Following from my earlier post “optimillennianism” I would like to add some further thoughts as God has lead me during the past months. This post might seem rather long and the main points may not be immediately obvious, but please bear with me on this!
The main gist of this post concerns the transformation of society from the kingdom of humanity and human politics into the Kingdom of God. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah and he will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15, NRSV). I believe that this is happening now (and has been happening since the time of the earthly ministry of Jesus) and that one of the reasons for God calling to himself a people (the Church) from amongst the human population was to make these people into the collective Body of Christ through whom he establishes his Kingdom, eventually bringing all people into his flock and transforming all institutions into expressions of his rule. Salvation (as De Vern Fromke said) has two aspects; we are saved FROM destruction and saved TO become instruments through whom God’s ultimate intention for the human race is fulfilled. To concentrate only on the first is only half of the story.
Amongst those who believe that God works through his church to usher in the Kingdom, there are two main ideas as to the role that the church will actually play. One is exemplified by the Christian Reconstructionist (CR) movement and believes that Christians should aim at gaining political power and (in effect) legislating the Kingdom into existence. This movement is strong amongst the Christian Right. It is anti-democratic and advocates the establishment of a legal system based on the Mosaic Law, including the implementation of the punishments prescribed therein. This could be termed the “top down” approach.
The second idea concerns the progressive conversion of society and the transformation of the world’s kingdoms into God’s Kingdom through the changing attitudes of the human population as more and more people yield to the Law written on their hearts and the inward guidance of the Holy Spirit. This could be termed a “bottom up” approach.
In my opinion, the “top down” CR approach opens the gate to something like a Christian fascism. It does, however, have some positive aspects. For one thing, it advocates an active role of the church in the (re)structuring of society. I believe that the type of society it envisions falls short of the Kingdom of God, but at least it does not see the church as something purely “spiritual”. It was also largely responsible for the home schooling and Christian school movements which are positive in providing an alternative for parents who choose an alternative to public education. I have grandchildren who attended a Christian school and benefited from the experience.
The problem with CR is that it sees the Law as an external code only, unlike the New Testament view of Law as internalised. As C.S. Lewis wrote “The Law, as St Paul first clearly explained, only takes you to the school gates. Morality exists to be transcended. We act from duty in the hope that someday we shall do the same acts freely and delightfully”(“The Novels of Charles Williams” in Of This and Other Worlds p.53). Passing from “duty” to the “free and delightful” – we might say “spontaneous – exercise of the demands of the Law comes when we open our inner lives to the rule of Christ through the Holy Spirit. With Lewis’ remarks in mind, we could say that the CR approach is stuck at the “elementary school” level. The alternative approach depends upon the slower but surer process of spiritual maturity of an increasingly Christian population.
It is easier to grasp how CR would work in practical terms. Simply fill government, business, education etc. with Christians who take a very Old Testament view of the Law and how to apply it in contemporary society. Rather like the radical Moslem approach to legislating according to Sharia Law. But how, in practical terms, is the bottom up alternative to be applied? If we are looking at a very long-term prospect (as we surely are!) is there anything that the church can do in the here and now?
I believe that Christ will increasingly rule through his corporate body, the church. Not necessarily the institution but the collection of all those people who can say, with Paul, “not me, but Christ in me”. Decisions will be made by Christ acting through groups of his people meeting prayerfully together to know his will in any situation. Meetings of this type only work if all their members surrender their own prejudices and plans and truly seek the will of Christ. Each member must have the attitude of surrendering his or her own ego and recognizing that the group is to act as the corporate body of Christ under the control of the mind of Christ.
I recall reading an account of a prayer meeting in which the author of the passage stated that the presence of Christ, and the fact that those participating were meeting as members of the corporate body of Christ, was so strong, that he lost the sense of his own individuality. Someone in the group would begin a prayer and another would continue it, evidence that the One Spirit spoke through different mouths. The author of this passage also perceived the presence of Christ during the prayer meeting in the form of numinous Light which seemed to burst through his closed eyelids.
These types of meetings could be called “Quaker style”, not that they are uniquely Quaker but because the traditional Quakers are mostly associated with this approach.
George Fox, the Quaker founder, was a preterist, although not a full preterist. He appears to have been closest to the preterist idealists, although the main focus of his preaching was not so much the time of Christ’s return as the fact that Christ is present with us now. For Fox, a man of deep spiritual insight, Christ’s presence was a continuing experience. Of course, one does not need to be a preterist to believe in the presence of Christ, but Fox’s preterist views gave this extra force for him. He believed that Christ returned spiritually in the First Century and ever since stands at the door of the inward life of all people (Rev.3:20). Those who open to Christ have him enter and spiritually unite with their spirit; they are born again of the Holy Spirit and have Christ himself as their Teacher and Priest. For them, the Second Coming is experienced in their lives. Some of the early converts to Fox’s movement became so vividly conscious of Christ’s presence and of their own sin, that they physically shook - “trembling at the Word of the Lord” as Fox expressed it. For this reason they were called “Quakers”.
It follows from this that a gathering of people who experience the inward presence of Christ and who know themselves as being members of his corporate body will also share in a single Mind – the Mind of Christ. Fox saw no need for ordained ministers; any man or woman in the meeting could be moved by the Holy Spirit to minister on any occasion. They may be inspired to read a Bible passage and comment thereon, pray, present a teaching or word of prophecy, give a testimony etc. Business meetings were not really different to worship meetings as a gathering of Christians for any purpose is still a gathering of the corporate body of Christ under the control of the Spirit of Christ.
I would ask those reading this to please go to the blog quaker-style.simplesite.com. I would humbly ask that the article at this site be used as a point of prayer, discussion and meditation by small groups as I feel strongly convinced that the formation of “Quaker-style” meetings of the type discussed here is how God will move Christians toward a Christian reconstruction of society – very different from the vision of CR. Also, please consider, prayerfully, including a link to that article from your web page. If I am correct, small groups gathered for divine guidance as to the message of the article will be a first step. I envisage the day when Christians within business corporations and national governments will come together in such meetings to seek the will of Christ over issues such as business proposals and proposed government legislation and, when convicted of the divine Will, present this to business leaders or to presidents and prime ministers. They may or may not be heeded at present (although we might be surprised; apparently President Eisenhower cancelled a proposed arrangement with another country after being warned by a prophetic Christian lady that what he had proposed was not in accordance with God’s Will), but as the world becomes more Christian – as the Kingdoms of the world increasingly become the Kingdom of the Lord – the influence of such Christian meetings will increase until, eventually, the transformation of society will be complete.
Apologies for the length of this post, but I do ask that this topic be taken very seriously indeed. One does not need to be a preterist to participate (as all Christians believe that Christ is with us and within us spiritually in the here and now) but I do believe that preterists and fellow travellers such as post-millennium believers (at least, post-mills of the pietist type similar to that preached by Jonathan Edwards, in contrast to the theonomic variety who take the CR approach) find it easier to accept than someone who believes that the immediate outlook is pessimistic.