I read your recent post on “absolutizing the exile” and was struck by how you seem to ignore the Biblical arguments of the New Testament that explicitly refer to believers as exiles, strangers, and aliens. The New Testament absolutizes the exile experience for the Christian.
Hendrick Van Everouma
Thank you for your query. I shall seek to broaden on what I already wrote on the sermon in question. I did anticipate this objection by noting this,
“We understand because of our own antinomian unfaithfulness we are living in an age of Exile but there is no reason to absolutize this Exile as if it is the norm for all times and places. Scripture speaks repeatedly of the Triumph of Christ in time and space. The Kingdoms of this world are shattered by the rock cut out of the Mountain that rolls over the Kingdom statue. The Knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The Kingdom of heaven leavens all. The mustard seed of Christianity becomes a great tree in which all the Nations (Birds) find refuge.
There is something altogether unseemly in a theology that says “’we’ve always lost, we are losing now, and we will only ever lose, though spiritually speaking that losing is really winning. If we want to be faithful we have to see ourselves as perpetual exiles in every generation.’”
Of course you know that in a 30 minute sermon matters have to be condensed and packed tightly. Further you know that there is no way you can take into the pulpit everything you’ve learned in your study. As such much that is good gets left on the cutting table.
As it pertains to Scripture, we are explicitly told that God’s people will inherit the earth. Don’t you agree that upon our inheritance (and remember our Hermeneutical methodology of “now, not yet”) of the earth it would be rather odd to speak of us as exiles in the earth we have inherited?
Further Scripture clearly teaches that with Christ’s victory (Resurrection, Ascension and Session) the age to come has inaugurated and is rolling back this present evil age. Would you really hold it to be the case that where God’s already present inaugurated Kingdom is expanding in a particular nation or people group so that Christ’s reign is respected and so that God’s Word is incarnated into Family, Education, Courts, Law, etc. that at that point God’s people are exiles in the sense of not belonging to such a Christian social order?
You see, knowing you as I do, the reason you insist on absolutizing the exile theme of Scripture is because you are an amillenialist in your eschatology, and so, being consistent, you must absolutize exile. At least some of your friends have a eschatology does not allow for speaking of realities like “Christian social order,” or “Christian Education” or “Christian Law,” or “Christian family.” As such, all that is left in such a “theology” is exile.
Of course I think your eschatology is under-realized and you think mine over-realized. But to suggest that I am ignoring NT arguments is, as we have seen, almost as if you are trying to steamroll me on this issue.
Other texts we might appeal to from the NT is when our Lord Christ said,
“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”
Now if the ruler of this world was cast out with the cross then clearly exile does not need to be a theme that is absolutized in Scripture. Now, I quite agree that there is a “not yet,” to this “now,” but why should we absolutize the “not yet” with the absolutizing of “exile” and so not include the idea that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever,” or, “For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet.” Surely when the Kingdoms of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord at such a time God’s people will not be exiles. I know you think that won’t happen until Christ returns but for those of us who do not hold your eschatology we are required to object.
And of course there is Psalm 2
8 “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”
Of course we know that Christ has already been given the uttermost parts of the earth as His possession in principle and that He reigns now, but we look for that already present reign to progressively ever more manifest itself as the age to come keeps rolling back this present evil age.
You see, our disagreement here is that you see the fulfillment of these words as “spiritual,” while I see them as also spiritual but as also having corporeal impact upon real nations. Again, it is the difference between amillennial and postmillennial eschatology. I will pray for you that you do not under-realize the present age to come Kingdom if you will pray for me that I do not over-realize the present age to come Kingdom.
Now, we could take this a whole different direction by noting the problem you have by “absolutizing the exile” theme. Remember, that exile in the Scripture is typically associated with God’s judgment at His people’s disobedience. While I agree that there are epochs of exile, do you really want to suggest that God’s people are always under God’s exilic judgment until they die and go to heaven?
Well that is enough. Forgive me for going on and on but I reckoned that if you were having these thoughts others out there in the Internet land might also be having them as well and as such I wanted to go on and on just a wee bit.
Thanks for your question.