Shuck and Jive

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Me and Bob and the Kingdom of God

Another round with conversations with Bob!


Thanks for your last post.

It is interesting how we interpret and understand the language we have both inherited. The phrase "the kingdom of God" is a puzzler. Jesus used that phrase as well as that enigmatic phrase "the son of the man" a great deal. I think that for the most part the church has interpreted both phrases in a "futuristic" and in an "out of this world" way.

For instance, you have written about "entering the kingdom of God" which reminds me of a place. "I am entering the court house or the movie theatre." I suppose there are those who might not "enter" it. Another way to phrase it is that one "inherits the kingdom of God." This reminds me of a son or daughter receiving his or her parent's estate. You suggested that pastors could mess that up for people:
My concern is that pastors might counsel or advise people in such a way that the people they counsel or advise might not inherit the Kingdom of God.
I would hope that God would have a bit more understanding and compassion then to refuse a person his or her inheritance because of a pastor's bad counsel. You also quoted from the Bible:

We have to remember that Paul does say that several categories of people, “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Cor. 6:9b-10, NRSV)

Is there really such a person as a fornicator or a reviler? There may be people who fornicate or revile, and some perhaps more often than others. But, to classify people as such and then say no kingdom of God for you, seems a bit wooden. I would interpret this passage in the following way. There are certain ways of being and behaving that act contrary to the kingdom of God. As we become more aware of the kingdom of God, we are invited to live its values.

Certainly that phrase, the kingdom of God as well as the son of the man and all the other phrases are difficult to understand. They are symbols of symbols! Symbolic language is what we have.

A case could be made by the way Jesus told his parables about the kingdom of God is that it is a present reality that most of us do not see or even as we see we see dimly. We need to be aware that the kingdom of God is within and among us. Rather than something we enter or inherit, it is something of which we become aware. That is another way of dealing with that symbol. It is something that is also growing like a mustard seed.

How we approach these symbols probably has a great deal with how we understand what we call God, Sin, humanity, the work of Christ, and everything else, including the Bible.

Let's tackle the Bible, Bob! You go first! I'll throw out a question and you can either answer it or not. I have been wrestling with the following question for quite some time.

What does the phrase Word of God mean when applied to the Bible?


  1. Is there really such a person as an oppressor or a hatemonger or a polluter? There may be people who oppress or hate or pollute, and some perhaps more often than others. But, to classify people as such and then say "no kingdom of God for you," seems a bit wooden.
    John...the major point of disagreement between you and orthodox faith is that you're too reluctant to say that there is such a thing as a bad person and too eager to say that there is a bad god.

  2. Ummmmmm....

    Chris, I read the post you linked and John never said that "there is a bad god". The point he made was that Paul's view of God was tempered by the time, place and his own personal human weaknesses.

  3. Coincidentally, I am currently reading the book "The First Coming" by Thomas Sheehan, in which he discusses the idea of the Kingdom of God. I don't actually know what Bob means when he talks about a pastor possibly preventing someone from inheriting the kingdom of God.

  4. I'll give a stab at one of various ways pastors inhibit people from inheriting the Kingdom of God.

    A pastor is, by definition, a leader, a guide. In our irreverent culture many people, perhaps rightly, put no stock in this. However, many people do take very seriously what pastors say. For nothing else a preaching minister is given by his community the right to stand up and address them for 15+ minutes each week without interruption. To many of those people the pastor is a representative of God. The way in which we represent God has the possibility of profoundly impacting the faith of others. There is a responsibility inherent in that trust. We (ministers) are responsible to attempt to bring people into closer relationship with God, but we have just as much ability to inhibit those relationships.

    Case in point: the victim of childhood abuse by their father who experiences a pastor whose only image of a loving God is "Father". I know multiple individuals driven away from church and out of faith by experiences like this.

  5. Bad behavior by pastors might drive people from a church, but in my view a church is not the same as the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is in my view God's extravagantly welcoming immanent presence, it is a big party where everyone has been invited--including prostitutes, tax collectors, heretics, liberals, homosexuals. I believe that this is the essence of what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God.

    A pastor might try to push an exclusionary doctrine that tries to set rules on who can belong to the Kingdom of God and who can't, but a pastor cannot take away God's extravagant welcome. We are all in the Kingdom of God because the Kingdom of God is within us.

  6. I agree with Mystical Seeker. Isn't the big distinctive of us Calvinists that we believe that God predestines us, not ourselves or our pastors?