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)


Jack said...

This is very good but I can't escape the feeling that you haven't established the link between this theology and your views on monarchy. If "we receive" a kingship in "the royal anointment with the Holy Chrism" it is hard to see how this implies the need or even desirability for a human king. As Schmemann points out in the quote from yesterday, we are also "fallen kings" and to that extent often require worldly punishments and rewards to keep us in line. But both biblically and theologically, this need is an aspect of judgment, not an ideal state to which we aspire.

Andrew Matthews said...

You're right "Jack", that I have not yet established a necessary link between the Kingship of all Believers doctrine and the ideal of monarchical government. A response is forthcoming.

Suffice it to say for now that the Biblical covenant treaty always takes the form of a great king (the Lord) making covenant with lesser vassal-kings, who themselves are covenant heads over their respective houses. This arrangement implies the perpetuity of monarchical government (the authority of a father over all who dwell in his "house").

My theory allows for the general kingship of all as well as the special kingship of covenant heads. Particular kingship flows out of the common kingship of the Christian Assembly (EKKLESIA).