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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

In the Particulars

  • November 29, -0001
Twentieth-century liberal theology unraveled and lost a huge chunk of its following as evangelical scholars pointed out its fatal flaw: Liberals had cut the faith of Christ off from real history. By launching the events of resurrection and redemption into a realm of "salvation history" somewhere, at best, merely tangential to real history, liberal theology reduced salvation to a subjective experience and the Christian faith to a religion without firm anchors.

Leon Wieseltier suggests that President Obama is doing something like this with American foreign policy. His words are full of appealing platitudes; however, they are often contradictory, mostly airy, and have almost no contact with the ground of history (The New Republic, November 4, 2009). He writes concerning Mr. Obama's lofty foreign policy rhetoric, "His level of generality - his planetariness - is fine only for Sunday morning. For history is made selectively, locally, in the particular." And when it comes to the particulars, the President is acting - when he acts at all - in contradictory and confusing ways that seem to have little to do with what he professes or what should be the historical reality.

In many ways the same could be said about contemporary evangelicals. We profess lofty convictions and high ideals, but when it comes to boots on the ground, we're pretty much marching in lockstep with the materialist culture of our day. The faith of Jesus Christ is a history-changing movement. For 2,000 years the world has felt the impact of the coming of the Kingdom and and Christ's power to transform lives, cultures, and whole societies.

In our day, in secular America, that power seems almost to have ground to a halt. The power of the Gospel is given to be expresed "selectively, locally, in the particular" in the lives of believers. The presence of Kingdom power - for righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit - should be evident in all our conversations and through every relationship, role, and responsibility of our lives. This, however, does not appear to be the case. Contemporary evangelicals have "de-historicized" the faith of Christ by reducing it to pious proclamations without teeth in the historical realities of their everday lives. In that respect, we're hardly better than the liberals we denounced a generation ago.

Christians who are not living out their profession "selectively, locally, in the particular" spheres of their lives are not living the Christian faith, but only a shadow of it. Their "planetariness" of conviction has no power to affect the particulars of their own history. That's not the faith of Christ.

T. M. Moore

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