11/20/07

Reign of Christ, the King

Christ the King Sunday is coming up this weekend: the last Sunday of the Christian Liturgical Calendar; after that we'll trade our white paraments for purple (or blue) as we'll be starting a new Christian Year with Advent.

The Kingship or Lordship of Christ is one of those intensly political beliefs of the Christian faith, the implications of which are often missed because "King Jesus" has simply been heard as the pious "language of Zion," and therefore (presumably) relates to piety and not politics (because the Enlightenment divorce between these two aspects of reality has been accepted uncritically).

In fact, we are all (or should be) subjects of a King, whose name is Jesus. He is the rightful ruler of all creation (by virtue of his being the one through whom it was created). He is Lord both of my heart and of our "polis" (lit. "city") - our way of living together as a community. He is king both of how we pray, and of how we spend our money, (and what we do with our sexuality). He designed us and has the best possible plan for each. His Monarch-al claims forever put elections and earthly kings, patriotisms and individualisms in their proper places. Jesus is Lord is the fundamental confession of the Christian (Rom. 10:9).

And his Kingship is a once-and-future reality. His Kingdom will come in all of its fullness and Creation will rejoice even as it is renewed (this future New Creation has already begun to happen in our history - begun at the Resurrection). The question before each of us and before all of us is: when the kingdom comes, will we be found to be subjects, even co-heirs of the kingdom, who welcome and are welcomed by their King? Or will we be rebels, who can are cast out of, even flee from, His royal city/polis? (since by definition a rebel can have no share in the Kingdom, unless perhaps he killed the King and replaced him...but then, we already tried that)

The coming of his kingdom IS the good news (see Luke 4:43) - the "gospel" that is to be announced - and among those (such as John Piper, unless - as is always possible - I mis-understand his critique of N.T. Wright) who believe this jeopardizes the Reformation definition of "the gospel" as primarily a system or formula by which individuals are saved, it should be remembered that Christ came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) - the one who led the rebellion against God. Completely destroying the works of the Devil must mean that God's rebel sujects will be restored to right relation with him, their King, -- and this in turn must imply a royal pardon for their sins. But this gospel implies not only pardon for an individual's sins, but also the "restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21) to a state of being ruled by the love of God, which goes beyond an individualistic gospel of personal forgiveness and extends to all the universe (the larger scope of the restoration of all creation to God's Kingdom seems to me more appropriate for the BIG view of God's sovereign rule which Calivinists are supposed to have).

Almighty and everlasting God,
it is your will to restore all things to Christ,
whom you have annointed priest for ever and ruler of creation.
Grant that all the people of the earth,
now divided by the power of sin,
may be united under the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

(United Methodist Hymnal #721, based on Book of Common Prayer [1979] p.236 )

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2 Comments:

Blogger Mary said...

Do you have a link or an excerpt of the critique of NT Wright by John Piper that you are referring too? I'd be interested in reading it.

Thanks!

Mary Virginia

9:15 AM, November 26, 2007  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Hey MV!
Piper's critique of N.T. Wright's views on justification are found in his new book "The Future of Justification"
which is available in pdf form here: http://www.desiringgod.org/media/pdf/books_bfj/books_bfj.pdf

I've not finished it all (by any means) but I have read the introductory part where he (in good Puritan fashion) lays out his argument in outline form that he will then fill-out in the following chapters.

N.T. Wright has a couple of papers on Justificaiton at www.ntwrightpage.com I think. I have read one of his books on Paul, and listened to his lectures on Romans, but I'm not 100% sure I could articulate his doctrine of justification beyond a surface level. It seems that he simply doesn't address many of the questions that (ever since the Reformation) we are accustomed to asking. This in and of itself suggests to me that he might be onto something.

But right now, I'll still fall back on the Wesleyan understanding of Justification as articulated in his sermon "Justification by faith." It has, I think, more in common with Luther than with some strands of the Reformed tradition because for Wesley, as for Luther, faith is (on our end) the criterion for recieving justification. This is not so for Wright (though he redefines 'justification', so it may be so for him that faith IS the criterion for what we mean when we say 'justification' but he doesn't call it 'justification'). At this point, I'm waiting to hear more from him.

Thomas Oden, in his book, "Justification Reader," has attempted to show that the classical Protestant understanding was also shared by many of the major Church Fathers. I think he has succeeded, but I intend to blog about all this over Christmas break when I've had more time to read/think about it all.

4:44 PM, November 26, 2007  

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