Oh, how I love Hamlet. (I just used a Shakespearian allusion. I’m so proud of myself.)
I just finished The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren. Wow. Ever since I discovered Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell of Mars Hill fame, and the whole emerging church along with it, I’ve been caught up into this theological renewal that’s going on in areas from ecclesiology to missiology to ecumenism to biblical studies to… It’s been a beautiful thing that perfectly epitomizes the type of “theological journeying” that my blog is (mostly) centred around.
And in wonderful postmodern fashion, for McLaren, Bell and other EC crew, “Das Gespräch ist der Geburtsort aller Theologie.” I myself learned painfully and reasonably quickly that my personal interpretations of Scripture are not necessarily the most correct interpretations. For postmoderns, truth-acquisition occurs through intersubjectivity, which means truth appears neither in an objective, abstract vacuum nor in the inner recesses of the individual. We are all twisted by our own Weltanschauung, and therefore, the best interpretations are derived communally.
(Yeah, that last paragraph was a tangent. Sorry guys.)
What I really loved about this book was the way in which it delved into and incorporated so much of Jesus’ teaching into the conversation. I’ve recently become uncomfortable with understanding “the kingdom of God” as synonymous with “heaven after you die”, sensing somehow that it had some deeper, broader meaning, and it’s precisely this concept that McLaren deals with in his work. He holds that “the kingdom of God” is the reign of God coming to earth in all its beauty and majesty–and its power to heal the nations–embodied in the person of Jesus, and the Church, the “body of Christ”. “Eternal life” is not simply “heaven after you die”, but is a way of life that we begin here and now–the way of living that God originally intended for us–”life to the full”–that will continue into eternity. (This line of thought is explored in Velvet Elvis as well.)
There are certain passages where it does make sense to conceive of the “kingdom of God” and “eternal life” in traditional terms, but there are plenty of instances in which understanding these phrases simply as “heaven after you die” does not add up. Here are a few: Luke 18:18-27, John 5:39-40, and John 17:3.
P.S. I think I’m going to embark on a reading of the four Gospels in light of this understanding of these two key phrases. Maybe I’ll blog my way through it .