Prodigal Thought Podcast: The Gospel Is Political – But Not In the Way We Normally Think

podcastHere is episode 7 at Prodigal Thought Podcast.

The title of this episode is very odd: The Gospel Is Political. However, I don’t mean this in the normal way we think of “politics”. In this podcast, I share 2 brief points of why I believe the gospel is a political announcement.

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15 thoughts on “Prodigal Thought Podcast: The Gospel Is Political – But Not In the Way We Normally Think

  1. Both parties in this country are populated with loathsome political whores who would sell their mother to win an election. Judgement has arrived indeed when your choice is between a communist and a cultist.

    What period of church history do you feel best exemplifies this coming of Christ’s kingdom in the earth? From His announcement: “repent for the kingdom is at hand” until this day, which era illustrates the point you make in this podcast?

  2. It was a sincere question Scott. Would you believe I actually have no sarcastic responses waiting? Look. I’m sorry for being the bane of your blog life. For being the guy you probably hope never shows up again. For being a pain in other words. I do believe to the core of my soul that your views are at mortal odds with the true saving gospel of Jesus Christ. There’s simply no way for me to disregard that. I do feel bad though, at least on one hand, for making you feel bad. That is absolutely not my goal when I post here. Truly it isn’t.

  3. What period of church history do you feel best exemplifies this coming of Christ’s kingdom in the earth?

    I’m not sure a certain “period” best exemplifies. I think the announcement that God’s rule was present came into a specific socio-political context of the first century. First, we’d need to examine what the good news that God’s rule had come meant for that day it was first announced (well, it had been announced before). Then we’d have to follow the trajectory of what that looked like in time – though not perfect by any means.

    Lastly, I’m interested in knowing how we are to faithfully make this message real today. As one friend asked – What makes the good news good news to Belgians? I think we need to consider this in some way across the varying times and cultures. I think one way to proclaim the rule of God has come in Christ for today is to look at varying things that are problematic and how the rule of God will be evidenced now. I’m not so certain this means proclaiming an individualized salvation in the eyes of Martin Luther. What Martin Luther and the other reformers did was important for their situation – but it was not a definite copy of what was going on in first century Palestine, and I don’t think it needed to be per se. Nor do I think something from 500 years ago (or even the details of 2000 years ago) is to determine exactly how we proclaim things today.

    I’m sorry if a few things for you seem at “mortal odds with the true saving gospel of Jesus Christ”. Thankfully there’s a strong clarity for me that some of these things that cause you concern are not tied up to the announcement of God’s rule coming in Jesus Christ for deliverance.

    Blessings

  4. Hi Scott,

    I tried to listen to your podcast this morning and I simply can not get it to play. I have tried on two browsers on my PC and have also tried to hear it on my tablet. It’s a no go everywhere.

    So I really don’t know what I may be missing here. However, I am wondering if you will can clarify this statement in your comment above, I think one way to proclaim the rule of God has come in Christ for today is to look at varying things that are problematic and how the rule of God will be evidenced now. I’m not so certain this means proclaiming an individualized salvation in the eyes of Martin Luther.

    You are not saying that you are questioning the importance or the reality of individual salvation are you? I don’t believe that has been your take on things in the past. Are you maybe saying that you are not sure that is the best way to frame the Gospel for Belgium today? Maybe that it is not the whole picture? I’m just not sure what you really meant by that statement. (Maybe if I had been able to hear the podcast, I would know!)

    • He IS NT Wright here Cherylu. By which I intend no insult, but only that IT IS the case. Try updating your flash player or if worse comes to worse I’ll get it to you later. I’ll let him answer, but he’s not saying that there is no individual salvation. Only that is not the focus of the gospel. As usual the worst errors have some truth and can sound SO right. (Wright in this case)

    • Cheryl –

      I think what happened in the first century and what the gospel actually entailed then is somewhat, if not quite, different than what we imagine today in 21st century western culture as the children of the Reformation. Now, I do not doubt that what happened with Martin Luther and the Reformation, nor in varying other times and settings is of little important. And I do think the salvation-deliverance of individuals flows out of the collective setting of God’s people. So I don’t want to negate that. But I’m not sure what we normally preach as “the gospel” really gets into a lot of what was being laid out in the early church found in Scripture nor what needs to be emphasised here and now.

      Or maybe I can say it this way: There is one amazing 3D picture of the gospel, but at times, photos taken at various angles will help emphasise what is necessary and vital to the life of a particular period and setting. Maybe something of that nature, though I’m not sure that’s getting at it fully.

      There’s an important central reality to that of the gospel, which we can centre in the setting of the NT, connected with the flow of the story preceding it in the OT. However, I think things unfold a bit “differently” (if that’s the correct word) as we head down the trajectory of history.

      So maybe we begin by understanding Scripture in a very Jewish, first century context. We reflect on things down through the centuries of church history. Then we end by asking what does this mean today in our setting and context.

  5. The best I can do right now is copy and paste an email I sent to a friend a couple years ago. I say the announcement of the rule of God began with Him creating the heavens and the earth. There has only ever been and will only ever be one single plan of God. To glorify Himself in both the salvation of some of those deserving death and the damnation of the rest. I have a couple more thoughts I just don’t have time for now. Here is the Email. This man is a graduate of Wheaton and is now in a PHD program at UofC (Chicago) Liberal land.

    “Wright is a clearly brilliant man and one of the finest public communicators I’ve ever encountered. That being the case I have thus far proceeded under the assumption that a man of his substance and weightiness would for the most part understand those he would seek to correct, even if he were wrong in his assertions. All sarcasm aside, I don’t think he does. I don’t think he understands reformed theology. Not really. I think he has a somewhat cursory second hand comprehension of those in Calvin’s lineage for sure. Maybe a bit more familiar with Lutheran thought and then assumes for instance that the view of many Lutherans that divides law and grace as practically mortal enemies of one another is also the Scottish, Dutch, English or Swiss Reformed view. It’s not and never has been.

    He also seems to have this inadvertent assumption that every “traditional” protestant is a dispensationalist of some sort.. He harps on the “single plan of God” as if most reformed theologians didn’t believe that. I’ve been preaching that for over 20 years. One eternal covenant among the persons of he Godhead manifested progressively in history in chapter like fashion culminating in the new and everlasting covenant in Christ’s blood which IS the consummation of that eternal covenant conceived by the Father, achieved by the Son and applied by the Holy Ghost. Even in these historical “sub” covenants and prophecies is found this eternal covenant all along. In types and shadows and even seminal declaration like “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

    The children of Abraham were the keepers of that eternal covenant hidden though it was in the shadow of the promise and later the trappings of the Levitical system. By design of course. That promise made to Abraham (and David) showed up and they looked right in His face and didn’t know Him. I really believe where Wright (and you) go wrong is in your missing the point of Jesus “spirit of the law” teaching which is most fully revealed in Paul. Whose view is that yes, Christ WAS faithful to that covenant of law and in His supreme once for all sacrifice on behalf of the UNfaithful, grafts all of the eternal elect, Jews first, but also Greeks, into the one vine who is Christ. THAT has ALWAYS been the plan. Before creation. Both testaments, but especially the new, are brimming with language of individual communion with God AND corporate communion of the members of His body and bride with each other and with Himself as well. Who has ever said otherwise? I could write literally a several hundred page book on these topics. I didn’t mean to get this far into it now. As usual, the methodological framework is everything here.”

    • Tiribulus –

      As far as Wright goes, I think he at times overplays the card of trying to defeat normal American dispensationalism. However, he’s also combatting some aspects of neo-reformed theology. The former (disp.) has so many problems. The latter (neo-reformed) is so locked into the system that I think it cannot see much outside the system.

      Anyways, I don’t mind a lot of what your email states. It just sounds very neo-reformed. I feel quite strongly that the early church wasn’t working from that viewpoint, though not negating their are some helpful, even beautiful, pointers from such the reformed background.

  6. I finally got to listen to the podcast.

    I have a few thoughts. First of all, in so far as any of this relates to NT Wright or similar thoughts by others, I really have a hard time with any statements that refer to, “How God became King in Jesus.” God has always been King. The OT is replete with references to His eternal dominion and Kingship. Saying that the Kingdom came near or is at hand is not the same thing as saying that God “became King”.

    Secondly Scott, you state that the individual’s place in this flows from what God has done for His people corporately. (I hope I have that right. I just tried to listen to the podcast once more and now I can not get it to play again.) However, it seems to me that as it relates to people living out this Kingship, the way it is often implemented on earth is through individual people who have received individual salvation and a renewed heart being salt and light and influence wherever they go. Unregenerate people are not able to represent the King in that way. Prayer and witnessing to the Gospel so that more folks join those that have truly made Him King is often the way His influence grows.

    Now by saying that, I am in no way denying that He is sovereign over all things at all times and free to exercise that sovereignty in His creation and the hearts of man in the way He sees fit at any time.

    I do not, however, think that what God did in Jesus results in some form of theocracy on this earth where His Lordship is carried out fully and where He is in actual practice the King and Lord of all or where His truth and righteousness prevail in all things. I think that is reserved for a time in what is yet the future.

    And all of that is probably just about as clear as mud. 😦

    • Cheryl –

      On “God becoming king through Jesus,” I believe we discussed this here before, but can’t remember. There is no doubt that God was king and always had been king. But when the Hebrew people came out of Egypt in the exodus, there was a celebration that Yahweh’s kingship was now known in a way not yet known. The same when they came out of Babylon back to the land.

      So to express that God had become king in & through Jesus is not to negate God as always having been king. It’s the expression of that “on earth as it is in heaven”. God’s people had never known anything like his rule, his good & liberating rule, be expressed in the coming of the Messiah Jesus.

      On individuals and the corporate sense of God’s rule being expressed. I never said that the rule of God was to be entrusted into the hands of the unregenerate. God’s people are God’s people because they’ve come to renewed life in Jesus. And I don’t negate the work of individuals. But what we need to remember is that it is normally the leaders that we recognize as doing these works. However, there’s always has been and always will be a corporate people, though some stand out as leaders. So, for example, most identify Paul as this one-man missionary (maybe with 1 or 2 others). But Paul had a massive team right across the Roman empire, not to mention that he always included the people of the churches as part of his work. Paul’s work would not have been sustained without ultimately having support from the wider community.

      I’m also not looking for a theocracy. But a faithful community of the followers of Jesus, walking in his ways – which is by no means expressed in some kind of political sense of “parties” of Republicans, Democrats, and the like. And this community will catch that the wisdom & power of God is expressed in the cross.

      I hope that clarifies some things.

  7. But when the Hebrew people came out of Egypt in the exodus, there was a celebration that Yahweh’s kingship was now known in a way not yet known. The same when they came out of Babylon back to the land.

    So to express that God had become king in & through Jesus is not to negate God as always having been king. It’s the expression of that “on earth as it is in heaven”. God’s people had never known anything like his rule, his good & liberating rule, be expressed in the coming of the Messiah Jesus.

    Maybe it is a matter of semantics in this regard. I would say that His Kingship was realized in a new way with the coming of the Messiah. Not that He became King. 🙂

    And I don’t negate the work of individuals. But what we need to remember is that it is normally the leaders that we recognize as doing these works . Maybe my experience and “tradition” have been a lot different then yours. But in a good share of my experience, the corporate body has been recognized very much as being a part of what God is doing on this earth. Indeed as being essential to it. I know that mentality does exist, but I haven’t seen it across the board as the “norm” of people’s thinking. But maybe that also depends on specifically what you refer to as “these works.”

    On the other hand, there will always be leaders, delegated positions of authority in the church, and those specifically gifted in certain areas for ministry.

    • Cherylu says: But in a good share of my experience, the corporate body has been recognized very much as being a part of what God is doing on this earth. Indeed as being essential to it.
      I have some of Wright’s books in pdf format. From my reading of him, anything he says that’s good has already been taught by the church forever and what is bad is thoroughly unorthodox from a protestant perspective. His soteriology IS Roman Catholic grace + works straight up. The emergents LOVE the guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started selling stuffed plush NT Wright cuddle dolls.

      I cannot argue this exegetically right now, but the entire nature of Christ’s kingdom is contrasted against that of Abrahamic/Mosaic/Levitical/Davidic Israel. Jeremiah 31:31ff specifically proclaims that the new covenant will not be like the old in that His law will be written on their HEARTS and that by faith as Paul attributes to the individual Abraham as the father of the covenant HE was preaching.

      Jesus Himself told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world and the first 400 years of church history are anything on earth OTHER than political or social influence. Then when the church does get some, Catholicism is born and we get a one thousand year object lesson on what happens when the gospel is tied to politics. Even Calvin’s Geneva should have taught us that the civil magistrate should be separate from the church.

      Scott says:”I’m … looking for … a faithful community of the followers of Jesus, walking in his ways [that] will catch that the wisdom & power of God is expressed in the cross.
      Two questions. Number one. Could you please tell me which true disciples in the whole of church history have NOT looked for and themselves been what I quote you as saying immediately above?

      Number 2. Let’s try this then. Which individuals or significant movements from the death of John til today exemplify this authentically political gospel you are preaching?

      • Tiribulus –

        I think Wright is quite distinguished from the Roman Catholic teaching. However, he doesn’t a) skip over important passages like Rom 2:6-11 nor b) teach that Paul is somehow setting up the Jew & Gentile church of Rome to be captured into thinking they are justified by “works of the law,” then state they all sin & fall short, thus works become irrelevant. One does not become part of the people of God by works. This is by grace through faith in the faithfulness of Jesus. However, we still find a rendering “according to works”. I know our systems determine which verses get emphasized and which ones don’t. But we cannot side-step some passages in the NT. However, we need to hold them within the context of Scripture’s historical narrative, not the divide between Rome and Martin Luther some 500 years ago.

        There are many problems with the gospel being tied to politics from the whole 500-1500 AD period. And there are many problems with the gospel being tied to particular political schemes in the world, including powerful ecclesio-political forces.

        Question 1) You can always find people who were true disciples that, for whatever reason, were faithful to the “message of the cross” (in 1 Cor 1-2 it’s about the power & wisdom of God expressed in the cross, rather than a soteriological statement) and some were not. Now, I’m happy to ponder whether people are truly walking in faithfulness to the way of Christ if they are not grasping the expression of the cross as God’s power & wisdom. Still, you’re going to find gaps across history – perhaps even in the forcefulness of some of the councils, in the setting up of Christendom by Rome, the colonialism of the west, etc.

        Question 2) I would say that “getting back into the text” calls us to recognize the political nature of the gospel. But, again, not in the normative sense we have in 20th-21st century America. The gospel was a challenge to the lordship of any other, especially Caesar’s, and it was unto the people that the gospel was proclaimed. Very political stuff. The increase of his government, there shall be no end. I’d say there has been a sense of things getting off track in emphasizing this political as mingling with governmental structures. But I’d also say we get partly off track when the gospel is simply a soterian call to individuals. I do believe the fruit of the gospel is the salvation-deliverance of God’s people – from the oppressor, from sin, from judgment, etc. But it isn’t just an eternal security nor mainly individualized. The gospel of the kingdom is to the community of God’s people, and out of that flows the effect into individuals lives.

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