Sunday, April 27, 2008

The King's Dominion

I've been reading a bit on predestination, specifically St. Thomas Aquinas' view on the matter. It is truly puzzling and marvelous to consider Divine Predilection and Grace. As part of that reading, I've been reflecting on the nature of God's will, whether there is one will with varying efficaciousness (e.g., "thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven"), two wills (e.g., an antecedent and a consequent will), or some other thing vastly beyond me.

That got me wondering about the extent to which God's will prevails in His Kingdom. As I think of the word Kingdom (from my legalistic angle), I imagine it to be the realm within which the King reigns, to reign meaning that his will is his law, which is upheld as supreme. The dictionary does not seem to disagree: "A political or territorial unit ruled by a sovereign" or "A realm or sphere in which one thing is dominant" (American Heritage).

Jesus is the King of this Kingdom. Luke 1: 31-33, from the Annunciation, tells us, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. (RSV)"

What is this Kingdom of Christ's? What precisely was He given? Is it Heaven, that is, all entirely on the other side of the Spiritual divide (cf. John 3:5, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God")? Is it something to which we can hope to cling here on Earth, while running the race set before us (cf. Col. 1:13, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins")?

Let me imagine that, at least at some level, the Kingdom of Heaven is upon us as much as it is to be anticipated. If so, and if I've defined Kingdom correctly, where ever it is, the Lord's will is His law and it reigns supreme.

If it is here and now, where is it? I am disposed to consider the Kingdom as a notional sphere of people who strive to obey Christ's Law. It is easy for me to imagine the Kingdom as the collection of "True Believers" spread through the world. But then it is hard to see how the Lord's will, which is His law, reigns supreme in this sphere. Christians are not able to reach consensus on what that will and law are (or, is, since they may be a singular). Does he promulgate it poorly, or have a shabby Sheriff? Is this notional sphere of a Kingdom gerrymandered to exclude that which is contrary to the King's will and include that which is in conformity with it?

In strong language, blogger Bryan Cross analogized man-led efforts at visible Christian unity to the Tower of Babel ("bottom up"). The City of God, which I understand to be this Kingdom, has to be God-led ("top down"), he says. I am inclined to agree. But where, visibly, is the King's will sovereign and efficacious? Where is the Kingdom?

17 comments:

Gil Garza said...

Perhaps it may help to take into consideration that all moments in time exist at once for God when thinking about the Divine Will.

The kingdom of God is the Church. The Church is the gathering of men around Jesus Christ. Jesus appointed 12 men to share in His ministry and direct the Church. Indeed, these men he empowers to sit on judgment thrones over the 12 tribes of Israel (Lk 22:29-30). He gives these men the power to bind and loose and he gives one among them the keys of his kingdom, as well. These men held offices to govern the kingdom of God on earth, the Church. This Church has been so governed since that time. This Church has openly proclaimed God's Word, healed the sick, forgiven mens' sins, feed the hungry, fought injustice, overcome death and expelled demons. This is the Catholic Church.

The kingdom of God isn't an invisible collection of believers powerless to teach, govern and minister with authority. That would render Jesus an impotent shepherd, indeed.

George Weis said...

Well, this begs the question, what IS God's will, and how is it being fulfilled in His kingdom now?

Also, is there a difference of the the kingdom as it is now, and as it will be ultimately?

I see that the Roman Catholics are eager to utilize this discussion to raise a suggestive hand toward the organization of The Roman Catholic Church. I understand that thinking. The Top down mentality is the nature of a theocracy, but how can we be sure that something that is so spiritual, is to be seen in such a standardized worldly form of government?

I think of Jesus own words about those who are of the Spirit (John 3:8)... that comes to mind. Indeed His Spirit indwells those who are of His Kingdom, which brings in the "rescued us from the kingdom of darkness" passage.

I don't know how to clearly define this either Thos.
What matters are you wondering about on the issues that we are divided on? We should probably be more concerned with the work that is before us if we are indeed a part of that kingdom. Namely, we should be seeking to Love and serve all of those whom we can, with a readiness to share the Gospel of Christ with everyone.

If we love God with our everything (which we miss the mark on regularly) then the natural and first outpouring beyond that is to Love our neighbors as ourselves. All the details of how the kingdom works , and how it is managed is far less an issue, and one we can have rest in the hands of God.

I know I just rambled. I'm not thinking clearly... my apology! I hope indeed you are resting in the peace that only He gives freely!

-george-

TheDen said...

Tom,

"Through Him, All things were made..."

Jesus Christ's kingdom is the entire universe. Everything in it was made for Him. It's meant to glorify Him.

Mountains bow down and the seas will rise at the sound of His name.

His Church is His body. It extends down from heaven and on to the earth.

That's the way I understand it. Too busy to talk about God's will. Perhaps another time.

Principium unitatis said...

Tom,

It may be worthwhile reflecting on the following paragraphs in the CCC.

541
567
680
763
865

In the Catholic view there is an "already" and a "not yet" regarding Christ's kingdom. And Christ's kingdom is not disconnected from the Church. Christ gave to Peter the "keys of the kingdom". (Matt 16:19)

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Tim A. Troutman said...

Remember, Christ told those listening that the kingdom of God would come before they died. If we are to link that statement with the destruction of the temple, what implications does that have on our kingdom question?

How does the destruction of the temple amount to 'God's kingdom coming with power'?

Gil pointed out that the Church is the kingdom. I think he's right and in the sense that Brian mentioned - "already and not yet". The Church is already here, and in that sense she is the kingdom of God and in the sense "not yet" the kingdom of God is something else. We're not waiting for the Church which sojourns on earth - it's here already, we're waiting for the heavenly family - the complete family of God.

Israel->>Catholic Church-->>Kingdom of God

All three could rightly be called kingdom of God but only the final is the kingdom in the fullest sense.

When Isaiah's prophecy of the virgin birth was fulfilled by a young woman in the following chapter (who wasnt a virgin when she gave birth) we see that Matthew didn't hesitate to refer us back there and show it wasn't finished.. the prophecy was stronger and broader (or more narrow depending on how you look at it)than we had first suspected.

Same thing here > when Christ prophesied the coming of the kingdom of God - it did come (already) with the Church and is still coming (not yet) with the final second coming of Christ.

If we could envision a boat that was sailing to America and picking up sea-stranded sailors along the way - one could imagine those who had been stranded now feeling America's presence already and not simply because they were on their way but somehow and in some way this boat had made America a reality already to those rescued. It is the same with the Church. She makes the kingdom of God a reality already to those who are on the way.

We can visualize this much easier if we pictured a visible boat rather than an invisible one which those stranded just imagined themselves rescued by. If the Church which rescues us is visible how much more visible that destination which we are to be delivered? Yet if she is invisible, what does that tell us of our destination?

NT Wright says that confusing "Church" and "kingdom" is like putting the buggy before the horse. I think he's partially right... well he's fully right about that as a historian but only partially so as a theologian and I think he knows that.

Kim said...

I've been pondering this issue quite a lot lately. If the RCC is Christ's church, yet He is also working within Protestant churches to bring about His kingdom, who are we to say where the boundaries lie?

Ken said...

Thos,
I stumbled across your blog and was immediately struck by your devotion to the truth. You and most of your respondents are more learned than I am on these matters.
I have wrestled with this question a little though.
First, I look at God's will 3 ways.
1) Ultimate will (what I think you referred to as antecedent)
2)Consequential
3)That His ultimate will be accomplished via man's free will
Next, I try to remember that what we think of as "good" or "bad" may or not in fact be so.
Also, God exists outside of time. Time being a gift given to man. That means that prayers for the departed not only ease their passage to the next life, they assist them in the life they have just lived, as they lived it. The prayers of these faithful departed in turn advocate for blessings for us in this life.
St. Augustine covered a little of this, St. Theresa did a wonderful job describing the "apartness" she experienced as she was drawn into God's presence.

Ken said...

Thos,
I read your post "quiet lately" and recognized a similar action in my life. Once again, I stress that you and others on this blog are far more knowledgeable than I am.
I am a recovering alcoholic. I have come to understand alcoholism as not only the absence of God, but the presence of something malevolent. Therefore, I perceive recovery as a sort of slow motion exorcism.

As a cradle Catholic, away from the church for 27 years, my journey back to a relationship with God was filled with missteps. At first, a simple belief in God was enough and since I truly wanted Catholicism to be wrong, I looked into Buddhism. That journey, while educational, came up short.

Next, I looked into various "Mega" and "Unity" type denominations. I am not a divinity student or seminarian, but my life was dependent on finding a faith that works. These churches had an emotionalism that was (and is) foreign to me. I cannot whip myself into the kind of emotionalism necessary to stop asking hard questions.

Then I found myself reading early church fathers and saints. They were describing spiritual places that I have been. At this point I realized that I had entered the Catholic church through the back door. I spent time just sitting in an empty church, I realized that I was home. I understand that some of this may be sentimentalism or emotionalism at the prodigal's return, but I am not prone to either of these things.

I went to confession and received absolution. Wow.

Sorry to be so windy, trust me, there is a point.

I assist many alcoholics back to God. Amazing how militantly anti-God we can be. Anti-authority, too. A lot of us are very bright, capable of arguing, especially against the idea of a loving God, for years.

I talked to a priest about my "avocation". Because of my proximity to evil, he suggested, in no uncertain terms, that I receive Communion as often as possible and go to confession regularly. I asked him what "as often as possible" meant as well as "regularly". He said Communion no more than twice a day and confession minimum once a week.

In the last 4 years, I have come much closer to the sacraments, nowhere near what was suggested to me, though. I am substantially more resilient to the brutal spiritual attacks I encounter in my frequent debates with agnostics.

St. Thomas Aquinas said, "Some knowledge only comes through faith." He also said something to the effect that if you accept a portion of doctrine on faith and reject another on reason, you have, in reality, accepted all on reason and therefore have no faith.

I suggest you enter Catholicism by doing. (Bring the body and the mind will follow). Not immediately "joining", just quietly showing up. Particularly to a Eucharistic Adoration chapel. Let Catholicism work for you, fake nothing.

Your friend,
Ken

Thos said...

All,
I’ve been immersed in finals lately, so apologize for not being able to respond sooner. I have valued your thoughts and reflected on them over the course of this past week though, rest assured. I will not have time to post today, but wanted to get some replies in. After this week I will hopefully be full-throttle blogging, and can share some latest happenings and goings-on.

Gil’s thoughts made me think that my contemplated definition of “kingdom” may be too narrow and too broad. Maybe there should be no one definition. I agree that at one level His kingdom has to be His church, where His law reigns. At this level, I wonder why His law is not perfectly clear, perfectly executed, perfectly enforced. I wonder if accepting the Catholic definition of Church improves this problem at all.

The theden reminds me that where we call His church His kingdom, we must remember that in another sense the universe is (physically) His kingdom. As God is omnipresent (and the other omni’s), all of His creation must be within his sovereign jurisdiction. There is no part of creation, I think we would agree, in which He could not choose to act. So in my talk of Kingdom, I must mean something different from this sense of Kingdom. I noted Colossians: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…” So without disagreeing with theden, it does seem there’s a particular kingdom that has been given to the Son within this physical universe subject to God’s rule. And Tim notes that the Apostles were promised of the kingdom’s coming in their time, so certainly in some sense it 1) did not exist earlier in their lives and 2) it started to exist before our own.

George notes that His spirit indwells those of His kingdom. I suppose so, but how do I identify a person with an indwelt spirit? I hesitate to use the test common to some of our Protestant brethren (I’m referring to the ‘speaking of tongues’). I’ve been told by a Calvary Baptist sister that I don’t have a complete or fulfilled faith, the sign of faith, because I don’t speak in tongues. She would under your view, see me as excluded from the kingdom.

Bryan, thank you for the CCC references. I did a little reading from it before I made this post. 680 was fascinating: “Christ the Lord already reigns through the Church, but all the things of this world are not yet subjected to him. The triumph of Christ's kingdom will not come about without one last assault by the powers of evil.” Also, 763 in part, “To fulfill the Father's will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth.” Does this fulfillment of the kingdom related to the Lord’s prayer? The will of God is perfectly accomplished in Heaven, but not yet on earth (hence our petition in that prayer). Are both of these His “kingdom”? Is the Kingdom given to Christ just a reference to the church and its work on earth (I don’t mean just as in it’s a small deal, but that it’s a particular disposition by the Holy Trinity on God the Son)? And I guess the part that touches on my post is this: I don’t understand how Christ already reigns through the Church, yet the Church does not appear perfect, even if I just look at the Catholic Church. Why would Christ allow corrupt regents (if that’s a fair title for popes) that Catholics admit have ruled? Why did He allow disunity in his kingdom?

Kim, I truly don’t know… good question.

And Ken, you’re very kind to complement the discussion here. I hope our quest for truth is in earnest, but at times worry that I’m merely flattering my intellect. I appreciate too your observations on “sentimentalism”. I often wonder how much weight to give to the intellect and the heart as I search for the proper recipe for “ecumenicity”. Maybe it’s a different equation for each person. I’d say I’m more inclined to lean on the intellect, but then my stubborn refusal to accept Catholicism (at present) is based almost entirely on emotions – perhaps the heart. I will reflect more on your post this week. Thank you for sharing your own search (and find).

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Kim said...

A Scripture came to mind when I was reading your response, Thos. Not sure if it will add or subtract to the discussion, but here goes.

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:20-21

Kim said...

That should read "add to or subtract from". ;)

I look forward to you getting back into your blogging groove.

ken said...

Thos,

I've been thinking a little about what your journey must look like from your perspective. Please indulge me as I shine a light from the other side of the knot.

All christians can agree that Christianity had a beginning. The first hand experiences of the twelve. The oldest writings of the new testament are the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospels are accepted as having been written later, some much later.
The actual canonization of the books of the bible, later still.

These are the early instances of "clarification" by church authorities. Why were the stories written at all? Probably because they started to wander from the truth as time and distance took their toll. Why was it necessary to collect and "authenticate" these stories in a definitive volume? Same reason as above, universality of teaching.

The church did not add to the Gospel, they preserved it. They did not exclude any "Good News", they included it.

This is the pattern the Church has followed concerning the deposit of faith. As new theologies and discourse appear, the church studies (sometimes for decades) the effects of certain strains of thought. Then, if necessary, they clarify the truth. Either by illuminating the efficacy or warning of the danger of the ideas in question.

What I'm saying is that when I look at a question of doctrine, I assume the Church offers the most correct, safest route to Christ. Some ideas are contradictory, and so are easier to disqualify. Others are merely inconsistent. These are more dangerous because they may seem "right" long enough to set another course of brick on top of them. This means that there are no visible, gaping holes in your foundation, but there are hairline, but possibly catastrophic fractures, spread throughout.

As an example: Rejecting the authority of the church and relying on personal revelation may have worked out pretty well for Martin Luther, but using the same bible and the same "right" to personal revelation led Rev. Wright much farther afield.

Please understand, I am not trying to push or convert you or anyone else. The Catholic Church refers to it's faithful as the Royal Priesthood of the Holy Catholic Church. All people are members of the body of Christ, with Christ as it's head. My job as a member of the Royal Priesthood, is to gently guide my brothers in Christ toward the Truth.

Anonymous said...

Thos said:

And I guess the part that touches on my post is this: I don’t understand how Christ already reigns through the Church, yet the Church does not appear perfect, even if I just look at the Catholic Church. Why would Christ allow corrupt regents (if that’s a fair title for popes) that Catholics admit have ruled? Why did He allow disunity in his kingdom?

We pray "Thy Kingdom Come"

If the Kingdom of God on Earth were perfect, we would have nothing to look forward to.

The kingdom of God on earth is not, nor ever will be perfect. It is perfected in heaven. As long as man (a select prideful few) believes he has the authority in and over the things on earth there will always be an opportunity for evil to corrupt that which is rightous. God has permitted the unrightous to walk amongst the rightous since the serpent in the garden through Juda's being one of the twelve. There will always be wolves among the sheep.

What is most important to note is that thoughout history, man has not been able to destroy that Kingdom which Christ has created on earth.

The Catholic Church....

StBasil said...

Kim said:

"I've been pondering this issue quite a lot lately. If the RCC is Christ's church, yet He is also working within Protestant churches to bring about His kingdom, who are we to say where the boundaries lie?"

One good point to remember that any work God does within Protestant communities ultimately leads to unity in the Catholic Church, because it is His Church. God's work unifies. It does not disperse or create disunity. While God may work in Protestant communities, the goal is always to bring them to full unity.

As for God's efficacious will, we have to remember that the mystery of Divine Predestination is akin to the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity (as Fr. Garrigou LaGrange has stated). If we think we can understand the why and how of God's judgments, we'll fall into error. As St. Augustine said: "If you do not wish to err, do not attempt to understand His judgments" (paraphrase). We also have to keep human free will. Somehow the wonderful works of Divine Predestination occur in such a way that those who are lost are lost by their own fault and those who are saved are saved by co-operation with the Divine Will - yet those who are saved are chosen, predestined to eternal life.

In this world I don't know if we can say that God's omnipotent will is manifest here or there, x or y. We see manifestations of it here or there, always manifesting true charity and salvation for souls and truth, but I don't know if it can be nailed down as we would like it. It reminds me of the words from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Aslan is not a tame lion.

I do think, as another has stated, that the Kingdom is most manifested in this world in Holy Mother Church (the Catholic Church) and in that we see the greatest manifestation of His will. Think of how many things have come against her and yet she stands. How many have attempted to destroy her teaching and yet she teaches with one voice still today.

Predestination is a marvelous and mysterious reality...one thing we know: God is perfect in all His judgments.

Pax Christi tecum.

Rob said...

Renee said:

Thos,
I think this Vatican document may help define to you what the Kingdom means for the Catholic Church.

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/migrants/documents/rc_pc_migrants_doc_19990525_shrine_en.html

Rob said...

Renee said:

Sorry, the entire address did not print out before.


www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils
/migrants/documents/
rc_pc_migrants_doc_19990525_shrine_en.html

Thos said...

Ken,

I meant to thank you earlier for sharing your perspective. It seems to be in conformity with the Newman's Development of Christian Doctrine which I read and from which I benefitted greatly.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.