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Who Do You Say That I Am? - Part 11

XI. The last post looked at various interpretations of “the Kingdom of God.” First is the Christological (Jesus is the Kingdom); second is the mystical (the Kingdom exists when each person embraces God’s will). The third is more complex in theological thought in the last century or so, and in various ways closely relates the Kingdom of God with the presence and activity of the Church, the seed or beginning of that Kingdom already here and now. Some argued that the Church had obscured the simple moral message of Jesus addressed to each person and substituted an institution. Others focused on the reign of grace that did not depend on human activity, even when pursuing holiness or service. Another trend was to think of the Kingdom as a message about end times; only at the end of history would the Kingdom come. More recently, there is a tendency to leave behind specific realities like the Church or churches, religions, Jesus, even the idea of God – each of these can be the cause of division – and focus on bringing about the Kingdom: “a world governed by peace, justice, and the conservation of creation; it means no more than this.”

Pope Benedict acknowledges the appeal of this vision, and the real values it enshrines. However, there are problems, and history itself gives ample proof. Whose version of “justice” is to be adopted? In what way and at what cost? How do we achieve peace without abolishing freedom? How can we both conserve and share the world’s resources to achieve these ends? While this path has been pursued many times and under a range of names, it always fails in history, and this version of the Kingdom has no place for God, Who is even viewed as a “downright nuisance” to our plans. As he says of this secular utopia: “Faith and religion are now directed towards political goals. Only the organization of the world counts. This post-Christian vision of faith and religion is disturbingly close to Jesus’ third temptation” (55)

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