As many of you know, I am enrolled in a most unique gradate program: A Masters in Strategic Foresight under Jay Gary. Yesterday began a new semester, and two new classes: LMSF 602, Survey of Futures Studies, and LMSF604, Systems Thinking. Both are shaping up to be awesome classes for navigating (and leading!) change in our postconventional world. For 602, we are encouraged this week to share our thoughts regarding our evolving views of “the future.” I’m going to share them with you, too.
My Childhood View of the Future
When I was a kid, I thought of the future often. Chalk it up to a love for science fiction, particularly time-travel stories. When I was ten years old, I celebrated the New Years switch from 1989 to 1990 with my parents and grandmother, at my grandma’s house. While I was sitting on the floor, playing with a New Years toy I had received, I tried to imagine—in detail—what my future would be ten years hence. I would be 20, I thought…it would be the year 2000. I can’t say it was a very astute prediction: In my mind’s eye, I was still celebrating New Years with mom, dad, and grandma.
I was raised in a very spiritually attuned household, which for me meant happy Baptist-then-Pentecostal fundamentalists. So whatever thoughts I had on a day-to-day basis of the future informed by speculation like the above, or taking the long view of macro-history (inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series) was somewhat schizophrenically fractured in my mind by the sense that Jesus was going to come busting through some clouds at any moment. “They’ll Call You Gone,” was a rapture T-Shirt I owned as a kid. When I was about 11, a lady in my church stood up and said “The Lord told me that Jesus is coming back before my grandmother dies,” which was met by applause and approval by the pastor. And every sermon, Sunday School lesson, and Youth Group bible study reinforced this dominant picture of the future: “Jesus is coming soon, so the best way of preparation for the future is to make sure you’re in God’s good graces, and getting as many other souls saved as possible.”
“..the best way of preparation for the future is to make sure you’re in God’s good graces, and getting as many other souls saved as possible.”
Regardless of our ‘end-times’ views, I think that this is still sound advice (even though the terminology means something other to me than what it used to).
It’s almost the same thing as saying,
“The future is merely the present…but later. If we tend to the present, the future will take care of itself.
There are still many minds in captivity to the deceiver, the evil one, the master of illusions, the liar, the accuser, the killer, the theif, so let’s cast out these demons with the Spirit of Christ and the power of His name, preaching the good news of the love of God in the Messiah who has accomplished the the will of God, and who desires that we walk in the light of it!!”
Hmm. I guess I see this differently. The first part: “Make sure you are in God’s good graces.” I trust that we are in God’s good graces! By virtue of who God is. To be sure, God expresses Godself with a full range of feeling, and I think we can disrupt full relationship and communion with God–but this is always our doing, and from our perspective. I might even go so far as to say that an all-encompassing God, Parent, and Creator cannot take offense at a finite creation, but I know some Augustinian doctrine cops might jump on me. 🙂 Bottom line: the mercy of Abba as disclosed in Jesus is a given. Not a given to be taken lightly, but a divine disposition which should be celebrated and lived from, not a life of striving to constantly attain. Yet I think you’d amen this heartily, so maybe I’m not understanding something here.
The second part: “getting as many other souls saved as possible.” Like you said, it all depends on what we mean by terminology. If we understand ‘salvation’ as a full-orbed state of being wherein we are living as free and loving persons working toward a just and sustainable world, and ‘souls,’ similarly, as an all-encompassing state of human faculty, then I could still affirm this statement today. But if it is meant in the sense of usage of virtually all religious fundamentalists today, that is, converting some immaterial bit of an individual from eternal, conscious torment by her Creator to postponed, everlasting bliss in some rarefied Other Place, I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass. I’ll admit, the picture I just painted is a caricature, and there are some formulations of the conventional articulation that I could agree to–but only if they were included as part of a much larger, overall picture of care for humanity, creation, and cosmos.
I think Micah 6:8 sums it up quite nicely:
“God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does YHWH require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Well, I think that ‘making sure’ is like Paul saying, “Examine yourselves to see that you are in the faith”.
Which, to me, resonates with your Micah 6:8. (Which is, in reality, a prophecy concerning Jesus the Messiah).
(And amen to a holistic salvation!)
Thank God for Christ in us, the hope of glory!
And, I can see Jesus in Micah 6:8, for sure. But when you say “a prophecy about,” what do you mean? When some see something pointing to Jesus as a “fulfillment,” they mean it in a way that takes them off the praxis hook. “Jesus died so we don’t have to.” Well, sorry, Jesus died and rose to provide the template for the dying and rising that is our common journey. He also didn’t die so we could somehow evade divine justice; we are called to participate in his Way of living the fullness of divine justice.
Like you said, thank goodness for indwelling divine life–our reality worth glorying in.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the cross provided much more than just a template.
In the words of Tom Wright, “… justice without forgiveness is revenge. And forgiveness without justice is appeasement”.
On the cross, both justice and forgiveness were demonstrated.
Justice for God, and forgiveness for man, thus proving God to be RIGHTEOUS:
*”But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and are justified by his grace as a gift,
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”.*
Our concerns with justice and mercy are but an image of those same concerns in the heart of God. For justice to truly be justice, something must be made right.
For something to be made right means that something has been made wrong.
Same thing concerning mercy.
And so, something had to be done for the sins of man against God (which include the sins against our fellow man).
“The wages of sin is death.”
The sins (which are tied to the lack of justice and mercy as well as a heart of pride) have received their wage, although it was received by the Person of Jesus Christ.
“He was made sin on our behalf.”
In this way, yes, praise the Lord, we are off the hook!
But now, no longer expecting death, we may walk in newness of life with the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, having truly received the mercy and justification which is in Christ Jesus the Lord, we may be recognized as followers of the Way.
Not merely by our words, but by being who we were made to be in the first place, the sons and daughters of God, by our genuine and God given love for one another, a love that is even willing to die for His names sake (to keep the Name of the Lord in good standing before men and angels), even dying for others.
The cross of Christ was a template, but one that, when understood as Paul understood it and received, would burn it’s ‘code’ into the fleshly tablets of our hearts.
Sorry, I guess that I could have just posted this on my blog…, but it is a comment.
I didn’t mean that Jesus is only a template, though he is at least this–you know, Way, Truth, Life, and all that. Clearly, he is the empowerment to walk the path as well. But as you know, I’m just not so sure anymore that “salvation” and “reconciliation” are all as “forensic” and “transactional” as some theologians (and popular tracts/appeals) make them out to be. Even if Abba Father did require some kind of bloody sacrifice to change his mind about humanity, and Jesus the Incarnate stepped up to volunteer, wouldn’t the Father have needed to do the deed directly, like Abraham attempted with Isaac? I don’t like to think that God was pulling strings controlling religious leaders and imperial functionaries to do God’s dirty work for God, if that is indeed what was happening. But no, I don’t think that Jesus’ execution was inevitable. I think that Jerusalem could have heard Jesus’ call to repent, find a creative third way to resist Roman occupation, and thus ‘flee the coming wrath,’ which was very this-worldly. But instead, Jesus’ comprehensive programme of societal renewal was seen as too threatening to the powers-that-be, and so they conspired to kill him…as they did countless others in his day and age.
Jesus’ death was only “inevitable” in the sense that this is what always happens when people speak inconvenient truths to Power; and it was only “God’s will” in that Abba preferred Jesus absorb humanity’s violence rather than counter it with further violence–a strategy some of Jesus’ followers advocated, and one which many others would have likely jumped on-board. But this would have undermined the message of God’s counter-cultural, non-violent Kingdom drawing near–and this Kingdom (not some sort of theoretical transactional death) was the good news Jesus came to preach.
The generation following Jesus’ execution began to view it, poetically and prophetically, as a “sacrifice” for sins, but sacrifices of atonement are only one kind of sacrifice among many. Sacrifice is a perfectly apt metaphor, as long as we see it as one lens among many. But I guess I don’t see God’s justice being served by the State and organized Religion colluding to kill an innocent man. This is nothing like even a literal animal sacrifice, where the priests deliberately and knowingly conduct a sacrifice in ‘sacred space.’ Read those atonement books I lent ya, and lemme know what you think…
When I was reading the overview of the Master’s program, I was waiting for the Star Wars theme music to come on:-)
Sorry, Mike. You know its my job to tease all the brothers in my life; otherwise your heads will get big:-)
Sounds interesting, though.