On Blogging and Politics
Aug 28, 2008 by Craig Blomberg | 0 Comments
A lot of people have asked me in recent years when I was going to start my own blog. They meant it as a compliment, thinking that I could produce something like, say, my New Testament scholar-friends Scot McKnight or Ben Witherington. My answer has consistently been that I don't have enough to say that I haven't already published that is worth adding to the inundation of verbiage growing daily on the web. Quite frankly, except for one or two rare examples (like McKnight and Witherington), the blogsites that already exist, even in theological circles, have to produce so much so frequently to keep their readership that most of what is said isn't worth the time and effort to write and/or read it. I take the stewardship of my time, especially in a life that has already passed its fifty-third birthday, too seriously for that.
One excellent alternative, in which I am participating, involves group efforts. The "Prime Time Jesus" blog is a site contributed to by about dozen evangelical historical Jesus scholars, particularly in view of events (or pseudo-events) that garner media attention, and I participate at least quarterly in that blog. Zondervan publishers have started something similar for a selection of their authors and again I have agreed to produce something at least quarterly.
Now Denver Seminary is initiating another model. On our website, which people will visit for all kinds of reasons, will be various blogs that authors can contribute to every two, three or four weeks. That kind of frequency is manageable for me and hopefully by not trying to say something more often than that, I will have something worth saying. My theme will be no more and no less unified than topics that can be tied to a New Testament text or theme, because that is the area of my specialization, training, teaching and research.
So what should I start with? Something short, obviously, since I've spent half my space just introducing my blog in general! We're in the middle of the Democratic National Convention in Denver as I am writing this, so a quick reminder about a key text from John that gets cited a lot every time elections draw near may be appropriate. When Jesus was speaking with Pontius Pilate, he responded to the questions about his kingship by declaring, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). But what does this mean?
Probably the most common way this text has been used (but abused) in the modern world is to assume that Jesus was speaking only of an otherworldly or spiritual kingdom. But Greek students who have studied even just a little of the language quickly learn that there are several Greek words that can be translated "of" in English, not to mention the genitive case endings put on nouns which suggest a whole range of possible uses: "directed toward," "produced by," "belonging to," "stemming from," "which is," and so on.
In John 18:36, however, there is less ambiguity. Here John uses the preposition ek, which normally means "of" in the sense of "out of" or "from," denoting the source or origin of something. So the point Jesus is making is that his kingship has an otherworldly origin; it does not come from or have its source in this world. We may not read into his language that his kingdom does not have implications for life in this world, including political life.
In fact, the heavenly origin of Jesus' kingdom harks back to numerous other texts in the Gospels in which he teaches about God's kingly reign. Perhaps as relevant as any is the clause in the Lord's Prayer, "Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Our participation in the political processes of this world, when we have that option, should always be consistent with God's kingdom, which reflects his will. As Matthew 6:33 goes on to add, we must seek first his kingdom and its "righteousness" (a term that refers to God's standards of justice and morality), and vote for candidates or support legislation that as far as we can tell will most likely implement the largest array of those concerns that permeate Scripture, irrespective of the political party with which we may be affiliated at any given time.
This in turn requires detailed familiarity with the whole counsel of God, not just one or two issues that we hear other people, even those we may respect highly, talk a lot about. Let's use these next two months and a bit to familiarize or re-familiarize ourselves with the full array of ethical concerns found in the Bible and then pray for great wisdom as we vote. For more on this last thought, see my latest contribution to our website's "Dialogue on Contemporary Issues."