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Welcome to everyday theology, but we don’t tell you what to believe or why to believe it, but rather explore our Christian beliefs
And why they matter for us in relation to God, to creation and to others. My name is Aaron Ross.
Welcome to Everyday Theology I have with me today. A good friend. His name is Tommy Phillips. Thanks for being with me, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy is as pastor of watermark church in Tampa, and he is also a recording artist that you can find under his middle name, prescind Phillips and as well, he’s currently writing a book with Scott McKnight. So, you know, he must be legit if Scott McKnight would be willing to write a book with him. So we’ll see. Well, yeah, we’ll see. I’m sure it’s going to be great. Well, thanks again for being with us today. We’re going to talk about, you know, I know there’s been a lot of discussion on the church and coronavirus and kind of what that means for the church, but I think I want to take it a little bit of a different direction because watermark is such a unique community.
I’ve been in and around the church for quite some time and I found that, you know, it’s why me and my wife has started attending at watermark is because it was just just different and a lot of different ways there’s liturgy and kind of like a a low liturgy kind of way. And it just seems to be so vastly different. And I think a lot of that comes from your kingdom theology, the way that you actually think about the kingdom of God. So why not start off by letting our listeners know a little bit about you, who you are, how you kinda got into this whole being a pastor thing. And so we’ll go from there. Alright. You’ll hear once in a while my kids upstairs banging because we’re all in the quarantine, so they’re here with me. Well, and my dog is probably going to bark at some point, so it’ll be okay.
All right. Yeah, I’ve been the pastor of watermark since 2006. And it sort of is what was leftover of a church that collapsed and the pastor left and it’s, it’s a big, long story and it really doesn’t matter for this conversation. But at that time I had a we had a small community about 30 people and, and and after the church collapsed, most of us were in bands. I was in a band at the time and we were writing music and all kinds of stuff and trying to figure out what it meant to be church after the whole thing collapsed. And so we started studying, studying the book of acts for a few years, and the church
Grew, you know, 130, 150, 180, and then, and we survived that 2008 recession and we’ll survive this recession and whatever. So like, it’s, it’s just been a journey of like figuring out who we are. And over the years our theology has developed. When you talk about how, like we’re like a unique community, I, I, I don’t think I ever realized that we were a unique community, that we were doing anything different because I have only ever been to this church since since I turned 22, I’m 39 now. And, and before I was the worship leader at the church before it collapsed and then sort of relaunched again this is all I’ve ever done. So I guess we’ve developed our own subculture of how we do things. And we’ve developed a, a heavy kingdom theology. It sort of shifted in our early days from a, you know, an early and mid two thousands.
Everyone was reformed. It was the cool thing to be the new reform movement and in the collapse, all that we all had to be. And so my stuff ended up with some mixture of like Anglican of Anglican and an Anabaptist theology heavy on kingdom theology. So that’s what we have been really trying to live and, and focus on for the last really the last decade has been heavy on the kingdom theology and we’re, you know we’ve been really heavy into contextual theology trying to understand what the Bible meant. Like I grew up, I grew up with a theology that basically said every day you should have a quiet time and you read the Bible, you read a specific passage, and then you ask the question, what does this mean to you? And I’ve come to realize over the years that that, that question doesn’t matter.
It actually might be the most liberal question you could possibly ask the Bible. Like, what does this mean to you? Because it doesn’t actually matter what the Bible means to you at all. It matters what it meant to the, to the individuals who were writing these letters in their context and the individuals or the communities that were receiving these letters and what it meant in their context. And so that’s what we’ve been trying to understand and grasp out. And since then, I’ve gotten into academia over the years and been going back to school, I’ve been studying under McKnight that Northern seminary for a lot of years, which has been just amazing, one of the greatest experiences of my life. And so, yeah
Well, I think, I think there’s something to flesh out there just to kind of maybe interrupt and jump in, but he know that that kind of phrase, something like w probably needs to be unpacked a little bit, like what it means to us doesn’t matter. I think maybe if you can expound on both that, and maybe this idea that when, you know, I grew up when I first started my undergraduate degree in theology, you know, one of the big conversations that, that everyone was having was postmodernism. Yeah. Oh, postmodernism is bad. Postmodernism is the devil. If you’re a post-modernist, you know, it’s not going to go well for you. And it’s mainly because you’re going to be a relativist, which means that truth, there is no truth. And that truth is whatever you say it is. If you look at a tree, you can look at the tree and say, well, that tree is actually made from air it’s, it’s not actually wood. And then, you know, that’s your truth, right? But I think somehow that kind of, that did kind of sink into our reading of the Bible, where we moved from looking at the biblical text for what it was, and we moved it into a purely, what is it for me? It became relativistic in the way that we read it. And I think that’s maybe why you’re kind of saying what it means to you doesn’t matter, but it does, but it doesn’t maybe the same way. Maybe you can.
Yeah. It’s not necessarily a postmodernist. I was heavily involved in the emergent church movement years ago. And eventually I I, I asked too many questions to them and pretty much got forced out of the emergent church movement. And the only reason I went there is because I was, I didn’t fit in with the evangelical movement. So I spent some time wandering in the wilderness for awhile, and we did it as a community. And postmodernism is, I think it was a really important movement in the church because it, it really deconstructed to this, this idea that like, there were these, there was these men, always men, these men who, who, who had the authority on, on what all this stuff meant in. Somehow it, it all fit perfectly in the American worldview and everything that, that Jesus said just happened to align with their political party.
And when you get to it and you realize it like what you are doing and what the early Christians were doing are two absolute different things. And in fact, you, you wouldn’t have fallen on their side. You would have been the enemy of theirs. And postmodernism asked all the right questions and took all the power away from them and gave it back into the hands of the community. Now some have taken this too far. You have, you know, I followed along with a lot of podcasts over the years. You know, literally this would be one example of it that I feel like they loaded up everybody in a van and said, everybody who was unhappy with the evangelical church and said, Hey, we’re unhappy too. Let’s go on a journey. And they load them all up in this. I picture it to VW bug bus, and then they drive out into the desert and ask all these questions and we’re going to go explore everything.
And at some point they didn’t want to end up anywhere. They didn’t want to destination. And so they all ended up in the desert together and they look around and like, are you lost in your face? Yes, I’m lost. Well, I am too, but you’re not alone. I’m here with you. And the answer was kind of like, yeah, but you, you got me lost, you brought me, you brought me here and we’re all here alone. And to get, and so that all lost its steam too. And people in the last year or so have turned on that, people understand that you can get some semblance of an answer to your questions. It can’t be the full, fully understood answer. Like if I study the resurrection you can’t look at it and definitively say, here’s we know for sure, 100% Jesus Rose from the dead.
But if he didn’t, you don’t have Christianity, you don’t have the rise of, of the movement. You don’t have the, the the witness of the martyrs. You, there’s all kinds of things that you cannot explain without a resurrection, right? So why you scientifically defense? Can’t say, Oh, whatever. So without a, without a doubt, this is what happened. That’s out of your grasp. Literally nobody can say that, but we can look at all the evidence of what happened and say, this makes the absolute most sense. And it completes the story. It fits in the mindset of the early of the early Christians with their theology. It fits how, like even sociology, how religion start, like it fits all of it. It answers all the questions in a way that no other answer can. And so it makes the most sense, even though it doesn’t make any sense.
And I think this is where this has ended up that like, you can look at, you can look at all the evidence laid up before you, but for so long that evidence has not been available, or it has been shunned. I grew up Southern Baptist and it’s very, it was very anti intellectual people. They called seminary cemetery where people’s fades, went to die and stuff like that. And like the college you’re going to study and you’re gonna learn, you’re gonna lose your face. Well, if information destroys your face, your face, probably wasn’t worth keeping in the first place. And so let’s dive into this. Let’s find out whether or not we are actually understand, like, the things that we’re claiming to believe actually have roots in in history and archeology whether or not they fit sort of the narratives of the day, whether or not they fit socioeconomically politically.
Do we understand things the way that they were intended to be understood? I mean, and it’s not just Christianity that had to reckon with this. I mean, a few years ago, the Mormon church went through this whole thing where, you know, they realized, Oh, all this stuff is fact checkable and can’t dig up the archeology that proves that like, these people were never here. This never happened. This never happened. And there was this massive falling out one day were 5,000 people, you know, resigned from the church. I listen to this podcast about it on Radiolab, not too long ago. It’s fascinating. And so it forced the church to like put out some statements, like, look, here’s what we know. Here’s what we don’t know. You’re going to have to in the end, make your own decision instead of this absolute lording it over everybody.
So like watermark has always been, our church has always been the place. Bring your questions, any question you got bring your just honestly, like when we say, come as you are, we actually mean it, like, bring your, your questions. I want you right where you are. And then instead of this top down thing where we’re going to have this list and there’s going to be this guy up front telling you, here’s what you have to believe to belong here. We want to create a space where the Holy spirit is present and you can, we can help you discern we can sit with you and help you discern instead of telling you believer get out, right? No, instead like add the, the book of acts like the beginning of it is this, this there’s, this there’s this law, this paper law, and it gets, it gets turned into the spirit guiding you in your heart and it’s removed from the paper and we’ve spent the last really 150, 200 years trying to put it back on paper again, really.
I mean, you could argue for most of Christianity, we’ve been trying to put the law back on paper again and pretending the spirit isn’t here and guiding us at all. Hmm. Yeah. And so a church should be that place where no, we’re going to sit instead of like giving you the paper and you can read over the paper, you can agree and join, or you can disagree and not join. We’re going to lay out some ancient Christian creeds here. We’re gonna look at the Nicene creed, the Apostle’s creed. We’re gonna sort of attach ourselves to the things that Christianity has always attached itself to the description of, of a heavy, like a solid Christology and a good Trinitarian theology. And, and, and the rest we’re going to sit and discern together in community. And we’re not all going to come to the same answers, but we’re going to take communion when we’re done.
And it’s okay. Yeah. And so we can not become a mega church. It’s impossible. That’s not how it works. That’s not how the church who is doing this type of like on the ground discernment. That’s not how it, it can actually function. It actually pushes back against that because the mega church is the place where it requires. And I don’t think mega churches are wrong anyway, that’s not my ecclesiology, but the mega church requires a top down ecclesiology. There’s a guy on stage telling you what to think, get in line and you can belong. It’s the worst place to ever deal with issues of human sexuality to ever deal with issues of faith and doubt. It is impossible in that setting.
And so, so to what degree then, you know, to kind of pull this back in, but to what degree then do we, you know, look at the biblical texts or at least the way that you envisioned for watermark, that it is applicable to people’s lives, but maybe just not
The surface application. Yeah. The application is going to come out of what we find in the atrium. Well, what were they dealing with? To what extent are we dealing with this? Right. You know, like a verse has every line of the scriptures has a context and in a way it was written in a reason it was written in a people. It was written to, you got to grasp that. If you’re, if you’re, if you’re reading the book of second Peter, you’re going to understand that these are people in persecution who are being chased down. What do you say to a group of people who are, who are under the threat of persecution and death? That’s, that’s how we read first. Peter, if you, if you’re going to read the book of John you’re going to have to understand the context of, of why the book of John was written. He was written about the same time that the, the Christian Jews were getting kicked out of the synagogue and getting ex-communicated for bringing Samaritans in. And that’s why John talks so much about the Samaritans. Yeah. And so who would have Samaritans in our midst and how is it that who are the people that when you get with them and you embrace them, you bring them into the church that you are now under threat of being excommunicated. That’s what we need to find. And what does John have to say to you?
So so how does watermark then ask these questions as if, I don’t know, even though, you know, I participate there, but how do you kind of encourage people to read the Bible then as a pastor and someone is saying like, ah, you know, I want to read my Bible or, you know, I’m sure you also say you should read your Bible, but how do you encourage people to do it too, to make sure to some degree that people aren’t just kind of applying it however they see fit within their lives.
Oh, the Bible has to be read in community. I mean, I encourage everyone to read it and commit. I think reading in community is far more important and beneficial than ever reading it, sitting by yourself and reading the Bible. You have to do that. So we, we practice this, our, our house churches all get together and they, they read scriptures and they talk about it because there should be all kinds of perspectives coming into this thing and speaking into it. And here’s what I know about this. Here’s what I know about that. I think the age of sitting by yourself and reading and trying to understand exactly what does this mean for me personally the Bible wasn’t even written to individuals at all, every word of it was written to communities. When Paul says, you know, that you have to be humble, that you should be encouraged.
He’s talking to the, the community is not talking to one person to be humble. He’s talking to everybody. And so I do think even without any kind of academic slants at all, reading the Bible in community out loud together is vital. And I read it out loud with my family every morning. And, and I I asked him, what are you here? Why do you think you would? I asked a lot of questions instead of telling, giving meetings. I asked a lot of questions. Why, where this morning, you know, in our, in our Holy Monday, reading it’s Jesus cursing, the fig tree. I’m like, what do you know about this? Why do you think Jesus cursed the fig tree? Well, because there was nothing to eat and my 11 year old, and I said, well, didn’t it say in the passage right there, that it wasn’t seasoned for figs. He he’s like, yeah. Why didn’t say that? Why was he mad at it when it was out of season? And then I kind of offer up some thoughts, you know, I offer up, Hey, did you know that the fig tree was the national symbol of, of Israel? It was their, their national tree. It’s like in America seeing a bald Eagle. And so it wasn’t bearing fruits and where the people of God would, it mean to bear fruit in the scriptures. And, and, you know, we opened up all these scriptures
And then we see like, Oh, what did he do right
After this? Oh, he went to the temple and he flipped some tables. How does all this work together? You know, what was happening even yesterday, Palm Sunday, Jesus marching into the city into, into Jerusalem. Then we in Palm branches and he’s riding a donkey. You find a lot more meaning in that when you realize that every single year on that day, on the other side of the city pilot is marching in with his army, all decked out in golden, bronze and clanking with horses. And there’s another it’s. So what Jesus is doing as a counter protest parade. Yeah. But when the president says, I want to have a military parade, maybe the church should be on the other side of town, having our own parade with the poor and the immigrants and passing out food, you know what I mean? And collecting money for those who are subversive, claiming a new King.
That’s how the Bible works. Oh, Amazon just threw a package on my porch. It’s the, it’s a little, it’s the little reprieves right now. And the COVID-19 era where you’re like, Oh, something came to the door. This is great. You gave me a thumbs up and walked off. No, I think that’s, I think that’s really helpful. You know, having a lot of students who take for the first time like a hermeneutics course and they learn for the first time, you know, there are certain passages that they’ve, they’ve read their entire life and said, they’ve heard their entire life, that the reason it was written as antithetical to the way that they believe it. Yeah. And, and it can be really disorienting for a lot of students at first, because they are kind of loaded now with this kind of reality. Well, I grew up hearing that, you know, the cursing of the fig tree was all about Jesus proclaiming to us as Christians, you know, w you know, asking us whether or not there’s fruit of God in our lives.
And it’s all about us. It’s all about like, are we, are we being, you know, good, good Christians to learning about that. This symbol was actually Jesus kind of cursing the temple curse, like proclaiming that the temple wasn’t having any food, that the ch that, that may be the modern version of the church. If, if Jesus did it today was bearing no fruit. And then he goes in and he shows that it’s bearing no fruit. And it becomes the border into America with an American flag, and then burning it upon, stepping into the borders of America. Gosh, doing is incredibly political and subversive.
And he does the same thing to Rome. He’s not like I’m taking sides here. He’s like this, this has all got to go. And that’s the root of kingdom theology is that like, cause people, okay, and this was kind of a soapbox. I was good on his people talk about the kingdom of God and you ask them, do me a favor, define the kingdom of God. And they’re like, well, it’s where it’s heaven. It’s where Jesus sits. It’s where we go after we die. This is the biggest problem with our theology. That is not the kingdom of God. It kingdom. What does a kingdom, a kingdom? I always remind my people. And I did yesterday. My sermon too. It consists of four things. There’s a, there’s a King, there’s a citizens there’s land. And there are laws. These four things make a kingdom. Okay.
Christian Christianity is a kingdom. We have a King. It is Jesus, Jesus Christ. It was, it was the Ascension that made him King. We like to think of the Ascension as him flying away and allowing us to govern ourselves. No, no, no, no. That was him turning around as sitting on the throne of the universe. There are citizens that is us, those who have allegiance and faith. And that’s a point of contention between here and there. You and I once in a while, but, but like my belief that you, you mean, we don’t always agree. No, it’s true. That’s our, that’s our community. That faith is, is, is, is like, it is. I mean, I think we would agree that like, it is absolutely at least trust in our King that like, this is the way forward. And that his way is right.
So we have, we are sitting, the citizens are those who have faith and trust in Jesus in Christ that he is our King. The land is no longer just Israel. It is the entire world. He’s the, the earth is his footstool once again. And then these laws, it’s not these pieces of paper. It’s, there’s no constitution. It is the spirit of God. We can we can follow that. Spirit is written on our hearts. And if you want a physical reference representation of, if you need to read some words, Matthew five through seven is a great thing to look at, to say what it looks like to live by that law. And so like, we are already citizens of a kingdom around the world. So when Christians talk about, I talked to people all the time and even in my church, and they’re like, they’re like, well, you know, our army, doesn’t that like, hold on, we don’t have an army.
I’m like, sure we do we’re Americans. No, no, no, no. We don’t have an army. Like America has an army, but we are citizens of the kingdom of God. When we have brothers and sisters of our sisters in our kingdom, all around the world, in every nation in the world. And we have a single King and we, he is the God of angel armies. And we don’t have a flag, his banner over us as love. And we don’t, this is kingdom theology, like no King, but Jesus, when you say Jesus is Lord, you’re saying Caesar is not. And so we are first and foremost, not Americans, we’re not Canadians. We’re not Iraqis. We’re not Afghanistan. We are citizens of the kingdom of God. And this is how we live. And his kingdom will have no end and it will eventually swallow up. Every other kingdom God’s work is here.
The kingdom is at hand. So like, this is how we’re trying to live. And so what do you do with that politically? Well, when the kingdom, in which you are living, when it intersects with the kingdom of Jesus, you point at it and you say, good job. This is the work of Jesus. And I support this every time. It doesn’t, you get in the way and you stand at, listen, I’m against this. This is not the work of Jesus. Therefore there’s no single candidate that ever aligns with this. And so I don’t literally, I always tell people, don’t support your president no matter who we don’t support them in the same way. Like you don’t just hire somebody and then support every stupid thing that they do. You confront them, you speak to them about what they’re doing, right. And what they’re doing wrong. And you always push and shove to get them on closer and closer to the path of Jesus.
Knowing that in order for the kingdom of God, actually to be fully revealed in this world, they actually have to lose their power in this kingdom actually has to no longer exist for gods, right? So this is merely NT, right? Would say every president, every prime minister, every King is a caricature of what Jesus is the reality of. And so I’m not a very good American, and I don’t think any Christian should be a very good citizen of their kingdom. They should be first and foremost, a great citizen of God, of God’s kingdom, which will pour over into the lives of those around them. And they will exist. So that in a, in a way that blesses these earth, the kingdoms, but does not bow down to them and, and
Substance, you know, maybe to recap, but in some sense, that’s really kind of saying, you know, yes, right. Am I an American citizen? Yes. Clearly I live in America. I was born here. Like, this is me, but it’s not my identity. My identity is first a person of the kingdom of heaven by, by becoming, by becoming a follower of Christ by kind of joining on this way by the spirit we are, we are shirking our old identity, which includes our nationality. But we still live in that. And I think, I think for some people, this is where the tension lies is that they tried to hold kind of both realities as equal. Yeah. That, that you know, Oh, I can be both an American and a Christian equally or S I mean, I’ve, unfortunately I’ve heard some say, well, I’m an American first. And I’m like, well, I don’t, I don’t agree with that for sure. Because I’m, I’m, I mean, the Bible talks about, you know, you can’t, Jesus talks about not being able to serve two masters, right? Like we have to recognize in kingdom theology that we’re first and foremost, people of God who are also embodied people who live,
I live in a country, but that’s the hangup is that American evangelicals have all already been fully discipled in the way of the empire. And so it’s like, you need to undecidable them and redesign them. And like, and it’s hard to get people to, to, to read the lens through the, the read the Bible through the lens of the early first century in, in the, in the, in the minds of the writers of scripture, there are only two kingdoms. There is Israel and there’s Babylon and every single kingdom falls into one of those two. And guess what? The only kingdom that falls into Israel for the Christians is, is the kingdom of God, America for so long has been described as Israel, like one nation under God, one nation under God. That is the only nation under God is Israel. So when we say that we are literally making America Israel, and we’re making every other country Babylon, but in the minds of the Christians, America is Babylon and it can not be thought of any other way.
And Jesus is King of Israel. And every other King is an antichrist. They are a placeholder. They are for a little while, given a place to rule in a sense that like they are supposed to submit to the things of God like their, their authority. Isn’t real. It, it, it is sort of a placeholder and assemble. And so we have to, we have to look at the world this way. We have to read the Bible this way. This is why people hate to hear this, but for the first 300 years of the church, Christians did not serve in the armed forces. They were not allowed to, we have HIPAA Leitis who said, who said, no, you literally can’t be baptized in the church if you, if you serve in the military. But today we think it’s a more godly trait to serve in the military than it is to not serve in the military because America represents Israel.
And in the minds of the other Christians, it did not. And I’m not saying I don’t let people, like, there’s plenty of people in my church who served in the military. But the reason you couldn’t serve in the military is because they were an a, the early Christians didn’t recognize any of these Kings and, and destroying the image of God in any way was outside of their like authority. They would not. Tertullian says when, when Jesus disarmed Peter, he disarmed every Christian. It is admirable to us that this is how we could possibly exist in the world, because we have been fully 100% discipled in the way, in the ways of Jesus. And I’m sorry, in the ways of America. And
I, I think that’s, that’s definitely, I can recognize that, that, and I think, you know, this as well, right? That that’s definitely, you know, something that is going to kind of berate some people or, you know, immediately kind of push people back. And I think that’s, I think it’s because, you know, the vision that, I mean, I know growing up, I was very much, you know, we were in, we would go to chapel, you know, cause I went to a private Christian school and you would say the pledge of allegiance and to, to America and the pledge of allegiance to the Christian flag as if, as if they were kind of like together in the same, literally
You talked about how, like this doesn’t go together allegiance.
And it kind of is interesting, I think in trying to process that for some people, and it’s not to be little or to be rate or to like, to make light of either being an American or living in whatever country. And, and it’s, it’s in some sense, it’s not actually making that less. It’s just putting, being part of the kingdom of God in its
Her place. Yeah. And she’s above that, and this is not a conservative slash liberal thing at all. Like conservatives have their own definition of kingdom. Liberals had, they’re definitely, if you a liberal, what is the kingdom of God? Like how would his kingdom work? They say social justice, no, no kingdom kingdom work is not social justice. Couldn’t kingdom work is the work that Christians are doing to further and further establish the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Right. That’s what it is. It literally is done by Christians to serve the establishment of the church, which is the earthly representation of the kingdom. So everyone wants to look at it as on one side, you know, the liberals look at it and they say, well, that’s incredibly conservative and, and difficult and conservative, well, that’s, that’s liberal, you’re anti this and that. Yeah. I mean, Jesus was very, very much didn’t fit in the news camps.
He didn’t fit in the, even the, the Jewish temple camp or the Roman camp. And he condemned both sides. Yeah. he he’s he’s his own King. And until we can like pry our, our, our minds away from the colonial earthly kingdom establishment things and realize our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world don’t have their armies. And we don’t have our armies that are fighting each other. They are citizens of the same kingdom that served the same King in the same land of God, which is the entire world. Yeah. And this is the only way we can establish this thing is when we see these people whom though the empire at the empire is telling you, they’re your enemy and Jesus is telling you, they’re your brother. Yeah. Like,
It’s, it’s interesting. It’s interesting maybe to kind of make this into an everyday example abortion, right. Like Christians were, were against abortion.
We’re we’re for the most part. Yeah.
We’re, pro-life in the sense of we are
Birth, right? Yeah. They are very much against abortion. And then they would take all the unwanted babies that were being killed even after birth. They would gather them all up and raise them. Yeah.
And, and so we can recognize as Christians that, that there is something that’s more
Well there’s, there’s a better way than abortion.
We’ve got to work against this reality of, of letting babies die. Right. At least it’s, it’s kind of put into a common vernacular. Absolutely. So we can push back against America sometimes. And we go, Ooh, this is unjust. This is ungodly.
Yeah. We pushed her back. These are something that belongs to God. And
So I think that sometimes you know, Christians, we don’t recognize that we already are doing this to some degree. Yeah. And I think the vision that you’re putting forward is that it’s not just that we need to do it in one or two areas is that we need to actually first recognize where we are as people of the kingdom of God and push back against anything and everything that isn’t a part of that kingdom. Yeah.
That’s me. How do I, how do I make rules and morals and blah, blah, blah. We support here’s, here’s, it’s very simple. We, we do not prop up anything that will exist once the kingdom of God is fully established. If, if it doesn’t exist in that future kingdom, I will not prop it up here. I will not help support it here. And so this is sort of this universal truth, if you can sort of look at and apply everywhere. I mean, we love to talk about abortion, but it’s, it’s sort of like if we’re, if we’re talking about not rendering to Caesar, the things that belong to God, and we’re talking about the image of God imprinted on human beings. And so how can we kill also inmates? How can we support capital punishment? How can Christian support war?
And here’s the thing the Anabaptists, like this is not, again, liberal new theology. This is ancient theology. The Anabaptists have been around for centuries. And this is, they’re the ones that sort of, that have always held this theology down through the ages. I think it is the future of where the church is going. I think it has to be, I think, after what we see now, looking around us, people in cahoots with the governments and, and taking part in everything. If you, like, if you, in my eyes, if you are supporting an earthly ruler, then you are also yourself sort of holding hands with whatever they are doing, what are they taking part in? And so I refuse Jesus is my cane. I amen.
I think I think this is where, and I know you have some thoughts on this. I know you have some thoughts on this.
That’s exactly what it is.
I think this is where the struggle for a lot of people come from with Romans 13 is, is we have this passage from Paul that talks about obeying the leaders that are above us. Cause they’re placed there by
I’ve heard it a lot in America, right? Like, especially when it’s, it’s really, really primarily used by whatever Christian there is, who happens to have the elected official, who happens to be from their party. Right. So we use it as a hammer for a, you know, anyone else who disagrees with us, especially other Christians, like, well, if you like that other political party just recognize that God put this one in power and you have to obey it. And we’ll, we’ll use that kind of
Just really as a battery
And grammar hammer. But then at the same time I sit there and I ask myself, well, what about the Christian in North Korea? Yeah. What about the Christian in China? Right. What about the Christian in some African countries who are, it’s illegal
To be a Christian or a better yet? What about the Christian right now? Who was holding church services against the wishes of the government or, or that Christian,
Right, right. Yeah. And that’s a, that’s a really interesting question. Cause I see some of the same people
That would have claimed it back when Jeff sessions stood up and read Romans 13, bah. Okay. Basic if a world leader is quoting the Bible to you, someone in power of military someone, someone capable of wiping out civilizations, they’re misusing it 100% of the time because the Bible was always written from the bottom, from from people in prison, by Babylon. So when Babylon starts quoting scripture, watch out that particular passage, it is not without context. It actually has a specific meaning. It was specifically talking about whether or not the Jews should pay taxes and like it’s specifically about, and we know this it’s specifically about, like, there were a bunch of Jews who instead of paying taxes, wanting to rise up and overthrow the Roman government and establish a King. This is how the Jewish people believed that their Messiah would come.
And so Paul is trying to like, well, does it zealousness of these people? And he’s like, look he’s like, this is not how this is going to work. Like these Kings exist right now. And they will not always exist. But for, for now, I like, I wish I could just pull up all my papers. I’ve written on Romans 13 alone. You can put them where we want. But like the, the specific context is whether or not they should pay taxes. And if you read a little farther, he talks about it. And what he basically says is like, sure, give him their money. But he also, the way he describes their power, he says their power is given to them by God. For good. In other words, they’re not even really in charge. God has been charged and so serve God, I’m sure pay your taxes.
The only other thing you can do is sort of stand up and get slaughtered. But what you’re saying is like you’re, you’re willing to, you’re willing to hold onto your money for your life. And, and it’s sort of like what a lot of people are doing today. I think this today, when, when, when these churches are meeting in the midst of this thing, which endangers the lives of their entire communities, there’s a church five minutes from my house right now that last Sunday, the pastor got arrested for gathering over like 1500 people for a church service. I think that has a special form of worldliness. Actually, if you’re, if your first inkling inclination is what about my, my religious rights, my religious freedoms, that’s American speaking. That’s not the kingdom of God speaking. Our there is nothing in the Bible about your religious freedom and your religious rights.
These are American given things. These really are not despite what the American constitution says. These are not given by God. The Christians knew they were going to worship God in the face of persecution, but they also go to Jesus. And the fact that like the greatest law is love. And so if the most loving thing we can do right now to serve these people, to keep them alive is for us not to gather and just simply go online. Like that is the most loving thing we can do right now. That is the godly thing to do. But to stand up first and foremost and say my religious freedoms, I will do what I must do to protect
My religious rights. That is specifically Americans speaking. Yeah. That is worldliness. That is, you have conformed to the patterns of this world in which you live. The pattern of heaven is love. It’s, it’s interesting. A really big article. I mean, it became really big as of late for the church has something to do with kind of like a little bit about this situation. But it’s actually historical document. And it’s not to kind of give it away too much cause we’ll be having a podcast and I’m not sure if it’s going to come before or after this. Sometime in the timeline of, of our releasing of podcasts there, we’re going to do a podcast with a certain individual who
Daniel is Greg really wonderful scholar who kind of found this kind of document from a, I won’t even say the denomination because it doesn’t really matter, but a specific denomination that during the 1918 influenza like told all of their pastors stop having service, like actually shut it down like this, this, this isn’t okay. You know, like, Hey, we have to do our part to, to stop this spreading, right? Like we both are going to pray about stopping the spreading like that, that this thing kind of comes to an end, but we’re also going to do what we can ask good Christian people, which is to stop gathering for a time being until this kind of thing is over until we’re safe. Again, that is love. And it’s, it’s kind of odd that, you know, people will often use that phrase. Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Well, also those who don’t study history also fail to remember the good things from history or the positive things from history, whether it’s the things that you talked about the early church fathers earlier, or what this denomination did during the 1918 influenza, which is funny that we call it the Spanish influenza, because it starts in Kansas, right? Like a that’s a whole other issue, but like, yeah, like,
Yeah. Well, what you were saying, right? Like we have to, Paul is kind of giving in this Romans passage, this contentious relationship with the empire, right. And in one verse enrollments already, he had said confess with your mouth, that Jesus is Lord, which is against the Roman empire, which is quite specifically breaking the law to do what, what a Christian is supposed to do. Yeah. And then he turns around and says, obey the leaders, obey the government, obey, you know, people who’ve been put ahead of you by God as if to say, Hey, there are some things that we need to push back against. And there are some things that it doesn’t matter. And the problem is we tend to mix up the things that don’t matter with the things that sh that should matter.
And we forget Paul didn’t have this entire vision of the Roman empire going forward, as we do looking back upon it. When Paul wrote Romans 13 he likely it, from what we can tell from his letters, he likely believed that the emperor was not going to be a big problem, that it was going to be a temporary sort of like that Jesus is going to come and establish his kingdom. That until then we can sort of get along and we can just be here. And so we’re going to, we’re going to just, we’ll pay our taxes and we’ll keep the peace and we’ll leave at peace amongst these people. And it won’t be that long. I think later on, he realized that like, this is going to change in the same way that like there’s one point in his early writings where he says, don’t get married.
Jesus is coming back, don’t get married. The King is coming. And there’s no reason to, and then later on, he’s like, you know, maybe I should go ahead and get married. Like Paul is, Paul is moving along with us through church history. And he’s sort of responding to what he knows about Jesus on the fly. It’s not like he has this whole thing developed from beginning to end of his writing career of exactly everything he’s going to say. He’s responding in real time, in the same way that we should, and he’s being led by the spirit. And so maybe, and this is the big difference between reformed churches and charismatic churches is, you know they’re responding to Paul reformed churches tend to just read Paul and apply Paul charismatic churches tend to respond to the spirit and discern. And that’s a totally different way of doing church.
And I tend to fall into the latter. Like I, I think we should be following the spirit in real time. I mean, people are always today. Like you were saying, they are shocked when they read the writings of the early church fathers. Yeah. Very few evangelicals have ever read them. Very few of them understand the extent to which they were willing to suffer, to not take part in the evils of the empire, around them. Th th they, people do not understand the extent to which they were a unique people in the world. They had their own sort of system of government. They would come together and hold and hold little legal trials. They would come together and they would discern communally about marriages and about purchases and finances and all kinds of stuff. They were a, a surrogate government, a surrogate family. They were their own mini kingdom in this world. And at some point the emperor becomes a Christian and it’s sort of, you can look at them and you can look at their writings and I’m like, they don’t know what to do.
Good. Is this bad? And I think history is meant to tale this tale. Is this good? Or is this bad? And I think we found that it’s probably bad that the emperor that I guess, I mean, I guess it could be good if the emperor somehow rises to power and actually understands and follows Jesus as King instead of leading himself as King. But I don’t think it’s possible in this world. I think it’s possible in the church. I think it meant to be, that’s what the Presbytarian supposed to represent. The, of elders who were following the leading of the spirit together. So I don’t know. I don’t know what to land that plane.
Well, no, I think this has been, you know, I definitely, for some going to be a provocative thought process. Right. and I think for, for some, it’s going to be not going too far for some you know, it’s, it’s kind of one of the things that, you know, everyday theology is about ju just because we have a podcast about something, of course doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with it. As we’ve already talked about you and I, Tommy, we will we will sit down and get some coffee and then just argue about certain. Sometimes I think I’m a little too Pentecostal for you.
Sure. Yeah. I didn’t grow up Pentecostal all. Also a lot of people say is new and I’m oftentimes intrigued by it over the years. I mean, studying under McKnight, I’ve, he’s not Pentecostal, but I’ve, he’s awakened a bit of that charismatic theology in me, for sure. Well,
Amen. So glad, but it’s the point, right? Like we can have like these conversations and hopefully through them and pushing and pulling a little bit, we get closer to this reality of who God is through through discussion and not through angerly pushing back at one another or,
Or, you know, yelling or
Screaming, but just saying, Hey that’s, that’s, that’s something to chew on. And I think we all, especially, especially as we’re all quarantined and sitting in our homes and trying to kind of engage still our minds, I think it’s beautiful to have something that we can sit and chew and say to what way, and maybe a good question to end. This is not even to, to respond, but just a good question. And to say, in what way have we superseded the, the kingdoms, whichever one that we live in, whether it’s America or
Are a kingdom of Asia or,
You know, in Africa, wherever it is
Versus, you know, America, I don’t know
I do that, but I do. What do we have? We superseded those kingdoms over the kingdom of God and what places do we need to actually put the kingdom of God back on top and be willing to push back on our own governments when it’s failing to live up to the kingdom of God. And at the same time, recognizing that our governments were never meant to be the kingdom of God either. And I think that’s a, that’s a tension that for some can be
Struggle. Yeah. I think there’s, there’s common ground. All Christians can agree upon with kingdom theology. Mainly that, like, these are the kingdoms of war lasts forever and the kingdom of God will, that alone should be a bit of a compass in our minds. Yeah. Like every one of these kingdoms will fail and fall away and are not meant to last forever. They are not the pinnacle of anything. They are merely steps on the way to the kingdom of God. Yeah. And that’s, that’s especially as a Pentecostal, that’s what I kept growing up hearing. Right. Yeah. We’re looking for this kingdom that is now, but not yet this kingdom that’s coming in the future, but still not here. And that’s the kingdom that we’re a part of. I always used to hear as a kid, you know, we’re not part of this world, which I don’t necessarily agree with.
I think that we’re embodied beings that we actually, there is something that we do here. And that there’s a point here, a resurrection happens here. But there was a mindset of like what we’re kind of striving after is greater than what our kingdoms here on earth can actually give us or are about. And somewhere along the way, I think we’ve almost forgotten that, that we’ve kind of been too much too eager to equate our kingdoms of the earth with the kingdom of heaven. Wherever that may be, that, that, you know, a Christian lives, whether it’s in America or elsewhere. Yeah. Yeah. Hey Tommy, thanks so much for being with us. Yeah, man. I loved it. Hopefully I’ll get to actually see you soon. Not online and church service online, but hopefully actually get to hang out again soon. Tell our listeners, you know, if they want to connect with you or kind of hear more about what you’ve got to say, or even your music, let people know where they can find you.
Yeah. So if you wanna hear sermons, everything is on our weekly sermon podcast at, at watermark, tampa.com, there’s links there, iTunes and everything. All of our music we have like five five records right now over that we’ve made over the last 10 years. One of them came out last year called temperatures and those are on pretty much every streaming platform, even on, you know, on YouTube and stuff. A couple of music videos there as well for the, for the newer record that sort of paint the picture of the messages of record. And yeah, I, I blog, I have a, I have a WordPress just Google that I’ve been writing a lot about the church fathers lately. And so read that I did a four part series on early church fathers and pacifism. And then had an article last this week in Christianity today about how I think maybe pastors should respond during this time and how maybe sort of maybe how our streaming should appear instead of like, hi super artsy and trying to impress everybody. Maybe we should just join people. So reading a look into that, it’s on Christianity today and Scot McKnight section of the other website. Yeah. Perfect. Well again, man, thanks so much for being with us and we look forward to talking to you again soon. Sound good.