November 24, 2017

Discussing Scot McKnight’s “How Our Culture Challenges Church”

2014-07-10-DigitalDemocracy

American culture challenges the church at its deepest levels. In the church the authority is God in Christ through the Spirit but in culture authority resides in the individual and in the will of “we the people.”

• Scot McKnight

• • •

Read Scot McKnight’s article, “How Our Culture Challenges Church.”

Scot has written a good overview of western political culture with its “we the people” ontology, and how that challenges the very ontology of the Church, which is that of christocracy. You can read the details of his argument at Jesus Creed. Today, I would like to simply list the points he makes and have us discuss them.

First, Western culture increasingly believes the fundamental problems of life are systemic and social, and are to be resolved through social progress and most especially through social engineering in public education.

Second, Western culture tends to believe in the inherent goodness of humans and that society and systems corrupt that original goodness.

Third, Western culture believes its laws are created by the people, they are for the people, and when the people shift the laws will need to shift with them.

Fourth, Western culture then increasingly locates authority in the people, in fact, all the way down to the individual person.

Fifth, one’s commitment to society, to state, to the authorities, to the institutions, or to the establishment is voluntary and the moral authority of the laws of that society is good only so long as the individual person can believe in and commit themselves to those institutions.

Sixth, the leaders of Western societies are the will of the people and need to change if the will of the people changes.

Here is how he summarizes:

The Western history of politics, if I may make a sweeping statement about the biggest drift of all, is a movement from monarchies to aristocracies (or oligarchies) to democracies. The church got its ontology in a world of monarchies and emperors and kings (ancient Israel, 1st Century Rome) and found expression in that context. The church’s very ontology is monarchy or, better yet, christocracy. Western culture is the drive to a more and more radical form of democracy as a form of resistance to monarchy, which makes the church ambivalent and culturally at least countercultural if not irrelevant if it wants to be Western.

Scot leaves it there as something for us to think about.

I’m left thinking, if this is an accurate assessment, what do we do about it?

Or is it as simple as that? Do these historical developments really represent a movement away from an ontology which must be maintained if the Church is to be the Church? Or might they, in some way, actually represent the growth and influence of Christ’s reign in the Western world?

Comments

  1. Eckhart Trolle says:

    Just as Western culture is not a monolith, neither is there is any such thing as “the” Church. Most forms of Christianity still come with creeds and hierarchies which are deeply authoritarian, yet without which their members would feel directionless. Attitudes toward modern values range from reaction (e.g. Orthodoxy, which reliably sides with the most regressive political and cultural elements of its host society), to compromise (e.g. Catholicism, whose official theology is arbitrary and dependent on precedent), to innovation (e.g. Mormonism), to deconstruction (e.g. Quakerism or the progressive mainline churches). No one much cares what Jesus himself believed, while phrases like “Christ’s reign” refer to institutional ideals. It is easy to call for a new theology, but difficult for church-affiliated religious professionals or lay enthusiasts to genuinely examine their own theology, let alone renounce the fruits of ancient bigotries and violence.

    • turnsalso says:

      What sort of “renunciation of the fruits” do you expect to see? What’s that look like, exactly?

      • How about EITHER getting elected to political office OR claiming a ‘right of conscience’ to disobey the law, but not both? That would be a good start.

        • That appears to be an even deeper-seated issue of not letting go of the ancient bigotry itself, never mind any fruits (no pun intended). As such, it’s not quite within Eckhart’s scope.

        • A third, Christianity should reject it’s claim of divine right to rule.

          • If you mean thru some kind of theocracy instituted PRIOR to Jesus establishing that with HIS second coming: then YES. If you mean Christians won’t rule ever, then NO> Jesus , and HIS bride, will rule : the question is HOW, and WHEN. And yes, this whole meme has been exploited, and used, and horribly distorted for thousands of years. That does not disqualify it’s truth, or else Jesus is a liar.

          • Basically, no physical Jesus on a physical throne = no right to rule, even in his stead.

            I think the idea of Christians or the church having control of the government or nations or anything…is utterly disastrous. And always has been, even before Christ came, but certainly ever since.

          • Fine: Jesus is a liar.

            “This generation shall not pass away before these things come to pass.”

            The generation he was referring to has been dead for two thousand years.

          • Thanks for the update, J, I can depend on you to be fair, balanced, and decidedly upbeat. I’ll stick with my religious delusions, though, just can’t shake that ol’ Jesus feelin’…….

          • Mike: No, CS Lewis agrees with me. Called that line the most embarrassing passage in Christendom or something like that.

            • I’m fully persuaded that the historical context of Jesus’ sayings about “the end” was Jerusalem’s imminent demise. There are plenty of futurists out there, but they have to do a lot of excruciating twists to see futurist eschatology prominent in Jesus’ teachings. See N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, Andrew Perriman, etc.

          • Drat! J played the CS Lewis trump card! Game over!

          • I didn’t know that C. S. Lewis was always correct in his evaluation of things Scriptural.

      • Eckhart Trolle says:

        Most of what we know as “Christianity”–churches, creeds, canons, rules and rituals, a distinct sense of religious identity–are products of the imperial church, having little to do with Jesus himself. (This site complains of “churchianity,” yet persists in assuming that Christianity is about going to church.) Consider how different was the religion of the ancient Ebionites, for example. The difference was not merely a matter of social evolution, but involved active suppression of perceived heresies, by means of raw political power, So what would it look like to renounce these excrescences? I am disinclined to tell you how to live your life, but…why go to church at all, given that it’s very existence represents a giant middle finger to Jesus? Why proclaim your religion to be better than others, if the first shall be last and nobody knows who will be saved? But you can’t even get most Protestants even to rethink the Filioque, let alone the Trinity! You don’t really want a change, you just want to feel better about what you’re already doing.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi ECKHART TROLLE,
      you wrote “Just as Western culture is not a monolith, neither is there is any such thing as “the” Church.”

      although I get the gist of what you are saying, I suggest that among Christian people, there is a ‘sense’ of ‘The Church’ that transcends doctrines and divisions . . . what affects one area of Christianity still impacts the ‘whole’ in ways that cause concern and sympathy and sometimes even joy on occasion . . .

      OTOH, those ‘divisions’ that exist are real and some are very deep and based on very important differences that no one is over-looking as being meaningful to the parties involved

      but still we have in ‘the faith’ signs of the Spirit going where He wills . . . of transcendence . . . of a merciful, if unacknowledged ‘communion’ of hope and anticipation for good to come, without which most of US here at Imonk would not be here . . . we can thank Michael Spencer’s vision and the hard work of ‘the gang’ (Chaplain MIKE, etc.) for enabling our blog community . . . but it goes even deeper to some need we all have to believe that the unity we share in Christ the Lord is not something so easily breached by human failure or unholy forces beyond our control . . . so, I do propose that ‘The Church’ is a real entity . . . even now . . . even broken and scarred . . . and that it still functions on a level that we are all conscious of being ‘a part of’ . . . we are still ‘the Body of Christ’ and we still matter as ‘The Church’ to one another . . . that solidarity is not going anywhere

      • David Cornwell says:

        Christiane,
        “it goes even deeper to some need we all have to believe that the unity we share in Christ the Lord is not something so easily breached by human failure or unholy forces beyond our control . . . so, I do propose that ‘The Church’ is a real entity . . . even now . . . even broken and scarred . . . and that it still functions on a level that we are all conscious of being ‘a part of’ . . . we are still ‘the Body of Christ’ and we still matter as ‘The Church’ to one another . . . that solidarity is not going anywhere”

        I like what you are saying here as you are definitely on to it. I haven’t read Scot McKnight’s piece yet but hoping I’ll have time later today.

        When one reads various authors such as McKnight, N. T. Wright, Hauerwas, and Luke Timothy Johnson in relationship to eschatology, the Church, and the coming Kingdom, one sees the best of thought approached from various angles. Sometimes these seem to be in slight conflict. However the Holy Spirit is still around and is at work in what seems to us like a mess. And many Christians are looking, thinking, and praying in a new direction.

        What is hard is live through what may seem to us like a great fog. To remember our prayer… “Thy Kingdom come on earth…, and live the great commandment, “love God … love your neighbor.” We still believe in the Kingdom … that Jesus is King, and even though we do not see the outworkings of the Kingdom, this is one of the truths we hold on to.

        We will not be able to figure it all out. We come from various backgrounds which cannot be rewritten. Yet we can keep our eyes fixed on Christ to which each of us fix the direction life.

      • Eckhart Trolle says:

        It varies. The Orthodox tend to feel unity only with other Orthodox (if even them). The same is true of most sectarian groups. Catholics feel unity between themselves and possibly the Orthodox. The most common tendency within Protestantism is to think of Christianity as a “big tent” encompassing various denominations (including Catholics), but excluding those deemed heretical (such as Mormonism). Of course, all of these conceptions of Christianity exclude *somebody”–your warm, fuzzy feelings of unity depend on it. And the “Christ” on which you fix your eyes is an abstraction promoted by your church.

        • “And the ‘Christ’ on which you fix your eyes is an abstraction promoted by your church.”

          Maybe for some. But most of us focus it on the Jesus in the four Gospel accounts.

  2. Steve Newell says:

    This posting brought to mind a question: Do we really understand the concept of “Jesus Christ as Lord of Our Live”? Since we do not live in a society with people have the power of life and death over us when compared to most of human history, does this statement change? For many would “Jesus Christ is my Best Friend” or “Jesus Christ is my _____” be more accurate to describe how we view our relationship with Christ?

    In addition, would a lot of Christians continue agree with the historic Christian doctrine of “Original Sin”, the authority of the pastor in the areas of Church discipline?

  3. turnsalso says:

    Isn’t Christ’s presence manifest in us, the people (I refuse to use “we” as an object, even though it messes with the set phrase)? Isn’t it true that there is neither slave nor free in Christ, and that we are all brothers, as St Paul and Christ respectively said?

    If these are true, then I believe we have no right to fret and wring our hands about how hard it is to be faithful to Christ while being “relevant” to the “democratic” West. This sounds like disguised Culture War rhetoric than anything.

    • I don’t recall anyone talking about being “relevant” in this discussion. It’s more a question of the Church’s “ontology” (SM’s term) and what it means to remain faithful to that in the midst of a culture whose ontology is quite different.

      • Begs the question: is the culture’s ontology really that different from the churches? Or just how we “think” the churches’ should be?

      • “which makes the church ambivalent and culturally at least countercultural if not irrelevant if it wants to be Western.”

        This was what I was pointing to. If a given department of the Church is composed of Westerners, what else could it be, if not Western? He’s got a good point here (that the Church is properly ruled by Christ), but what does he propose that should look like?

        • Has the Church ever been ruled by Christ? Seems he left before the Church was a thing.

          But it’s good rhetoric to show we should be ruled by his example.

          • This is where the Church’s confession of the Ascension as a significant event comes into play. The gospel message is not just that Jesus died and rose again, but that he ascended to heaven and sits at God’s right hand, a position of rule and authority. The Book of Acts has as one of its purposes to show how Jesus rules in and through the new community of the Church. It certainly is not through seizing and exercising power, but by exhibiting God’s power through prayer, suffering, and faithful witness.

          • Yes, but then the Church had to go an complicate things several centuries later by becoming the official, and then only countenanced, religion of the Empire, and just at the same time as it was formulating its most definitive and self-identifying doctrines and confessions. Certainly mucked things up.

    • turns – i agree with you, eith one caveat: i don’t think there’s anything z”disgised” about it, although McKnight probably doesn’t realize that he’s rehashing all of the old 80s canards about “seculsr humanism.”

      So many in ctian culture benefit enotmously from all of the things he says are chsractetistic of society’s supposed bent toward social engineering, it’s not funny. As snother commenter has said, it’s the xtian culture people who are rngaged in social engineering, whether it’s the horrible “revision” of history books in Texas schools, or the ongoing brouhaha over same-sex marriage (plus “conversion therapy”) and hundreds of other things. All the while, they claim that they’re being persecuted by “the culture.”

      It is stomach-turning.

      • Apologies for the many typos. Phone keyboard.

      • Yes, this is exactly what’s off-putting to me about Scot’s post.

        At this point, I think I completely disagree with him. Willing to give benefit of the doubt, however.

  4. *First, Western culture increasingly believes the fundamental problems of life are systemic and social, and are to be resolved through social progress and most especially through social engineering in public education.*

    Haha, no. No, no, I’m sorry but that doesn’t really sound like the shape of reality at all.

    Those in favor of social engineering in the west these days go proudly by the name of ‘Christian’. They want radical innovation in society: Personal opt-out clauses to all laws of common observance in the name of conscience, radical innovation in such areas as the law of contract and litigation, almost unlimited devolution to the individual of the right to deploy force against others (“Stand Your Ground”, concealed carry, open carry), contrasted with just about the most intense micromanagement of private lives in the medical and sexual realms.

    Christians are also quite relativistic, insisting that the findings of science never be ‘privileged’ above other ‘ways of knowing’, although those ways themselves may never be questioned as that would be ‘disrespectful’.

    Christians are utopians, radicals, social engineers, relativists. Progressives, really.

  5. But seriously, as a rejoinder to the tedious “This world is not our home” of the goddists, let me say: Fine then; so end the occupation. Liberate planet Earth. Vacate the thousands of elected offices, CEO suites, parsonages, seminary sinecures. Give up your wealth. Lay down your guns. Dress in sackcloth and secret yourselves away–quietly–in the desert places.

    Let us poor sinners whose eternal fate will surely be only a lake of fire strut and fret our little hour here, governing ourselves as we wish. Surely earthly power over such unworthies as us isn’t worth the your time and effort, right? After all: This world is not your home.

    • J, I’m used to you wielding your broad brush, but I think you must be going for the Guinness Record Book today. I’ve got paint all over me. Wouldn’t it be more effective if you went wherever these folks you speak of gather? I don’t think very many of them hang out here.

  6. American culture challenges the church at its deepest levels. In the church the authority is God in Christ through the Spirit but in culture authority resides in the individual and in the will of “we the people.”

    Wait, is that even accurate? Yes, in the church, God is an authority, but doesn’t the church members/body themselves have authority as well? We’re all imago dei, individuals, uniquely gifted, with separate lives outside of the commune. It’s not a God Only or People Only thing.

    Seems to be a false dichotomy he is proposing. If anything, it would be more like God is equivalent to the State or something. Or God = Caesar, God = Pope, God = Feudal King. This seems to be nothing new then.

    • The church’s very ontology is monarchy or, better yet, christocracy.

      Is it? Or is it just a reflection of ancient political, divine right to rule, type of systems?

      God did not invent the concept of a monarchy. And what in the gospels gives the impression that Christ wants to be King?

    • I agree that we have a false dichotomy here–divine authority and Western, individualistic autonomy are compatible (and in fact go together nicely).

      I would have thought that the Christian political ontology is quite democratic. I thought that Christianity aimed at cultivating each of us as rational and free human agents and recognizing that each of us has a voice worthy to be heard (among other aims). Thus I would have thought that God’s authority should be understood not as coercive (like that of a paradigmatic monarch) but as giving us the opportunity to develop as rational and free human agents. If that’s right, then the main thing about God’s authority is that he uses it to give rational authority to humans. In a word, God uses his authority to make a world which is, ideally, highly democratic.

      If that’s right, then we can forget about this so-called conflict between the Church’s ontology and the Western ontology because the Western ontology (at its best) attempts to work out the very thing that God’s authority calls us to do (i.e., to cultivate free, rational, human agents and recognize the value of each individual’s voice).

      Note: the will of the people may grant legitimacy to the state, but one can accept that the legitimacy of states comes from the will of the people without saying the same about God’s authority. There is no incompatibility (as the example of Locke, for one, shows).

      Note also: McKnight says that our rights come from created authorities on the basis of #5. Locke, Kant, Rawls, and friends would be surprised to learn that our rights vanish in the absence of a state. *Your rights can be violated regardless of whether or not anybody recognizes them.*

      • Yes. Well stated. The post gives us a false dichotomy almost from the get-go. It’s the “either/or” of every fundamentalism (Sorry, Kierkegaard).

  7. 1. Sounds like humanism, that original Christian invention. No problem there.

    2. Well, yeah, imageo dei, and original sin is a bug, not a feature. Plus if you believe in an indwelling Spirit…

    3. Haven’t they been since Moses? We’ve got a good solid 10 from God, then the rest seemed to be made up time and place.

    4. Isn’t this a good thing? Neither slave nor free, etc. And follow the Biblical trajectory of more freedom and being liberated?

    5. Oh come on Scot, that’s two statements in one. It’s a good thing we have voluntary freedom, just like those who sought to join ancient Israel did. Most laws are neither good nor bad, they are just laws. If there are bad laws, are we not morally obligated to protest them and change them? There is no divine right of kings or gods over us to make us accept “just the way things have always been”.

    6. Absolutely. The leaders aren’t divinely elected or appointed, have no right to rule, and aren’t dynasties. The leaders should come from and reflect the people, with history and tradition guiding the way. Just like the church.

    It seems Scot is begging the question a lot with these. He’s trying to guide us to his conclusion and accept his assumptions, but not opening them up for discussion. I don’t think I accept either, and I’ve got to ask: who is Scot McKnight and why should I listen to him without thinking?

    • Wikipedia calls him “an ordained Anglican with Anabaptist leanings.”

      …What?

    • He is one of the better biblical scholars out there. Furthermore, his Jesus Creed blog is one of the more well-respected theological blogs, and has been for years.

      This blog, the Internet Monk, has referred to Scot McKnight/Jesus Creed more than once over its history.

      I don’t necessarily agree with everything McKnight says, but his opinions I certainly take into consideration.

      • Yeah, I was speaking fasciously, I’ve enjoyed many of his writings. But I don’t think him or anyone else needs to be listened to uncritically.

        • From what I know of his writing: he would not want you (or anyone) listen/read him uncritically.

          • I agree. I see him as sort of Michael Spencer-ish, where he makes his points but isn’t unwilling to hear objections.

    • –> “He’s (Scot) trying to guide us to his conclusion and accept his assumptions, but not opening them up for discussion.”

      Most articles are written that way. Why the criticism?

      • Idk. Subject matter I’m sensitive to me, maybe. There’s a difference between presenting an argument and leading it, and begging the question. This feels more like the latter. Maybe it’s just how it’s worded.

      • They are open for discussion. Scot has a comment thread and when I let him know last night that we were discussing his post here, he thanked me for that.

  8. David Cornwell says:

    From McKnight’s essay:

    “the biggest drift of all, is a movement from monarchies to aristocracies (or oligarchies) to democracies.” …

    “In other words, American culture challenges the church at its deepest levels. In the church the authority is God in Christ through the Spirit but in culture authority resides in the individual and in the will of “we the people.”

    I think there is a good argument to be made that we are swinging back to a government of oligarchy. It remains hidden, to an extent, but if one looks closely enough it becomes apparent. It’s not official, or constitutional, but nevertheless exists and exerts powerful influence. Some of it comes from the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us against.

    And now, also, from the powerful forces of the corporate world operating through free trade agreements, the power to give unlimited money to influence votes and policy. Sometimes it allows and/or encourages a religious element to give it the cover of “God’s will” and to manipulate the populace. It’s propaganda will mask ideology with terms like patriotism, freedom, liberty, etc. It’s spokespeople (candidates, radio/television networks/commentators, schools) will sound the alarm of truth to educate the people and warn of subversion.

    In America, at least, the people are starting to realize that something is wrong in our democracy at a deep level, thus the extremes we see in political debate. This works itself out in a desire to “take back” what we think we have lost.

    All of this is a challenge to Christians. However if we stay centered on Jesus and detached from the hyper-political, we can still find our center as we live in the world. It’s not easy, especially when we are asked to give a reason for the hope that resides in us. How do we talk about Jesus being King? Most likely we will be misunderstood. Or more dangerously, perhaps, we will be understood.

    So it behooves us to understand that “baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”

  9. I think each of McKnight’s 6 points is much more complex than can be presented in tidy bullet points (as I’m sure he’d agree). I mean, thank God that laws do change with the times. I know people who believe that injustices do in fact exist and can be systematically addressed, and I know people who cry “liberal” at any mention of social injustice or education. But I don’t know a single person who thinks or is teaching that all problems can be solved through technology or through social engineering. Maybe they’re out there though.

    But all that aside, I think he’s identified a real trend in history towards the primacy of individual rights and authority as derived from the consent of the governed (theoretically) as opposed to any number of alternatives. This is largely a good thing IMO. I’m not sure if McKnight fundamentally disagrees – thinking that “we the people” is one big slippery slope to godless chaos – or that individualism is simply “excessive”.

    Perhaps McKnight is just saying that “you reap what you sow” (so to speak) – highlighting a problem more than proposing concrete alternatives. I recall a Dallas Willard quote to the effect of “your system is perfectly designed to get the results that you’re getting.” Garbage in, garbage out. In other words, given the underlying trajectory, is individualism and consumerism really all that surprising?

    But I’d REALLY need to see something more tangible to what McKnight means by “Christocracy.” I cringe at the term.

    If he views the church as a group of people who lay down their “rights” and their lives for the sake of others (as opposed to being self obsessed about securing rights), that’s one thing. But that’s definitely NOT what I envision being discussed if the word “Christocracy” were to start popping up. Does he have in mind some nostalgic pre-democratic past? Some sort of divinely ordained ecclesial authority that is completely outside the realm of any sort of consent? Do we start “casting lots” as is modeled in Acts rather than democratically choosing leaders like “the world”?

    • Yeah, if you opt out of democratic institutions for theological reasons, you don’t have many good options left open. Sect, or theocracy. These are not the ways to go for a Church that should love and serve its neighbors rather than avoid them or rule over them.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Yeah, if you opt out of democratic institutions for theological reasons, you don’t have many good options left open. Sect, or theocracy.

        Feel the Whip or Hold the Whip, nothing in-between.

  10. I’m not sure McKnight makes any huge revelations, though he does paint with a pretty broad brush–Western culture is not monolithic. Yes, there has been an ongoing trend towards individual rights but there is no denying that, at least in the U.S., we have become more and more a heavily regulated society for the good of society (I’m not arguing the merit of, or lack of merit, for this). There is a sense, however, that God’s people have always taken on aspects of the surrounding culture and vice versa (“We want a king like all the other nations!)”.

    Since Constantine, the church and culture were deeply intertwined, the one an extension of the other, hence the term “Christendom”; with its fall, the Church in many ways is still feeling her way forward to her own identity, much like a child growing and maturing. I think Chaplain Mike asks a good question: “Do these historical developments really represent a movement away from an ontology which must be maintained if the Church is to be the Church? Or might they, in some way, actually represent the growth and influence of Christ’s reign in the Western world?”

    I’m coming more and more to believe that many of the improvements in human rights and conditions over the last couple of centuries (i.e., abolition, the failure of totalitarian governments, the fall of apartheid, etc.) are exactly that–a result of the growth and influence of Christ’s reign.

  11. Burro [Mule] says:

    Heaven and Earth are everlasting
    The reason Heaven and Earth can last forever
    Is that they do not exist for themselves
    Thus they can last forever

    Therefore the sages:
    Place themselves last but end up in front
    Are outside of themselves and yet survive
    Is it not due to their selflessness?
    That is how they can achieve their own goals

    Christ reigns from the Cross. The Church will too, once it gets there.

  12. There is an underlying contradiction in Scot McKnight’s first two points, one that I believe really exists in Western culture and thus makes me more willing to believe his other points.

    The first point – that Western culture believes problems can be addressed through social progress – seems to be a bit in conflict with his statement that society can corrupt people’s “goodness.” I’m not sure that this idea that society is both savior and devil is strictly a “Western” thing, but I know people who constantly turn to the government for help while at the same time claiming the government is the reason for all their ills.

  13. Monarchy is not an ontology, and so the Church’s ontology is not monarchy. The Church’s ontology is Jesus Christ: his centrality and power can be likened to that of a King, but this is an analogy. Other analogies may also be used to express his place in relationship to world and Church; to call any of these analogies an ontology is to misuse analogical language, and misconstrue something that is more like poetry for a logical syllogism or mathematical formula.

    • I think it’s a very big mistake to think of the human institution of monarchy as somehow constitutive of the nature of reality. Monarchies were and are culture conditioned institutions whereby societies have been and are ruled, but they are all too human rather than divine. That we confuse the regal with the real is likely because they are etymologically connected, but monarchy is not a category in ontology; it’s a political animal through and through.

      • I’m not sure I know what christocracy is, but it certainly can’t be an ontology. Jesus is Lord, but his Kingdom is not of this world, and so it can not be something parallel to other forms of government, such as monarchy. The Church’s life is christoncentric; but the forms of Church polity that develop in relationship to that center are many and varied, and by no means limited to monarchy-like arrangements.

        • Eckhart Trolle says:

          “Rabbi” literally means “lord” or “master,” though not in such an absolute sense. But the early church (influenced by certain of the mystery religions) spoke of Christos Cosmocrator, Christ as Lord of the Cosmos.

          • We are not constrained by such language, or the institutional arrangements out of which they arose. The regal metaphor for Jesus is still useful because it connotes the intrinsic and permanent character of his power and authority; no human electorate makes Jesus who he is. On the other hand, it is not theologically wrong to say that God the Father elected Jesus as the redeemer of humanity, and thereby elected humanity to redemption, and fellowship in the life of the Trinity. The metaphors point beyond the usual ways we understand things, but remain analogical.

  14. I disagree strongly with McKnight’s idea that the churches “ontology” is somehow antithetical to societies that embrace and value democratic political institutions. I think there is no surer way to accelerate the ghetto-ization of the Church in the West than to support the idea that it should be a sect.

  15. The art at the top of the post made me think of this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf4eu5y0418

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    The poster up top —
    Shouldn’t they all be holding smartphones instead of laptops?
    (And snapping Selfies?)