Friday, December 23, 2005

Two things worth noticing

This Newbigin quote was recently mentioned by a Wrightsaid email list member. I remember reading it a while back, it is truly brilliant. In my opinion, it asks some tough questions for many social action charities (Christian or otherwise) who so love the role of condemning prophet from the outside, that it is hard to imagine what they would do if they were given the power to change anything.

When the ancient classical world, which has seemed so brilliant and all-conquering, ran out of spiritual fuel and turned to the church as the one society that could hold a disintegrating world together, should the church have refused the appeal and washed its hands of responsibility for the political order? It could not do so if it was to be faithful to its origins in Israel and in the ministry of Jesus. It is easy to see with hindsight how quickly the church fell into the temptations of worldly power. It is easy to point – as monks and hermits, prophets and reformers in all ensuing centuries have continued to point – to the glaring contradiction between the Jesus of the Gospels and his followers occupying the seats of power and wealth. And yet we have to ask, would God's purpose as it is revealed in Scripture have been better served if the church had refused all political responsibility, if there had never been a "Christian" Europe, if all the churches for the past two thousand years had lived as tolerated or persecuted minorities like the Armenians, the Assyrians, and the Copts? I find it hard to think so [...]

From the eighteenth century onward, Europe turned away from the Christian vision of man and his world, accepted a radically different vision for its public life, and relegated the Christian vision to the status of a permitted option for the private sector. But for the modern church to accept this status is to do exactly what the early church refused to do and what the Bible forbids us to do. It is, in effect, to deny the kingship of Christ over all of life – public and private. It is to deny that Christ is, simply and finally, the truth by which all other claims to truth are to be tested. It is to abandon its calling (p.101-2, Foolishness to the Greeks).

Elsewhere Tony sums up my thoughts on Christmas.


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