Power and Purpose in a Cross-Shaped Community:
Examining the Contradictions between Theology and Praxis
For the Society of Vineyard Scholars
The Theology and Practice of the Kingdom of God:
Justice, Power, and the Cross
The Church has a purpose. That purpose is shaped by its theology. In turn, however, Church practice also communicates a theology. A friend of mine once remarked, “the fact that ‘they were fishermen,’1 is a significant theological revelation;” in the same way, the current praxis of the Church reveals a theological vision of God, His action, and purposes. This raises the question: do we violate our theology by our praxis? Yes, we do.
We read in Philippians 2 “Jesus being in very nature God, became obedient to death on a cross.” This was not something that Jesus submitted to as a sort of unfortunate and ill-fitting garment, soon to be discarded, but rather as a central expression of His character and purpose.2 We contradict this character and purpose with our praxis. This must be said more clearly; Jesus’ death on the cross is not him setting aside His power and justice agenda, but rather the cross must be seen as the very manner in which Jesus would display power and implement justice. This forces the Church to seek power that originates in God’s action and to practice it in a manner patterned after God’s use of it; i.e. the Cross. Additionally, this requires the Church to view its purpose as flowing out of God’s creative work and restorative justice; again centered on the Cross. The Church then, must craft its praxis in light of what God has done through the crucifixion of Jesus.