Archive for January 27th, 2010

Lamb Power and the Church

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Perhaps the following excerpts from (1) a chapter of my forthcoming book on Revelation and (2) Udo Schnelle’s New Testament Theology might have something to say to the church, especially to the American church. (It is only coincidental that this appears on the day of the “State of the Union” address in the U.S.*):

It is critical that we not miss the paradoxical significance of this Lamb of God sharing in the identity and sovereignty of God. In his exaltation Jesus remains the Lamb, the crucified one. He participates in God’s identity and reign, making him worthy of worship, as the slaughtered Lamb, and only as such. This is the consistent witness of the New Testament: that the exalted Lord remains the crucified Jesus. When this witness is neglected or forgotten, trouble follows swiftly. Any reading of Revelation—and any doing of theology more generally—that forgets this central New Testament truth is theologically problematic, even dangerous, from its very inception. It is doomed, not to failure, but to success—and that is its inherent theological problem. Human beings, even apparently faithful Christians, too often want an almighty deity who will rule the universe with power, preferably on their terms, and with force when necessary. Such a concept of God and of sovereignty empowers its adherents to side with this kind of God in the execution of (allegedly) divine might in the quest for (allegedly) divine justice. The reality of the Lamb as Lord—and thus of Lamb power—is, or should be, the end of all such misperceptions of divine power and justice, and of their erroneous human corollaries. Of course, both historically and today, it is not.

Revelation is often misread as a demonstration precisely of this kind of divine power in human history, especially in interpreting the visions of judgment. We will need to return to this issue in a later [post]. For now, however, we need especially to say that only when chapters 4 and 5 are read as Revelation’s hermeneutical key to reality, divinity, history, and ethics will we be able to place the visions of judgment in proper perspective.

—M. Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly (Cascade, forthcoming)

[I]n worship, the community of faith realizes its new identity under the lordship of the Lamb and under the conscious, intentional rejection of the claims to lordship made by Babylon/Rome. As the place where the new being is repeatedly practiced, worship is also a locus of resistance against the anti-God powers, and, since the Apocalypse was read out in worship, also a place of hearing, seeing, learning, and understanding/insight.

—Udo Schnelle, New Testament Theology, 767

Does this sound like your experience of worship??

*Plus ça change, plus ça reste le même. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.)