Thursday, May 29, 2014

To be clear, I am not saying that any of these ideas are wrong, or inappropriate, or unhelpful. I am simply noting that these great statements of faith, which the church has treated as foundational for its life ever since, manage not to talk about what the gospels primarily talk about, and to talk about something else instead.

The problem, as I see it, is that a great gulf is opening up between the canon and the creeds. The canonical gospels give us a Jesus whose public career radically mattered as part of his overall accomplishment, which was to do with the kingdom of God. The creeds give us a Jesus whose miraculous birth, saving death and resurrection and ascension are all we need to know. We have thus assumed some kind of a creedal framework for the Christian faith, and the gospels don't fit it. The gospels were all about God becoming king; but the creeds are focussed on Jesus being God. It would be truly remarkable if one great truth of early Christian faith and life were actually to displace another, to displace it indeed so thoroughly that people forgot it even existed. But that's what I think has happened....

The point is that John, along with the other three gospels, urge us to see Jesus's death as explicitly royal, explicitly messianic - in other words, explicitly to do with the coming of the "kingdom." Jesus has, all along, been announcing that God's kingdom was coming. His followers might well have expected that this announcement would lead to a march on Jerusalem, where Jesus would do whatever it took to complete what he had begun. And they were right - but not at all in the sense they expected or wanted. That is what the evangelists are saying through this particular moment in the story. This is how the kingdom is to come, the kingdom of God which Jesus has been announcing and, as Messiah, inaugurating.

Read it all.

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