Kingdom Gospel

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on May 30, 2009

Scot McKnight has just published a series of posts called the Kingdom Gospel.

I was wondering if anyone else had thoughts about these posts, either agreeing or disagreeing.

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Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on May 22, 2009

In the Bible, mountains are often symbolic of kingdoms. Hills, in turn, are smaller kingdoms or principalities. Islands are symbols of democracies or republics, and the landless sea is a symbol either of outright anarchy or perhaps of tribal rule. Valleys are symbolic places of the weak and disadvantaged in society.

With this in mind, the biblical reader can discern parabolic meanings:

But it is to the words of the prophets Micah and Isaiah that I would most like to draw your attention to here:

“And it will come about in the last days: The mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the greatest mountain. It will be raised above the hills, and people will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty and distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war.” (a modification of the NASB version)

What is this mountain of the house of the Lord that is somehow associated with the coming of peace on earth? How can something as mighty as a mountain (which is symbolic of a kingdom) be associated with a single house? What would induce all of the nations of the world to stop fighting each other and voluntarily go up to this “house of the Lord”?

We’ll explore more about this in the coming days ahead.

The Tactics of the Kosmokrator

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on May 17, 2009

Spiritual shadows and symbols in this world are not always benign or helpful. Sometimes they can be employed for terrible or cruel purposes. I say this not to make anyone afraid or upset. That’s definitely nor my intent here. Rather, I’d like to offer you a simple, cautionary note via this post for your consideration. …

So, with some apologies, I’m starting another post here with a Greek word. Before it was anastasis, and this time it’s kosmokrator. The kosmokrator is what the New Testament calls the god of this world. More specifically, we should say that the kosmokrator is the god of the dehumanizing systems of this world. As opposed to the God of all (the pantakrator), the invisible kosmokrator is said by the NT to be actively involved in “blinding the eyes” of people.

Since it is obviously not our natural eyes that are blinded, it must be another means of sight that we each have that the god of this world is trying to take away. This other, invisible sense of sight that we each have is in our souls.

A soul is a deeply spiritual mystery. It is an invisible essence of ourselves. Anyone who would pretend to understand everything about it is clearly not telling the truth. However, we can examine three broad aspects of our souls that would seem to be plausible: the mind, the will, and the emotions. Given these three characteristics of our souls, we can look at how the kosmokrator might seek to try to attack or “blind” each of us.

1.  Agitation of the Emotions.  Emotions can be critical expressions of our lives and can serve as “leading indicators” for what we should or shouldn’t do. Our emotions are expressed when we say “I feel …”. Yet our emotions can also be agitated into doing things that we later regret, like “fight-or-flight” responses. Agitated emotions may cause us to cling to pride or fear: things that separate us from giving or receiving love.

2.  Propaganda for the Mind.  The mind is the “thinking function” of our souls. It is the interior world of ideas and thoughts. The mind is our complex “mental map”.  The mind is expressed when we say “I think …”. Propaganda is not just something done for whole societies (which is now the usual English language connotation for that word) but also for small groups of people and even individuals. Propaganda is an overall map or system for how we should think. It is an overarching plan for making sense of our thoughts. The kosmokrator seeks to make us see things his way. He doesn’t have control over our thoughts, but he does have the ability to try to provide us with a blueprint (schemata) for how we categorize and make sense of the thoughts in our minds.

(By the way, because agitation and propaganda often come in tandem, they are sometimes called agitprop.)

3.  Coercion of the Will.  The will is the decistion-making function of the soul. Once a decision has been made, the will provides the strength to maintain the position of that decision. The will is expressed when we say “I do …” or “I will …”. If agitprop fails, the final tactic of the god of this world is coercion or at least the thread of it. Coercion is not the classic “the devil made me do it” excuse. Rather, it is the strong threat against our souls that bad consequences will follow if we do not conform our wills to the world systems around us. It is intimidation that may blind us if we let the fear of coercion overtake us.

So, how can the knowledge of these tactics be useful to the spiritual explorer?

If you find that your emotions are being agitated, especially if such agitation is driving you away from loving other people, then please be on the alert. Let peace, calm, and rest enter into your soul instead.

If you find that you are being strongly challenged to think in a certain way: in a way that seems to conform closely to the world systems around you but also in a way that might be unjust to other people, then please be warned: Love is surely the most excellent way.

Finally, if your cause is just and you encounter the forces of corecion and intimidation along the path toward justice, take courage and make you stand.


Posted in: history by bill-o on May 09, 2009

Today, Shadows and Symbols is pleased to introduce a new category: history. With this new category for posts, we’ll be able to explore shadows and symbols of the past.


The military and political structure of the empire had evolved into a governmental system where the western and eastern halves of the empire each had one or two emperors. These emperors, at least in theory, ruled over supreme military commanders. The eastern side of the empire had multiple military commanders, and the emperors there managed to maintain control over these military leaders. In the west, however, there was only one military commander, and successively weaker emperors began to lose control over them.

By the mid-470s, the last remnants of the Western Roman Empire were decaying to the point of disappearance. The last western emperor to be approved by the eastern leadership, Julius Nepos, made a mistake that cost him his throne: He appointed a military commander named Orestes who would soon overthrow him.

The usurpation of a ruler by military generals is an old story in history throughout the world, and there is nothing remarkable about it. Yet, what Orestes did next after deposing Julius Nepos was unusual.

Instead of taking the imperial throne for himself or appointing his brother or another adult, Orestes decided to appoint his teenage son, Romulus, as emperor. The reasons for Orestes’s action are not clear, yet it does appear that this was a way for this commanding general to maintain his military office while filling the imperial throne with someone whom he could control. Finally, the western empire had changed to the point where the emperor was a complete figurehead.

Through his actions, Orestes had involved his own son, Romulus, within his own political machinations in at least three different harmful ways:

1.  Rebellion. The father had made his own son into a usurper. The western and eastern emperors had by custom concurred on the imperial succession of the other half of the empire. Since Julius Nepos had been deposed without the permission of the east, Orestes had undertaken the illegal overthrow of a legitimate emperor.

2.  Hypocrisy. The father, Orestes, nominally was serving his son but, in reality, the father was controlling his son for his own political purposes.

3.  Endangerment. Orestes was himself deposed and executed within a year of his own coup against Julius Nepos by Odoacer, a Germanic king. For some reason, Odoacer decided not to kill Romulus but merely to depose him. Still, the young son had been placed into a position of danger and risk-of-life by his father.

The life of Jesus presents a different picture of fathers and sons. It demonstrates to us a heavenly father and his love for his adopted children on earth. The Lord’s Prayer itself begins with an affirmation of our relationship to God, when it says, “Our Father”. Consider what Jesus and his original followers said that runs directly counter to the three items above:

1.  Legitimacy. Adopted sons and daughters have a full share of the inheritance of their heavenly father. The children are legitimate because they are of the same house (family) as their father. They are also privileged to call upon him in order to see his will done on earth as it is in heaven, and then to participate in his plans to make that will a reality.

2.  Truth and Reality. Rather than seeking to use us for selfish purposes, our heavenly father earnestly seeks to bring his children into a full measure of maturity. Those who are faithful with a little are then given much more to be faithful over. Authority in the kingdom of heaven is given to us those who are clothed in humility.

3.  Protection. The shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The children of God have no need for “bargained-for exchanges”, where a weaker person lays claims on higher authorities through legal processes. The hairs on their heads are numbered, and they are fully entitled to all of the provision and protection of heaven.