Posted by: Dan | September 22, 2006

"We have no king but Caesar": A Manifesto of Christian Relevance?

In his latest book (Evil and the Justice of God), Tom Wright spends some time addressing how the crucifixion of Jesus is the climactic revelation of evil. The story of Jesus' death is the story of “how the downward spiral of evil finally hit the bottom.” As a part of this event, Wright also argues that the cross is the climactic expression of corruption within Israel. The Israel that has longed to become “like all the nations” (1 Sam 8.5, 20) is now reduced to declaring that it “has no king but Caesar” (John 19.15).

This movement from longing to be “like the nations” to declaring “no king but Caesar” is quite troubling. It seems to suggest that if one longs to be like the nations, one inevitably ends up so much like the nations that one now lives in a way that completely contradicts the true identity of the people of God (which is rooted in the proclamation that “there is no king but God“).

This movement should cause us to reconsider many of our contemporary desires for “Christian relevance.” I wonder: to what extent is our desire to be relevant simply a desire to be like the nations? If this is the case then we may have deceived ourselves into thinking we are living faithfully when we are actually decarling that we, too, have no king but Caesar. Indeed, I suspect that our scramble for relevance has lead us to serve the same lords as those around us, instead of leading us to proclaim the “there is one God, the Father almighty, and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 8.5-6).

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