May 28, 2002
I know, I know. I've been a very bad blogger.
I've been working on syllabi for next semester's new course, an introduction to Church history. This would be a no-brainer for many teachers, but I want to get it right while the ideas haven't yet become hardened into habits. Once a pedagogical method has been put into one of my syllabi, I find it very difficult to dislodge. I settle too easily for tinkering, especially on deadline.
My task is to teach history without implicitly teaching historicism. In fact, it is to teach the history of the Church a theological good that is claimed by faith rather than demonstrated empirically. Thinking through this is a wonderful and difficult exercise. I hope my students agree.
Here is the alpha version of the draft. I'll release it in beta (i.e., link from my home page) in a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, I ran across the lovely claim on Cranky Professor's weblog that a syllabus is not "a binding contract between professor and student, but a professor's aspiration for how he profoundly wishes the semester will turn out."
Amen to that. If only I can get my authorities to agree....
The answer is: C. None of the above. The Kingdom of God is not a league of nations or a strategic alliance. The Church of Jesus Christ is not a political action committee or a policy institute. Our King is the king King of the Jews, and King of Kings. The ends of the earth are already his possession, given at the coronation of his baptism (Ps. 2). The Twelve Apostles are the heads of an already restored Israel, and the authorized witnesses to his resurrection in both "Judea and Samaria," and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Articulating this present reign need not adopt a simple "replacement theology" in which old Israel is superseded by the Church. It certainly need not adopt a simple "dispensational" timeline whereby the modern nation-state of Israel is conflated with the biblical ethnos of Israel. But it must respect the priority of Jesus' claim to the land as the faithful son of Israel and heir to God's promise (see his citations of Deuteronomy in the wilderness), his patience in sharing that claim with his fellow Jews, his willingness to extend it to all those who follow him (Galatians 3:29, 4:7, Romans 8:16-17), and his refusal to embrace the ways of the nations in the way he or his followers reign (John 19:33-36).
It is in Jesus' career (Isaiah 62:11, proclaimed at the Triumphal Entry) that Israel is reestablished, never to be uprooted (Isaiah 62:8-9). It is in both believing and unbelieving Israel that God's faithfulness is enjoyed (Romans 11:1-2, 11:29).
Being faithful to our Lord and King is more than picking the right side in this contest. Prophecy is not punditry. Israelis and Palestinians alike will should find faithful Christian ministry unsatisfying, inasmuch as it refuses to accept the finality of either side's narrative. Rabbi Jesus was too wise to let his questioners set the terms of discussion. Imam 'Isa's teaching knew that salvation had to transcend enlightenment and usher in transformation. Even Solomon knew that.
Do Jesus' followers know it too? Is Jesus' lordship, not just someday but today, real or not? Is the Kingdom just a fond hope, or is it an actual achievement? Are we going to invite Jews and Arabs into its peace, or are we going to lock them both out and ultimately leave it ourselves by setting it aside and pursuing the political agendas of this fallen age?
I thought so.