military advocates of agrarianism, the polar opposite of the urban model. I reject this too, because it stems not from Pilgrim thinking, but from their culture narrative. They are promoting a particular form of Constantinianism to combat modern techno-culture. Their narrative insists that we live under the cloud of impending civilizational collapse, and they're retreating as a tactic and then hope by sheer numbers to be able to take over when people are looking for direction amid the chaos.

But back to the main theme….

We are to wait on the Lord and let Him guide us. We are often surprised at the course of our lives. All is done according to His will, but we glorify Him when we submit, learn to be content, and live with boldness, and an overwhelming love grounded in humility. I will be the first to admit, I do this poorly. And I'm probably more guilty because I know better. My problem usually stems from thinking too much about myself and not sufficiently about my family or my purpose in serving God. It can be depressing, overwhelming even. My problem is not lack of self-esteem, but far too much of it.

Rather than learn to esteem ourselves, as many false prophets actively teach, we need to reckon ourselves dead, and be certain to continue dying each day as we preach the gospel to ourselves. Then we are truly living as ones Born Again and God will make great use of us.

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17.20-21

If the Kingdom develops without observation, seen only through the eyes of faith, how can societal transformation grounded in culture shaping be the appropriate tool?

It is my hope that the readers of this weblog grasp and understand the ubiquity of Sacralism in Christian thought, and how its tentacles reach in and affect so many areas of the Christian life. It is the question of the hour. As Dr. Gordon pointed out in the Christianity in Decline? article… the hour is coming when those with a Constantinian vision are likely to turn to the state (or violently against it) to employ force and coercion in order to bring their vision to fruition. The Church will be tested and we need to know where to stand. The time is now, the lines are being drawn. Those of us who will not stand with the Sacralists, will be placed in a very difficult position. Those in Churches will be persecuted. Those already driven out will be increasingly isolated and most likely will face hostility from their own families. For some, it's already happening.

If we don't know where we stand, we're likely to fall prey to the 'wise words' of Sacralist wolves like Colson, or in some cases I'm sorry to say…I've seen faith waver and fail. For many their faith is shaken at present, because it is tied by an idolatrous knot to the fortunes of the nation. Right now since they embrace a particular type of political utopianism they are in despair. They are blind to the state of their own hearts.

We are on the cusp of a crisis, if not already there. I think our brethren in the United Kingdom may already be reaching that point. There is a great temptation to fall in with hard-right politics out of desperation. We will see this increase. In the United States the Tea Party movement is only the beginning. It will grow much worse I believe. I fully expect to see racial and social violence in both Europe and the United States in this coming generation. It seems inevitable.

I continually pray for the Church in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America…that they would be spared these crises, that the leadership in those places would help the people to avoid falling prey to Sacralist ideology.

I am not hopeful. Continually I hear hints and rumours of Dominionist notions creeping into places like China and Eastern Europe. At this point, Evangelical Protestants in those lands have no political clout, but just as they've been taught to worship American-entertainment style, there also learning about Dominionist piety, and often enough with Pietist legalism falling close behind.

We can learn from the proto-protestants, their situation was much worse, more desperate, and yet they persevered knowing who they were and Whom they served.

How does God reckon victory and success? When we are being slaughtered as sheep, His name is glorified. We are supposed to be a martyr-church, a little flock.

We Protestants (or whatever we are) tend to view the Reformation as a glorious revival, and in a sense it was. But like many historical events it was both good and bad. I think we can find both good and bad in the Middle Ages, but definitely we see a Body of Christ, adhering to the Word, existing in scattered cells and congregations, a Church persecuted but remaining faithful…truly glorious and glorifying to God, and yet from the Sacralist standpoint....inconsequential.

Like it or not, we're on the threshold of a similar time. In some ways it's the waiting, the transitional time which may last generations that wears one down and crushes the spirit. It will easier when the lines of delineation are starkly drawn.

God's will be done. Help us to persevere and may we indeed find joy in tribulation.

We read in Romans 8:

36  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Those who define Kingdom in terms of a culture think we're losing. Postmillennialists blaspheme the Holy Spirit by suggesting the Church has been 'a loser' for the past 1900 odd years. They define winning and losing in worldly terms because they know not the Scriptures nor the power of God.

We win by losing…as the world reckons it. Rather than build ourselves up, we humble ourselves. Rather than seek power, we turn away from it. Rather than seek to make our lives better, we die to self.


Cal said...

I pick a bone in fighting those who are pro-Urban. I wouldn't reckon the ones I know as Sacralists, not in the least bit. The major argument is that the pietists are afraid of all that goes bump in the city. They're fearful because they might run into a foreigner, a drug addict, a beggar, a prostitute. Their eyes might just disintegrate in their sockets if reality ever gets in the way of the vision of the good old days. Then the Constantinian dominator, atleast in America, will retreat to a microphone in the suburbs. Again, no one wants to see the filthy to contradict their narrative of history.

The cities are mostly abandoned by cultural-churchianity. I suppose this is a good area for the Gospel to work! The pro-urbanites are trying to make up for the imbalance. They're trying to call Christians to the realization there are dark jungles that need the Light. With the drone of the rockwellian, conservative&liberal on the radio and on the TV, it's easy to forget they even exist.

Anonymous said...

No no, not all the pro-urban crowd is overtly Sacralist....but there are some Dominionists who are thinking in terms of conquest and from their standpoint the battlefield, the action is in the city. I live in a town of 200 people. They would say I can't make a difference here.

I disagree both with the premise and with what making a difference is and means.

I think you are correct in that when they say pro-urban....they really pro-suburb. I'll admit, not too many of them want to live in the actual city. I guess from my standpoint the suburbs are really part of the urban landscape.

And you're last paragraph is true. There's a hugh segment of this country...correction huge segments of the country the Christian Right would prefer to pretend don't actually exist.