Thursday, September 13, 2007

Edinburgh Dogmatics: Christ and Discipleship

Almost there! This paper was the penultimate of the conference and was given by Professor Donald Macleod (Free Church College). The paper was perhaps the least technical of the conference and was refreshing for that. In fact, I recall that Prof Macleod began the paper by highlighting its lack of philosophy, metaphysics, even scholarly references (although, he said, he had listed some articles and books to show he had done some reading!). The summary is coming right up:

  • The uniqueness of Christ-discipleship: Jesus had no formal qualifications and was not an expositor; he served his students; he went to no Rabinnical conferences, but served 'the people of the land'.
  • The call to discipleship: this was entirely a matter of Christ's initiative; the call 'follow me' is analogous to the call to Lazarus; 'the word creates the reality and the possibility of its own fulfilment'; disciples did not follow Torah, but Christ - when he is gone they are desolate; they are not pursuing a vision, but a person; Jesus says 'I'm going everywhere, I'm going nowhere. Follow me'; what a crew the disciples are! Their potential lies not in their past (the heresy of Romanticism), but in divine power.
  • The cost of discipleship: disciples are called to forsake all; we support economic systems and are terrified of asking ethical questions about those systems; we want to ask 'when is it right not to turn the other cheek' instead of embracing the radical; we expect the church to sit at the top table in society, but Jesus tells us to expect opposition, not a truce.
  • Taking up the cross: Calvin and Luther both erroneously see this as the sufferings of this life; we must remember that it is not those facing death whose position is abnormal, but ours; we must take risks for Christ in life - 'Abba, into your hands I commit my spirit'; but our cross does not give significance to his.
Then time kind of ran out, unfortunately. Leaving 'the rewards of discipleship' unspoken. But, the bullet-point notes tell me that these include: being with Jesus, rest, the blessings of the kingdom (not an end to discipleship, but discipleship under ideal conditions). Amen. This paper was pastoral and challenging: much food for thought even in the short summary above. I was pleasantly surprised (how sad to say this about a Reformed conference) to find the section on the cost of discipleship dealing out a radical vision in terms of practical theology.
OK, one more to go...