Christian Theology 1: Day 4

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I sometimes have this experience whereby I’d read and learn about something, and later encounter it again in a more in-depth or personal way. It intrigues me because of the precursor that happens before I come upon it again not very long after.

This time, the precursor was the discussion I had with Codepoke when he brought up the subject of heaven. He said that he did not believe in heaven, i.e. the popular understanding of heaven up in the clouds with angels flying and pearly gates, as in the movies and maintained that heaven may very well be on earth, as in the end of days, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. In class today, this was exactly what that was brought up, that heaven may not be somewhere up there but right here, when God renews it into a new place. However, the mysterion is not lost: we still do not know how it will be like, what dimensions it will take, what will happen and just where will hell be.

The other interesting thing I learnt today is The Dream of God, in the line of His Plan and His Decrees. The lecturer introduced us to one line of thought which is considered new, coming from the grassroots. The academicians’ thoughts “from up there” in this topic is textbook style: the OT and NT teaching; the drawing together of biblical references about the plan of God, i.e. its eternity in nature, its purpose and perfection in love, its all-inclusiveness, its efficaciousness, its unchangeability; the logical relationship of the various aspects; is it Calvinism or Arminianism; process theology; which in the end, there will still be no answers to the questions.

What is coming now “from the bottom” has a subtle change in the stance of the view of the plan of God: the Dream of God. It is going back to the Trinitarian understanding of God. The over-arching question is: why did Jesus come? The common Sunday School answer will be: to die for our sins. But that begs the question: why then be so inefficient about it? Why must Jesus be born a baby, live 30 years and then go into ministry for 3 years to die on the cross to save our sins? Why didn’t he just come for one Holy Week to do that? What is all that 30 years about? Looking it from a Trinitarian understanding, God has existed in eternity as a community. It is love that is engulfing this Holy Community.

It is not a spatial kingdom, but a kingdom no less. From the outpouring of this love, God created the world and human being. The world was given to Adam under his care. Adam is to love and to build on the relationship with his fellow companion, Eve and with nature. At the fall, these relationships were severed: the relationship with God, with one another and with nature. Now enmity rule.

With this in mind, what did Jesus come to do? John 3:16?

The grass roots began to think that there is something more to that. They began to realize that this one thing was mentioned 70 times in the gospels. Jesus came more than just to die for us. He came to speak and to model a message, and the message is: the Kingdom of God, a restoration of relationships.

That is why he came; he lived, to show, to model, to preach the message of the kingdom. For example, with Zacchaeus, the tax collector, Jesus did not ask him to come down from the tree, say the sinner’s prayer and then go to his house for tea. Jesus offered him a relationship by simply asking him for tea. With that, repentance came with the offer of redemptive friendship and relationship. More examples can be seen in the Last Supper as a table of grace, where friendship is extended; Jesus washing of the disciples’ feet and the ultimate of all acts: the love of a friend shown on the cross. And John in his epistles repeats this time and again: love one another. Tradition has it that John in his old age, when he could only preach in whispers, simply told his people to love one another. It is the redemption of lost relationship in the three levels: with God, among people and within creation.

Jesus coming into the world is an inauguration of the Kingdom of God. Right now we are work in progress. We need to look beyond ourselves and see that the world is bigger than us.

Even in the OT, God is seen to build a visible kingdom. And John 3:16 is part of a larger whole. The Dream of God must be the restoration of relationships and taking responsibility for all creation, and how to live our salvation here and now.

And after this one circle, it goes back to what I started here with: Codepoke’s discussion about heaven being on earth, which demands our accountability to ecological restoration.

Picture by Jenny Rollo

Note: What I have posted today is almost verbatim from Sherman Kuek's lecture, so credit goes to him.

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6 comment(s)

  1. Mega-amens, and not just because of the links. :-) (hx)

    Jesus came for vastly more than to correct our boo-boo in Eden. Unless a Seed fall into the ground and die, it abides alone. He would have had to die whether Adam had sinned or not. If He had not died, we could not have been born of spirit.

    Yes, there is SO MUCH more to the eternal plan of God. The one thing about His dreams, though, is that they come true.

  2. Meaghan,

    Thanks for this wonderful description of what you've been learning. You are quite a teacher!

  3. CP,
    The one thing about His dreams, though, is that they come true.

    Definitely. I must add this point to the post, lest it is missed out. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Hi Julia,
    haha .. I am no teacher. I was almost taking notes word for word in this part of the lecture because the lecturer said that it can never be found in any books and the phrase "The Dream of God" really intrigued me. So you are reading it almost exactly as lectured in class. I think I should put a footnote and attribute it to the lecturer :)

  5. Word for word? I take shorthand and cannot do that. :-)

  6. CP,
    I did say almost didn't I? :)