10 Christian Perspectives for the General Election

Here are 10 things to think about from a Christian perspective for the upcoming General Election.

Put together by Seán Mullan and me for Evangelical Alliance Ireland (Sean is General Director).

Comments, as ever, welcome.

Election 2011 provides Christians with an opportunity to recover hope, a hope based not on political promises which are so uncertain, but on the character of God and his commitment to his people and his world.

The Scriptures provide us with considerable clarity on what God values and what he opposes. The Ten Commandments provide a framework for worship and justice, while showing God’s view of worshipping other gods and of abusing our neighbour. In the Exodus story, Moses leads the people to an understanding of Yahweh being opposed to the military and economic might of Pharaoh’s empire. In Jesus’ teaching, there is a renewed expression of God’s values in the two great commands, love of God and neighbour. Jesus leads his followers into an understanding of God as their Father; opposed to the proud, lifting up the humble, establishing a kingdom based neither on economic nor military might but on grace, generosity and suffering service. It is this view of the world that every follower of Jesus can bring to the political process.

The following is a brief examination of some key election issues in the light of God’s character and his ways. Given the time constraints, they are brief and rushed, but they are intended to help us to pray wisely and to engage effectively in the political process.

1. Leadership

Political leadership is now hamstrung by unseen and unaccountable “market forces.” Politicians hold up their hands and claim they have no choice as they place the burden of enormous long-term debt on the shoulders of even the lowest paid. Bondholders, rating agencies and market forces are seen as the gods who must be obeyed. Leadership means painting a picture of a better place and mapping out a path to get there. For a Christian, the better place is a place of justice, a place of grace, a place where we experience God’s generous provision, where God and neighbour are loved and where the poor, the vulnerable and the outsider are protected.

The measure that Jesus provides for judging character is “fruit” – what the tree produces will tell you what kind of tree it is. The rest is spin.

Choose leaders who are most likely to lead us towards justice, who will not bow the knee to unseen gods that claim power to shape our lives but instead map out a path towards justice, especially for those who cannot speak for themselves.

2. Justice

God is the defender of the poor and the fatherless and the widow. Jesus’ new community of the kingdom of God is be marked by justice, equality and love of neighbour. Justice means living in right relationships with others as people made in the image of God. Neglect of the poor and needy or taking advantage of others is injustice.

Ask candidates what their policies are to protect the weakest and most vulnerable members of society – the elderly, the ill, the handicapped, children at risk. What policies are in place to address the injustices of our broken political and economic system where many ordinary people are paying for the reckless actions of an elite group of bankers and property developers? How will they prevent our country from living in servitude to economic forces?

3. Generosity

‘Love of neighbour’ has an absolutely central place in God’s value system. Christians are called to love their neighbour because they have been recipients of the boundless love and grace of God. Politically, neighbour love involves seeking the best for others, even, and perhaps especially, those with whom we disagree. It means putting in place laws, structures and financial incentives that will work to restore relationships, develop neighbourliness, strengthen community and build a new vision of the common good.

Ask your candidates how they will lead us away from our selfish consumerism towards becoming a society committed to the common good. Ask yourself at this election, what does it mean to love my neighbour?

4. Power and accountability

Increased power and decreased accountability has produced greater corruption. Human nature is always in danger of being corrupted by power. Jesus used his unlimited power to become a servant and serve others.

What plans do candidates have to devolve power away from individuals and small groups and give it back to the Dáil and to local authorities? What are their proposals to increase accountability and to make those who hold power accountable to the people they represent?

5. Relationship and community

Jesus teaches that relationship with neighbour is second only to relationship with God. In particular, Jesus places value on our relationship with the “outsider”, the person on the margins, the one who is different from us because of their social, economic, ethnic or religious status.

What value do candidates put on relationships? How do they propose to build and strengthen relationships – in politics, in business, in the public service? Can they set forth a vision for the common good that will draw people, businesses, public servants, politicians into deeper level of cooperation for the common good? How will they facilitate this?

6. Freedom and Identity

Since Jesus is Lord of all, Christianity resists the idea that there should be a split between the realms of ‘private faith’ and a secular public square. Christians should have deep concern for matters of public life and the wellbeing of all of society. In a plural democracy, Christians don’t need to agree on everything, to work with others around areas of common concern and common values.

Ask what a political party will be doing to develop laws that provide as much justice and compassion and social stability as possible. How will they promote virtue while, at the same time, provide the least curtailment of the freedom of individuals and groups to live as they believe is best?

7. Money and work

In the “noughties” we became a society that worshipped money above all. That worship has now led us to a place of scarcity and need. Jesus’ warning, “gaining the world and losing our soul” has never been more relevant. While money is essential for living in society, we need political leadership that recognises the power of money, the danger of greed and the need for proper regulation and supervision of the financial industries. Like Pharaoh of old, these industries are now demanding more and more, while providing less and less resources.

At the same time, the opportunity to work and earn a living, is a basic human right coming from the Creator. With rising unemployment and emigration, there have to be new policies to encourage employment. Incentives are needed for those employers who are entrepreneurs and are seeking capital to develop their businesses. A future generation should not be forced to pay for the recklessness of an older generation by having to emigrate or face long-term unemployment.

A radical reform of this system is long overdue and we need to ask for clear proposals about how this will happen. Ask for proposals on how new jobs will be developed and entrepreneurs facilitated and supported.

8. Values

Quality of life is not purely a financial issue. Yet love of money became the value that shaped our society and became the root of all kinds of evil. We need a society shaped by values other than the love of money, hunger for power and the drive for success at the expense of others. Justice, mercy and humble service are values that bring life and wholeness, not destruction and fragmentation.

Do candidates’ proposals reflect these values? Do they agree that there is a need for new values?

9. Change

Change must start from the bottom and work up rather than be imposed from the top down. Communities co-operating together, working to serve each other, to tackle problems, to protect the vulnerable. Politics that seeks to satisfy the demands of the consumer is doomed to produce more demanding consumers, not active citizens seeking the common good.

How will candidates help start and encourage change in local communities? Are they willing to empower and resource communities rather than control them? Do they understand the value of local ownership of local issues?

10. Success

There is much talk today of ‘renewing the Republic’. This is to be welcomed. If the last few years have shown anything, it is that there is a desperate need for values and beliefs to be honestly aired and talked about rather than a blind trust in ‘impersonal market forces’ or an ‘economic system’.

Judging how a wrong should be righted is a moral action. Christians have as much right, and responsibility, as other citizens, to contribute to the current debate about what sort of Ireland we want to live in. Let’s not be passive observers, but active citizens contributing to a more just, transparent, accountable and effective society.

Scripture References

Leadership: Exodus 5:1-2; Exodus 20:1-3; Matthew 7:15-20; Mark 12:28-31

Justice: Deuteronomy 10:17-18; Job 29:12-17; Isaiah 58:6-7; Mark 12:40; James 2:15-17

Generosity: Leviticus.19:18; Matthew 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31-33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; Jas 2:8

Power and accountability: Exodus 5:4-18; John 3:19-21; Philippians 2:1-11; 1 John 2:7-11

Relationships: Exodus 23:6-9; Deuteronomy 15:7-8; Luke 10:25-37

Freedom and Identity: Philippians 2:11; Romans 13:1-7; Luke 20:25

Money and work: Exodus 5:6-9; Luke 12:13-21; Ephesians 4:28; Colossians 3:23; 1 Timothy 6:7-10

Values: 1 Timothy 6:7-10

Change: Exodus 5:19-23; Exodus 15:1-6; Matthew 13:31-33

Success: 1 Peter 2:12

Sundays in Mark (46) The Destruction of the Temple (2)

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark. This week Mark 13:3-13

The main theme in these verses is Jesus warning and equipping his followers to be ready for the tumultous and testing events to come – events they will have to face without him.

Such things are ‘birth pangs’ – painful events before the Messianic deliverance to come.

– false prophets

– wars and instability

– natural disasters

And then there is a step up in intensity – direct persecution of the disciples:

– persecution by fellow Jews

– arrest and trial before Gentile kings

– betrayals and hostility from all

Mark’s gospel, likely written to the young church in Rome, encourages believers that no suffering they experience will be outside the knowledge of Jesus.

His exhortation in the face of such a litany of fearful predictions is to ‘stand firm’ until the end. As his followers they should expect similiar opposition, and even the same fate, as their Lord.

Their task whatever happens? To preach the good news of Jesus to all.

Reflection

Faithfulness and mission are intimately connected with suffering and often death. This was the experience of the first Christians and continues to be for innumerable Christians around the world today. To suffer for following Jesus should be the normative expectation of a Christian. We pray for fellow brothers and sisters enduring persecution for their Lord today in Peter’s words:

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10,11 ESV).

The Destruction of the Temple

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

One.Life (9) Church.Life

The next chapter of Scot McKnight’s One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow is on ‘Church.Life’.

My lovely wife and I met while doing theological training. I’ve recently had some email contact about a group of us getting together for a reunion and to my shock realised it was 25 years ago when we began.

Why mention this? Because some people we know in our year-class have drifted away from ‘ministry’ and regular church life.

Some have lost their faith, but with one friend it is not so much disbelief in God as a weariness and rejection of church. Specifically, a perceived disconnect between the radical and attractive kingdom-life call of Jesus compared to the rather boring, institutional and often superficial nature of her church experience.

For example, for generations, Irish Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic, has been dominated by a complex fusion between faith, politics and identity.

Now I’m not at all saying there wasn’t plenty of real, vibrant, Jesus’ centred, sacrificially loving and grace-filled Christianity around. But I am suggesting that ‘Cultural Christianity’ had centre stage; nominalism remains deeply entrenched – ‘going to church’ for an hour on a Sunday, sitting on a hard seat, listening to a monologue, and maybe smiling at the person near you before going home to get on with ‘real life’.

In the past there were strong social pressures to ‘buy into’ this sort of behaviour. Today, people ask Why Bother With Church? (a book written by a guy in our class btw) and do other stuff on Sunday morning – (like staying in bed, going for a cycle or doing DIY if the town where I live is anything to go by).

The apparent success of ‘Christendom Christianity’ meant that questions were rarely asked, such as:

‘Does what we are doing bear any resemblance to what it means to follow Jesus and life lived within the kingdom of God?’

Indeed, I suggest that if people ‘at church’ in Ireland today were asked what the kingdom of God is all about, not many would be able to hazard a guess.

And even for many Christians who are committed to Jesus, ‘church’ is seen as an ‘optional extra’ or a ‘burden to be borne’ within the Christian life. The local church is seen more as an obstacle to following Jesus rather than an intrinsic part of discipleship.

A wedge has been driven between kingdom and community; Jesus and the church.

The irony is that, all too often, it is the church of Jesus Christ which has marginalised its Lord.

All this is to say that McKnight’s big point in this chapter is that there is no division between kingdom and church in Jesus’ teaching. Kingdom life cannot be detached from Pentecost and the church. The Gospels lead into Acts. The story of the New Testament leads from Jesus’ kingdom vision to God’s Spirit-created church community.

And that church community is empowered to live the kingdom life only in and through the presence of the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit who creates, sustains and empowers the community. Without the Spirit there is no community.

For the church is at the heart of the kingdom vision of Jesus – but a community of people empowered by the Spirit to love and serve, show compassion, forgive and do justice.

So the idea that ‘church’ is a meeting by a group of largely disconnected people for an hour on a Sunday, has nothing much to do with Jesus’ kingdom vision. As Scot says, ‘somewhere along the line’ church became a Sunday service, community became personal spirituality.’

Authentic church.life, for McKnight, is fellowship that looks something like this: [he doesn’t unpack the Greek word koinonia for fellowship here – thought he might have given its richness and relevance]

–          Friendship

–          Teaching the faith

–          Common meals

–          Spirituality

–          Worship

–          Holistic care for one another

–          Integrity

–          Growth

The challenge is for each follower of Jesus to participate and commit to their local community of Christians, not because it will be perfect or that we are, but

because the only way for Jesus’ dream to take root is when local people commit to one another to strive with one another for a just, loving, peaceful and wise society beginning at home with friends and at their local community of faith.

Is this a little bit like your home church? I hope so.

I’m glad to say it does capture quite a bit of mine; a community I love being part of. It ain’t perfect (hey I’m a member as is this guy, ‘nough said); it fails and won’t ever ‘arrive’ – but it is an authentic community of people who are trying love one another and others.

Final thoughts here:

I can sympathise with you if you struggle with involvement with a local church. Maybe you struggle with inwardness or poor teaching or lack of community; maybe you are disappointed in others; maybe you feel burnt-out with responsibilities; maybe you’ve been hurt by division …

But I’m with Scot, it is not an option for a follower of Jesus to detach ‘kingdom life’ from ‘church life’.

At the very core of the kingdom dream of Jesus there is a focus on God’s society, the church. The dream of Jesus never lets anyone dwell in solitude, the dream of Jesus never creates individualism. The dream of Jesus always creates kingdom community (101).

Local churches reflect the realities of real humans who participate in kingdom living in a world broken by sin and systemic evil. Kingdom life is designed to take root in local communities, and it is the vision of Jesus for you and me to make your local community of faith our primary launching place for kingdom-dream living (107-8).

Premillennial dispensationalism and the deconstruction of evangelical identity

My friend Crawford Gribben has just published this book

Evangelical Millennialism in the Trans-Atlantic World 1500-2000.

In it he argues that the massive cultural impact of premillennial dispensationalism in the USA, as seen for example in the 60 million plus Left Behind books sold, reflects a gulf between many (by no means all) evangelicals in America and evangelicals in Europe (where dispensationalism is much more sceptically viewed). Such a fissure represents a

‘bankruptcy of evangelical identity, in that it marked the growing differences between the American and European religious habits of mind and among American evangelicals themselves, and that it provoked a backlash, and, in the later 1990s, a struggle for the destiny of the movement. At the end of the twentieth century, the dominance of one variety of evangelical millennialism could not but provide for its ultimate deconstruction.

The general election: an irrelevant side show?

I’m no economist, but Ireland owes a lot of money.

Reading Damien Kiberd in The Sunday Times ‘Our debt is heavier even than you think’ it could, in a worse case scenario, all total up to this:

current gross debt of €162 billion

Central bank of Ireland exposure of €50 billion

bailout money of €65 billion

NAMA bill of €40 billion

€20 billion of bonds issued by banks to borrow more from the ECB

That all adds up to €337 billion.

Translate that to an American context and you’d have roughly $33.7 trillion (I think)

Kiberd says that level of debt is “enough to bring the European house down”.

An entire generation is supposed to carry it into the future. We have a population of one big European city  – not a chance say people like Kiberd and David McWilliams.

Owing such fantastically heroically mad sums to others means that Ireland has ceded pretty well all its sovereignty to its creditors.

Perhaps, in that the debts are so big that the Eurozone could end up reconfigured – Kiberd wonders if, by the anniversary of 1916, the Irish Republic may have been incorporated into a bigger entity like a federal Europe.

Default, or restructuring to use a nicer word, looks inevitable, with all sorts of consequences which I’m not qualitifed to even guess at. The Euro could break up for sure.

Labour and Fine Gael are talking of renegotiating the IMF/ECB bailout. But that’s a long shot. Today ECB Chairman Trichet told Ireland it won’t be happening.

So in some sense is the general election something of a side-show?

But in another sense, could it be the most important election in decades?

Watching Pat Kenny’s Frontline on Monday, things have now got so obviously bad that there are few illusions left. (And Fianna Fail have been living in denial for every step of the crisis over the last 2 years).

The politicans on were not scoring cheap points. At last is there some energy, passion, a willingness to think outside the box, serious discussion of political and economic reform? Might Ireland in the future come out a healthier, transparent and better run place ?

Or am I having a serious outbreak of unjustified (and unusual) political optimism ?

One.Life 8. Wisdom.Life

In chapter 7 of One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, Scot turns to Wisdom and its place within the kingdom of God.

McKnight’s big concern in this book is to ‘earth’ what it means to follow Jesus in everyday life.

Scot draws 7 wisdom lessons from Jesus that all his followers would do well to learn as they seek to follow him: {most of these are summarised in my words}

1.       ‘Orient each day toward God’ – ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Prov. 1:9). Meaning awe, reverence for that leads to beginning and ending your day with a consciousness of God. He doesn’t go into the ‘how’ – could be via a multitude of methods from a daily set prayers to the traditional evangelical quiet time of Bible reading and prayer.

2.       Ask ‘What is the wise thing to do?’ every day until it becomes habit. Honest questioning probes our desires and ambitions and helps us make good decisions.

3.       Daily kingdom living: wisdom is expressed in small things. Daily faithfulness, obedience, trustworthiness (Scot doesn’t use these words). Wisdom is not urgently chasing the big dramatic dream and expecting immediate success. It is found in daily kingdom living through which God can do great things. This is Jesus’ way, it is to be his followers’ way too.

4.       Start where you are: This is similar to 3. Start small and see where it goes. If you want to be a pastor, don’t wait to be ‘qualified’ – but ask who are you pastoring now? Let the qualification come from gifting and call and steps into ministry, rather than the other way around. Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed is in mind here.

5.       Live in the here and now: do not live in an idealised imagined future filled with imaginary success, achievements and people. Don’t pass people by; live in the here and now. Love your neighbours, get to know your work colleagues, make time and space for people in everyday life. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a reminder our neighbour is whoever crosses our path in daily life.

6.       Wisdom.Life is shaped by the Golden Rule: ‘Do to others what you want done to you’. If we are wise we will find that it is by loving and serving others that we find ourselves. This sounds nice but it is a tough calling that includes enemies (next point).

7.        In the kingdom of God, disciples are love and pray for their enemies (Mt 5:44-5). A good quote here, “Jesus did the wise thing when he told his followers to love their enemies and sacrifice the temporary, unsustainable thrill of hatred on the altar of enemy-love.” Such revolutionary love speaks of another way, another kingdom.

Scot offers some practical advice: if Christian wisdom is a kingdom.life lived well and that is a sort of life you are seeking, go and find mentors – people who are wise. Spend time with them, do what they advise and be open to learn.

God and Government

Here’s a question left hanging a bit from a discussion last Friday among a group of Irish Bible Institute ex post-grad students, visitors and staff on ‘God and Government: renewing the Irish Republic‘ following a fascinating and graciously delivered paper given by Dr Crawford Gribben of Trinity College Dublin.

Faith & politics issues have come up on this blog more than once. They are also pretty relevant as we head towards the General Election on February 25.

These are some unfinished ‘thought sketches’ and I’m simply inviting some conversation, so please chip in if you’d like.

What should Christians be expecting from the politicians calling to their door? What is our best hope for politics? Or, to put it another way,

Is it the job of a modern pluralist and democratic state to legislate for Christian morality?

This is ultimately a theological question. Christians have a number of different ‘postures’ towards the state and politics in general. Here are three. My headings will give away where I am in most sympathy with!

1. (Unrealistically) High Expectations

A case can be made from Scripture for a ‘high expectation’ of the modern state. In the OT, Israel and the surrounding pagan nations were all morally accountable to God and judged accordingly. God’s concern for justice did not stop at the boundaries of Israel.

In the NT the relationship of the people of God and Israel is radically reconfigured. How exactly this works is of course debated but  whatever your understanding of Israel and the Church,  few would argue that the OT concern for justice no longer has any relevance or ‘only applies’ within the household of God. In the NT, texts like Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-14 speak of a positive role of the pagan state as an instrument of God’s justice.

Therefore, should Christians have a ‘high expectation’ of the state as a divinely appointed instrument of God with associated responsibilities? If so, Christians should therefore be active politically in ensuring the state lives up to its divine calling and prophetically calling the state to enact appropriate legislation?

Christians with this posture will logically resist  any legislation that is contrary to a Christian moral framework. They will not want to hasten the restructuring of Christendom but to preserve it as much as possible.

For example, in an Irish context, there is much talk these days of a renewed Irish Republic and the need for a redrafted Constitution. This posture would want to hold on to the explicitly Christian ethos of the 1937 Constitution – just have a read at the Preamble to get the idea … Here’s a flavour,

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

We, the people of Éire,

Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ …

My problem with this is that, to be consistent, should this posture not lead to campaigning for the outlawing of adultery, homosexuality, civil partnerships, divorce, even greed, lust etc? In other words back towards the sort of society we did have in Ireland for most of the 20th Century – a (Catholic) Moral Monopoly.

Unrealistic? I think so. But also undesirable. Linking back to Joel Edwards’ quote on Saturday – this view far too easily assumes that since Christians are recipients of grace and truth, that they will be able to construct a just, free and open society that can embrace difference. History shows there is no necessary sequence here. I remember Joe Liechty, a Mennonite historian, saying that one lesson from the Catholic-Protestant religious wars of Irish history is that ‘If you get a chance to persecute your enemy, do so!

2. (Realistically) Low Expectations

An alternative posture to the state is to have low expectations of both its ability to shape morality and behaviour AND of its capacity to act in a righteous way.

But this is not to say that there are no expectations. It recognises that our modern state is plural. The job of the state is to create a society in which people with different and competing values and beliefs can co-exist in a civil space. Christians have as much democratic right as anyone else to vote, debate, and be active in working towards justice and Shalom in all areas of life. And if the last few years have shown us anything this includes economics.

This anabaptist type perspective leads Christians in a very different direction to those with high expectations.

Historically we Westerners have enjoyed a very benign period of church-state relations. We too easily assume the state is there (or should be) to look after us, do us good, be fair and just, will be democratic and (a little bit) accountable. But in the bigger historical picture, and the current experience of the majority of global Christians, the state is anything but benign. In Revelation the state is linked with the rebellious, violent and evil beasts. As was said on Friday,

More often than not, the state is ‘beastly’.

Since human nature is fallen and sinful, Christians should be realistic and know that spiritual transformation will not come through politics or legislating for morality. In the NT, such societal reformation was an unimaginable option. The priorities of the early Christians were missional – being communities of love and grace in their local contexts. Ours should be the same. Our citizenship is within God’s kingdom and that’s where our identity, energy, focus and prayers should be directed.

3. (Unrealistically) Negative expectations

A third is to have such a negative posture towards the state and politics that you withdraw, cursing the darkness. This is the pietistic withdrawal option of many into ‘safe’ communities of faith.

This sure is a tempting option here in Ireland. The levels of complaint, cynicism, despair and anger over our broken system and bankrupt country are deafening. But such a view is dualistic and ultimately a failure to ‘love the world’ as God does.

Comments, as ever, welcome!

Sundays in Mark (45) The destruction of the Temple

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections on the Gospel of Mark.

This week we move into dramatic ‘Olivet discourse’ on the impending judgement of Israel and the destruction of the temple.

A lot of ink has been spilled on this passage and its parallels in Luke and Matthew, mostly revolving around what events Jesus’ prophecy is referring to – an imminent event like AD70, a future final judgement, a mixture of the two ..

Just a brief introduction today to what is the longest speech by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and amounts to a farewell discourse with a main aim of preparing and equipping his followers for the events to follow.

It forms a bridge from series of conflicts between Jesus and the authorities in Jerusalem that we’ve looked at over the last few weeks and the ‘end game’ of the Passion narrative.

The fate of the temple is intrinsically linked with that of Jesus himself.

His warning that ‘every stone’ will be thrown down is emphatic and unimaginably shocking; not only given the beauty and scale of Herod’s rebuilt temple, but because of its immeasurable spiritual significance as the symbolic centre of Israel’s identity.

His dark words form a sequel to his earlier actions in chapter 11. Rome would utterly destroy the temple in AD70, but the empire’s retribution would also be one of divine judgement. Such judgement would of such a cataclysmic nature that it in turn would point to a further horizon of ultimate eschatological significance.

The Destruction of the Temple

1 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

Evangelical omniscience?

A memorable quote from Joel Edwards, Director of The Micah Challenge, from last week’s joint Irish Bible Institute, Tearfund Ireland and IMAP Urban Nation conference (hosted in the wonderful Exchange Building of Trinity Church Network).

“Too often evangelicals think that since they are right with God they are right about everything”

 

(I typed some other quotes & notes on my phone as he spoke which worked well until I managed to delete the lot on the way home. Anyone got a good horror story about losing stuff?! I’ve heard a few from students pleading for extensions 🙂 )