We return to Chapter 6, “The Story and the Mission,” in John Stackhouse’s Making the Best of It.
I’ve been reviewing the chapter section titled “The Christian Story – and us Within It.” So far we’ve seen how the biblical story might inform our ethical considerations and we’ve noted the importance of keeping the whole Bible together as God’s inspired word. We need to move on in this chapter but doing so is very challenging. This chapter is like a big fat steak and it needs lots of chewing. So I’ve given up trying to squeeze it into two or three posts. There will be at least two or three more after this one.
The Core Ethical Question and Response
On page 194, Stackhouse writes:
Stackhouse identifies two common responses. One is a dispensationalist scheme that places Jesus’ example and instruction in a previous dispensation that no longer applies to us today. He doubts that many of his readers connect with this response so he moves on to the second.
The second response:
Stackhouse gives three reasons why this response is not coherent.
Internally incoherent – Passages about turning the other cheek are present along passages that would have us gouge our eyes or cut off limbs to avoid sin. We are told not to resist evil. Should parents not resist the exhibition of evil in their children? Should churches not exercise discipline? Literal application would seem to suggest we should.
Incoherent within the Christian Story – Jesus alone lives totally within the Kingdom of God. We are part of the Kingdom in its not yet fully realized state and it is futility to believe we can achieve it.
Incoherent with 2,000 years of Christian experience – From Jesus’ day to present, we’ve not seen evidence of people living at this ethical level. It doesn’t prove that it can’t be done but it puts the burden of proof on those who would argue otherwise. We are mandated to begin the journey toward completeness but we do not realize it until the consummation of the new creation.
We Aren’t Destined for the Garden
Next Stackhouse tackles one the issues I’ve visited repeatedly at my blog. The Christian story begins in a garden but it does not end there. Nor does it end with humanity ascending into some ethereal heavenly existence. It ends with a garden city … the New Jerusalem. It is not a new ex nihilo creation but redemption of the old creation. He quotes all of Revelation 21:1-22:5 in order to make his point. Then he writes:
The New Jerusalem vision has five implications: (202-203)
- “The individual matters, and so does the social. …”
- “The physical matters, and so does the spiritual. …”
- “Unity matters, and does diversity. …”
- “The world to come is in continuity with this world, and fulfills the noble aspirations of this world, even as it clearly transcends this world. …”
- “Implicit in this vision of the New Jerusalem and fundamental to the Christian ethos is what I call the principle of “win-win-win.” Shalom is an all-embracing life of mutual contribution and benefit. Within it, individuals and groups are never finally in a situation of choosing whether to benefit themselves or others, never finally in a situation of choosing to honor God or their own well-being. Much of Christian piety and preaching, I daresay, has been importantly misguided and misleading on this account, so let’s expand on this theme.”
Stay tuned until tomorrow when will look at his expansion on point 5. I want to quote him at length on this one because of its significance to economic ethics.