Thursday, February 05, 2015

KC (9) The World

The nature of the world is the subject of the 10th thesis of Scot McKnight in Kingdom Conspiracy.

Thesis 10

Kingdom and church don’t resolve their relationship until one forms a biblical understanding of the “world.” The New Testament use of this is almost entirely negative. It is what Yoder calls “structured unbelief.” Since Niebuhr, especially, “world” has become “culture,” and in the Reformed wing, then, “culture making” is a Christian activity of preeminent concern. The use of the term “culture” too often puts a mask over the summons of God to redeem people from the world into the kingdom/ church, rather than to improve the world for its own sake.
This is a real danger, so understanding how the scriptures use the word world is really important. Back I the 1970s when I first became a Christian, I read the a book by Watchman Nee called Love Not the World. I think he has fallen out of favour a bit these days, but he had some really good insights. He explains that the world is not just the physical world that can see. It is actually a system of authority that controls the world that we see. This system is controlled by the powers of evil. The world system opposes the Kingdom of God.
While it is true that these three definitions of ‘the world’, as (1) the material earth or universe, (2) the people of the earth, and (3) the things of the earth, each contribute something to the whole picture, it will already by apparent that behind them all is something more. Behind all that is tangible, we meet something intangible, we meet a planned system…

Concerning this system there are two things to be emphasized. First, since the day when Adam opened the door for evil to enter God’s creation, the world order has shown itself to be hostile to God. The world “knew not God” (1 Cor 1:21) “hated” Christ (John 15:18) and “cannot receive” the Spirit of truth (John 14:17) “Its works are evil” (John 7:7) and “friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)…. God’s attitude to it is uncompromising.

This is because, secondly, there is a mind behind the system. John writes repeatedly of the “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). In his Epistle he describes him as “he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and matches against him the Spirit of truth who indwells believers. “The whole world” John says, “lieth in the evil one” (1 John 5:19). He is the rebellious kosmogrator, world-ruler—a word which, however, appears only once, used in the plural of his lieutenants, the “world-rulers of the darkness” (Eph 6:12).

There is, then, an ordered system, “the world”, which is governed from behind the scenes by a ruler, Satan….
Scripture thus gives depth to our understanding of the world around us. Indeed, unless we look at the unseen powers behind material things we may readily be deceived (Love Not the World, p.12).
Much of the church has lost this understanding. This is why it slips so easily into culture-making, without understanding the nature of the world and the spiritual powers that control it.

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