A postmodern paraphrase of Philippians 2:5-11

The Incarnation is the mad story of the undeconstructible God who did not consider undeconstructibility as something to be grasped, nor did he despise deconstructibility, but rather taking the “human, all too human form” of a servant, he humbled himself to the point of inhabiting the very deconstructible structures of human law and culture—even to the point of suffering death at the hands of these institutions. But he did so not with a view to eviscerating the deconstructible, but rather to rightly ordering it such that the contingent, particularity of this deconstructible creation might reach its proper telos. — James K.A. Smith, What Jesus Did: The Incarnation as a More Radical Hermeneutic

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Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire, by N.T. Wright

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The good Bishop of Durham has summed up a lot of things quite concisely in one article that I spend pages and pages on this blog discussing. He goes briefly over passages from Romans and Philippians within the framework of a discussion of the term “Gospel” and Paul’s conception of Jesus as Messiah and Lord with some closing reflections on the subversive nature of the Gospel and how we might think about it today. It is especially worth reading for his brief statements on the idea of God’s righteousness/justice (the same Greek word, dikaiosune, can be translated both ways) vis-à-vis the Roman goddess/concept of Iustia.

I do find it interesting that he mentions that “the subversive Gospel is not designed to produce civic anarchy”. For all his care to avoid anachronistically reading back Protestant and modern categories into the ancient texts, including ideas such as equating “Gospel” with the doctrine of justification through faith and the history-of-religions approach that separates “religious” ideas in ancient texts from “political” ideas (just as modern thought tends to do), this seems to me to be a rather uncritical use of the term “anarchy”.

I agree that the purpose of the Gospel is not to replace one human political order with another (which is one of the thrusts of Romans 13), and I also agree that there is a kind of affirmation of the structures in scripture that have become the fallen powers and principalities, in that humans need structures to aid us in living life – but at the same time Christ is Lord over the powers and the church, I believe, is called to be involved in working to create redeemed structures to help us govern our lives. Anarchy as a political philosophy can very much be cast in those terms, though I tend to think more in line with my friend Bruce Wright’s idea that the ideal church would be made up of people who “live anarchistically in community”.

This is not to say that Tom Wright is dissing anarchists here, at most the question of anarchy is tangental to the whole article, but it’s interesting to me that he is generally so careful in how he relates present-day ideas to ancient texts and when the term “anarchy” comes up he seems to be rather uncritical.