Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Kingship of all Believers Part 2

Among professing Christians today, there seems to be two main theories as to how civil society relates to the Kingdom of God. On one hand there are those who argue that society, its government and culture, can be transformed into the Kingdom. On the other hand there are those who say that government and culture are condemned as part of "this world" which is "passing away." The first option is broadly labeled "transformationalist," while the other is associated with Anabaptist separationism and escapism.

I should mention there are those who claim to chart a middle course between the two positions. R. Scott Clark is a representative of this school says that God's law should be brought to bear in society, but it should be based on natural law. He argues that we should appeal to non-believers only on the authority of the general revelation that has been revealed to all men. Needless to say, Clark does not think that Christians as Christians have anything special to contribute to civil discourse. This middle way is actually no solution at all because it is at bottom a version of the anabaptist rejection of culture. It is actually a retreatist position that denies the relevance of Christ's messianic reign for how society should be ordered.

Too often transformationalists have been embarrassed by charges that they are "triumphalistic." Supposedly, transformationalists expect to avoid persecution and achieve worldy acclaim. Supposedly, they expect to bypass the Cross and enter immediately into glory. This need not be the case.

In the last post, in a long quotation from Alexander Schmemann, we have seen that the Cross actually holds together suffering and glory, "this age" and "the age to come." The paradox of the Cross reveals Christ's kingship and our derivative kingship as followers of Christ. Schmemann's insights are so good, I thought it appropriate to provide another long quotation:

Now, and only now, can we answer the question raised at the beginning of this chapter: about the meaning of our new kingship bestowed upon us in the Sacrament of Chrismation. We can answer it because in the Cross of Christ the content of this kingship is revealed and its power is granted. The royal anointment truly makes us kings, but it is the crucified kingship of Christ Himself--it is the Cross as kingship and kingship as the Cross--that the Holy Spirit bestows on us. The Cross, being Christ's enthronement as King, is revealed to us as the only way to our enthronement with Him, to our restoration as Kings.

A most perfect description of this way is given by St. Paul: "God forbid," he writes, "that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). These words express a radically new and uniquely Christian view of the world itself and of man's calling and life in it. And its newness is precisely this: that it transcends the polarization, the reductionism, the "either/or" of all those "spiritualities" and "worldviews" which either merely accept or merely reject the world and either make religion into either a "this-worldly" activism or an "other-worldly" escapism. In all such spiritualities, in all such religion, the Cross of Christ is, in the words of St. Paul, "of none effect"; there is no need for it, and it is for this reason that it remains forever, even within religion, a stumbling block for some and foolishness for others (I Cor. 1:23).

To have the world "crucified unto me" means, above all, to have in the Cross the only criterion of everything in the world, the ultimate measure of all life and action. This means, on the one hand, the rejection of the world as "this world," i.e. man's enslavement to sin and death, of the world as "the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life." It is the corruption and wickedness of the world as "this world" that Christ has revealed on His Cross and that remains forever a judgment on it and its condemnation. But it is judged in the name of and for the sake, not of any other world, but of its own true nature and calling, which are equallly revealed by the Cross in the Son of Man's faith, love, and obedience. Thus, while revealing the self-condemnation and thus the end of "this world," the Cross, on the other hand, makes possible the true acceptance of the world as God's creation, as the object of God's infinite love and care. This is the meaning of the world's "crucifixion unto me." It is the truly antinomical coexistence, interdependence and interpenetration within the Christian faith and the Christian worldview of the rejection and the acceptance of the world: rejection as the only way to acceptance, acceptance revealing the true meaning and goal of rejection.

This worldview, however, remains an antinomy, a mere "doctrine," unless "I am crucified unto the world." Only in me, in my faith, in my life and in my action can this doctrine become life and the Cross of Christ become power. For in the Christian faith the world is not an "idea," an abstract and impersonal "totality," but always the unique gift to a unique human being: the world given to me by God as my life and my vocation, my calling, my work, my responsibility. No idea, no doctrine can save the world, yet it perishes or is saved in each man. And it is saved each time a man accepts the Cross and his own "crucifixion unto the world." This means a constant, never-ending effort of discernment, a truly mortal fight for the triumph in him of his high calling. This means the constant rejection of the world as "this world"--i.e. of its self-sufficiency and self-centeredness, of its wickedness and corruption, of all that the Scripture calls "pride"--yet also the constant acceptance of the world as God's gift to us and the means of our growth in Him and communion with Him.

"The world crucified unto me, and I unto the world." This then is the true description and definition of our kingship, restored to us in the royal anointment, bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit. "All things are yours, and you are Christ's and Christ is God's" (I Cor. 3:23). All things: the world is ours again, and truly we can have dominion over it; every human vocation--and ultimately each one is unique because each human being is unique--is blessed and sanctified; everything save sin and evil is accepted, can and must be made nto knowledge of God and communion with Him, reflect and express the goodness, the truth and the beauty of the Kingdom of God. Yet paradoxical and foolish as it seems to the wisdom of "this world," the inner law of this new kingship and power is exactly opposed to the law accepted as self-evident by "this generation."

The new and truly royal power given to man by Christ is the power to transcend and overcome the finality of this world, its natural limitations, its closed horizons, the power to make the world divine again, and not God "worldly." It is the power constantly to "reject" this world as an end in itself, a value in itself, a beauty or a meaning in itself, the power constantly to "recreate" it as ascension to God. For sin consists not in a mere misuse of that power, not in its partial deviations and deficiencies, but precisely in the fact that man loves the world for its own sake and makes even God into a servant of it. It is not enough to believe in God and to make this world "religious." Rather, true belief in God and true religion consists in the mysterious yet self-evident certitude that the Kingdom of God--the object of all ultimate desire, hope, love--is, has always been, shall always be"not of this world" but is the Beyond, which alone can give true meaning and true value to everything in the world.

Thus to restore man as king is not merely to equip man with some supernatural power and skills, not merely to give his worldly activity a new orientation, not merely to make him a better engineer, doctor or writer. In all this the non-believers may be, and more often than not are, more "clever"--in science, technology, medicine, etc. To restore man as a king means, first of all and above everything else, to liberate man from all this as being the ultimate meaning and value of human existence, the only horizon of human life. And it is this liberation that the modern and secular man needs more than anything else; for although he knows better and better how to "make things work," he has by now lost any knowledge of what these things are, has become the slave of the idols which he himself brought into existence. It is this freedom coming from the knowledge and the experience of the Kingdom "not of this world," that man--and our entire world--needs, and not our miserable and self-defensive offers of "involvement," not our surrender to "this world," with its passing philosophies and jargons. Only when man has had the taste of the Kingdom on his lips does everything in this world become a sign, a promise, a thirst and hunger for God. Only when we seek "first of all" the Kingdom do we begin truly to enjoy the world, truly to "have dominion over it." Then all things are pure again, our knowledge and vision of them are clear, and good is our use of them. No matter what our vocation, calling or occupation is--glorious or humble, meaningful or insignificant by the standards of "this world"--it acquires a meaning, becomes a joy and a source of joy, for we begin to perceive and experience it not in itself but in God and as a sign of His Kingdom. "For all things are yours...whether the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (I Cor. 3:21-23).

Such is the new kingship which we receive in the royal anointment with the Holy Chrism, the kingship of those to whom a "kingdom is appointed" (Luke 22:29). And those who have tasted of its joy, peace and righteousness can overcome this world by the glorious power of the Cross, can offer it to God and thus truly transform it.

(Of Water and the Spirit, 90-94)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Kingship of all Believers

Those who are familiar with the perspective of this blog know I am interested in the restoration of monarchical government. My reasons for this go beyond the mere prudential arguments that monarchy actually functions best while democracy undermines legitimate authority and renders aimless leadership. My basic argument is theological: divine government is monarchical, and man was created to be a king.

If man was created to be king, then there is a sense in which the whole human race and especially the redeemed participate in kingship. Just because royal dynasties fall, the principle of monarchy remains a potentiality. Great figures can still arise from the common mass and may compel our respect and obedience.

The following paragraphs from Schmemann articulate the theo-anthropological basis for my thinking:

Christ "has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father" (Rev. 1:6); in Him we have become a "royal priesthood" (I Pet. 2:9). The question is: what does this mean for our life in the Church, in the world, in the concrete and personal mode of our existence?

The first and essential conotation of the idea of kingship is that of power and authority--but of power and authority bestowed from above, given by God and manifesting His power. In the Old Testament the symbol of the divine source of kingship is precisely the "anointment," which manifests the king as the bearer and the executor of divine decisions and authority. Through this anointment the king becomes the benefactor of those under his power, the one to whom their life is entrusted for protection, success, victory, welfare and happiness. But if this understanding and experience of the king is common to all "primitive" societies and to all "monarchies," the unique revelation of the Bible is that "kingship"--before it became the particular mana of particular men--belonged to man himself as his human calling and dignity. It is indeed royal power that God gives to the man He creates: He creates him in His own image, and this means in the image of the King of kings, of the One Who has all power and all authority. Hence the initial power given to man: "to subdue the earth and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth" (Gen. 1:27-28).

Man was created as the king of creation: such then is the first and essential truth about man, the source and foundation of Christian "spirituality." To be king, to possess the gift of kingship, belongs to his very nature. He himself is from above, for it is from above that he receives the image of God and the power to make creation into that which God wants it to be and to become...

The second spiritual truth about man is that he is a fallen king. His fall is primarily the loss by him of his kingship. Instead of being the king of creation, he becomes its slave. And he becomes its slave because he rejects the power from above, abandons his "anointment." Rejecting the power from above, ceasing to be God's anointed, he is no longer the benefactor of creation; instead of leading it to its fulfillment, he wants to benefit from it, to have and to possess it for himself. And since neither he nor creation has life in himself, his fall inaugurates the reign of death. He becomes a mortal slave of the kingdom of death.

Hence, the third essential truth: man's redemption as king. In Christ, the Saviour and the Redeemer of the world, man is restored to his essential nature--and this means that he is made king again. We often forget that Christ's title as King--the title which He affirms when He makes His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and is greeted as "the King that comes in the name of the Lord," the title which He accepts when He stands before Pilate: "thou sayest that I am a king" (John 18:37)--is His human, and not only divine, title. He is the King, and He manifests Himself as King, because He is the New Adam, the Perfect Man--because He restores in Himself human nature in its ineffable glory and power...

If, in the baptismal mystery, our kingship is restored to us, it is restored on the Cross by a Crucified King; if, at the end of the entire history of salvation, a kingdom is "appointed unto us" (Luke 22:29), it is declared to be "not of this world," a kingdom to come.

It is precisely at this point, when challenged with the essential antinomy of Christ's Kingship and thus of our new kingship in Christ, that Christian spirituality is threatened by two mutually exclusive reductions: the reduction of this restored kingship only to this world, or its reduction only to the Kingdom to come. There are those who would gladly subscribe to all that was said above about the "royal," positive and cosmical inspiration of Christian spirituality yet would deduce from this that its primary concern is with the world, with the possibility given man to "develop" the world toward its fulfillment as God's Kingdom. And there are those who, stressing the "otherworldliness" of the Kingdom anounced and promised in the Gospel, reject as a temptation any spirituality of "involvement" and "action," who build a solid wall of separation between the "spiritual" and the "material." Two visions, two options, two "spiritualities," implying in fact two different understandings of the Church herself and of "Christian life."

Both, however, are revealed by the Cross of Christ as being precisely reductions, for ultimately
both consist in rejecting the Cross, in making it, in the words of St. Paul, "of none effect" (I Cor. 1:17). Indeed, if in Christ I am restored to kingship, yet if the Kingdom "appointed" unto me is not "of this world," the question on which my whole life as a Christian depends is: how can I hold together these two realities, these two affirmations which apply to a monk in the desert as much as to a Christian living in the "world" and having a "secular" vocation? How can I love the world which God has created and "loved so much," yet at the same time make mine the apostolic precept "not to love the world and the things that are in the world" (I John 2:15)? How can I affirm Christ's Lordship over all that exists, yet at the same time put my whole faith, hope and love in the Kingdom to come? How am I to assume my kingship and, at the same time, die to the world and have my life "hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3)?

On the level of human reasoning, in terms of neat logical categories, within our man-made "spiritualities," there can be no answer to this decisive question; the antinomy has no solution. This is why even our spiritual and religious options, in spite of the Christian appearances they so easily adopt, remain in fact pre-Christian or non-Christian and so frequently are reduced either to mere escapism or to mere activism. The only answer, always the same, yet radically new to each man comes to us from the mystery which constitutes the very depth, the very heart of Christian revelation; which--precisely because it is revealed to us only inasmuch as we accept it--can never be reduced to an idea, a prescription, a "passe partout" moral code; into which we ourselves must enter if we are to make ours its meaning and power: the mystery of the Cross.

The Kingship of Christ and our new kingship in Him not only cannot be understood and accepted apart from the mystery of the Cross: it is the Cross, and the Cross alone, that remains forever the only true symbol, i.e., both the epiphany and the gift, of that kingship, the revelation of its power and the communication of that power to us. It is the mystery of the Cross, and that mystery alone, that holds together the two affirmations which on the level of human reasoning cannot be reconciled: the one about man and his royal calling in God's creation, and the one about the Kingdom "not of this world." And it holds them together because it always reveals the Cross to be the way of life, the "invincible and ineffable and divine power" which fulfills faith as life and life as kingship.

How? By being, first of all, the true and the ultimate revelation of this world as the fallen world, whose fall, whose "wickedness" consists in the rejection by it of God and of His Kingship and thus of the true life given to it in creation. It is in the crucifixion of Christ that "this world" fully manifests itself, reveals its ultimate meaning. Golgotha is a truly unique event, but not in the sense in which each event, whatever its "importance," can be termed "unique": limited to those alone who took part in it, to one moment in time, to one point in space, and thus leaving "innocent" all other men and the rest of the world. It is unique precisely because it is the decisive and all-embracing expression, indeed the fulfillment of that rejection of God by man which, according to Scripture, began in Paradise and which made the world created by God into "this world," the dominion of sin, corruption, and death--which made the "lawless" rejection of God the very law of "this world's" existence. The Cross therefore reveals each and every sin--committed from the beginning and until the end of the world, in all times, in all places, by all men regardless of whether they lived before or after Christ, of whether they believed in Him or not--to be the rejection of God, the acceptance of and the surrender to the very reality of Evil, whose ultimate expression is the rejection and crucifixion of Christ...

But being the ultimate revelation of "this world" and its "wickedness," the Cross--and this is the second dimension of the mystery of the Cross--is therefore its decisive and final condemnation. For to manifest and reveal Evil as Evil is precisely to condemn it. By revealing "this world" as rejection of God and thus as sin, by revealing it as rejection of Life and thus as death, the Cross condemns it, for sin cannot be "corrected," death cannot be "redeemed." "This world" is condemned because by the Cross it condemns itself: it manifests itself as a dead end, as having nothing to offer, nothing to live by but the absurdity of mortal life and the absurdity of death. Thus the Cross of Christ reveals and signifies to "this world" its end and its death.

Now, however, we enter into the third--the joyful and glorious--dimension of the mystery of the Cross. In revealing "this world" to be sin and death, in condemning it to die, the Cross becomes the beginning of the Salvation of the world and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. It saves the world by freeing it from "this world," by revealing "this world" to be not the essence or the "nature" of the world, but a "fashion" or form of its existence--a fashion whose "passing away" (I Cor. 7 :31) is indeed inaugurated by the Cross. And it inaugurates the Kingdom of God by revealing it to be not "another world," another creation "replacing" this one, but the same creation, though liberated from the "Prince of thes world," restored to its true nature and ultimate destiny--when God shall be all in all" (I Cor. 15:28).

(Of Water and the Spirit, 81-83, 86-89)

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Keeping the Dream Alive: Dr. Otto von Habsburg

For some information about the fortunes of the Habsburg family during the last century, read this article. It is truly wonderful that the ideal of selfless service to God and one's people has been perpetuated in the life of Otto and his sainted father.

For a sample of Otto's thought check out his essay on the role of monarchs in this modern era.

Friday, February 16, 2007

To a Jewish Convert

Hi _______,

It was great seeing you Friday night. As fun as it was, I wish the setting could have been more intimate, because we could have carried on a freer discussion. I find that I am not really on the same page as most...

Thanks for the link. I have looked over the article & must register profound disagreement. In Romans 9, Paul is talking about the remnant of elect Jews (Isaac and Jacob were physical descendants of their fathers, not only spiritual children.) and anticipates a pouring out of blessing upon them (Rom 11). This eventuality is guaranteed by God's sovereign power and unchangeable promise.

The whole world was promised to Abraham, but ethnic Israel has a particular inheritance on the earth: Canaan. These two facts do not contradict each other. Someday, the heavenly Jerusalem will descend upon the earth, clothing it in glory. Earthly Jerusalem will then be glorified along with the rest of the world. Heavenly Jerusalem can only be called "Jerusalem" because it will someday coalesce with (and transform!) the earthly. There must be an identity between the two Jerusalems or else God has failed of his promise to restore Jerusalem (as the OT saints understood it).

Heaven is not some place in outer space. Heaven is the old earth renewed and glorified.

"Israel" cannot be simply re-defined as the Church. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David made particular promises to them and their (physical) descendants. These promises cannot fail of their fulfillment. To deny these specific promises is to depart from Biblical faith, which is the faith of historic Israel.

Someday, the Church will include Israel. The plan of redemption for the human race is that Gentiles are joined to Israel, Christ being the personal representative of Israel. The cross destroyed the barrier of separation between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:16). It did not obliterate Israel to create an entirely new entity. Rather, Israel is enlarged (and improved upon!).

_______, these comments may already express much of what you believe. However, I'm sure I've said some things you haven't considered. The widespread confusion about this matter lies in the fact that ethnic Israel is elect, but has at this time not recognized its inheritance in Christ. Jews are chosen, but remain in a state of unbelief. Many Christians cannot figure out how Jews can be both elect and apostate, and so they deny the promises found on nearly every page of the OT.

May we have the faith in our sovereign God to believe that someday he will deliver his Israel!