Posted by: Dan | May 28, 2006

Hopeful Critiques From Within

If we really hope for the kingdom of God, then we can also endure the Church in its pettiness.
~ Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline

Many Christians impose wrong limitations upon hope. Hoping for the kingdom of God, yet having had negative experiences within the Church, they tend to continue to affirm the kingdom even as they abandon the Church. Barth is right to realise that such an attitude merely reveals how little we know of hope. Our reliance upon the God of hope — who fills us with all joy and peace in believing so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Ro 16) — should lead us to become more deeply committed to the Church.

Yet this must be a critical commitment to the Church. This commitment has nothing to do with a fierce, but blind, loyalty. Alas, many other Christians refuse to see errors within the Church, and refuse to listen to any voices from the margins that ask critical questions. Perhaps it could be said that these Christians also impose wrong limitations upon hope. Unlike the first group of Christians mentioned, these Christians place too much hope in the Church, and not enough in the kingdom of God.

Therefore, there is an important balance to maintain here, a balance between criticism and commitment. Our critiques of the Church, just like Jesus' and Paul's critiques of Second Temple Judaism, must be critiques from within. And these critiques from within must be marked by hope, and the assurance that this hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Ro 5).

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