N.T. Wright on the Kingdom of God
In the video at the link above (an hour-and-a-half long), N.T. Wright refers to the Enlightenment, the Kingdom, and Post-Modernism, and I got his message that neither Enlightenment thinking nor Post-Modern thinking could adequately contain Kingdom theology. And this was the springboard for the following thoughts…
The idea that postmodernism is wholly incompatible with Christianity has been a major part of what I was taught from high school through pretty much every church and Christian setting that I’ve found myself. (The exception being the radical thinkers I met here at Beautiful Feet.) The blind spot in this teaching seemed to be that it was always taught from a decidedly modern (i.e. post-Enlightenment) framework. Surely the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be fully understood through any human perspective. But surely this is equally true: that God desires to be known! Surely God is big enough that he may be known from inside Post-Modernism, while not being contained by it.
For us [cross-cultural workers], who enter into cultures not our own, we will be confronted by systems of thinking and ways of understanding the world that are not only unfamiliar and confusing to us, but which will in some (perhaps many) ways seem just plain wrong. Let us always strive to not judge but to understand. Instead of searching for ways to correct, let’s search for ways to connect. Jesus is there with the people. He created them and he is revealing himself to them. It is our job as image-bearers to live out the light, life and love of God toward the people as we live in their midst, identifying ourselves with their lives as much as we are able, and embodying Jesus to our highest capacity.
This necessitates a great deal of deeply personal inner work as we live an open, community-oriented lifestyle. This is only the work of the Holy Spirit. We must consent to this work, avail ourselves of it not only because we cannot do it ourselves but also because the Spirit desires our cooperation, submission and a mutually honoring and intimate love relationship.
I believe that cultivating a contemplative spiritual practice can play a major role in this inner transformation which must constantly take place in order for its fruit to bear out in our lives. One of Rev. Wright’s final statements was this:
“Morning and evening prayer actually contain a huge amount of scripture which flows through one’s consciousness like a stream flowing down a mountain and shaping the rocks along the way.”
Implicit in this analogy is that it’s going to take a lot of time and patience. Be persistent and patient with yourselves—and each other.