I read this Blog yesterday about the difference between a theology of Life and a theology of Death. It is an interesting read, and I think that Mr. Cole is journeying in the right direction. After reading, I begin to think about the paradox that is expressed in the Blog–“The one who finds his life loses it” (Matt. 10:39)—and the counter intuitive action that we are called to take as Christians and the church. Why is this so?
The clue as Mr. Cole mentions is in the resurrection, but it is also in Pentecost. The reason for the paradox is that we worship a living and present God. Maybe this suggests that we need a theology bigger than life or death—a theology of a sovereign Trinitarian God that holds life, death, the church and all of creation within the interrelatedness that is God.
Why do I say this and what do I mean? Who knows, I am journeying also, but here is where I have come thus far.
It is by sending Christ that God proves the infinite scope of God’s love for the world. It is by obeying the will of God the Father that Christ proves his love for the Father and reconciles the world. It is by the Holy Spirit that Christ is able to obey the will of the Father, and through Christ, we are “redeemed” into the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3).
The interpersonal relationships within the Trinity are crucial, and one might conclude that it is mutual subordination within the interpersonal relationship of the Trinity that defines love. Christ does only the will of the Father; the Father blesses his Son and gives him all that he has (Jn. 5). This is right relationship within the Trinity, a relationship where the Father, Son and Spirit give all that they are to each other because at the core of the Trinity is love.
This is why the Father, gives life through Christ and by the Spirit because to do so brings pleasure and love within the Trinity. It is through the Spirit that we enter into the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5). The Spirit gives eternal life (Jn 6:63). Yet, it is the relationship between Jesus and God the father that releases the Spirit so that we can be “reborn” into the Kingdom of God.
By the power of the Spirit, Christ lives a life fully human and fully divine. He does not sub come to self-love and brokenness. The last right relationship, the one between the Trinity, remains whole. The Spirit reveals its full identity and character through the divinity and humanity of Christ.[i] In a sense, the Spirit became “humanized” through interrelatedness with Christ and it is such humanization that enables the Spirit to bear witness to Jesus through whom, we are reconciled to the Father.[ii] The Spirit enabled Christ’s life of dependence on God and submission to Gods will. This same Spirit, taking on the character of Christ, is now with us reconciling us to God, forming the community of Christ (church), and enabling this communities witness to the world.[iii]
Gods mission is one of healing, redeeming the relationships between creator and creation and within creation itself. Therefore, we receive the gift of new life so that we can give our life to the mission of reconciling others to God.[iv] We see the link between the gift of salvation and our openness to each other as humanity. The opening of God to humanity occurred in Christ. Christ was “wholly” human as intended, and in this “wholeness”, Christ openly embraced all that it means to be human. In this “wholeness”, Christ also openly embraced the Spirit of God submitting to the will of God. Therefore, by the Spirit through Christ, we enter into human wholeness, open ourselves to the will of God, and open ourselves to interdependent relationship with humanity. This new “wholeness” or “life” is a gift from within the Trinity. Such an understanding enables us to root our identity as the church within God and to discover how we should relate to one another in this world
Guder, in his book The Continuing Conversion of the Church writes, “The church itself is not the goal of the gospel, but rather is called to be its witness and servant” (:199). The church witnesses and serves the gospel only as it lives into what Newbigin calls the paradox at the heart of the gospel, “This paradox is at the very heart of the gospel: ‘He saved others; himself he cannot save.’ It belongs to the mission of the church to the end. The power given to the church to meet the power of evil is just the power to follow Jesus on the road that leads through suffering, through total surrender to the Father, to the gift of new life and a new world” (Newbigin 1978:108).
Which leads me back to Guder in The Continuing Conversion of the Church. “Jesus’ statement about the difficulty for rich people to enter the kingdom of God applies here: we might paraphrase the saying to read, ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for an ecclesiastical institution to replace maintenance with mission as its commitment’” (:199).
“Take up your cross and follow me.”
[i] Michael Green writes in I Believe in the Holy Spirit, “No longer is the Holy Spirit encountered as naked power; he is clothed with the personality and character of Jesus.” Green, Michael. 1975. I believe in the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans. Pg. 50 He goes on to explain how one can now call the Spirit the Spirit of Jesus and refers to Acts 16:7.
[ii] Green also explains how the Spirit is not completely autonomous, as Jesus was not autonomous. “Yet here is no complete autonomy for the Spirit, just as there had been none for Jesus. He had lived his life in dependence on his heavenly Father: if he was to give a true representation in human terms of the nature of Yahweh, then he needed to live, as man, in consistent obedience to Yahweh both as his anointed Ruler and as his obedient Servant. And if the spirit was truly to represent Jesus, he had to remain bound to the person and character of Jesus. Jesus was God’s Last Word to man; and the function of the Spirit was not to give some new revelation of his own, but to bear witness to Jesus, to draw out the implications of God’s Last Word” (Green 1975: 54-55).
[iii] C. Norman Kraus writes, “God’s intention of the church is universal blessing. The same Spirit that hovered over the chaos in creation creating light and order in the universe was also active in the conception of Jesus, then in the formation of the new community of Jesus. In each case the Spirit’s activity had a universal purpose.” Kraus, C. Norman. 1993. The community of the Spirit how the church is in the world. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press. Pg 58. Green, states it this way, “The Spirit, who had inspired Jesus to teach and heal and proclaim the good news of God’s kingly rule among men, would come upon them, marked with all Jesus’ character” (Green 1975: 76).
[iv] As Newbigin states: “But if the truly human is the shared reality of mutual and collective responsibility that the Bible envisages, then salvation must be an action that binds us together and restores for us the true mutual relation to each other and the true shared relation to the world of nature. This means that the gift of salvation would be bound up with our openness to one another” (Newbigin 1995:70).