“Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” [Luke 9:50]
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.” [Luke 11:23]
Note – this post follows on from another on Emergent Africa.
I have been exploring the idea of Inclusion for some months now. My starting point has been the end point: how do I envision life ending up? What is the nature of the hereafter: is it a divided or a united state? Those who have read along will see that I lean towards the idea of Universal Restoration, that is, that Love will in the end “draw all”.
This conviction is based upon :
- A particular (my) reading of Scripture, and a particular (my) view of G-d.
- A revelation of Grace, and the character of Love.
- Tradition, for example that of the Early Church, where the Universalism of Origen held sway.
- Logic; the inferences from the above matters of faith.
It’s worth noting once gain the variety of names for an inclusive eschatolgy (i.e. view of the future): Apokatastais, Radical Grace, Gospel of Inclusion, Universal Restoration, Advaita, the Reintegration of beings. I’ve leaned towards the use of “Inclusion” as it for me has the best implications for the present, and brings eschatology into focus in such as way that it affects us here and now.
One crucial assertion along the way has been this: How we act now is almost totally dependant upon what be believe about the future. If you believe in a divided finale (eg. most people are going to “hell”), you will live a divided life. If you believe in NO finale (there is no life after death), you will live a life without ultimate meaning. If you believe in a united finale, you will live an inclusive life. The word radical here denotes an understanding or belief that goes far enough to be relevant for all time, as well as beyond time.
So, my proposition is this: the general tenor of the New Testament, and the Life of Christ, suggests Inclusivity. Exceptions are evident and plentiful (e.g. “I come to bring division and a sword”; “what accord has darkness and light”, “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed”) but my current understanding means that when studied, and not taken simply at face value, what is revealed is a radically Inclusive God.
I have been puzzling over the Luke texts. Are they contradictions? It’s certainly a logical disjunct, worthy of any Zen koan. Or do they invite/force us to enter the mysteries of the sacred imagination rather than remain in that typical human mode, of logic and reason severed from feeling and imagination? Let’s go there, shall we?
“He who is not against you is for you”: Here we see the inversion of human categories and hierarchies, the inversion of the old dualism us/them and inclusion as the default state in the Kingdom of G-d.
“He who is not with me is against me”: Here, instead of justifying exclusivity, I see the risks of exclusivity being demonstrated. One can set up a kingdom with walls, but then one stronger than you may take you by force. But if you have no boundaries, you cannot be invaded.
This risk amounts to the risk of rejecting G-ds rule; if one does not take an active part in this Kingdom, he will be subject to the laws of survival, to decay, to the second law of thermodynamics (the law of increasing entropy, or disorder). The closing thought in the passage is “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” The only justifiable exclusion I see is the willing self-exclusion of rejecting this Kingdom.
I’m not saying I hve thie all wrapped up, remember, or that I have a watertight system of Universalism, but I am on a road of discovery. Many things remain unanswered, such as the Anger of God, the mechanism of salvation for the disobedient, or readings suggesting exclusion.
The “Kingdom of God” is not a human category, subject to human reason, limitation and decay, it is preclusive. To “preclude” means having essential nature, is uncreated, has no cause. For example, essential “holiness” precludes sin; essential oneness precludes all that divides. The Kingdom of Satan (whose strength is the law and the accusation) is created, so cannot stand. The law brings death.
The apparent exclusion (“Not with me is against me”) Jesus applies to himself (as Judge), but the implicit Inclusion (“Not against you is for you”) he applies to his followers. Elsewhere, the reaper is explicitly commanded NOT to separate wheat and tares.
So in reponse to the 2 texts from Luke, I see 2 principles at work
- G-d’s preclusive nature, G-d’s will for ultimate reintegration as demonstrated by Jesus, the gathering of things, Inclusion as default.
- The tendency of creation to disintegration, death, and the scattering of things. Exclusion is a by-product of the created order, and not, as many would have, a charateristic of G-d.