What does it mean to be ‘Christian’ and to be ‘American’ (or a citizen of any country) at the same time? What’s the difference between being patriotic and nationalistic? Should I think of myself as having more allegiance with Christians in other countries than I do with non-Christians in my own?
Providing answers to these questions isn’t simple or straightforward. It’s not easy to sort out the relationship between the Church as Christ’s new society, and the country in which we live—whichever one it is—which also requests our allegiance.
In this course, our aim will be to read carefully together several passages both from the Old and New Testaments which present a picture of the people of God as a divinely established kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. As we read and interpret, we’ll be organizing our reflection around the following question:
“How are these sacred texts meant to shape our identity as God’s Kingdom people?”
To be clear, we won’t be preoccupied in this course with political issues as such (pro-life/pro-choice, capital punishment, health care, economics), but with the nature of the ‘people of God’ (what folks in our Ecclesiastes course are learning to call the qahal adonai—the “assembly of the LORD”) as a peculiar and alternative “kingdom” in which members are in some sense “citizens,” and “pledge their allegiance” to the integrity of it. This dual allegiance—no surprise—often puts God’s people in strange tension with their former political affiliations (Ur, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Rome).
When the early Church faced these sorts of questions and issues, they didn’t turn only to Jesus’ teaching about the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (emphasized in Matthew’s gospel) or the ‘Kingdom of God’ (emphasized in Luke’s). They turned as well to the Scriptures of Israel—their “Elder” Testament which they had inherited from Jesus and the apostles as a gift that apparently had equally to do with them—to understand what it meant to be an ekklesia—a ‘Church’ composed of those who had been ‘called out’ of the world.
This “Elder Testament” became for them a fundamental force in shaping the early Church’s identity and mission in the world. So any investigation of the ‘Church’ as the ‘Kingdom’ that Jesus puts into the midst of other kingdoms must therefore account for what the New and Old Testaments have to say about that. Let’s discover what that is together! Please join me and others for this ten-week investigation, beginning March 11 (with one week off for Holy Week).
This course is available to take in person or online at your own pace. In-person class sizes are limited, so register early. Online classes will be available the day following each in-person class. In-person enrollments include free access to the online course.
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